In the spring of 2015, I had sworn off online dating for what I seriously thought would be the final time. Every time a friend asked, “Are you back on OKCupid again?” I vehemently said no, fuck that shit, I was never going back, and I meant it. I hated that after all this time and after all these guys, I still had little to no experience in romance or love. I had been on dates with 16 different dudes, but I had never dated anyone. I’d been “liked” by hundreds of guys, yet no one had ever gotten far enough to actually like me. It was frustrating. It was disappointing. It was downright embarrassing.
All I wanted was…was what? For some reason I couldn’t articulate what I was looking for–not to my dates, not to my friends, not even to myself. I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend. Not exactly. And not a random hookup. Something. Anything beyond a few awkward dates that disintegrated into nothingness. One kiss that didn’t make me pull away first. Mutually assured infatuation. A summer fling with someone who wasn’t a fuckboy. Some drawn out, inexplicably intimate thing that slowly and steadily fell into the right place without ever being named.
I think my uncertainty about what I wanted came from the nagging feeling that I was unlovable. I felt like I wasn’t the kind of person who could fall in love, and no one in their right mind would fall in love with me. After the disastrous one-sided entanglement with Rishi, I couldn’t really think of anything I had to offer to someone interested in a relationship, outside of the fact that I was a person who really wanted to be in at least one relationship before she died of boba overdose in her 40s so on some level I was desperate and pliable and those were qualities that hetero cis dudes liked, right?
I had learned the hard way that I was too neurotic to find the emotionally fulfilling romantic relationship I wanted from the constraints of some random guy’s profile, whose answers often suggested he was mediocre at writing about himself anyway, so what was the fucking point? I hated, hated, hated the whole setup: having to rely on arbitrary algorithms to determine my alleged compatibility with a stranger, having to read one shitty bio after another to parse some potential out of some guy’s bland words, having to meet up with that guy and being forced to make small talk in hopes of forging one small connection, just one spark that could maybe lead to something that felt tangible and real.
It was all so contrived and unnatural. Nope, I was better off bitter and alone.
“Well, there are others you can try,” my friends said. “Like Plenty of Fish. Or Coffee Meets Bagel. Or Tinder!”
The thought of trying another dating site/app made me want to throw up. It also seemed like a very pathetic, pitiful thing to do when I had already failed with one medium of online dating. Like, was I that desperate? Couldn’t I just be a charming, sociable and somewhat normal person who made guys fall for her in real life? Well obviously not, but it doesn’t hurt to throw that in as a segue to the fact that meeting guys in real life was not something I knew how to do. I had attended a women’s college. My social circle and professional network were both 95% female (at the very least). I spent most of my time at work, alone in my room, or out with mostly female friends. I was steadily growing out of my partying/going out phase and accepting myself as the unexciting introverted homebody that I was. Where did a guy with romantic potential fit into all of that? Meeting guys in real life sounded complicated and messy anyway. I had once again reached the ultimatum that I would have to a) finally come to terms with being a premature spinster, or b) resume online dating, and I had resigned myself to the former.
But then my friends kept sharing their online dating stories with me, their successes and failures, and hearing about them actually made me miss going on dates myself. Or, well, not so much the dates as the excitement of getting to know someone unfamiliar and attractive and feeling flattered knowing that at some level they felt the same about me. That didn’t even have to be on a date. That could just be a flirtatious exchange with a guy so far removed from me that my anxieties about the aftermath were minimal to none. I guess I just missed being a few clicks and keystrokes away from a random pool of guys who were guaranteed to be interested in me (at least initially). Maybe it was contrived and unnatural, but it was easy. It was convenient. And sadly, it was all I knew.
At this point, it had been a few months since I had last used OKCupid. I knew I was never going to use it again. But not all dating sites were like OKCupid. Maybe I just needed to get back into the game using a slightly different medium of online dating.
It was my friend Laura who kept bringing up Coffee Meets Bagel. “It was created by women! It’s a women friendly dating app.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll try it,” I said. At the time, I was wary of hookup-happy Tinder and hated the idea of having to swipe on people based on their photos and maybe like one sentence they had written about themselves. So Coffee Meets Bagel it was.
I knew that I needed help, though. There were only three lessons I had learned from my OKCupid dating venture, and they were (embarrassingly/sadly/unfortunately enough) things that other people already instinctively knew without having to suffer through a series of mediocre dates like I had.
The Only Three Lessons I Learned From My OKCupid Dating Venture
- Don’t talk about rape culture. Or bring up anything remotely related to social justice/feminism. It’s kind of an alienating defense mechanism and while your paranoia about douchebags is valid and you just want to get to the big questions as a preventative measure against falling in love with a sexist/racist/other-ist asshole, this is not the way to go. You’re trying to get laid here. Quit with the boner shrinking topics. Nobody knows what you’re talking about and if they seem like they do, that doesn’t mean there will be chemistry or that they’re good guys.
- Don’t make guys feel like they’re pedophiles for wanting to date you. Yes, there are plenty of dudes who are creeps and date girls way younger than them and that’s really gross and really pisses you off (#FuckthePedoPatriarchy), but none of the guys you’ve met up with were all that creepy or that much older. It’s not their fault you look so young. You don’t even look that young, actually. Or do you? Who knows? Dating somewhat older men is probably better anyway, their brains will be developed.
