I originally hail from the great state of Kansas (great minus the tornadoes and never-ending Wizard of Oz references). It’s a place that’s not only geographically, but mentally and culturally, miles away from my current cozy (read: tiny, expensive and comes with two found-on-Craigslist roommates) home in lower Manhattan. As I’m fast approaching the ripe old age of 26—an old maid in Kansas years—I’ve received a steady onslaught of invitations. Bachelor/ette parties. Wedding showers. Baby showers. Impeding nuptial invites including a barrage of social media cuteness #(insertmashupofnames)nups, which I can’t decide if I find adorable or vomit inducing.
I do realize that people in the middle squeeze of the US generally move faster when it comes to settling down (farmer problems). Frankly, at 26, just starting off my career, I’m not looking to have a ring put on it anytime soon.
However, being an independent woman in her mid-20s, I do like to date. Dating can be super fun. Also, super traumatic. The latter has proven to be the norm these days. And so I ask myself, “Why is dating so difficult in the most populated city in America?”
I’ve concluded nine possible reasons, as cliché as they may be, as to why dating in New York (as a non-native) is a never-ending carousel of nonsense.
1. Distance Makes the Heart Grow Farther.
You better hope the person you start dating lives within a .25-mile radius of you or you’re screwed. You live in Williamsburg and he lives in Washington Heights? Ha. Kiss that relationship buh-bye. The subway will suck your time away. Taking cabs everywhere will suck your bank account dry. And your dates will subsequently suck because no one wants regular dates consisting of $1 slices from Two Bros and hanging out in Port Authority. You sucking get me?
2. Trade-In and Trade-Up.
I think there are three things New Yorkers are always on the lookout for: a better apartment, a better (paying) job, and a better significant other. Why the hell would you ever have the desire to commit to anything when the seduction of “better” is just too titillating.
3. Me, me, me, me, me.
New York imports sacrifice a lot to survive here. We abandon our comfort zones and move miles away from family and friends. We sacrifice financial security to follow our dreams. We sacrifice our dreams in order to pay our rents. We sacrifice space and privacy for Manhattan zip codes. After a while, we tire of sacrificing. We slowly become selfish. We relish alone time and refuse to relinquish it to take a chance on someone foreign. For all you know, that girl could be a psychotic gold digger or that guy could have some creepy choking fetish you’d rather never find out about. Sometimes, an apartment to yourself, a six-pack of beer, Seamless, and Netflix sounds oh so much better.
4. Work = Reward. Or does it?
People move here from all over the world for a specific purpose. That purpose is most often their occupation. To become good enough to make it in this city, you have to strike some luck, but also work extremely hard. We become conditioned to working hard and expecting a specific result in return. Whether that be a raise, a promotion, an award, another piece of flair, blah blah.
Dating doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you put in the work and don’t get the results you want, expect, or think you deserve. You do everything right. You’re charming. You hold the delicate balance between cute and sexy. You remember the name of his or her second grade class pet. But sometimes it’s just not enough. This isn’t business; this is the heart and it can be a dirty, little battlefield. It’s a lot easier to understand budget cuts than to wrap your head around why something that started off in sparks ended in ashes. After weeks, months, years of this happening, when we see the signals of our work not being rewarded, we say, “fuck it” and move onward. The end.
5. Sorry, we’re already married. To our careers.
Again with the work thing. We work to live. If you start dating someone, you will always be competing with a ridiculous work schedule. Unless you enjoy only seeing said person every two weeks at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday, you’re set-up to be the thoroughly annoyed mistress in this relationship.
Damn you, Steve Jobs. Kidding. I loved you, Steve, and immensely enjoy my earbuds. They’re great for drowning out the crazy and enjoying some tunes on a nice long run (okay, or short run, down the stairs, from the platform to the train before the doors close). But, for real, do we have to add a soundtrack to every minuscule daily activity? I understand we all need to unplug and tune out sometimes. But, if we’re tuned out on the train, at the market, at the bar, at the coffee shop… and too afraid to make eye contact… how the hell do you expect to meet anyone?
Because it’s oh so much more fun to have someone drunkenly hit on you at a bar than to say hello to the person also waiting for their extra-hot soy latte (FYI extra-hot burns the soy).
7. Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell: online dating.
The internet is a beautiful thing. It can also be a terrifying place where weirdos go to prey on normal dudes and chicks who just want to have good conversation and some crunchy spicy tuna, okay?
