Tinderview #5 — Donald

Donald, 19, has a history of dealing with abuse.

I had been stood up twice in less than 24 hours before Donald and I finally connected long enough to chat. Since he lived almost 100 miles away, meeting in person was out of the question. Eventually, we were able to chat over Skype, which made him standing me up all the more more frustrating.

In the end, we were able to carve out some time for a chat. Not being able to see him in person didn’t allow me to get a read on his body language, but he sounded fairly comfortable after I told him how this would work.

Recorder on.

Donald started by telling me that he’s been on Tinder for around four months. He told me that he’s been chatting with one gentlemen for awhile and that they’ve been on three dates.

“The first time we hung out, we had some type of connection. Right now, we’re just being friends until we have more of a connection to take it to the next step.”

Later on, I would learn exactly why Donald wanted to take things slow.

He told me that he joined because he was looking for a new circle of friends and that he doesn’t believe in just hooking up or in one night stands.

On his profile, Donald gives his Snapchat name, which I noticed a number of people do on the app. It seemed odd to me that people would give out their Snapchat name on Tinder, knowing it could lead to unwanted pictures from random people. I know that you have to approve anyone who adds you on Snapchat, but why would you approve anyone you don’t know and why not trade Snapchat usernames once you match with someone on Tinder, rather than putting it on your profile for everyone to see? I guess if they left-swipe on you, they probably wouldn’t take time out of their day to stalk you on Snapchat.

Donald told me that he has gotten one Snapchat friend request by someone he didn’t match with on Tinder, but that he didn’t add the person.

At 19-years-old, Donald is the youngest person that I’ve talked to thus far. I asked him whether or not he is in school.

“No, I worked at Smithfield’s Chicken & BBQ for three years during high school and recently got promoted to operations manager. But I actually accepted a position at Cracker Barrel.”

He told me that he has plans to go to college to earn his degree in business administration in order to one day own a franchise. He was 16 when he graduated high school, which is pretty young to be going off to college. He told me that he enjoyed working at Smithfield’s because he’s a people-pleaser and likes interacting with customers. I got the feeling that, along with being a people-pleaser, he was also just a bit too young to head to college.

“I worked and I was just kinda scared to go to college. I was like, ‘little ol’ me is gonna go to college?’ I just decided to work and one day go back,” he said.

I asked him about growing up and being gay in a small town and whether or not it was difficult for him to come out where everyone knew everyone. He told me that it was and that it all started at home.

“Growing up, my dad was abusive. Verbally abusive and like…he was the type of person who would give me a spanking with anything that was near. He was an alcoholic and Donald told me that, ‘you stay away from those kinds of people.’”

He went on to say that he came out two months after his dad passed away. I asked if he would have still come out if his dad didn’t end up passing.

“I would have,” he said. “It would have been around the same time because I got tired of hiding from myself.”

Donald said that his family was sad and angry when he came out. His mom still doesn’t accept things, but just wants her son to be happy. He currently still lives at home, which shows some level of acceptance on his mother’s part. He and his sister talk to their nephews about accepting people and their choices and being available to talk if someone needs an ear.

He ended up losing friends when he came out as well. “I realized that if they were truly my friends, they would accept me for who I am,” he said. He continued by saying that he still sees some of them, but he no longer worries about their opinion. I detected a bit of sadness in his voice when he talked about losing friends, which seemed natural given the subject.

We circled back around to the topic of his ex-boyfriend, who he had mentioned earlier as someone who would go on Grindr whenever he and Donald had a fight. This is when I learned that abuse just seems to find him.

Donald had dated the guy for two years. “At first, we just had a connection. It was a connection that I haven’t had with anyone else,” he said. “He wanted me to be his husband.” After a year and a half or so, Donald said that things just changed.

“He started having trouble at home. He was getting abusive with his mouth. We started fist-fighting like, all the time. It just got more and more violent. Parents and family got into it. Our health was at-risk and we just decided to go our separate ways.

“He would get mad when I was like, working and he would jump on Grindr. He always told me that there was someone out there better than me. He would threaten to leave me and downgrade me saying, ‘you’re ugly and no one would want you.’ At one point, he had me feeling very small.”

This made me realize why Donald is so guarded in his new relationship and why he’s probably guarded in general. His father abused him, his family wasn’t 100 percent accepting of him being gay, and a longterm relationship ended in abuse. Who wouldn’t have their walls up when all of that happens in the first 19 years of their life?

“I don’t want things to re-occur. I’m protecting myself because I don’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to make the same mistakes. I’m also protecting the other person because I don’t want to say, ‘I have feelings for you’ and then I’m not feeling it.”

Donald told me that it’s tough for him to trust because of that two-year relationship. “Things can be all great, but 8, 9, 13 months from now…it can be different. I think about that,” he said.

The good news is that Donald hasn’t shied away from his feelings in this new potential relationship. He said that he recently sat down with his Tinder match and opened up about the things we had spent the last hour discussing.

The new guy assured Donald that he wouldn’t treat him in that way and that he would be there to support him in his time of need.

I asked Donald what he likes to do for fun and he told me that he likes to travel. “I like to go to the mountains and the beach,” he said. “I like to relax when I go to the mountains. Build a fire and just sit outside. Sometimes go skiing. The mountains are my place of thinking. When I go to the beach, I like to have fun. Swim, go shopping, go out to eat. That’s just my time to have fun.”

After our conversation, I had a better understanding of why Donald stood me up twice. He likes to be busy, talking to a stranger about his life probably isn’t the most valuable use of his time, and he’s guarded.

That’s why I was so appreciative that he was willing to give me his time and open up to me the way he did. I ended our conversation by telling him that he sounded mature beyond his years and wished him luck moving forward.

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