The Gay Post
This is it everyone, the post you have all been waiting for. The post that got me this gig as a blogger, that is right… the gay post. But first, a bit about Chilean dating.
There is a question among millennials in the States that speaks to the nature of relationship development among our generation. I am referring to the infamous, “What are we?” inquiry. This question would be appropriate after maybe hooking up several times and someone wants to know where it is going. Or maybe after a few coffee dates and someone wants to define it (or at very least know if they should cut it off with their friend with benefits on the side). Regardless of when it is used, it speaks to the gray space of dating in which my generation seems to thrive. That sweet spot in between physical touch and emotional connection. We embrace the excitement of the unknown and finding satisfaction without labels or being tied down. As Emma Court wrote in the New York Times Modern Love essay, “A Millennial’s Guide to Kissing,” “Being casual is cooler than intimacy and vulnerability.”
Here in Chile, that gray space is set aside thanks to labels that are a bit more defined. There is a clear hierarchy that many Chilean millennials seem to follow. It all starts with pinchando (poking) that can range from checking out a stranger to dance floor make outs, to casual sex. No promises are made in this stage. What follows is andando (walking) which entails dating but not being necessarily exclusive. Next is pololeando, an exclusively Chilean word that makes a verb out of pololo/a which means boy/girlfriend. Pololeando is the typical notion of committed style boyfriend-girlfriend. Finally you have novios which is an engaged couple and badabingbadabam you live happily ever after. Of course things do not always go according to plan and there is a growing influence of open relationships and casual encounters, but this is the general blueprint.
Despite their clear cut labels, there exists a slight roadblock in this modeled progression of love: the fact that most individuals live with their parents roughly till the age of 25. What that means is that nearly every park bench is taken up by couples smashing faces. Walking through the streets I find myself weaving between high school sweethearts making out and whispering sweet nothings to one another. I typically avoid the beach past sundown to avoid the numerous couples doing the dirty under the cover of night. But that is just part of the culture here, like empanadas or saying cachai.
Another cultural quirk regarding the homosexual lifestyle here in Chile is that my gaydar has been reduced to mere guesswork. I always assumed that my gaydar would be less effective here in Latin America, but I never thought it would be to such an extreme. When in the states I rely on the classic clues such as a pierced ear, shaved sides of the head, and tight pants. But here in Valpo, that includes about 95% of the male population under the age of 35. But hey, self-expression is great. You go Chilean men! Pierce your ears and wear those skinny jeans; the world is yours for the taking. But does it mean that I therefore have a harder time knowing if that guy is staring at me because I am a gringo or because he is flirting? Absolutely. It’s all just the nature of the game here in Valpo. And for this gringo, it’s a tougher game than in the States, that’s for sure.
Just like in the US, tinder and grindr are still in full force here in Chile. On the surface level, not much has changed. Grindr is still full of older men, creepy torsos, and guys starting conversations with pictures of their junk. But hey, it wouldn’t be grindr without it. Tinder still fills me with a vapid sense of being judgemental but remains addictive nonetheless. Despite meeting cool, calm, and collected guys through these apps, I have little to no motivation to actually pursue them for something serious. Knowing that my days here in Valpo are numbered means that anything that arises is destined to end with a kiss goodbye, a flight to the states, and nothing more. That is not to say I have not tried and had short flings, but with only five weeks left and the days whizzing past, I will most likely not be moving past the pinchando stage with anyone here in Chile.
Overall, during the nearly 3.5 months I have been living here in Valpo, being gay has barely affected my experience. Sure, we go to gay clubs sometimes instead of normal ones and I kiss boys there instead of girls. But beyond that, my experience has not differed from my straight peers. I have faced very few ill-intended remarks about my sexuality and have not faced any discrimination and count myself very lucky for that fact. The gay culture here is different, there’s no arguing. In my opinion, some parts are better and some are worse. But just like cachai, empanadas, and beach sex, it’s part of learning about the culture.
Thanks for reading everyone!