The Joys and Woes of Dating While Queer in Cali

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12:00 p.m.: Waiting by my phone.

José was photogenic and we had mutual friends so when slid into my DMs on Facebook – asking about me, talking about how cute I was and requesting to meet – I accepted. He told me Saturday, 2:00 p.m. at Jardín Plaza, one of the largest shopping malls in the south of Cali. It was a convenient location for both of us – for me because there’s a Mio station close to my home and Jardín Plaza is at Universidades station which is a 30 public bus ride from the center of the city. José lives in the next city from the south Cali, Jamundi, about 15 minutes by charter bus from Jardín Plaza. I agreed and told him we can confirm when we are on our way.

Over the years, I’ve learned that cross-cultural dating can be especially challenging. Not only do you come from different cultural backgrounds but a language barrier and certain customs can also make it difficult to attach meaning to situations that arise. For instance, the majority of times I’ve planned a date or  meeting with someone, they later ignore, confuse or delay the meeting time. It almost never fails. I’ve learned from prior experience not to assume how serious a potential date may be with the time they set to meet or even showing up for the date. A common occurrence when planning dates or meetings in Cali is that people sometimes initiate plans without confirming with the person they invited until that person reaches out to confirm.

In this case that person was me. Therefore, to avoid the disappointment of possibly getting stood up again, I contacted José at 9 a.m. to confirm our meeting at the mall. No response. To avoid disappointment I told myself that maybe he was asleep and since I had other things to get done, I would start my errands in the afternoon if I heard nothing. So at 12:30, I left out and begin my errands.

2:00 p.m.: A text comes through from Jose’. “Dónde estás?”

I nearly popped a vein in my eyeball from side eyeing so hard. “In Cali. Where are you?,” I replied already slightly annoyed he hadn’t acknowledged my previous inquiry from the morning. He told me he was at the mall and that he worked overnight, woke up at 1 p.m. and left his house at 1:30 p.m. I let him know that I didn’t understand why he didn’t confirm with me before leaving his house to let me know he was on his way. He told me he had recently realized that his phone was on airplane mode. My intuition and common sense wouldn’t allow me to believe that. Needless to say, we didn’t end up meeting that day.

Eventually, I was able to kick my ego to the side long enough to actually meet this guy. He had made the second attempt to meet at the same mall the following weekend. Although he was late, we did meet and sit down for a meal. Our previous botched meeting aside, I still wasn’t impressed. There were several moments of awkward silence, including after he told me “me pareció más alto en tus fotos de Facebook.” I certainly wasn’t as attracted to him in person so I smirked at his claim that I looked taller in my Facebook photos and kept eating.

I waited to see how he would handle the payment for the meal. Standard for me is that we each pay for our individual meals on the the first date. I have been on dates where my date unexpectedly pays for my meal. I have also been on dates where once my nationality was revealed, my date suddenly didn’t have enough to pay for his meal or the expectation was for me – “the gringo with money”- to cover the tab.

We each paid for our meals then the date ended shortly after. I admit that I made no effort to keep in touch. Although he would like posts and message me every now and then when I posted picture in my stories, I knew social media would be the extent of our contact.

Without playing the victim, I’ve admittedly overlooked and later reconsidered factors that l’ve previously written off as bullshit. Indeed, there are circumstances that sometimes contribute to lapses in communication with a potential suitor. Coming from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds things like running out of data, not being able to leave the family or being unable to a afford date or transportation last minute can interfere with a successful date coming together.

Dating online has been my go to since I was an introverted, bi-curious teenager. There have been exceptions since I have had random luck with a handful of “at first sight”encounters. Albeit, I’ve met genuine friends online that I am still in contact with as well as long and short-term lovers. When I first began dating in Cali, I found that writing to guys on Grindr to be my outlet for not only meeting guys but for building my Spanish vocabulary. I’ve acquired a lot “jerga [herga]” or slang just by exchanging messages.

The truth is that dating is full of ups and downs no matter where your geographic location. If I could describe dating while queer in Cali with one word: interesting.

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