Ask Dave-Love, How Slow Can You Go?

A conservative guy wonders if he can find love in a fast-paced world full of players and hookups.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I'm a 24-year-old professional whose focus has been on getting a career, not going to parties or dating. I am new to the scene, and not everyone knows I am gay. But my friends do and I'm far from confused about my sexuality. I just haven't had success with dating.

I know I fit the conservative shy-guy stereotype. I've searched online profiles and chat rooms for
Recognize that dating is new for you, and be patient with yourself.
kindred spirits, but always faced instant requests for hookups. Guys want to meet immediately and I am just not that comfortable with such an aggressive, fast approach. I've only dated one guy for any period of time and he turned out to be a dishonest player who made my opinion of dating even lower.

Being inexperienced, I'm afraid of throwing my problematic self into the dating world. If I fear the market, is there any hope for me?
-Successful Skeptic

Dear Skeptic,
In work years, you are probably older than your peers. When they were at college keg parties, you were cracking the books. But in matters of the heart, you might be a little younger. There's nothing wrong with that. Recognize that dating is new for you, and be patient with yourself. It might take a while to find a dating style and pace that works for you.

Too often, gay men and lesbians bust out of the closet with a gale force that rivals a hurricane. The years of repression behind them, they can't wait to experience gay dating. You seem like a mature guy who's doing the opposite—being a little overly cautious since you think the dating world is problematic.

Of course, dating is indeed problematic. It's often a numbers game. If you have requirements that don't fit the norm, your "type" might not be as prevalent or in the mainstream as you'd like. What that means is that you have to put yourself out there a little more to find the guy you want. As you get out there, are there ways to completely avoid the bad apples? Not completely.

But are there ways to be clearer about what you want and present that in both your offline persona and your online dating profile? Definitely!

Sometimes it seems like gay dating is a fast-paced blur of new faces, fast hookups and players. Now, is it always like this? No. Is it possible that you've retreated before you've even given dating a fair chance? Maybe. Is it possible that our sex-drenched culture blurs the lines between hookups and courtship more than ever? Yes, but do we live in a world of diverse dating behavior norms? Definitely!

There's no foolproof way to guard against men who are either deceptive or disinterested in the kind of slow-to-form connection
Be clear that you don't want to waste anyone's time, including your own.
you want. But consider changing your attitude. You don't have to turn dating into a series of job interviews (just the thought makes my head swim). But with a good sense of humor, a little patience, and a sense of adventure, you have a better chance at finding the connection you want.

As you give the search for Mr. Slow and Steady another try, these tips can help you avoid ending up with Mr. Fast-Paced Hookup by mistake:

Make sure your online profile reflects who you are.
With online dating, you know so much (or think you do) that it's hard to reconcile a romantic profile with a guy who then pushes for a hookup. Online profiles give you the chance to state what you are looking for upfront before you meet and provide a more targeted forum for you to find men who share your standards. Review your profile and make sure it spells out who you are and what you want (i.e., "I'm looking to date slowly, as friends first, as we see what develops."). Be clear that you don't want to waste anyone's time, including your own.

Screen, screen, screen.
Ask and you will hear, maybe more than ever want to know. Too often, people don't screen their dates prior to meeting. Sure, you'll notice his picture first (and he will notice yours). But along with the initial flirty banter, find out more about each prospect before you invest your time and energy. Talk over the telephone before you meet and reinforce what you want. Set up your expectations and boundaries ahead of time. If Mr. Maybe indicates he wants something different, move on.

Keep your inner cynic at bay.
At this point, you're feeling a little cynical. But don't let that color every dating interaction. Consider not getting too disappointed when a guy prematurely "busts a move," as they say. Unless his behavior is offensive, try deflecting his come-on by telling him what you're looking for, then gauge his reaction. Is he dismissive of anything less than instant fire? Or is he open and accepting to the idea of a slow burn? Many guys are so used to hooking up that they act or react out of "default" learned behavior or perceived peer pressure. But maybe one of these dinnertime Lotharios might actually appreciate a man who holds his romantic ground.

Bottom line: In this world of many options, my advice to you is this: Be true to your own standards. It doesn't matter if many guys want to speed 80 m.p.h. while you cruise at a slower pace. The gay community is diverse, and there are men interested in developing relationships slowly. Remember that you have to play to win, so try not to fear the market. Put yourself out there a little more—but only on your terms!

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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