Monthly Archives: December 2015

What I learned from a year of online dating

I believe in love. I believe in chemistry and soulmates and fate, but I also believe that all of that works a lot better if I give it ample opportunity. And so, 2015 was a year of swiping, matching, and hoping for the best.

“People aren’t always going to be magical right away. Maybe they’ll become magical, or they’ll become garbage…. How are you going to know if you don’t spend time with them?”

This year, I have dated boys who have talked endlessly about themselves, who can’t spell “you’re,” who ask me to describe my trip in such intricate detail that you’d think they were taking notes for my autobiography. One boy’s idea of small talk included asking me what internships I had while I was in college, and several found it appropriate to comment creepily about how much they would’ve looooved to have a teacher who looked like me when they were in middle school. I’ve had boys freak out when I didn’t text them within an hour, boys ask me to put my mouth on their body parts before I even met them, and boys tell me there’s nothing wrong with Donald Trump. There have been boys who lived at home and boys without cars and boys with credit scores and SAT scores low enough to give me pause. Ones who’ve showed up for first dates in band t-shirts or at 4am because that was the only time he didn’t work or who didn’t even show at all because he forgot to set his alarm before a nap.

I’ve had boys mansplain to me about longterm travel. About being a teacher and our education system. About writing. About things I’ve earned degrees in—especially when they haven’t. About foreplay. About being a woman.

A boy I was dating for five months continued online dating the whole time we were together, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when he borrowed my car for two months and then didn’t buy me a birthday present. Another I was seeing for a few weeks had a Mitt Romney bumper sticker on his oversized SUV. Another waited 10 days before mentioning that his wife had passed away last year, and he was a single father.

I still believe in love. I still believe in chemistry and soulmates and fate, and that the stigma of online dating doesn’t make any sense. (The one boy I’ve ever had to call the police on picked me up at a bar, the old fashioned way.)

And this year, there have been boys who showed me around unfamiliar cities and bought me $100 dinners and were nothing but courteous. Boys who showed me new bars and recommended new books and told me I was beautiful. Boys who held my hand and brought me cookies and rubbed my shoulders after I got home from work. Who drove to my side of town just to see me, who daydreamed adventures with me and then took days off work to make them happen, who talked about me to their moms and were proud to introduce me to their friends.

I’ve learned that jealousy, insecurity, and “crazy” messages are not specific to one gender. That everyone is vulnerable on an app that encourages the shallowest of interactions. That sometimes a boy will message you a week after you stop talking to him and ask you to hang out because, “You’re cool and other people on tinder kind of suck.”  That when a boy explains his loss of interest in you by describing himself as “a puppy who just gets really excited about new things,” there is nothing to do except to start feeling sorry for his next girlfriend. That “I’m just kind of curious” is not the best basis for messaging with and/or dating a new boy. That in the end, it is still just as important to be kinder than necessary.

One of my best and oldest friends, skeptical of my newest pastime, gives me the only advice that I’m going to take as I continue swiping, matching, and hoping for the best in 2016: “Stop dating average and below-average, when what you’re looking for is someone as good as you are—someone above-average.”

interesting times

My former student asks me if my life now is different from how I imagined it when I was her age and I almost laugh. At 27, I am almost twice her age, and absolutely nothing in my life is what I would’ve imagined. I tell her this, and I think a big ball of stress immediately leaves both of our bodies.

But it’s never wrong, I say. Just different.

—–

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about apologies and forgiveness. I am working on being more honest, pushing to stop myself at only saying what I really mean.

I had been using Sorry as a filler word— what other word can mask insecurity and laziness and anger and hurt and blame and frustration and all of the emotions I used to hide with an unnecessary apology? I haven’t found a replacement yet, so I feel the word form in my throat, roll around in my mouth, and leave a beat of awkwardness when I swallow it. The hardest part is determining when I am actually really sorry for things—which is surprisingly infrequent. And it leaves me feeling guilty and spent, like I am wrong to stop apologizing for my very existence.

Forgiveness has been harder. At first, I thought I needed to forgive more, but I don’t think that’s it. In line with my unnecessary apologies, I tend to hand out forgiveness like candy on Halloween. I believe in being kinder than necessary, but this often means allowing myself to be stomped on over and over by repeat offenders who have already shown me who they really are. I am struggling to hold back to only when I mean it—the need to forgive comes in waves, like seasickness that leaves my insides churning. I want to believe the best in all people, I want to treat them as I would like to be treated even after I already know that they don’t feel the same. But I also want to stick up for myself, hold true to ultimatums that will leave me better off in the end, and believe that there are some people who need to work harder before they deserve the grace of my forgiveness. Even more difficult are the times when I know I should forgive myself.

I think I need to stop living my life in optimistic quotes that stick on my bathroom mirror.

—–

There is a Chinese curse that says: “May you live in interesting times.”

But it can’t be wrong, I think. Just different.