Growing up gay, for me, meant never experiencing or allowing myself to experience any teen norms.
There were no dates, dances or dudes that were romantic interests.
But when I came out in the era of online dating, I realized there are more gay people on earth than just me, which was how I felt as an adolescent.
From the days of eHarmony to the era of Tinder, most of our generation has seen online dating as a viable option.
I will be the first to admit that Tinder is a gamble.
You are either swiping right on a genuine, sweet person or a douchebag.
You live and learn.
While I have had my own odd experiences with Tinder and OkCupid, I have to admit that I gained quite a bit from online dating.
Here are the top five things I learned from online dating:
1. It showed me exactly what I didn't want.
Oh, cool! You vape and have all shirtless profile pictures? Well, don’t sign me up for that!
One true blessing of OkCupid was its frank questions on each user’s profile.
Each person would answer the ultimate question.
Are you looking for a relationship or a temporary sheet warmer?
For me, I was interested in the former, and it was easy to spot who was interested in the latter.
Initially, coming out of the closet meant that I was basically reverting back to a 14-year-old attempting to talk to a crush and go on his first date.
It’s like that movie "Never Been Kissed," except that I am not Drew Barrymore.
With online dating, I found out exactly who I didn’t want to be and who I didn’t want to be with.
At the same time, I found exactly the type of person I was and who I was looking for.
And, no, it isn’t you, frat boy chugging a beer in your profile picture. But I am sure you are someone's beer to her pong.
2. It was a confidence booster.
Despite having some awful dates, I found the experience to be a sort of confidence builder that I certainly needed after high school.
Online dating made me realize I was, again, not the only gay man in the world, and that I was not a completely inept turtle when it came to dates. I mean, a little inept, but not completely.
Small victories, right?
3. I appreciated what my parents had.
Life mission: to find the gay version of the relationship my parents have.
Growing up, I envied the relationship my mother and father had with one another. They are in love for almost 30 years and are still just as happy today.
They have the ability to fight through whatever life throws at them together.
They have memories, pictures and stories of a lifetime of love and happiness together.
No, it wasn’t always easy.
I am sure they have had their quarrels, but they showed me that all of that was worth it to be with one another.
This certainly wasn’t a lesson I took lightly, as I had to find someone who was crazy enough to put up with me for the rest of my life.
4. It made me grow up.
Who would have thought that Tinder and OkCupid would make me mature?
Certainly not me, when I clicked the download button. I thought I was signing up for an easy, silly adventure, and in some way, I was.
But through the half-year of online dating, I realized a lot about myself. I’d rather be like an old lady in pajamas reading a book on a Friday night than go out to the bar again.
For fun, I wanted to go to museums, dinner and book stores, instead of drinks with friends.
So I am basically telling you I am a boring hermit.
But I'm a very cute hermit, who makes all the boy hermits go "wahh."
I chalk up my "Princess Diaries 2" reference to why I was single for 21 years.
On top of this, at 21, I realized I was finally a real adult.
For some reason, I just assumed this was an urban legend and that whole process never would happen to me.
I started to work toward an actual life for myself. I changed majors at my university, started writing, got a part-time job and made plans for a career.
Maybe it sounds silly, but this all was spurred on by online dating and, last but not least, my final point.
5. I found love.
What? Plot twist!
Yes, I can say I am in a long-term relationship with my boyfriend, all because of OkCupid and their crazy questions.
I found my own funny, quirky, book-worm of a boyfriend, and although he is as geeky as I am, he is a casanova in my eyes.
As my boyfriend and I are about to celebrate our first anniversary together, I propose a challenge for those who have not tried online dating but want a relationship: Try it!
Sure, you will have your horror stories, your bad dates and awkward encounters.
But hey, they will mold and shape you to realize what you truly want and the kind of significant other you deserve.
So what’s the harm, as long as you are safe and responsible with it?
Maybe you might find your own quirky casanova or woman of your dreams.
May the odds be ever in your favor.