It's not like the old days. Your eyes met across a crowded dance floor, you smiled. He smiled back. You walked towards him, heart racing, a Cher dance remix booms in the background. You said "Hey..."
These days, your eyes are less likely to meet. With his face lit up in the glow of an iPhone, he's talking to HungLad2014. "Cock pic mate? Up4fun?"
Grindr can be effective for hook-ups. But if you're looking for romance, you're likely to be drowning in a sea of torsos and unsolicited cock shots. I can think of worse things to drown in, but it still goes, that up until a few months ago, there wasn't any credible alternative to the orange skull.
Then one night I saw my flatmate, glued to her iPhone. Her concentration was unmoving. Swipe. Swipe swipe. Swipe. She was on Tinder. I was envious about the simplicity and clarity of this new App. But was it just for straights?
I soon found out that Tinder settings can be tweaked for boys who like boys, and good God, what a lot of boys there are. This is basically how it works: You see a picture, you swipe left for 'NOPE' and right for 'LIKED.' Everyone else is doing the same and when you swipe right and he swipes right, you get the message "It's a match!" Then, and only then, you can start chatting.
Tinder isn't perfect - I'm sure there are tons of you who'll say that it's shallow and heartless to judge someone instantly on a photo (or often a range of photos, if you slow down and want to check each guy a bit more in depth). But Tinder has a human aspect that gives it a foot in the real world.
You find out people's names. Above each photo, you'll see 'Alan' or 'Danny' or 'Vladimir.' Not 'Discreet Top' or 'Up4itnow.' There's also a Facebook widget so you can see if you have friends in common. I'm living in uber-gay East London, so there's almost always a 'friend' or two in common. These details make the people on the other end of the screen, real. And where as on Grindr, if you asked for a date you'd be instantly blocked or given a 'lol' and another cock shot, on Tinder, it's clear that this is why we are here.
Conversation is more civil, decent and friendly. You'll even end up talking about your 'interests.' Tinder isn't a knight in shining armour, a bunch of red roses or Romeo at the foot of your balcony, but it's a step in the right direction. The headless torso armies may at last be starting to retreat...
Image of a gay Penguin couple, from Birdland, Cotswolds, UK. Image used under Creative Commons license, by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katy_bird/