- Physically position your hands on non-threatening body parts of dudes to indicate interest in a non-creepy manner. “Well, you don’t have to put it like that,” said my friend Mackenzie.
So yes, I needed a lot of help with coming off like a normal person who was dateable. Which was why I enlisted my friend Sayuri to be my official Dating Sensei, because Sayuri is a friendly, socially aware person who had been in actual relationships and had miraculously positive experiences with dating on Tinder. For whatever reason, she agreed to be my Sensei, so I asked her to help me create my Coffee Meets Bagel profile. We sat ourselves down in our living room (she was my roommate at the time) and I pulled out my phone.
“Okay. What should I write?” I asked.
“What do you think are your best qualities?” she said.
“I’m neurotic?” I said.
She tried again. “What are some positive things about yourself that you want people to know about?”
I stared at her blankly. My best qualities? Positive things about myself? I couldn’t think of anything.
I literally couldn’t think of anything. It was kind of embarrassing so I looked away from Sayuri’s perplexed gaze for a little bit. It’s not like I was a deeply insecure person with low self esteem. I mean, I used to be and I can be, but not like how I was five, ten years ago. I had always mustered some level of self-respect and dignity. And I knew I was more confident, sometimes. But truth be told, the current self-love I had cultivated didn’t really stem from saying and fully believing in complimentary things about myself. It came from being tired of hating myself and reclaiming my flaws, in getting really invested in some weirdly, personally idealized fucked up version of myself and trying to give little to no fucks what anyone else thought.
Of course I wasn’t going to say all of that, so instead I just said, “Uh…”
“Why not say that you’re creative? And that you’re a writer?”
I cringed at that. “Um. Let me try writing something and you can give me feedback.”
This is what I wrote:
a writer in the loosest sense of the word, feminist as fuck, terrible at describing myself without the use of self-deprecating humor
intersectionality, karaoke, comedy as a coping mechanism
I appreciate when my date…
is sympathetic to my awkwardness, is honest and direct about his interest (or lack thereof) in me, wants to take down the white capitalist heteropatriarchy with me and piggyback into the sunset (you need to be the bottom tho)
Sayuri just sighed and shook her head at this hopeless case she probably regretted taking on.
Next were the picture negotiations. To my dismay, Sayuri rejected all selfies in which I was making weird faces or crude bodily gestures, selfies I thought were cute and quirky but she seemed to think were sloppy and weird. “Oh! This one is good,” she said, selecting a full body shot of me wearing a short white dress and a shit ton of makeup.
“But…I don’t look like that all the time!” I spluttered.
“It’s a nice picture. It shows off your makeup skills,” she said.
As if hetero cis men knew or cared anything about makeup skills. I grudgingly conceded to her photo choices though. I knew she was only trying to help, and only because I had asked.
So, with my profile finally written up and my pictures uploaded at last, the game could now begin.
Or not. I soon realized Coffee Meets Bagel would force me to make snap judgments on random guys, which made it just as bad as Tinder, except Tinder was still worse because of swiping. (What do you have against swiping, you might be wondering. My issue with it is that it’s just way too impersonal and superficial, even for the likes of me. Swiping is literally a dick move. Just one motion of your phallic finger and you’ve decided whether someone is worthy of further attention, or just a crusty ass booger to be flicked away and forgotten within milliseconds. Distill all the things wrong with millennial dating and Internet culture into one gesture and you’ve got yourself the conceptually douchey act of swiping.)
Coffee Meets Bagel was also boring to me. From what I could recall, I could only look at one guy (excuse me, bagel) per day. I mean, I am monogamous, but not when it comes to eye-fucking, jeez. I think there was extra stuff I could do to get more bagels, but it seemed like such a hassle. After a few days of dead end conversations and awkward silences, I ended up matching with one guy who asked me out. Like, this guy actually asked me out. Like, he actually wrote to me, “Would you like to go out on a date?” Millennial guy says what now? What twenty-something Bay Area single uses the loaded D word with another person with no trace of irony?? He then went on to ask me what I was looking for, and casually mentioned he wanted to be in a long term relationship.
His honesty and sincerity and keen interest in me and totally valid questions were freaking me the fuck out. I hadn’t even met the guy yet and this bitch was talking about long term relationships. He didn’t know me! He had no right to be considering me for any kind of long term relationship regardless of how hypothetical and slight in possibility it was! I wasn’t even sure if he was attractive! I stared harder and harder at his pictures, and his handful of words, and felt more and more repelled by him. I didn’t know what to do. I had already matched with him, had already grudgingly admitted that I was open to being in a relationship. There was no way to backtrack.
So I deleted my account. Like a fucking coward.
Whatever, this coffee didn’t pair well with those bagels anyway.
“I’m going on Tinder,” I announced to my friends. “It’s fine. Sayuri dates people on Tinder. It’s not just for fucking.” It was true that some part of me was morally against swiping, but I had pretty much done the slow-paced equivalent of it on Coffee Meets Bagel and had survived, mostly unscathed. I figured that Coffee Meets Bagel was just a gateway dating app to the cyber cesspool I was meant to stew in all along.
That’s when the real game began.
tl;dr Learkana bitches about OKCupid! Learkana tries and fails at Coffee Meets Bagel! Learkana finally moves on to Tinder!