It’s January of 2020, I am 32 years old, and I have never used a dating app. I’ve had three pretty solid romantic relationships. Each of them was embedded with teachings that have shaped, tested, and served me, yet none of them were at the hand of an algorithm. An algorithm that’s supposed to find a love connection for me? I’ve never even met this algorithm. It doesn’t know me, my thoughts, fears, passions ,or idiosyncrasies. So pray tell, how will it be a good matchmaker?
I just don’t know.
I contemplate them with curious wonder. Would I like it? My time is worth a lot; should I waste it on someone I don’t even know? But then I think: Am I NOT putting myself out there romantically? Do I want to at this particular moment? Is that okay? People you know have met their partners online; others have met scoundrels who don’t respect themselves. So how could they possibly reciprocate that feeling towards others?
Is it unfathomable to believe that a serendipitous moment of connection can reveal itself organically?
It seems to me that dating apps are also a paradox of time. Is it saving me time or am I jumping 10 steps backwards? When you meet someone in person, you can quickly discern if there is a glimmer of attraction. How are those tiny little neurons inside of your brain reacting? Do they smell good? Women have a hundred times better sense of smell than men do, and even higher when they are ovulating. Are they funny? Do they have a sense of humor that comes from a real place of self-awareness and observation, not brutal barbarianism? After I have assessed all of this, then and only then will I possibly start flirting—and by flirting, I mean I give someone a hard time to test if their sarcasm skills meet my own.
If we meet already knowing that we are there for human interaction, the jig is up! I can’t size you up and decide if you are worth my flirting energy and wonder if you are noticing that my body language is slightly different now than it was an hour ago, when you were a stranger and I wasn’t obligated to decide if I was attracted to you upon our first meeting. Our attraction evolved by wave of witty banter and judgment of cocktail choice.
The truth is, it is extremely difficult for me to be attracted to another person enough for me to want to be intimate with them. To knowingly open myself to a channel of energy that suggests, “Hey, I am open to a romantic connection to another human being—may that be you?” is to be honest, mortifying.
How much do I want my life to be regulated? Can’t some things just genuinely manifest without manipulation? It feels so curated, so intrusive. But then I play devil’s advocate with myself and think: Don’t we curate our identities anyway? Isn’t the way we dress, speak, and style ourselves all forms of curation? I know I try my damnedest to LOSE my Brooklyn accent in most situations, unless you get me mad—then it has a mind of its own!
I become very uncomfortable when I have to present myself. HELLO, THIS IS WHO I AM. Like in any classroom on the first day of school when the professor utters that dreaded phrase, “Okat, now we are going to go around and everyone state your name and something special about yourself.” I need to come up with something special about myself? Who the hell in this room has earned the right to hear something special about me? And the reverse is true as well. Who the hell am I? I haven’t proved that I am worthy and responsible enough to receive their specialness. I’ve already paid a boatload of money to take this class—now I have to sell myself? Trust me, I was already thinking about it when I wrote the check. Just kidding, no one writes checks anymore!
I am not sure where I fall on the judgment spectrum of dating apps quite yet. I see their societal use and empathize with those individuals who intrinsically are not socially or chronologically blessed. For those who are lonely, who are longing to feel desired or to have a romantic connection that exists beyond the ephemeral ecstasy of casual sex, I see the appeal of these apps. They are an accessible way to achieve human connection from the comfort of your own home. With that said, there is something to say for holding onto the vestigial nostalgia of kismet, that moment you meet someone unexpectedly and it takes you off guard. And you think to yourself: Was it meant to be? Maybe that makes me unrealistic or old fashioned, but as of this moment, I think I’m okay with that. I’m not quite sure I am ready to mess with destiny.