Recently I went on a dating app tear, rocking everything from Tinder to Bumble and even JSwipe. The nights themselves were pretty fun and weird, but what I found perhaps even more rewarding than the dates themselves was the opportunity to retell the experience to all caring parties later on. We probably won’t get in the knitty-gritty of those nights, because I need to stay somewhat employed, but they were fun. You get a lot of good content on these awkward dates.
Although the people I met up with were all very different — some young, some old, some hot, some not, some single, some “in an open relationship” — there were consistencies amongst them. And so below, in my estimation, are the ten quintessential phases of an online dating app meet-up:
Phase 1: Is this the end of it all?
It’s a little sad that something that’s supposed to be fun begins with the idea of dying. But you just wonder, due to the amount of spam emails and other weird things that exist in the world, if this is all a setup. Granted you’re a little anxious in general, but even the Buddha would have to trip out just a little bit. You’re walking back and forth on the street in front of the bar you’re meeting up at. For all you know bad things could be getting set up. All you have to show for yourself is a ‘Sorry, will be there in 2!!’ text. Very few times in your life are you as vulnerable as you are here, aimlessly walking back and forth as the slow minutes pass until this mysterious person shows up.
Phase 2: I should have watched Netflix instead.
They show up and there’s a stumble over whether to hug or shake hands. First you both go for the shake, but one of you – generally the member more invested in the meet-up – makes the motion for a hug. You both giggle, say, “ha – okay,” and then hug.
Pretty early on you wonder why you ever thought it would be a good idea to do this, and the idea of leaving now so you can go back to your couch and watch the second to last episode of The Walking Dead – a show you don’t even like – sounds way doper than actually seeing this play out. Why did you look at all that alone time as if it was something that needed to be changed?
Phase 3: How can I tell them I have to go home?
The conversations are honestly really stupid, their start-up idea isn’t going to work, and this could end up being a disturbing night. You think you should call it early. Find that innocent lying voice. That lying voice you used when you told your teacher you had a doctor appointment the day of the midterm. It’s only been eleven minutes and, by definition, you are still technically a stranger and if their feelings get hurt, that’s probably their own issue.
Your mind scatters with courteous ways to exit the situation that won’t make you a total asshole. You’re let down to discover that there isn’t one, and you’re stuck. So you might as well just relax and try to enjoy it.
Phase 4: They’re actually not so bad.
By coincidence or by not, the fourth phase also most frequently coincides with the exact moment that a little bit of beer, gin, or wine hits your lips. What were you so tense about? Look at this! Look at you being all cultured and social! You cross your legs and start to chit-chat and get in the groove of things.
Phase 5: Okay, so they’re actually kind of hot, and they just lightly touched me.
The booze is definitely doing the job in getting you to be more attracted to somebody you’re not actually attracted to, which is fantastic. They tell you a cute story about their dad and the weird family tradition and they’re smiling a lot. You have a sense they might revisit this story, so you make sure to remember and you don’t just nod and smile like with their other stories.
Your date suddenly goes from tolerable to kind of attractive. This is on. You may be on to something.
Phase 6: Wait, am I getting laid?
You guys keep drinking and you start to feel like you two have known each other for a long time. You giggle and wow, what a fabulous person! You’ve established some rapport with the bartender by now – who’s from Montana and came out here “bout, oh, seven years ago” – and the inside joke you and your date have been using is really creating some touchy-feely vibes. The inside joke generally comes from something very minuscule, like if they have an emoji of a pizza on their Tinder page.
Phase 7: The walk around, everything is cool phase.
You exit the bar and walk the dark streets and make a corny joke and they laugh and you applaud yourself on your Hank Moody vibes. Some would say this is probably the moment where the man can do no wrong. The balance is slightly in his favor. If she didn’t want to be there, she would have left by now. Right here, half-drunk, walking together, most things you say will elicit either laughter or more feely vibes. Both are good. You keep walking for a little but then they go on a train of thought that probably includes: ‘This walk thing sounds nice in theory but it is really cold and I do have work tomorrow so are we hooking up?’
If executed half-decently, it leads to the following phase:
Phase 8: The make-out.
The Make-out generally starts here. There’s one truth amongst them: if your making out is “on cue,” as in, lips hitting in the right places, tongues on the same page, you’re going to have some fun together. Kissing is expressive. If your style is divergent, though – your lips opening at the wrong times, weird biting of the tongues – that’s a sign that you’re not the right fit, even if you two are just trying to have fun.
Phase 9: The explicit what-have-you.
Here, you just play it out, mention how close your apartment is, bring up some “night is young” type of stuff and pontificate about how life rewards you when you go with the flow of things. You get in the Uber and this poor Uber guy has no idea what the F he’s in for. In your first few kisses with somebody you’re the most excited, and the same goes for them, so when that’s all going on and you’re in the back seat of a Prius with a driver you’ll never see again, you’re not going to restrain yourself.
“Where you are going?” the confused guy asks.
You manage to pull away from their grip.
“Yeah,” you reply.
“Address in the app.”
“Okay.” And then someone pulls someone’s shirt and you lean in again.
And here is where the what have you begins. You’ve got a hit, you’re there, but you’re running the bases. It always varies. Sometimes you have someone whose immediately asks if you have a condom and other times you have dates who start telling you about their problem with how their dad always criticized them growing up before they’re ready to touch some more. In other words, sometimes you can get straight to it, but other times you have to listen to stories about their pet cat. And what an ugly one-eyed old pet cat, “but yeah, so’cuuuuuttttee!!” then you can get back to track.
Phase 10: Let’s do this again?
When you’re going home or they’re going home, someone eventually asks “Let’s do this again?” It’s supposed to be a big deal, but it’s actually not, because either way, whoever answers is going to say: “Yeah!” since nobody knows how to say ‘No’ like completely in someone’s face. You split.
During the exit, you think many things. Were they nice? Did you like the way their tongue felt against yours? Were the awkward silences not too bad? Should you get sushi? Was your last Instagram a dumb idea? Somehow, Pink Floyd comes on the radio. That’s probably too dark of shit for what we’re dealing with here, so you can change it.
The actual answer to that question of whether they want to see you again comes later, when you ask them if they’re down for dinner this week. If they’re ‘super busy this week with work :( ’ they really mean ‘No,’ but if you get a ‘sounds good :)’ things are looking good out there. But even that’s not it. If you make plans, and then the day of, something with a work holiday comes up at the last second and conflicts with the time you were getting dinner, the ‘I’ll let you know when I can go again :)’ is where this little escapade ends.
But if they actually are there at 8:30, dressed nicely, smelling nice and looking just like how you remembered them from that night of blur, you can go, ah, this whole modern dating thing isn’t so bad.