Online dating in HBO’s “Looking”

Have you guys watched Looking on HBO yet? The show follows the lives of a group of gay guy pals in San Francisco. Like many highbrown TV junkies, fans of hot men, and relationship industry folks, I tuned in very eagerly for the pilot on Sunday evening. And of course, I laser-focused on the aspects of the show that dealt with online dating, because I am me. :) Let’s see how Looking scored in the online dating world!

Straight coworker calls OkCupid’s bullshit. +25 points. Specifically, the coworker tells Patrick that OkCupid’s match percentage calculations are “a bullshit algorithm.” You go, fictional video game programmer! We are of one mind. And way to establish that there’s plenty of overlap between straight dating wisdom and gay dating wisdom, and that gay guys can be friends with their straight male coworkers. Not that I expected less of HBO, but still. Well handled.

Aforementioned coworker gives Patrick crap for winking smiley face. -5 points. It may not be your thing, Coworker, but smiley faces and other punctuation tricks can be super useful for softening written humor. Not everything translates in text, so it’s normal for online daters to lean on mechanisms like this to better control the impression they’re making. At least it wasn’t a LOL or a jk, you know? (The guy was pretty dang funny about the whole thing, though. Here he is calling Patrick a Japanese teenager.)

Patrick can take it.

Patrick arrives to his date TEN MINUTES LATE. -5 points. Patrick, come on! Anything under five is acceptably blameable on traffic, etc. Beyond that, you’re just rude if you don’t text. And if you didn’t get his number to text him, then you’re just silly, because a) do your homework and b) it’s annoying to have to fire up a janky app just to get notified that you’re being made to wait around. Even if the guy turns out to be kind of lame.

Patrick and The Doctor exchange business cards on the first date. -5 points What if your potential date turned out to be stalker material four dates in? You just handed them where you spend your days, earn your living, and establish your professional reputation. Even if they weren’t gonna go full-on stalker, they could still be emo-uncomfortable. Frankly, women tend to have to worry about negative safety and reputation repercussions more than men, so it’s not outlandish that this wouldn’t be as off-putting in the gay community. But it’s still a bad idea! Let’s hope Patrick doesn’t go for the card swap again in future episodes.

Patrick awkwardly trying to remove the olive.

Olives with pits. Awk-ward! -5 points. It’s not so bad if the other guy had already ordered them (while he was waiting for you for ten minutes PATRICK). But it’s smarter to avoid clearly awkward pitfalls (hey-o! Pun intended!) on your very first date, or at least the first like five minutes of it. Other pitfalls that may not technically contain pits: twirly long pastas that can fling sauce anywhere, hot wings/any other meat that requires gnawing off the bone, Sloppy Joe’s (duh), and crab legs. (I’m sure there are some I’m missing; feel free to call them out.)

Asking “Are you drug and disease free?” after like five seconds. -10 points. Those are important things to answer, but a) most people who have a vested interest in lying to you will not have qualms about doing so flawlessly in person, and b) you should have gotten that out of the way in profile, messages, or just after some better warm-up questions. This can serve to illustrate why the doctor isn’t a good match for Patrick—too stiff and uptight—but I see it more as one of the frustrating aspects of dating in the gay community.

The tendency among gay guys to be super up front about stuff like STDs and sexual preference (“top or bottom?”) is the number-one complaint I hear among guys who are looking for something more serious than just a hookup. Discussions like that are an intimacy-killer when they’re rolled out in the same breath as “So, what do you do?” The show itself does a good job of illustrating this cultural awkwardness, but I’m subtracting my points because I don’t want singles to go around demanding disease status after two sips! It’s an important conversation to have, no matter your orientation; just give it some room to breathe.

Doctor brusquely interrupts Patrick. -1o. Plus he does it to badger humorlessly about carpal tunnel and game design. He’s obviously stiff and not a great match, but that’s just plain rude, and it’s the kind of thing a person who isn’t inherently a bad match can do accidentally and then be cool about. Like this: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. What were you saying?” The doctor does no such thing. Booo. Bad first date protocol.

Patrick admits to cruising. -20+ points. Patrick’s such a little baby gay! I get the sense we’ll learn in his plotline that he came out more recently than the other guys. Here’s the thing: nothing wrong with cruising, as long as you silence your ringer. Nothing wrong with looking for a more serious mate while still having casual sex on the side, as long as you can emotionally and logistically manage that. But you don’t talk about it on Date One with the people you’re vetting as Serious Dating Partners, haha. Oh, Patrick. I can tell I’m gonna love your future gaffes. This is just common sense. Keep a lid on your extracurricular activities, people.

The Doctor shuts it down rudely in person. -10 points. In 2014, everyone knows that the way to say you’re not into someone is to wrap up the date early with an excuse about a commitment later on, and then shut it down via messages, or via never responding to future messages. Some people might commend getting it out there and clear from the get go, but Patrick was clearly ruffled, and this behavior just gives off a super jaded “been there done that” vibe. Plus, you have no idea what adorable thing Patrick might have said or done to redeem himself if The Doctor had just let the rest of the date flow (or maybe ordered another glass of wine himself).

We ended at -45, in case anyone’s keeping score. But I bet that goes up as we see Patrick learn and have romantic arcs that originated on OkCupid, doncha think? Fingers crossed!

Anyway, there’s SO MUCH else to enjoy in this episode that isn’t specifically online dating related. Go watch it and tell me what you think! The whole ep is even on YouTube right now.

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