This is not a story that will help you maneuver through the million dating apps we all download, delete and re-load every other Thursday night at 2:48 am. I am sorry to disappoint you but I am not a love guru, and I am far from the “chill” modern girl who will give you advice on the dating scene or how to land the guy. I do hope, that the few following words you read stick with you. If not help you, then maybe allow you a minute or two of self-reflection.
My introduction to online dating was an impulsive product of unattainable love and the awkward fact that I was 21 and still a virgin. I was never in a relationship, and I never indulged in any of my sexual fantasies.The only thing I had was porn, my hand and yes, my mom’s paper copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” (I will forever regret admitting that).
My decision on celibacy was all due to a boy I was desperately head over heels in love with, my best friend. I wanted my first time to be special, to share that moment with someone I trusted and cared deeply for. But ironically even with all the intimate moments, the heavy words and built up sexual tension…he was never really “ready for us”. I was to wait while he fucked Erica, and Mia and whatever her name was. Still, I held out. I rejected numerous dates, I refused to take anyone’s number, let alone accept a free drink. Stupid girl, right? What can I tell you, love doesn’t make sense. I was 110% sure he was the one.
To my surprise…my decision to lose my virginity to someone I “loved” didn’t quite pan out as I planned. After years of mixed signals, excuses and manipulative mind games it dawned on me that my “best friend” was simply not in love with with me. The truth was harsh, but simple. And so, I decided to let go and explore my sexuality and myself (cue the bottle of wine, a pint of Häagen-Dazs, swipe right, swipe left, it’s a match baby!)
That summer my cherry was popped by both a fraternity boy and the reality of online dating. It was s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. Tinder and Bumble gave me a menu of men I only imagined in my wettest dreams (this is of course coming from a girl who’s never been on a date…remember that. I was pretty hungry for attention and sex itself so I’ll let your judgment conclude that my standards for dating were extremely naive. And well my intentions far from romance, so you see the ironical complexity here). I wanted to catch up on the years I missed out on. I wanted to sooth my broken heart with the fragile casualty of sex. And so I left my fate in the hands of an app, or two or three.
“Ask and ye shall receive” they say. Oh, and did I receive. Cupid sure knows how to navigate through a dating app. With his help I had the pleasure of meeting…a Sigma Phi fraternity brother, a handsome Sweede, a mysterious brooding business man, the local surfer beach god, a broken hearted fool, Mr. 9 inches, Mr. 3 inches, and the Ginger with no soul (my sincere apologies to anyone with red hair, you are all beautiful people but he was truly a dick so I am taking full advantage of the stereotype). It was a little surreal, I felt like I was six years old again at the candy store. Except this time the candy was free and up for grabs. Or so I thought it was. It was all fun and games until I fell for someone completely unattainable, AGAIN. And of course I did the only socially acceptable thing, and that was…to avoid any feelings I had at all.
Like many girls do so often now, I forced myself to be the “cool girl”, and I do apologize if I am assuming that other women pretend like me to be that “cool girl”, the modern woman taking charge of her sexuality, while secretly harboring diﬀerent morals, higher standards and expectations of human connection. True you may not be like me. But it is an easy trap to fall into. And it’s okay to admit if you have. I think sometimes we pretend to protect ourselves from getting hurt. But that’s a story for another time.
So I became the cool girl, the chill girl, the girl who was always okay with sex on the first date, the girl who did “Netflix and chill”, the girl who never got the towel handed to her after sex, the girl who stopped saying yes to dinners and dates and only said yes to a quick fuck with a stranger that she’s never met, the girl who soon became the other woman, the girl who ignored it all and kept doing it all over and over and over again. It was a sick, self destructive cycle. But despite everything I felt, the guilt, the disgust for myself, I still did it, I had pride and power. I would be lying in saying I didn’t enjoy. This is was an ignorantly subliminal coping mechanism that allowed me to deal with my first heartbreak. It wasn’t a healthy one, I know. In fact it was quite destructive but a part of me did enjoy it. It wasn’t all that bad, in fact it was a little empowering at times.
So I kept with it. The thrill was too good to give up, but it did diminish with time, and soon ceased to exist. While one part of me indulged in sensuality, the other part of me was questioning everything. I kept asking myself “This is what young people do, right?” “This is just how things are, it’s 2017…dates and romance don’t exist anymore!” “All my friends are doing it. So why am the one who’s bitching about ‘it’ not being enough?”
My mantra was, “just go with flow, and have fun”. And I tried, I really did. I stopped overthinking every action, every gut feeling and intuition. The funny thing is even when I did put sex as my last priority, I realized that NOTHING CHANGED. The expectations were still the same, SEX. Endless swiping, endless matches, endless expectations of shallow, quick, easy SEX. You know how they say “be careful what you wish for?” Well….I highly encourage you to listen to that fortune cookie wisdom.
Summer ended, but my habits didn’t. I was still prowling the apps, at work, at the gym, at the grocery store. I loved how easy it was, and most importantly I liked the instant attention. And sadly, my shallow need for that attention crushed the opportunity for a genuine connection with anyone. I knew it but I kept lying to myself, and the cycle went on. Sex. Suppressed tears. Settling. Numbness. Sex. I became reliant, not on sex but reliant on the apps. It’s like I was trying to prove myself wrong. I was desperately hoping I would meet one decent guy and put an end to all this bullshit. But how could I have ever achieved that by acting the exact same way, promiscuous, aloof, casual…I became the EXPECTATION. And I had no clue how to escape this version of myself.
Pause. I am not here to shame online dating or insult it or even praise it. I just have a story to tell. And a messed up story at that. I know that many of you are in a completely diﬀerent situation than I was when it comes to online dating. And maybe unlike me you are much more in control of your emotions, needs and sexuality. I get that. So before you react or over-react to what you are reading, remember that this is just an experience told by a broken hearted late bloomer, lost in digital love.
Maybe you do relate, and maybe you’ve been through the exact experience, just a slightly diﬀerent version of it. Or maybe you’ll read this and just think “LOL, fuck oﬀ I know what I am doing”. For all I care swipe away while you take the most glorious shit of your life. Hell, I am guilty of it…the only thing I ask is, be honest with yourself, be realistic, and never accept anything less than what you want and deserve. I think that’s where I made my mistake. I was pretending, and didn’t really know how to stop pretending.
With the way our world appears to be functioning and evolving, “love” seems like a completely absent luxury we can no longer acquire or even attain. In fact it appears “un-cool”, a concept that us young folk shouldn’t even think about until we’re in our 30’s. Well I say, fuck that. My one and only advice for you, is to not filter your perception of dating with other people’s bullshit or rules. Don’t be peer-pressured into becoming someone you are not. And please, do not let a heart break be an excuse, like it was for me. Be true to yourself and if that “self” changes through out your dating journey then allow the change to take place. Stick to your standards and wants. Don’t you dare let anyone label you, undermine your sexual independence or make you feel that it’s strange, or even unnatural to have emotions let alone hope to love someone and be loved in return. Take it from someone who’s been there and back more… than a few times.
P.S. I am proud to say that my experience allowed me to become “ME”. And if anything, it taught me that there are no such things as mistakes. Losing yourself, finding yourself, becoming yourself is a journey, a journey that’s never perfect or how we imagine it. So just be.