A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about a dreamboat lover who dumped me more than a bit unceremoniously. Excruciatingly pretty, younger than I am, and with more Instagram followers than Kim Kardashian (or Kourtney, at least), this model man—and our affair—seemed too good to be true. This guy sought me out and just couldn’t get enough. Turns out, I was sucked in by the best sucker in the world.
After just a short couple of weeks, our “breakup” consisted of him blocking my phone number, blocking me on Facebook and Instagram, and neglecting to send the customary “let’s just be friends.” I was devastated and vowed never to be tricked by the cosmetically superior again.
To paraphrase an immortal line from Poltergeist, “He’s baaack!”
In less time than it probably took him to gel his perfect hair, he unblocked all of our communication methods and texted me around 11pm one recent night with a romantic, NC-17 thread about missing me (and photos to go with it!). This man claimed he was fantasizing about me, and assuming I’m single, he wanted to resume where we left off… as soon as these coronavirus social-distancing measures were lifted, of course.
I stopped in the name of suspicious love! Granted, it was hard, as was the decision to tell him I was no longer interested in seeing him. His lack of an apology aside, I couldn’t help but think he wanted me for another, quite modern reason: to fight off his fucking quarantine boredom.
COVID-19 lust is all over my social media feeds these days and, if examined with enough emotional distance, is cause for suspicion. I’m still on Grindr and Scruff (hey, at least I can look at hot guys) and am finding that, as if I’ve just turned into Cinderella, all sorts of sexy men who used to ignore me are suddenly pinging me with cam requests, unsolicited dick pics, and, yes, requests to meet “just as soon as this damn craziness is over.” Guys on Tinder are swiping right on my pic as often as I swing to the left on political platforms.
Another former lover, who broke up with me because my writer’s salary wouldn’t cover his own expenses, called “just to talk,” then segued into his devastating recent breakup and subsequent loneliness in upstate New York. Did I want to visit and quarantine together? I told him that navigating the transit system during a pandemic was way above my paygrade.
The optimist in me would like to think that in times of crisis, queer men, like everybody else, rethink their values, choices, and mistakes and decide to take stock of what, and who, is important in their life. Of course, I also like to think that my attractiveness level just moved up 10 notches. The pessimist in me thinks I’m getting it from every angle but the physical one.
As it turns out, I may be right on both accounts.
“Loneliness and isolation impact people differently,” Keith Bernardo, a Virginia-based psychologist, tells NewNowNext. “A lot of people are experiencing a value shift. What was once frivolous to them, their values, may change a bit because of COVID-19. If they’ve lost a boyfriend, they might want to reignite the flame. Whenever there’s any sort of trauma in the world, it affects your life.”
On the flip side, Bernardo says, “some people are using sex to pacify the loneliness. It’s not that different from ‘Hey, I love cooking, and I want to have a big dinner party.’ We’re all craving our own lives back.”
When I mention to Bernardo that an Instagay I’d hooked up with a couple of years ago, who is also married, pinged me out of the blue and wanted to bareback ASAP (at my place, natch!), Benardo explains that identity—or lack thereof—is also at play. The man was surprised that I said no (I mean, didn’t I realize how hot he was?!). Even after my rejection, he sent me his location of about 1,000 feet away. I half-expected him to show up at my door.
“If my identity is a fucking gay muscle boy, I’m probably going to have sex in order for someone to drool over me,” Bernardo says, adding that passive suicidality can also come into play. “People are thinking ‘Life is unpredictable, anything can happen. So why not? What am I waiting for? So, I may get COVID. Let’s have fun.’”
An optimist himself, Bernardo thinks gay good will come out of this bizarre time. “Take stock, be honest, and think about what you found frivolous and what brought you joy,” he advises. “You have plenty of time to do it. If you don’t come out of this craving relationships, that’s fine.”
For some gay men, a virus isn’t going to stand in the way of what they see as a basic human need. “I just wanna get laid ’til the end of time,” says Arthur, a 46-year-old gay man from Dallas, Texas, who agreed to to be interviewed for this piece provided his last name not be used. As an asymptomatic, single gay man who’s only seeking out sex with “healthy guys,” Arthur isn’t afraid.
“No one’s holding a gun at me or them,” he adds. “We’re gonna get [the coronavirus] one way or another, probably, so I might as well get it over with. People are going on about protecting others, but they also usually have boyfriends or husbands at home and forget how primal sex is to the human experience. It’s not AIDS, so I’ll take my risks.”
When I ask Arthur about the fear of passing on the coronavirus to an immunocompromised individual, he explains that he lives alone and is minimizing contact with others. “If someone else is going home to his grandmother after we fuck,” he says, “that’s his business, his responsibility. He has to make that choice.”
Lest anyone think I’m immune to isolation adoration myself, a few weeks back, I connected on Facebook with a guy so fucking hot, I almost used up all my Clorox wipes just gazing at his photos. He lives in Palm Springs, and I live in New York. We talk or chat every day and are currently figuring out where to meet up once this quarantine is over. The passion is intense, and the attraction on both sides is more exciting than anything I’ve experienced in ages.
At least, I hope so. The insecure side of me says as soon as he’s free to roam the desert again, he’ll be bombarded with so many recently repressed men he’ll be able to form his own desert harem. As for me, am I throwing myself into the unknown too quickly? Like so many other men, I’m experiencing an almost 19th-century obsession with a man of good letters, great breeding (those cheekbones!), and even better body shots.
I’m going to run with my inner optimist and let time tell the rest of the story. When it comes to matters of the heart, I’m always unmasked.