I am the worst at dating. This is not just because I have never gone on a second date. It also has to do with the fact that I suck at messaging people back on Tinder, I feel guilty about messaging multiple people, and altogether, I question the point of dating.
I have tried to expel this on paper before. In general, I see serious dating as a sign that a person is unhappy and/or seeking something that is missing in their life. I don’t necessarily even agree with myself on that because I see the flipside.
Something about hanging out with strangers that you sought out via an app whispers desperation to me. I immediately want to backspace over that sentence because I think of my friends who date casually, I think of myself meeting people off Tinder et al., and I think of the evolutionary urge to mate. But I also realize I do think that. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism because I suck at dating. But I don’t lament that I suck at dating. I’m very happy by myself, thank you very much.
But then why do I find myself browsing Bumble and the like late at night, rarely messaging people, but always curious what attractive person I will find (and match with) next? Yes, some of it is narcissism. Who thinks I’m attractive? But also, there is a desire to meet people.
Dating, the act itself, is intimidating. You are putting yourself out there. You are vulnerable. It is not just swiping. It is putting your whole entire specimen on the table—no Instagram filters, no friends censoring your profile, no thirty second (or 24-hour) delay on reactions, just clinical inspection and personal biases sizing you up—and then waiting to see if the other person accepts you and wants to see you again. Of course, you’re doing the same thing to them.
I have never gone on a date I regretted (except for the time I paid $43 for her meal, but that’s a separate rant). I enjoy meeting people. I enjoy hearing their stories, learning where they’ve been in life, where they want to go, and what excites, motivates, and piques them. I often find myself laughing with this person, sharing clever observations, and bonding for whatever time it takes to get to the bottom of the coffee cup.
But then we’re at the end. We say goodbye. We indicate we should see each other again. But we rarely do.
Why? Because we’re judging each other in the wrong frame of reference. We’re asking if this person is my soulmate, my puzzle piece, my short-term fling, or my bedmate for a night.
Maybe we should just ask, can I get coffee with this person again and enjoy myself? Not enjoy myself in a love/butterflies/between-the-bedsheets way, but coffee in a “let’s catch up”/shoot the breeze/no pretense way. Romance be damned. Friendship be everything.
Often I see someone’s profile, and their pictures strike me as a conversation piece or of a personality I would love to experience, but my messages are stilted because I’m trying to impress them based on this mistaken notion that I need to entertain and eventually land a date or else if I ask too many questions, I’ve sunk into that stereotype of “he’s never going to ask me out.” And maybe I will “ask you out,” but right now I’m just interested in how your dad likes being a diplomat and what is your favorite book.
Sometimes romance, love, and lust get in the way of dating. Maybe we shouldn’t always be looking for those things. We should just be looking for interesting people. Because love is strange, but people are stranger.