June 22, 2018 at 9:28 am EDT | by Brock Thompson
Gay men need to be more present
gay men, gay news, Washington Blade

Leaving our phones at the door might help solve the problem.

OK, I have this phone duck at home. But more about that later.

I’ve written about this before, but I’m in this dinner club. A small but fairly active group of gay men who play a sort of dinner roulette — every quarter or so you choose a date to host a dinner, invite five others, and no one knows who is who until a day or two before. It’s been a fantastic avenue to meet new friends.

So back to that phone duck. Well, there was this wicker basket in the shape of a duck that was in my apartment when I moved in. It was so ridiculous I couldn’t get rid of it. It turns out that it also perfectly holds six smartphones, even those annoying ‘plus’ ones. Anyone that comes for supper at my home has to put their phone in the duck for the duration. A custom that has become so popular and welcome that people now ask for it before I can even bring it out. It’s as if folks welcome the disconnect.

This is certainly a phenomenon that’s been well documented, well before phone duck was trotted out of the cupboard. But more succinctly for us, gay men seem to suffer from their own brand of ADD, a sort of Gay-D-D if you will. I often take people’s suggestions for columns, and this idea is one that is thrown at me with some regularity and in some variation: Why can’t gay men focus? Why can’t gay men be more present? Why are we all looking for the next best thing? And it’s something that I’ve routinely dodged, maybe because I’m the world’s worst at this.

Maybe it’s a classic case of delayed adolescence, and I will freely admit that I am one huge adolescent. Maybe it’s just men being men. My friend James calls it the “Cheesecake Factory Menu Syndrome.” Our choices at any given night are just so vast that picking, settling, focusing on one seems too much to ask really. He describes it as chatting with a guy in a crowded bar, and that guy will curiously have one eye fixed on him, while the other is fixed on the door.

Gay men are like that. And it’s really not our fault. Can we get cut some collective slack here? For many of us, we were more or less the only one of us in our towns, our high schools, our churches. To be treated not only to just a few more of us, but a few hundred more is something to behold. And imagine, too, those of us that grew up in a certain age (a pre-Internet age) and all we had was the JC Penny men’s underwear ad to sustain us. No wonder we still haven’t grown up.

But what’s to do, really? I doubt there is a duck big enough to accommodate an entire bar. But maybe there should be. Recently my friend Andrew treated me to a Jack White concert at D.C.’s Anthem. Incredible, mainly because the whole event was phone-free. The company he works for, Yondr, makes these sort of pouches for phones. You enter, you put your phone in, the pouch locks, and you have nothing to do but enjoy the moment and the people you’re with. A sort of phone duck idea for an entire venue. The pouch unlocks when you leave. They’ve been hugely popular at schools, concerts, and even weddings.

Will something like this help us? To be honest, it couldn’t hurt. Phones are not the cause of gay men being so distracted, but they certainly aren’t helping. If being gay is a shared experience, maybe we should be more aware of being in that experience.

 

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.

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