The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 03.25.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYAmySedaris_Born_13994096

Amy Sedaris turns 50 on Tuesday. There are so many things we love about Sedaris and it all starts with her creepily funny character Jerri Blank in Strangers With Candy. Her books are just as hilarious, whether collaborating with her brother David or on her own with 2010’s Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.

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THIS WEEK

With Mercury turning retrograde in Aries, be careful of spontaneous speeches and actions. Mars conjunct Uranus makes it way too easy to leap before you look — metaphorically and literally. The good news is that mistakes and missteps will show up immediately. Be very ready to make corrections and apologies.

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PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Reconsider life’s priorities. Rude financial shocks should stimulate brilliant new ideas, although any new ideas now will need revision later. Stay patient.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re certain to make a fool of yourself one way or another, so lighten up and let yourself be in on the joke. While taking yourself too seriously is surely disastrous, do be serious about safety.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
You need to worry better. Get clear on what’s provoking your anxieties so you can resolve them once and for all. Resolution won’t come instantly, but insights now will prove helpful later.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Arguments with friends are blamed on miscommunications. If you can’t patch things up now, a little time apart could be helpful. New friends could cause more confusion than they solve.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Anything you do will be observed. Consulting with your boss will help disperse any blame and make those mistakes more interesting. A good sense of humor will get you through.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Only get into arguments if you want to be proven wrong. You could learn a great deal, but don’t jump on any bandwagons. Novel notions will require closer examination and corrections.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Experimental sexual techniques will teach you more about what you don’t like than what you do. Scratch things off the list. Avoid anything risky for now. These are accident-prone times.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Arguments and misunderstandings with your partner are expected. Every relationship has challenges. Breaking up now is a mistake. Committing to a new relationship now is a bigger one.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Moderation is the key to fitness. Pushing too hard will do harm. Take disruptions at work in a calm, even stride. Are you being fair to colleagues? Consider those problems now. Decide later.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Daring gestures blow up in your face and creative efforts backfire. Stay in good humor and treat it all as a grand experiment. Learning what doesn’t work will serve you well in the future.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Household accidents are likely. Write down and design any bright ideas you have, but review them next month before fiddling with wires.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Your mouth is getting way ahead of your brain. Be very careful to converse only with people who aren’t easily offended. Writing is safer than talking —unless you’re worried about evidence.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas