Last week, I decided to do what many dudes do on Tinder: get straight to the point. Now—not every guy I’m matched with goes in straight for the date, some like to be chatty. But most exchange a few niceties before asking for my number and seeing when they can buy me a glass of Pinot Noir. (Saturday, at 8 p.m., in the East Village, if any tall, successful, kind-hearted man is available out there. Somewhere. Anywhere. Anyone. Bueller?)
This time last year, I was having a minor panic attack in the bathroom of a lounge in Flat Iron.
I was a little tipsy and my friend J was trying to calm me down, but there was no getting around my anxiety.
Do you see what I have to put up with out there? Dating SUCKS. It’s seriously the WORST. I tell you J, if I’m single this time next year, I will leave New York. I will go somewhere where it’s better and the guys are better. Seriously, it can’t be THIS bad everywhere.
There are some things that really suck about being single. But then there are some awesome benefits of flying solo. When I start thinking about how annoying it is to go on bad date after bad date, wishing for my single days to end already and wondering where the hell is this guy I’m apparently going to end up with… I remember all of the reasons I actually love being single.
Here are just a few… (add your own in the comments!)…
1- Peanut butter and popcorn for dinner? Occasional glass(es) of wine with hummus, carrots and a hard-boiled eggs because I just want it instead of cooking? Grub from the food truck late at night? Ain’t nobody that’ll be laying next to me… so…
I almost always cancel on first dates these days.
Not because I don’t want to go per se – but because the anticipation is almost always more intense than the actual experience. In the age of Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Match, eHarmony, JDate, HowAboutWe, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, Stir, Chemistry, Nerve, Sparkology – and on and on and on – before you ever meet someone, you’ve spent so much time communicating with them, you feel like you know them.
But you don’t.
The weeks after I returned from Europe were one big blur: getting over jet lag, starting a new job that starts an hour earlier than my last one, and getting my finances, insurance and 401k set up and settled.
Needless to say, I wasn’t focused on dating and quite honestly, didn’t have much time or energy for it. (Especially since all the running blogs were telling me I needed to start my marathon training… yesterday.) It was after a long, sweaty run in Central Park on a Wednesday, while I was picking up odds and ends at the grocery store that the dating app, Hinge yelled at me for not logging in for a while.
You could be missing great matches! It said.
Mmmk, Hinge. Whatever you say.
I’m not really a big fan of Hinge and at that point, I had never been on a date from it, mainly because while the concept is smart (10 matches a day, must have at least a third-degree Facebook connection), the technology is lacking. Most of the time when I opened it, it crashed before I could even decide if I thought a guy was cute or not.
So why I decided to open it that day, I still don’t know, but I did. And I’m glad I gave it a whirl, because there waiting in the inbox was a message sent while I was in Rome from…
It was hard to tell exactly what he looked like – he isn’t a big fan of having his picture taken. But from the few selections, I could tell I was into this tall, dark, Greek daytrader – who apparently liked sports, dogs and fishing. He went to college in North Carolina, so at the very least, I reassured myself, he would understand and maybe share my Bojangles obsession (and extreme longing for it). His message was smart and short, enough to get my attention but not so intense it turned me away. I responded with my phone number (not in my character, but I had to get off that faulty app before it completely failed).
Mr. Unexpected asked me out for the next day – a Friday, after work. He hinted to dinner but kept it cool with drinks first – ya know, just to make sure we could tolerate one another for an entire meal.
Turns out we could. And that’s when everything started to become rather unexpected:
I usually don’t get tipsy on a first date – but by the time we headed to Bowery Kitchen, I lost all track of time and wits and … I had already downed three cocktails. He ordered us a bottle of red at dinner and suddenly, the me with a big appetite, had zero interest in the lobster roll or the skirt steak… instead I wanted to be that girl who kissed a guy on a first date in a restaurant. (Sorry –I’m not sorry- other patrons!)
When we left, we got caught in the rain and huddled underneath an umbrella, his 6’3-self attempting to hold it over his head and my head without both of us getting soaked (it didn’t really work, but was cute, nonetheless). We found a covered building and made out for a bit, laughing at the irony of the “romantic kissing scene,” and generally just savoring the unexpected moment.
And then I became Ms. Unexpected myself:
We could go to a place near my apartment, I said. I have to walk Lucy anyway.
We grabbed a cab uptown from Soho and had another glass of wine before heading back to my place- I won’t give details (quite yet) but while a deed wasn’t done, it was evident that Hinge quite accurately predicted a vibrant chemistry. So much in fact, that after a restless sleep, two giant iced coffees and a stroll in the dog park, I went to brunch and flying trapeze with M, took a shower, took a power nap, and headed downtown again to meet him, less than 24 hours later for dinner and drinks.
And so far, a month later, he’s still proving that the unexpected can be so much easier, so much sexier, so much more relaxed than when you follow the rules.
Because I’ve been having a lot of fun breaking them.
I don’t ever take home someone on the first date, and I usually never agree to dinner so early in. I rarely do back-to-back dates, or as I’ve called our first/second date: the marathon date. (If only actually running the marathon would be the easy!) I usually try to be nonchalant and uninterested, playing a game that I’m not good at until the bitter end, but instead, we send each other slightly inappropriate memes, pictures of our dogs, talk sports (ahem, thanks E for explaining hockey to me) and just let it flow.
As for Mr. Unexpected, he continuously sparks my curiosity with his candor, his charisma, the way he challenges me – in many ways – and what he picks for dates – a Yankees Game (my first one), a family-owned Spanish restaurant he frequents, potato chips and beer in bed, watching YouTube and perhaps a comedy show in the week the come.
From how it started to where it’s going – the most exciting part and yet, the thing that makes me at ease, is how I never saw it coming. And for once, I put aside the things that make dating feel like such a chore, and I just let someone surprise me. I just went with it and let the ride take it’s course.
Ya know what? Six or seven (or something?) dates later, Mr. Unexpected is still keeping me on my toes. And as he said, “I can’t be ‘unexpected’ forever, I have to turn into something, right?”
He does. And I bet I won’t expect whatever that will be.
I was adamantly against Tinder when it first came out.
I couldn’t understand as my friends explained about swiping left and right, choosing guys to go on dates with based purely on a glorified, modern version of hot-or-not. I needed to know things before letting a guy buy me a drink. I couldn’t blindly accept an offer without knowing at least the very basics….
… Could I?
I can. I did. I have. I do.
A quick glance at my matches list today reveals I’ve swiped right on enough men to give me 312 potential daters. Of all those guys somewhere in New York (or NJ or CT), the vast majority are sitting idly in my inbox with absolutely no conversation, a third of them are silent after the niceties wore off and others asked such inappropriate questions they quickly escalated to being blocked (or screenshotted) within seconds.
Even so, it’s fun. So you play.
Tinder is an easy, no-fuss app for finding dates, and you would think the process of getting off our iPhones and getting on a bar stool would be easier… but it’s not.
Back-and-fourth painfully boring questions (that would already be answered if anyone bothered to fill out their profile or Tinder created a form), makes you quickly lose interest. Or excuse my crudeness – you get guys who ask if you will sit on their face.
At the start of the year, I deleted the app and prevailed to meet more men the old-fashioned way. Surely if my parents and their parents and several of the couples I know today met through friends or at a bar or in a class- I could do that too. I’m social! I told myself. I’m friendly! I can do this!
Then polar vortex happened. Like five times. And then I made a last-minute trip to NC. And I got into the NYC Half-Marathon and had to start training. And then… well I stopped making an effort to go out. Blame it on the weather or my age (and the hangovers that just keep getting worse!), or just on the fact that dating is tough, but it’s March 13 and I’ve gone on whopping 4 dates this entire year.
None if which were worthy of a blog post.
And so, I did what I think many women do: I re-downloaded Tinder. I watched as the matches rolled in, building my confidence and making me blush that I am hot! I am dateable! I am worthy! I’ll find love!
But the thing about a meaningless app is that it produces meaningless pseudo-relationships and dates. Because the simple act of just judging someone’s appearance and a two-sentence description (if that long even) doesn’t equal any sort of actual connection. Though it does make you feel wanted, the sad truth is that most Tindering is done while waiting in line at Starbucks. Or on the toilet. Or passing time in between meetings or at lunch.
And while I haven’t actually gone on a date with any of these new guys since welcoming the flame back to my iPhone’s home screen, I feel like I’ve put myself out there more. I feel like I’ve been dating. I feel like I’m being more proactive about my love life. Like Pinterest, even though I haven’t actually done anything differently – the simple act of swiping makes me feel like I’ve pranced around all of New York and met all of it’s bachelors.
But I haven’t. At all.
There are a few guys I’d probably go out with, and yet I couldn’t tell you their names without checking Tinder right now. I couldn’t tell you anything I talked about with them or why I was intrigued enough to say “yes” instead of “no” – because they had dimples? Their profile said they were 6 foot? Because I liked their photo with a Tiger? Or from the Color Run?
I don’t know and I bet the same guys wouldn’t know a thing about me either. They especially wouldn’t know that while I’m messaging them or selecting them, I don’t look like that made-up girl in my photos – instead, I’m plucking the chinny-chin hairs off my face with my hair in a messy bun, eating popcorn and wearing oversized sweat clothes I’ve had for almost six years.
I get the appeal of Tinder and I understand why it’s still growing and popular – but I wish there was a way to make online (or app) dating more serious. Maybe if Hinge could get it’s messaging issue together, it’d be an option, but even more than that – I want a way to make dating online more like dating offline.
How do you make something so superficial have substance? How to look past your own mental check-boxes while trolling profiles to give someone a chance? How do you know if you’d actually talk to them in a bar before deciding to go out with them? How do I best spend the very little time I have to date the smartest and most effective way?
I don’t know the answers – but my guess is that Tinder probably won’t derive the results that I desire. And so, like I have done several times before, I’m deleting it.
But for good this time. And with a clever twist: I took the time to scour through all 312 matches (yes, really) and I sent a message to the ones that I could possibly be interested in with my e-mail. If they’re interested in something beyond dirty questions and pointless banter, they’ll get in touch.
Or they won’t.
Either way, I give up my once-upon-a-Tinder fairytale dreams. I give up deluding myself that I’m actually dating, when I’m not. And I’m not making myself feel bad because I’m focusing on other things or choosing my friends or new adventures over finding a so-called prince to shape my Manhattan life. I might want a happily ever after, but it’s not going to be found inside of an app. And maybe not inside of a bar or a running group or an Italian class or a philosophy course or any of the above.
Maybe it’ll be somewhere else entirely.
But for now, I’m trading the glass slippers for running shoes to run my second half-marathon on Sunday. I’m letting go of a silly app and I’ll celebrate crossing the finish line with margaritas and my dearest of fairy godmothers – eh, I mean friends – and should an attractive someone be there, so be it.
And if not… I will be in Europe in 21 days. Just saying.