I Love Dating In New York
I love dating; I can’t get enough of it. It’s an addiction, and I blame New York.
There’s something exhilarating about dating here. You love the adrenaline rush of meeting a stranger, of getting to know someone for the first time, of waking up in a beautiful one-bedroom in Chelsea thinking, I could get used to this. There’s never any pressure, because come on, you may never see him again. Even the worst dates are worthwhile. It’s actually these dates that you love so much, probably because you love recapping them with your single friends. Sometimes you spend the entire date waiting for him to go to the bathroom just so you can text someone that he baked you homemade chocolate-chip walnut cookies, or that he can’t stay out long because he has to see his shrink in the morning. This is why you’re always talking to at least two or three people at one given time, if not more. Hey, you like to keep your options open because you’re realistic about your odds for success. Sometimes you feel crazy when Siri reminds you that you have two dates for that week. She’ll say it in such a judgmental tone that makes you feel slutty, but you tell yourself that she’s just jealous; she doesn’t know what it’s like to date in New York.
You begin to realize that the longer you’re here, the worse the addiction. You’re going through dates like you go through packs of cigarettes. You’re constantly “trying to quit”, but regardless of what you do, nothing works. You’ve deactivated your online dating profile about five times already, but before you know it, you meet someone at the local bar or you’re getting set up by a friend. This friend tells you she knows another guy and that you two would be perfect together. You immediately know that her sole reason for thinking so is because he’s cute and gay, as if this is your only criteria for love. But you can’t say no. How could you? Maybe she did her homework this time. Maybe he’s the one. You’re so numb to it all though that it doesn’t faze you when it doesn’t work out; you didn’t expect it to. No one in their twenties even has time to be anything but single; everyone is too distracted by their careers and social lives. And with the lack of accountability here, sometimes you can’t help but wonder if it’s even possible to have a faithful relationship in this place. You’re becoming more curious to try an open relationship and monogamy is starting to sound ridiculous. Maybe you need to just accept the fact that New Yorkers are destined to be chronic daters.
You swear it can’t be like this everywhere, probably because you have so many damn options here; too many, to the point where it’s unhealthy. You’re constantly surrounded by beautiful, well-dressed, successful people who constantly make you question how you could possibly still be single. The problem is that New Yorkers are incapable of being satisfied. You change apartments faster than you change your hairstyle, you’re bored going to the same restaurant more than twice, and you’re constantly looking for new jobs because of this impulse telling you that there must be something better out there. Of course there is, you’re in New York. It’s no different with dating. You drive yourself crazy looking back on the amount of dates you’ve been on in the past year and are ashamed that you can only remember the names of about three guys. Once in a while, you’ll stop and think: am I doing something wrong?
Maybe, but you can’t deny the fact that you’re doing something right. Dating in New York is not easy; it’s a perfected skill, but you’ve mastered it. You know how to come off as interested yet slightly unavailable. You know how to look your best but still make him think it took you five minutes to get ready. You also know that the best spot for a first date is one that involves access to both alcohol and a quick exit. But most importantly, you know what you want. After five minutes, you can easily determine whether he’ll make it to the next date, if he’ll do for a one night stand, or whether it’s best to just abort mission completely. And when it’s the latter, you’re prepared. You’ve become so good at all of this because you know exactly how to keep your emotions from getting in the way.
Yet there comes a time when you cross paths with someone who makes you stop for a second, someone who catches you off guard, someone you actually want to see again. You’ve hung out more than three times which is completely unheard of. You think to yourself that everything is going well and that this never happens to you. He’s calling you instead of texting and showing all the right signs that he’s interested. He calls you sweetheart already and for some reason, it doesn’t make you want to vomit. He’ll even grab your hand in public and you’re okay with it; you hate PDA, but you don’t mind being that couple for once. However, you haven’t yet had the talk about what you’re looking for or where you’re at, and for the first time in a long time, this bothers you. Your typical dating practices don’t apply here and you suddenly feel like you’re dating for the first time again. You try to ignore the fact that you still haven’t met his friends or that he hasn’t friended you on Facebook yet, because that’s how people date in New York, right?
Yet there comes a point when his texts become delayed. He starts making excuses to hang out with you. They’re the same excuses that you used last week on another guy, but you’re too blind to see that. You ask your friends, he likes me, right? Yet you answer before they can. He has to; you don’t call just anyone sweetheart. Yet, you can see it in their faces that they know exactly what’s going on, but don’t have the heart to say so. He then tells you that this just isn’t a good time for him. That work has been really crazy recently, or that he has a lot of family stuff going on. But of course he ends it by saying, it isn’t you, it’s him. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been in his shoes, you let yourself deny that you’re getting faded out. You make excuses for him and tell yourself that he’ll come around. But before you know it, he’s not answering your calls and is making you feel like a madman, like those five dates just didn’t happen. You’re frightened at how quickly he can disappear out of your life like that. You’re angry that he would lead you on. You’re disgusted that he couldn’t even give you a reason, a goodbye, some closure. You go over it again and again until it finally hits you. You realize that this is exactly what you did last week with another guy. You’ve done it many times actually. And the worst part is that you can’t be angry anymore, because you now know that it isn’t him, it’s you.
Months pass and you still think about him. You wonder if you’ll ever see him again. You think you see him every time you’re on the 2 train, but it’s never him. You think about contacting him, about what you would say, or if he would even respond. Whether a text is too desperate, of if he even deserves a phone call. But you know he doesn’t deserve either. You try to forget him. You tell yourself that at some point, maybe in another month, or year, or two, someone even better will come along. So you search harder, you date more and you convince yourself that one of these days, this will happen to you again. You have to, because you can’t bear to think otherwise.
But in the meantime, it’s fine. Because you love dating, don’t you?
Read another essay from Joey Albanese in Thought Catalog Books’ new anthology, Boys, here.
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