It’s midnight and I’m still waiting for the guy I met on Hinge to reply to my WhatsApp text (we moved to WhatsApp after a week of pretty great, hilarious conversation on the app). He’s left me on read and he’s been online several times since. I can’t sleep. I’m asking myself if I did something wrong if my message was weird or not funny, or just generally quite boring. I wonder if this is how the ghosting process begins and I consider just deleting our conversation because every time I open WhatsApp, I see those blue ticks and I feel vulnerable and rejected all over again. I wonder who else he’s talking to, I tell myself it doesn’t bother me if there’s an entire inbox from Hinge girls and they’re just more interesting than I am. I tell myself I don’t care. I turn my phone on silent, put it face down on my bedside table and close my eyes. But I still can’t sleep. I can’t sleep until he replies.
And this is just the start of the minefield that I have come to learn modern dating is. Modern dating was always just this concept which my single friends would speak about over a few glasses of Pinot and I would think to myself how lucky I was to be in a relationship. I met both of my previous boyfriends through work or mutual friends and our love had naturally blossomed and that, to me, has always been the preferred method of dating and falling in love. Sure, it had the same issues- texting was still this huge deal with a huge set of potential problems- being left on read, vague texts, no questions, understanding tone; texting really is just hell in its own way.
But they knew me first. They knew how my sense of humor was based on sarcasm and a darkness only certain people could love. They knew I laughed at the same twisted parts in other people and they knew that my harsh, confident exterior was only a shield I used to protect the vulnerabilities crawling beneath the surface. I didn’t need to worry about them rejecting me if I was to relax around them. I didn’t need to constantly hide the parts of myself I was worried were too much or not enough. They knew them already, they accepted them already. But with online dating, it’s a process of peeling back these layers. Knowing when to expose parts of yourself like your dating history or family dramas or the way you think sex is actually a big deal, and maybe they won’t be okay with that. It’s like a chess game of anxiety, knowing one foot in the wrong direction could blow the whole game apart.
And so I read into everything. I think back to our date, the way he looked at me as if he couldn’t quite believe I was real. A way no one had ever looked at me before. I think of how he understood my creativity because he too had suffered the journey himself. I think of the way he kissed me, how it felt as if I could kiss him forever and never grow tired of his lips. I think of how I grow attached to people and places and things in an almost reckless way and I think maybe this is not meant for me. It’s 12am and I’m thinking of him pressing his lips to mine. I think about how it would feel to have his body against mine. And he still hasn’t replied.
And so I scroll back through our three months of conversation, trying to work out when it changed and why. Maybe the date wasn’t as great as I thought. Maybe all the things he said were a result of too much wine and excitement that maybe I would let him take me back to his flat and fuck me so he could move on to the next girl. Maybe that’s all it was. Maybe I was silly for thinking it was more than that. I wonder if I need to change my approach to sex now that I’m in this new world of dating. Maybe I need to somehow learn how to remove the emotion from it. Maybe I need to learn how to emptily screw strangers and walk away the next morning as if we hadn’t just shared the most intimate parts of ourselves. Maybe I need to just let go a bit more, enjoy moments for what they are instead of second guessing everything. Instead of believing everything needs to mean something. Maybe it doesn’t anymore.
It’s 1am and my brain hurts. I’m exhausted. My thoughts are spiraling and now he’s there fucking someone else and I’m here in the dark, discarding him from my mind. I’m telling myself it’s better this way.
My phone flashes with a message from him, as if he hasn’t ignored me for five hours. I tell myself I won’t reply as I’m tapping out a message to him. I tell myself I’ll tell him I can’t do this. I tell myself I’ll ghost him. Maybe I just need to be alone. Maybe people with anxiety are just meant to be alone.
I reply and I fall asleep and I know the cycle will begin tomorrow. All it takes is a delay in reply. A message which feels different somehow. It takes a slight change for me to latch on to it and convince myself everything is falling apart.
Because modern dating is hell if you have anxiety.