Grind your own business: a horror story

By Jack Shelly / Staff Writer

I once went on a job interview that was advertised on a gay sex app.

That might sound strange, especially if you’re not familiar with a little app called Grindr. But hear me out.

Much more than the “gay Tinder,” Grindr is a microcosm of the gay male world.

For better or for worse, the gay men of my generation came of age on Grindr. Many of us owe our first sexual encounters to the app, which uses GPS to connect nearby Grindr users. In high school and college it can be tricky to find partners — the fear of hitting on a straight guy is ever present. So when it launched in 2009, Grindr became the first major form of social media to streamline that uncomfortable hookup process.

Its syntax now pervades nearly all aspects of gay culture. The word “looking,” for example, designates someone seeking quick sex, and, not coincidentally, is also the title of the acclaimed HBO series following three gay men in San Francisco. Conversations on the app often begin with, “What are you looking for” or simply, “Looking?”

“NSA fun” translates into “no strings attached.” The body type categories, which users indicate on their profile, have become widely used slang and even gay porn subgenres. “Twink,” such as yours truly, was originally an acronym that stood for “teenage, white, into no kink,” but now mostly just means a slim, baby-faced gay guy.

All of that said, you can’t reduce Grindr to a gay sex app. It’s a place to get the word out about parties, happy hour promos and even political causes.

I’m not ashamed to say I’ve made close friends on the app. Because as a teenager from a Catholic high school in a sheltered suburb, I had much to learn about the ins and outs of gay culture and, more to the point, the ins and outs of gay sex.

Forgive the pun — humor’s been a common thread throughout the learning process. Allow me to illustrate.

A few weeks ago, while I was at work, I received a message from a user who was looking for a part-time personal assistant. The base pay was $17 an hour, which makes my bus boy wages look like pocket change.

His entire profile was an advertisement for the job, with an email address and a list of interview times at the Starbucks in Market Square. There was also a link to an identical Craigslist listing.

I had my reservations, of course. The profile had no picture or age information, and Grindr seem like a shady place at best to look for a potential employee.

But my curiosity — and want of a pay raise — got the best of me. I decided to schedule an interview against a few of my co-workers’ protests. The next morning, sporting my fanciest jeans and an oxford shirt, I went off to the Starbucks Downtown to meet the mysterious advertiser.

I ordered a drink and waited until a well-dressed businessman in his 30s walked in and introduced himself. The interview started off as they usually do, with hollowly pleasant small talk and questions about my current employment, skills and interests. It wasn’t until I asked about what kind of tasks the position entailed that things started to get a bit odd.

“They aren’t things I couldn’t easily do myself, and they aren’t things you won’t necessarily not enjoy.” Could you be a little be more specific? “Honestly, it’s more about me helping someone who’s still in school. I know I would have appreciated the chance to work a job with very flexible hours in order to have some extra cash when I was in college.”

Huh? I began to sigh internally. This was all starting to seem a little too good to be true. I asked where his office was located.

“You’d be working out of my home in Mount Washington. Before I offer anyone the position, they’d have to come see the house and make sure they’re comfortable with all aspects of the job.”

OK, I think, time to get out of here. I mention that I have to get back to Oakland for class, and we hastily wrap things up.

That night at work, I reported everything back to the waitresses.

“Other aspects of the job?” my co-worker asked, incredulously.

“Oh, he is definitely looking for sex,” my matriarch of a manager said. “Are you considering going for it if he offers you the job?”

Definitely not, I answered.

While still at work, I received a message from him asking if I’d like to set up a “second interview” at his home. No, I thought, I most certainly would not. But, before I ceased all contact, my enthralled co-workers convinced me to try and get more information out of him.

I quickly messaged, “Could you just be up front with me, what ‘other aspects’ of the job are involved?” My imagination is running wild. Is he going to ask me to clean his place in my underwear, a la “50 Shades of Grey” or expect me to do my best “Secretary” impression by transitioning from “dull work” to something else entirely?Minutes later, I gather all the waitresses around me as I read it aloud: “Well, I typically don’t bring this up until the applicant completes a second interview in my home, but I like to see if they’re comfortable offering massages as well. I had several other excellent interviews today, so please know that the position has become quite competitive.”

Yep, this is exactly what it seems like.

I never went for that “second interview,” or had any further contact with him, but something tells me those massages probably would have ended with him getting off.

For the time being, I’ll stick with busing tables. As for the guy, I’m guessing he’s still on Grindr, still looking. I guess we all are.

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