Looking for love (or less) online

A short while ago, the Knoxville writer and OutPersonals.com columnist Jack Mauro released a title every gay man should have—if not at his bedside, then—at an arm’s length from the mouse, the monitor and the hard drive.

“M4M: For an Hour or Forever—The Gay Man’s Guide to Finding Love Online” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $13.95) walks the reader through the initial stages of creating an online profile, understanding the various personalities you’ll find in a chatroom and the specifics of the first meeting, be it a hook-up or a first date. Filled with warnings and hints galore, it's an indispensable guide every gay online cruiser will learn from and refer to for years to come.

June 2, Mauro will sign copies of "M4M" at the OutLoud! booth at Nashville Pride festival at Centennial Park from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Earlier this month, the author agreed to an interview with Out & About Newspaper:

Where did the spark of inspiration for this book come from?

Spark? I don’t know if it was a spark, exactly. More of a guffaw. I was on the phone, laughing with a friend about all the many and sadly trite expressions you read in online profiles. It struck me that not only my pal shared my reaction, but also that a lot of other gay men must as well. If only because there was an increasing amount of desperation mixed in with all those exclamations of, “I love having fun!”

Did “M4M” require much personal “hands-on” research?

You sly dog. To be honest, it was more of a chicken-and-egg scenario. As my own encounters happened, book fodder was gathered. As I wondered about certain elements of online hooking-up, I engineered a few with specific strategies. And on, and on. It’s not easy, being a dedicated author.

As I read, I found myself agreeing with much of the book. As an expert, was there anything you learned?  Anything that surprised you?

I learned two valuable lessons. The first is that you can always be surprised, no matter how assured you are of disappointment around the bend. The second has to do with inches, and we’re going to leave that alone just now.

I notice your adopted home is Knoxville, and that you’ve been online since the early 1990s: Where have you lived and experienced the online communities of gay men?

Hell’s bells, man. South Florida. Pittsburgh. New York. New Jersey. Tennessee. All lived in at length and been online from. Forget buying the t-shirts; mine are threadbare.

Similarly, while writing the book, did you travel or visit different cities?  Or through your position at OutPersonals, do you detect differences in regions of the country, or specific cities? The book reads as though we (gay guys) are all the same, and while I’m sure we are (on this level!), do you notice significant differences among cities, regions, etc.  If I recall, in the book you mention the sheer plethora of available men in larger cities almost commands greater selectivity.

There’s very much a locale-based difference in the approaches of men. As you rightly recall, I found that the nearer you get to a major city, the more obstacles you must surmount before a hook-up or meeting will be considered. City guys may or may not be hotter, but they’re definitely more wary. Along those lines, Southern men – even urban Southern men – are less apt to demand full resumes before getting together. The same goes for the Midwest. It appears, not too shockingly, that guys living in less stressful environments have a breezier attitude and a greater degree of trust. Montana alone deserves a book, if not a trophy.

Can you rank some of the biggest mistakes people make?

I can try.

1. Excessive profile length. Seeking love or not, it’s still the Internet and, if the page isn’t dancing and singing, no one stays for long.

2. Harassment. It doesn’t matter that you’re sure the hot jock would really get into you, despite his refusal to chat. It’s his call, he’s saying no, and you really need to move on. (Unless you happen to get off on being verbally abused by a hot jock in message form.)

3. Hedging. We all want to be nice guys, but stringing along men you have no intention of ever seeing isn’t nice. You can be direct without ripping anyone’s heart out.

There are more. But we want to sell a book or two.

I’m not an avid online “shopper” (though there is a three or four month window back in 2004 I'd sooner forget), yet I connected with a lot of the scenarios you describe and recalled learning some of these lessons the hard way. Is there anything in this book for the hardcore cruiser? Or, a better question…

What would someone who’s ALWAYS online get out of this book? Someone who’s never been online?

All glibness aside, the hardcore online cruiser will get a perspective he’s probably missing, no matter how vast his experience. Millions of us have been online forever; but that usually translates to nothing more than an extended run of mistakes we’re so used to, we don’t even know they’re avoidable. Even more than the newcomer, the hardcore guy needs to understand why he’s logging on to begin with. Because that very, very easily gets lost and stays lost.

As for our novice, it’s my sincere hope that M4M will keep him from joining the ranks of the pains-in-the-ass, the fakers, the teases (he’s a novice so I’m assuming he’s young and hot), and the rest of the crowd who sour the experience. And this should happen because the book will show him how such characters end up screwing themselves in the process.

Is there anything you forgot to mention that you’d like to add now?  I remember in my experience how common it was to find self-employed hetero-married men online in the daytime versus all of us out gay guys after business hours.  Do I see a potential new chapter in the next edition?  Possible title -- “When the Swing Set Isn’t Big Enough for You: Should a Married, Family Man Tell You That Beforehand?  Should You Care?”

Good point. Lousy title, but good point. I had in fact a brief chapter that didn’t survive the cutting-room floor about this, called “The Married Man Online: Serving God and Mammon Didn’t Work 3,000 Years Ago, and It Doesn’t Work Now.” But you’re quite right; there are nearly vampire-specific cruising time patterns, depending on the guy’s home life. Yet this is getting into more finite areas that, while deserving of exploration, belong to the next volume. I’m not being coy, either. As much as I’d love to add to M4M right now, I had me a big, bad Internet to face first, in all its mega-dimensions.

As far as Mom is concerned, her discovery of this book ranks right up there with a discovery of your porn.  What to say?

Ah, but that’s the beauty of the book. I’m an Italian-American, you see, and we don’t do anything without seeing our mother peering over our shoulder. I was awfully careful to avoid the graphic. However. Should one’s mother see the cover, remember one’s undue exertion over one’s window treatments, and connect the dots, simply tell her that ‘M4M’ is a hip edition of Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE. (The sexy model on the cover is smiling over Elizabethan wit.)

Anything more you’d like to add?

Yes. To BufMuscJck: If you ignore me one more time, I’m not sending any more pictures. Cocky bastard.

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