In the 48 hours since I held my Grindr Shabbat, this is the No. 1 question people have asked me. And, judging by the experiences I had advertising for this Shabbat on Grindr, that’s not so surprising. Remarkably, the most interesting thing about this Shabbat dinner was how utterly unremarkable it actually was. A few guys came over to my house, we had a lovely dinner with great conversation and everyone went home. Alas, nobody came prepared for an orgy.
In the end, I had 10 guys RSVP, of whom five actually showed up. Four of the five who did not come at least reached out and told me they weren’t coming; only one participant totally ghosted. In gay millennial world, that is QUITE the success. Only one ghost!
The dinner itself was quite relaxed. The guys arrived, I had blessing sheets so everyone could follow along (thanks, Rabbi Jen Gubitz of Riverway!), we did a quick round of introductions and then we ate. Thanks to the generosity of OneTable, I was able to make a delicious veggie lasagna, roasted butternut squash and salad for everyone at no cost to myself. We had plenty of wine and seltzer, and then coffee and dessert. Throughout, we had wonderful conversations ranging from where our dream travel destination is to the oversexualization of gay spaces and how we’re all worried about the way gay apps have changed the ways we interact with the world and our abilities to connect to one another in meaningful ways.
Did you read that last clause closely? Read it again. That’s the operating theme here. That’s why you wanted to know if anything crazy happened. That’s why you expected it. That’s why I expected it. That’s why the guys I chatted with on Grindr about this experience were curious but hesitant. The way we communicate with each other and the channels we use ultimately betray our actual desires. Nobody showed up looking for a hookup; everybody showed up curious about one another and wanting to connect. And we did that—we had a nice time and got to know each other.
The other question people ask me is if I’d do it again. And to that, I really don’t know. Aside from my grand proclamation above, I learned a few tangible things. First and foremost, Grindr is a great gimmick for attention, but probably not the best driver of actual attendance for an event. It took much more time and effort than I expected to convince people that this was a legitimate event and not a ploy to get some D (see grand proclamation above). In the same vein, having the support of existing groups really helped me get the word out, particularly the Nice Jewish Boys Boston group and Riverway Project. So, despite my desires to strike out on my own, having the backing of those organizations helped me.
At the end of the day, my assessment of Grindr Shabbat was that it was a worthwhile experiment that yielded promising results. I met several new people with whom I will keep in touch. I proved to myself that I am capable of creating community for myself. And I learned that, ultimately, despite the channels we use and the ways we interact in virtual space, the actual reality is that we all just want to connect with one another.
Update: Check out this new article on Vox, which describes how a gay physician (an actual doctor!) at Harvard Medical School essentially did what I did and came to the same conclusion!
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