Last week, a 60-something former colleague of mine mistook his Facebook status bar for the search function, and set the name “Sarah Anderson” as his status a half-dozen times. Sarah Anderson—and everyone else who scrolled past that in our timelines—had to assume it was just the creepiest possible way to make a mistake.
Grindr users could’ve been forgiven for thinking that Chris Bowman’s private messages and BBQ invitation were both questionable mistakes, too, but the 61-year-old Apex, North Carolina man was sincere: He really wanted to invite them to celebrate the 4th of July at his house.
Bowman changed the name on his Grindr profile to “BBQ not n ORGY,” and then started messaging nearby strangers to ask them if they’d like to stop by for grilled meats, vegetarian-friendly meals, or just a glass of iced tea. (“Why do 90% of u think this is an orgy? It’s not, it’s open to all” Bowman explained on his profile. “Is it because I’m on this app?”)
The bisexual Army veteran couldn’t have been more charming in his admittedly random invitations, which he sent to Grindr users who lived in the same Raleigh-area suburbs. “I’m having my annual BBQ. Slow cook pig, chicken wings, hamburgers, fish, and vegetarian meals,” he wrote. “Please feel free to bring ur wife, partner or just a date. This party is open to men, women, families. Gay, str8, bi, and the unknown.”
Although some users might’ve been confused, or just disappointed that a potential orgy had to involve vegetarians, Apex resident Matt Setzer decided that he’d take Bowman up on the invitation. He grabbed a friend, picked up a bottle of gin, drove to Bowman’s house, and found… a very nice dude who had been awake cooking since 4 that morning.
“I can’t stress it enough how inclusive everyone was,” Setzer told The News & Observer. “From the second we walked up, everyone was so welcoming. Because of the small nature of the group, it felt very personal and everyone felt like family.”
Setzer said that he was surprised to be one of the only Grindr users who attended, especially since the host’s messages had gone hella viral on Twitter. (That tweet that screenshotted Bowman’s profile was retweeted more than 44,000 times). He also got to pet Bowman’s dog, who is, it seems, a very good boy.
Bowman told Buzzfeed that this is the fifth year that he’s hosted the BBQ, and that he does it as a way to “give back” to his neighbors. “As an alcoholic, I haven't spoken to or seen my kids since 2004. I haven't talked to my mother since ’99," he said and I’m not crying, you’re crying. "There's things that go on in life that you make choices about, and I chose wrongly. I chose the drink. I’ve been sober for 8 and a half years now, and I just kind of feel the need, instead of being the asshole that I was, to be a softer, kinder, gentler, let’s-get-together kinda guy.”
Setzer told Buzzfeed that he has stayed in touch with his hospitable new friend, and that he plans to attend the 6th annual event next July. But, if Bowman decides to fire up the grill before there, Grindr has offered to help. “Chris, we'd love to contribute to your next BBQ,” the app tweeted. “Any plans for Labor Day? Send us a DM.”