The History Behind My Dating App Selfies

A look back at the selfies I used to take for gay dating and hookup apps.

Aaron Shea
5 min readApr 15, 2020


Photo by Antoine Beauvillain on Unsplash

I’m standing in front of the bathroom mirror. Or in the Hallway. Or in my room.

I’m wearing a skin tight colored tank top, there’s hair sticking out of the top and the sides. I’m shirtless, desperately sucking my stomach in. I’m wearing short underwear that I think makes may bulge look bigger. A hookup once told me they were cute.

I’m smiling, my beard is trimmed, I’m wearing glasses. My smile is only mouth deep. My eyes show more of the story: desperation, longing, lonesome. The photo is cut off at my neck. There is no face, only arms, chest, and underwear.

I’m siting in bed, waiting and waiting and waiting for a message. Waiting to hear something back, waiting for a response, waiting to be desirable.

I change to a different tank top. I take the pictures again. I change my picture. I’m waiting. I get a message, we’re talking. He wants more pictures, I take more pictures. I send him the pictures. I’m not really his type.

I’m waiting. It’s getting late. I get another message — he doesn’t really have a picture. He thinks I’m cute. He thinks I’m hot. He thinks I’m sexy. I ask for a picture of him. He sends me a picture of himself. He’s older — by at least 20 years. I don’t ask how much, it’s better not knowing. He thinks I’m cute. He thinks I’m hot. He thinks I’m sexy. I get ready to go meet up with him.

I get to his apartment. He gets to my apartment. He picks me up in his car and drives me to his apartment. We talk for a couple minutes. We make out. We have some form of sex. We finish. We clean up. We shower. We put our clothes on. I go home. He goes home. He drives me home.

I’m home now. I feel empty. This was what I wanted. I feel lonely. I got what I wanted. So very, very lonely. I check my apps to see if there are any missed messages. There never are. I take another shower. I get in bed. I go to sleep.

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

I can’t begin to count how many nights I had like this. How many hours of my twenties I sat staring at Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, Growlr, Hornet, Tinder, OkCupid. I would flip between apps incessantly, waiting to get a message from someone, taking selfie after selfie in tank tops, shirtless, with my face, without my face, in my underwear trying to look desirable in someway. Wanting so badly to be wanted, to be held, to be looked at.

I was overweight, but I wanted so badly to be skinny, to look a certain way. To look like the guys who were 50 feet away: skinny, muscular, hairless, a little hair, never fat, never too hairy. I would try to disguise my pictures in a way to make me look what I thought was sexy. What I thought other men wanted. I look back photos and see that I really wasn’t that overweight. I had looked in the mirror and saw what I believed.

I was gross. I was undesirable. I was fat. I was ugly. So I waited on apps for someone to prove me wrong.

Most nights, the only messages I would get would be from older men, guys who messaged a lot of people and hopped that one would stick. I would usually stick, because someone would finally be interested in me. Usually this would only happen hours into my hookup stakeout.

I usually wasn’t attracted to them. I would usually sleep with them. I would usually feel sad afterwards. Not because of the guys, but because of me. Because I wanted and wanted and wanted someone to find me desirable and sexy and I wanted so fucking badly to be with someone, to not be alone in the end.

It was just sex. It was just a fuck that left me feeling worse than before. Left me feeling like I was still alone at the end of the day, that no one really cared for me at the end of the day. At the end of the day I went to sleep alone. I would never sleep over at a guys place or let him sleep over at mine. After we finished, I would come out of my haze and realize I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was uncomfortable. One of us would leave.

It took many years of therapy to understand that I was more uncomfortable with myself than any other part of the situation. I was uncomfortable with the way I looked. I was uncomfortable with my sexuality. I wanted someone to validate my body by finding me sexy. I wanted someone to validate my sexuality by having sex with me. I wanted an experience that told me, “this is right. You are right.”

I spent so many god damn hours on those apps waiting. Wanting. Those selfies are still on my phone, and I look back at them the way someone cleans out an old drawer of memorabilia. The things you keep for no other purpose than to look at once every year or so when you clean. I look back at those pictures as a reminder of the lost boy who so desperately wanted to be found. I know he won’t be found in the apartments of strangers, in the one night stands, in the sales associate, the student, the father of two, or the married man with a baby back at home. I know that. But he doesn’t.

He get’s up. He checks his messages. He puts on a tank top. He takes off his shirt. He puts on a more flattering pair of underwear. Each app is an opportunity, each notification is a way out. I was stuck somewhere in the cultural pool, treading the water of “this is what your sexuality is supposed to look like.”

He takes a selfie. I wish he would delete it. But we have a tendency to keep looking until we’re found.

After those several years of therapy I understood that I was hiding myself in the beds of other people. Telling myself this was what I wanted instead of listening to myself and understanding what I really wanted. So I spent time learning myself, what I liked, what I wanted, how I felt.

In time, I found myself going on real dates with people I was interested in. In time, I found myself spending my nights caring less about who I was going to end up with and more about who I was with. In time, I found myself more carefree than I had ever been before.

In time, I found myself deleting every one of those apps off of my phone.

In time, I found myself and he found me.



Aaron Shea

Software engineer and literature nerd. Can be found drinking coffee and thinking about Lord of the Rings.