The dating world, both gay and straight, can be one of strict classification. In gay dating, there are many gradients on the definitional scale that I will call the homoarchy: One could be seeing someone, which is different from dating and both of which are strikingly separate from being in a relationship. The (presumably) most simple homoarchy classification is hooking up with someone. Every distinction is rife with implications, though, and what hooking up means to me might not mean the same to the guy whom I’m hooking up with. To complicate things further, many times, two people that are together, in whatever form, perceive their state of togetherness differently on the homoarchy. This is problematic indeed.
For example, I’ve been hooking up with this guy — for functional purposes let’s call him Dick — consistently for over three months. However, we’ve never dared to proclaim ourselves to be in a relationship, because neither of us want a commitment; instead, we are implicitly obligated to each other. To the point of declaration, we’ve been emotionally unattached. Yet the romantic niceties uttered during and the cuddling after hooking up might indicate otherwise. So … to what extent, if at all, are we together?
This wasn’t such a pressing question until I wanted to go on a date with someone — my own personal tempter who we’ll call Beezlebub (Bub for short) in the otherwise serene Gay-den of Eden. Because there was an assumed nonemotional pact between me and Dick, I approached him with the news of Bub in an emotionally passive, neutral way: “I have a date soon … If I like him we shouldn’t hook up anymore … ” I assumed this would go smoothly. After all, we both knew what we had and what it meant, right? Not so much. Even though we’d conversed about what we shared, because we had different definitions for the term and implications of hooking up, he was hurt by something I assumed he would not be.
I thought hooking up meant showing no emotion even if it was there. I also thought it meant being able to go on a date without totally obliterating things with Dick. He, however, felt slighted by my decision. To him, our emotional attachment was clear despite our efforts to just hook up, and my ignorance to it was rude and hurtful. Further feeding the miscommunication, both Dick and I thought that because we were just hooking up, sharing such emotionally laden sentiments was not only unnecessary but uncalled for. After my date with the slyly attractive Bub, though, Dick and I reacted in an ironically emotional way. This could only mean that a re-evaluation of our supposedly nonemotional hooking up was necessary.
In the end, Dick and I discarded the rules of the homoarchy and decided that we have a good thing, even if its logistics were never made explicit. Now, after much explaining of what our hooking up means to us, this is what we’ve decided on maintaining: a consistent but defined hook up, a slight commitment to each other (but without any complications or repercussions that inevitably accompany any relationship) and finally, our shared emotional attachment … Just enough to be cute and cuddly and caring … occasionally. So I guess Dick and I have matured beyond the homoarchy. But even in our pseudo-together, supposedly uncomplicated hooking up world, there was a misunderstanding about the rules we were and were not supposed to follow. It seems, then, that such misunderstandings are inevitable. Are they?
In the gay world, where the homoarchy is ubiquitous, the answer is clearly yes. Even with Dick, in what I thought was a completely open and honest relationship, there were hurdles. Similarly, after my first date with Bub, he thought I had eaten his entire apple, if you will, when in fact I hadn’t plucked anything from his … Tree of Knowledge. Dick and I could reconcile our disparate points of view, but for Bub and me, the initial discrepancy in whether or not we were simply on a date, starting to see each other or headed toward a relationship, foretold only further perceptive clashes.
I imagine that many times, gay and straight people alike meet and appreciate each other to be kind, intelligent and funny. But there is simply a mismatch in their views on relationship logistics that precludes any substantial progression. I want to take things slowly and date openly, while he wants to go with the sometimes emotionally wild flow and allow for leaps in the typical relationship linearity. Does this discrepancy call for a throwing in of the towel or for a relationship-conditioning process that may or may not lead to reconciliation?
Certainly a compromise is necessary. One should not completely alter his dating definitions or patterns for another, but one should not be inflexible. Personally, I’m open to hooking up, dating, having emotional attachment or being in a relationship with someone who views things differently than I … just as long as I know if and where we place ourselves on that fucking omnipresent homoarchy.
Are you outside the homoarchy? Too cool for it? A slave to it? Don’t believe that it exists? Tell Steve about it! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.