The last girl I talked to on Tinder actually called me.
She was sitting in LA traffic, and said she liked phone calls better anyway. I was super into it, and we talked really easily for like an hour and half. We had a similar sense of humor. We had both missed a lot of classic films, but had seen every bad one. I didn’t know any of the bands she liked, and she didn’t know any of mine, but something about the way it came off seemed exciting. I paced my living room floor, listening to her talk about books she liked and her dad and her job and the possibility of moving.
Towards the end of the conversation, she told me she believed in ghosts, but didn’t believe in aliens. She didn’t just mean conspiracy-theory aliens on earth abducting people and cows. She meant she couldn’t see how in the entire universe, with its billions of galaxies with billions of stars each, there could be intelligent life anywhere. To her, we earthlings are alone in the infinite universe, swirling around on a chuck of space-rock doomed to eventually be consumed by our own sun.
But ghosts totally make sense.
We haven’t spoken since.
I’ve been online dating for a little less than a year now, and this sort of thing happens all the time. Not necessarily Aliens v. Ghosts, but some unbelievably small detail that ruins what could be a genuine human connection.
I don’t drink. I really hate Kanye. When I do karaoke I want everyone to know I do musical theatre.
Obviously, this is a two way street, and I’ve been the one to drop a bomb. I do drink – a lot, and not even good stuff. I don’t really like cats. I argue about paranormal beliefs that were meant to be kind of a joke.
Lately though, it’s been that I live at home. I just moved back to my hometown for the same reason everyone does – I graduated college, the city I was in was unbelievably expensive, and I hated my job. So, I sold my shit, packed what was left in my beat-up ’99 Civic, and drove to my mom’s house.
And here I am. I live at home, splitting time between my mom’s and my dad’s. I don’t have a job. I was dumb and didn’t put anything into savings when I did.
Here’s the thing though – so many of my fellow 23-year-olds are in the same position. And dating in this situation is rough, as we all have bizarre standards but not much to offer. So, I’d like to give some of my personal notes on what I’ve found.
Ease the hell up.
If someone you find very attractive and really cool tells you that aliens seem like a farfetched idea, or that they don’t drink because “they don’t need it,” just chill.
Remember, you probably think reptiles are cool or something.
Don’t look for a partner, look for people.
I went on a coffee date recently with this girl from OkCupid. She was so rad; she did improv and freelanced as a clown for some extra cash. She was funny and super weird, but in a cool, genuine way. But there just weren’t any real sparks, and we haven’t met since.
This is dumb, and it happens all the time. Online dating obviously has the pressure of romance or sex, but if we’re gonna crawl out of our nest, we shouldn’t discount a possible friend.
Don’t lie, but also don’t over-explain.
I don’t pay rent. One of my parents usually buys me dinner. My dad bought me a gym membership. I’m privileged as you can get in that sense, and I’m incredibly grateful.
However, these things are hard to say in a dating situation. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m spoiled or lazy. I don’t want to think I’m spoiled or lazy. I’m still my own person, even if it doesn’t seem that way on paper.
But you will absolutely get caught if you lie, and one of the first questions that always comes up is, “So, what do you do?” I’ve never lied about it, but I’ve certainly tried too hard to explain, and it comes off worse than if I had just said “Oh, I live with my dad and I’m in between jobs. Bummer, right?”
A lot of people live at home. There’s no need to go on and on about why and how, and that it’s just temporary and that your dad is just 45 and honestly it’s more like a roommate situation than anything else. It’s been said by everyone on earth, but it bares repeating – confidence in honesty will take you far.
Swipe left on anyone you went to high school with.
Just trust me.
Know your currency.
When I was living on my own in San Francisco, I put my entire identity in my job, my friends, and my city. I was proud of myself for making it immediately out of school. I was a person.
But things didn’t work out. At times, it feels like I’ve lost who I am. Dating without an identity is a lot of things, but most of all it’s boring. I end up talking about food I like.
I am not San Francisco, and you’re not whatever you invested your “self” into. I like making things. I like writing. I’m good at conversation, and I can usually land at least one killer joke on a date. I’m an alright listener. I actively work on myself. This is my currency. I’m trying to understand that this is who I am, not some apartment on Haight and Ashbury. It’s nice. I’m excited to get better at using it.
Give yourself a chance to practice solitude.
I have never been more desperate for a girlfriend than I am right now. Moving home is humbling at best, and a blow to confidence at worst. And the idea of having someone I care about that cares back and wants to hang out all the time is really, really appealing.
This has led me to run a tri-force of Tinder, OkCupid, and Bumble. Some friends keep saying that Plenty Of Fish is worth a shot, but anything more than three feels like I’m trying too hard. Either way, I’m on them constantly. I spent most of Christmas on them. I am the definition of thirsty.
But, this isn’t great. Even if I did find someone right now, it’d probably lead to some seriously co-dependent shit on my part and that’s no good for anyone. For anything to work, I need to chill out. This isn’t a “if you ignore a butterfly it will land on your shoulder” thing. It’s that being home can be an opportunity to look inward. If I can become comfortable being alone, torn of external identity and a little embarrassed, then maybe I can handle someone telling me ghosts are more likely than life.
Online dating is weird. Sometimes I feel like it’s just become this habit, and I’m not entirely sure why I do it anymore. But, I’m still for it. I like the dates. The awkward conversations. The riffraff. It’s fun – but sometimes I forget that’s all it’s suppose to be.
23 feels like a return to high school in a way, everything seems so weighty and upsetting. I really do think that will phase out though. Dating or “finding someone” won’t seem so important. What will matter is connecting with people, and even if we actually are all alone in the universe, we can still hang out with each other. There’s a comfort in that, I think.