Last week, my platonic life partner Danny and I were walking through the 10ème Arrondissement, when we stumbled into what appeared to be an incredible assortment of men. Handsome, tanned, toned, ripped to the point where they could be used to teach anatomy to third graders… It was the best form of a meat market, each contender a delectable piece of Kobe beef. Thirty minutes later, at Klay, I observed as French gays around me acutely cultivated their sculpted physiques, incomparable to those of their hetero voisins. Suddenly it hit me – perhaps, Paris is actually better for gay men? Curious on the topic, I gathered together my two closest gay guy friends, poured them some Moscow Mules, and interrogated them on the topic. One of them wished to remain anonymous, so we will refer to him as Bambi for his Maybelline eyelashes.
Marina: So, what is the gay dating scene like in Paris?
Danny: Well, I’m from Colombia, and as soon as I got to Paris, I immediately noticed that the gay community is broken into groups, which are mostly based on interests. A lot of the guys have circles that consist only of gays – all their friends are gay, and all their friends are gay, and their only “other” friend is that girl who is never going to get married because she is always surrounded by gays. (Editors note: me!) Also, most of the guys are “marked” – the community is small and everyone has a reputation. Without even knowing the person, you may know a lot about them, like if they sleep around and are a salope and slut, or if they have been in relationships for 5 years, or if they just got out of a relationship of 5 years and are now a salope and slut!
Bambi: I think I never really dated in Paris. For me it was just about hanging out with my friends, and then I would randomly end up at these parties, like Flash Cocotte, and there I would meet people. Its not really about dating here, its more about hookups. Maybe now, with Tinder and Grinder, its changing, and they try to replicate the straight community – its more “lets meet for a coffee or a movie”. But otherwise, gays don’t date..
Danny: Yeah, its more like lets go to your place and f*ck, and then if the sex is good you keep on seeing each other. When you first go to these parties like Flash Cocotte, everyone is beautiful. But the more you go, the more you realize that its all the same guys, the same people, looking to hook up… Its almost as if they are all in this limbo of constant hookups, and their whole lives are there…
Bambi: Its very intimidating. Its all about the crowd and the community. Gay in Paris is very much about “Which crowd is your gay crowd? Are you Flash Cocotte, Maxime, 4ème Arrondissement?”
Danny: And they all stick together and date within each other.
Bambi: Yes, its like “Tell me where you hang out, and I will tell you who you are going to date”. I used to dream of meeting my boyfriend in a museum, or even on the Métro, on the street..
Marina: So did I!
B: That doesn’t happen. You sleep with them, and then its 2-3 texts and then they disappear and you will see them at the next party.
Daniel: And yet, if things are going well, gay guys move too fast. Like, they will move in together in 4 months.
Bambi: Yes, because they want to live the dream.
Danny: Yeah, suddenly they are living the dream, and their Instagrams become “my boyfriend this, my boyfriend that, hashtag love, hashtag gay couple”. But I think they do that because they are lonely. There is this loneliness that everyone in Paris has in the middle of winter, and gay guys have a mentality of “summer is for fun and for finding a boyfriend for winter”. Its also good in the economical sense – you can get a much nicer apartment in Paris for double the price, and then you get used to it because its comfortable, even if you’re no longer passionate about the person..
Marina: Yes, but I feel like cheating is more common and accepted in a way.. Can talk about that?
Danny: Well, the thing is, when you meet somebody on Grinder, they are probably still looking for another person on Grinder. My ex had it on his phone the entire time we were together, but I pretended not to notice. As I said, its often convenient to be together and it seems to be working well, and so you both kind of do your own thing on the side. But some relationships are different – you are super passionate and you live in the moment and you don’t look for anyone else!
Marina: B, you seem to have both in your relationship.
Bambi: Yes, I do. When I love someone, I love someone. If I don’t love them, then I can’t stay with that person. To me, when you are bored with someone, you just want to get away and find the right person. I don’t know how people can stay with someone and see other people at the same time. But me, I’m not afraid of loneliness, and I think gay people often are.. There is that cliché about the old gay guy dying single, by himself, and they are afraid of this, and this fear makes them try to find someone they might not necessarily be happy with.
Danny: Yes, my friend and I were discussing that. He said that so many gay people died during the time of AIDS that at this moment there are not that many old gay guys. But for our generation and people a bit older than us, what’s going to happen? Are there going to be retirement homes for gays?”
B: Yes, there is none of that structure, society doesn’t build anything for them to stay together. This is why now, the whole child and marriage thing that is so important for gays – its because they need that to stay together. I mean, imagine a straight world without marriage and kids.
Marina: It would be a mess. I personally don’t even like the idea of marriage that much, of a piece of paper to validate your relationship. But I also happen to know that, a lot of the time, this piece of paper is the reason many people stay together and work through their problems, and end up happy in the long run. We all need structure, to be “cadré” as the French say.
Bambi: Exactly. Also, maybe it will be less weird later too, less of the older gays trying to pick up guys on the street.
Danny: Yes, like maybe if you have a child, maybe you won’t go out trying to pick up 20-year-old boys as much, because you have to work and provide for your kid. Because otherwise, the older guy comes out of a relationship of 20 years, he has money, no kids, so he goes out and tries to meet 20-year-old boys because he’s lonely, and who can blame him?
Bambi: Yes, this is why, when you are walking around in Chelsea in New York, for example, you see all these gay couples with a child and dog walking on the street trying to live up to the straight ideal – it’s because they no longer want to be underground.
Marina: Oh yeah, how’s the gay scene in New York compared to Paris?
Bambi: Oh my God, in New York I used to pick up so many guys. I felt so hot there. In a bar, people come up to talk to you, and you always have new people and faces…
Danny: Yes French guys, they keep a distance. I think that’s the sexy thing about French guys – sometimes, they are just dancing and looking at you, and nothing happens, but there is all this sexual tension…
Marina: That’s all French guys, not just gay guys. Its awful. Maybe its sexy for you since you can take the lead if you want to, but its not fun for us. This is why French women become aggressive, and this is why I could never date in this country.
Bambi: French guys are very shy, sometimes they prefer to keep the fantasy of something, instead of acting on it, and they play hard to get a lot.. Especially if you are a foreigner, they can be very intimidated.
Marina: Well, you’re dating an American guy. What is the difference?
Bambi: One thing that’s interesting is the language. French guys, they say one thing but they mean another, that’s just what the French do.. But in English, you have to say things straight up, you can’t pretend to be somebody else. So with my boyfriend it was very real, very naïve and innocent, in a way. l had to say what I’m thinking and feeling in a very direct way.
Danny: English in general is a very direct language. In French, there are so many ways to say something, to talk in circles. Its something French people do so much, even in writing…
Bambi: Yes, also the French always put you in a box based on what you do, where you’re from, your education. And I love that Americans don’t do it. Americans are much more about who you are and your personality. You know, my boyfriend was straight when I met him, his whole thing is about being attracted to someone as a person. He still likes girls, but he’s with me! For him, it was just about love, and that’s something I really love about it him. Its not about being gay or straight – its about two personalities, not characters, not part of a gay community.
Marina: I love that so much. And I think that’s how it should be. I actually think things are changing so much at the moment, both with gay marriage and the new conversation on sexual fluidity and even gender fluidity… And we are the first generation to actually experience these changes!
(The boys look pensive, hopeful, a bit tipsy..)
Bambi: It is pretty exciting… Let’s cheer to that. Can we have more cocktails?