I fully admit to having a OkCupid account. The first date I ever went on, I must have just cashed in on internet dating gold, or karma was super nice to me for being a good person who has had a rough go with men. (I go with karma.) Regardless, we met out at a bar in the East Village. I knew from about 10 seconds into our date we had some kind of spark. I knew he had to have liked me to endure 45 minutes of advertising talk and my weird food cravings. And we dated. And it was great.
However, until I met Mr. Karma Date, I usually received one of three types of messages:
1. “Hey ;)”
(Seriously… you read my profile, checked out my pictures and have nothing more interesting to say than “hey” and an emoticon? I know it’s scary putting yourself out there. But I do expect both parties to put forth a little more effort than three letters and a tilted smile.)
2. Some really lovely, complimentary message but ultimately after briefing their profile, I knew it wasn’t going to work out. Religion. Politics. Or there is no way in hell my vagina was going to get wet from that face (sorry, Mom).
3. Some terrifyingly bizarre messages. Judge for yourself.
You sound like fun & I saw you put music as an interest, so tell me… If you could have drinks with any musician, who would it be. Here’s the catch” they can’t be alive today…
Okay. Totally normal. But based on several of his answers I knew this just wasn’t going to work. Extremely religious. A week later with no response from my end, I get a follow up.
I realize that you’re probably in the middle of writing me a long, detailed response, but I just wanted to let you know, you don’t have to take that much time with me. You can just copy and paste one of the following options:
Yes, Drew, you’re very hot, and unfortunately your email got lost in the sea of jackasses, but I would love to get together with you.
Yes, Drew, you’re very hot, but not my type, and good luck with your search.
I don’t think any of this is funny, and I’m a stuck-up bitch who takes herself way too seriously, and I actually have to go now because I have a therapy appointment, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Xanax to get to… but you are very hot.
That message made me want to vodka soda with a Xanax chaser.
Hi. You are way out of my league but maybe we can be besties? im great at errands and, um, all of that. wait nevermind how embarassingg. haha sorry! you rule! can i just paypal you for no reason?!
I hope this person was wasted or this was a weird joke to him.
You have my full attention if you wish. Do you like being free or being tied down?
Yeah… found out this dude was into some hardcore BDSM after examining his profile.
Ok. You are seriously adorbale. Can I adopt you as my new little sister? I’ll make us kool-aid and peanut butter sandwiches and I’ll protect you from the other kids on the playground, I promise. :)
Okay. Now browsing registered sex offenders, I promise.
8. Defining the relationship
This, I’m sure, is a texting generation issue, not a New York issue. But it’s still rings true. In a society that wishes not to label things (because how uncool would it be to do that?), we are getting so lost. I’m attached to my iPhones. Yes, I have two. Again with the work thing. I bring one, maybe two phones, into my bathroom and text in the shower for goodness sake. When I’m trying to communicate feelings or important information everything gets so lost in translation.
Chatting with single friends I hear terms thrown out like “hanging out,” “talking,” “dating-ish,” “exclusive dating,” “seeing each other,” “fucking,” “dating plus,” “boyfriendy but not BFO or FBO” (great. I’ll get my UFO charged up for when THAT happens) and my head spins.
What. The. Hell?!
Regardless of what the label may be, I just don’t know if we’re defining it with one another, which is the only thing that matters. Instead, we wander around this nebulous space trying to avoid and earnest and fearless conversation and filling ourselves with excuses. “It’s too soon to have that conversation,” “I don’t want to scare them.” Yeah, yeah. It’s never too early to express your feelings. If the person your dating is frightened by your words, tell him or her to grow the hell up and get a night light.
9. Baggage Claim
We’ve been hurt too many times. We have too many weird hang ups. Too many ghosts who won’t release (social media, you can take that blame). We’re tired of trying. We have seen a homeless man take a shit in the subway station more times than we have fingers and toes. That’s kind of irrelevant, but it’s a horrible sight, truly.
We are just a cityscape in mosaic. Millions of shattered, jaded people smashed together, spinning around on this broken merry-go-round.
I might be a little bitter. And jaded. I’ve definitely had my fair share of crazy in life. Yet, I still have faith that in the best city in the world, full of endless opportunity, the best guy will come along and the merry-go-round will cease. Suddenly, all of the things that have made dating here so hard will be the things I’m most grateful for. Because, it led me to whom I’m supposed to be with.