We’ve gone from using dating apps as the customary order of business to swiping for solace. Technically we are using them like we did in the before times, but the circuitry in the platforms and in our bodies is confused. I cringe when that guy sends a message, dreading the endless small talk. But then he surprises me by telling me that I have been kinda shitty to him and that everyone is busy. It’s true, we all say this and often use it as an excuse.
I started out fresh and sexy with this guy, but then never showed up and went radio silent. Why? He made me reflect on the morose dating waters I’ve been dog paddling in.
This particular guy looked hot in the first two pictures, which is fairly easy to do in sunglasses, and the last one is of him laughing. It’s super cute made me smile every time I looked at it, which I did often when swiping through his profile. However, the answers to my indecision were not in his photos. Why was I ignoring him? Maybe because his demographic is identical to the last serious person who hurt me more than I’ve admitted. Or is it because I’m not as ready to jump into something as I’ve told myself I might be? With that issue totally unresolved, I began talking to other guys who seemed to fit the bill more.
What is the bill? I tried get beyond the millennial bandwidth I’ve been stuck in and hit it off with a much older guy from the US, which was fun until he disappeared. I didn’t ask him why. His life wasn’t as free or steady as he wanted it to be, which is fine but also disappointing. Honestly, was I really going to fly to Nashville to meet him, as we jokingly discussed?
I’ve had my fair share of international and domestic love affairs in the past and going for broke in the name of romance has been a familiar, but not very effective, strategy. I deleted him as an Instagram follower and moved on.
I then found the very “basic guy” who was fond of sending me pictures of himself in the shower. They weren’t dick pics and he often looked cute and a little vulnerable, which enabled me to look past the grammatical errors that accompanied every message. Chatting with him felt easy until he used the terms “safety” and “danger” in ways that triggered me. I tried to explain that I felt uncomfortable, which he didn’t seem to understand. The fact that he used the term “crazy” after I got weirded out only heightened my discomfort. I cancelled our meeting, and he flew into an immature rage, saying spiteful things and liberally dousing each text with “lol.” Instead of stopping for a second to realize where I was at, he laughed at me and called me a “time waster”, “cold”, and said this whole mess was my fault. It was infuriating and reinforced the fact that we were speaking different gendered dialects. Just another day on Tinder.
Then there’s the “millennial meh” trend, which refers to the boring, futile pattern of breadcrumbing or texting so infrequently it’s ridiculous. These guys always say they want to meet, yet go a day or two with nothing, and then pop back in with “hi love.” WTF. Do you want to meet or not? We all know that the more distance between the initial match and setting up a date the less likely a meet up is. Although I was furious about this lazy, contradictory behaviour, I didn’t give up. I even gave one guy who stood me up TWICE another chance, thinking that maybe he was going to take the initiative. He didn’t and when I tried to explain how lame he was being all he said was “I’m confused…sorry for not texting.”
Phrases like ‘get out there’ or ‘get back in the saddle’ make romance sound like a simple leap or a quick re-immersion into something that’s familiar. It’s nothing like this though, which is reflected in the apathy and strangeness that defines dating at the moment.
I don’t even know if we want to meet. We seem to have lost the ability or confidence to be intimate with others. The stakes feel impossibly high and so does the prospect of failure, which is directing a lot of the behaviours I’m seeing in others and feeling in myself. It’s easier to screw something up so it doesn’t happen, ghost, or just leave a picture dormant than it is to risk the herculean task of being in the awkwardness of a new person.
It also seems like the places inside ourselves that we normally tap into when making room for something or someone new have slipped out of reach. We don’t quite know where they are and only have our trusty flight or fight mechanisms to hold everything in place. This makes making new connections very tricky. However, instead of naming our pandemic trauma millions of us continue to pour our already depleted energies into ‘finding someone’ using rusted out tools from another time and place. What is happening right now isn’t dating, it’s a tragic choreography of longing. Everything has changed, including us, and we need to talk about it.
I’m thankful for the guy who called me out because he forced me to reckon with my romantic self. Essentially, my book project is my boyfriend for the next while and a relationship with someone is not a priority. There, I said it. Now, I need to properly grieve my desire for sex and meaningful intimacy, which do not seem realistic at the moment for a million reasons.
Anything is possible though, and I am going on a date tomorrow night… at least I’m supposed to. I think the most important thing right now is to be honest with myself and anyone I communicate with. Talk about a basic girl!