It was the summer of 2015. A summer of new beginnings: I had created a Tinder account. My hair was growing out and I was wearing makeup consistently enough that people had mostly stopped freaking out about it. I looked like the Kawaii Asian Girl (TM) everyone wanted me to be, instead of an androgynous, pre-pubescent Asian Daniel Radcliffe who for the record still could have gotten laid if she wanted to okay but whatever moving on.
New online dating app, new me.
“Can you swipe right for me?” I asked Sayuri, my roommate and newly christened Dating Sensei. “And do, like, 5 matches a day for me?”
“Sure!” she said.
Same old schemes.
“No white guys,” I warned her.
She nodded without missing a beat. “Got it.”
The matches came in. I was giddy from the speed at which I could flirt with guys, the rapid pace at which I could reject them if they or their bios said the wrong thing (e.g., “I’m pretty indifferent about Beyonce” ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS *unmatch*).
There was so much power at my fingertips. I was UNSTOPPABLE. (Cue diabolical laughter, and that smiling purple emoji with the devil horns.)
Fuck OKCupid! Tinder was awesome. (Or maybe it was awesome because I finally stopped talking to white guys. Hmm.) Tinder got to the point. It got to the heart(lessness) of the matter. There were no endless blocks of text for me to overanalyze and agonize over, no lengthy paragraphs to compose out of some weird unspoken adherence to the medium of the message thread. Best of all, the guys I talked to weren’t afraid to use emojis, which meant they didn’t sound like robots in my head (which may have also been a racial difference).
It wasn’t long before I started chatting up a very promising match. From what I recall, he was slightly younger than me and cute in a kinda dorky way, was working as an engineer at Tesla for the summer before he returned to college on the east coast, liked to do magic tricks, and wasn’t afraid to include a picture of him and his mom as part of his dating profile, which I interpreted as adorable and wholesome instead of weird and awkward.
Hey hey. Share with me your current favorite YouTube video. So I know it’s *real*
Also tell Dating Sensei I said thanks [yes I mentioned Sayuri swiping for me in my Tinder bio at this time, yes I was/am that shameless]
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b81Cr97ANrk [a Buzzfeed video featuring the Try Guys, a quartet(?) of 4 dudes who challenge social norms around masculinity and do other random shit, in this video they explore childbirth and use a labor pain simulator to recreate what that experience would feel like: shitty and painful AF #TeamEugene #ILoveHimOMGHesSooooHot #MasculinitySoFragile]
Lol, will do. I actually have to report to her on my results so thank you for your voluntary participation
Labor: painful as getting kicked in the genitals 500 times
*name changed to protect the oblivious
So we went back and forth with more small talk, until I got fed up with it and I asked him if he’d like to meet up.
That’s right–I, Learkana, took the initiative and asked a boy out! Tinder Learkana had way less fucks to give than OKC Learkana. Tinder Learkana was bold and brave and asked boys out instead of passively hoping guys would perform their socially assigned gender role and ask her out first. Tinder Learkana also didn’t give a fuck about a guy’s sociopolitical views. (Okay fine, she still kind of gave a fuck but wasn’t gonna force the issue if she could help it.) She mainly wanted to know if looking into his eyes would make her heart jump down into her vagina, and she wasn’t going to actually know this until she met him in person. She will now stop narrating in the thirdperson, okay thanks.
We exchanged numbers and made plans for dinner on a weeknight at Burma Superstar on Telegraph. (This was before I had heard about their exploitative labor practices, okay.) Because it was closer to my office than my house, I went straight to the restaurant after work, feeling just a little weird because I was wearing an outfit that was more business casual than date appropriate (a form fitting sleeveless turtleneck dress with a cardigan and flats). Oh well. Tinder Learkana doesn’t give a fuck!
Jason was running late, and texted me to let me know. I figured I could just grab a table for the two of us. A server told me nope, everyone has to be present in order to be seated. So I stood awkwardly outside for a good ten minutes or so until the server felt sorry for me and seated me at a table between two very chatty couples, and by that time I felt kind of embarrassed and annoyed and maybe slightly pathetic. Where the fuck was this dude?
Finally he showed up, and he was pretty hot, so I instantly forgave him. (What?! Don’t get all holier-than-thou on me, we’re all shallow assholes.) I even got up, gave him a smile, and proceeded to hug him, in accordance with my friends’ advice to be more physically affectionate.
Or at least, it felt like it.
My arms briefly enfolded his body, which felt stiff and lifeless in my embrace. Why is this like hugging a tree, but, like, a dead tree with really strong ‘get the fuck off me’ vibes? Fuck, maybe I shouldn’t have done this. He was too tall for me to gauge his facial expression during this 5 second physical exchange. I pulled away, slightly unnerved. Does he already not like me?
He seemed okay as we both sat down though, so maybe I was just being a tad neurotic or maybe he was just an awkward hugger. He ordered something with chicken. I wasn’t that hungry, so I ordered broccoli. (Like, fancy stir fried broccoli that was overpriced, if that sounds more appealing to you, but probably not.)
“Broccoli? Are you a vegetarian?” he asked.
“No, I’m just not that hungry,” I said defensively. (Side note: why is it that a meat-eater can’t order a vegetable-only menu item without everyone assuming they’re a vegetarian? Meat eaters aren’t contractually obligated to gorge on dead animals every time they feed themselves, jeez.)
I felt like he was judging me for only getting broccoli, like maybe I was one of “those” girls who watched what she ate and weighed herself all the time, when really I was the kind of girl on the other side of the same coin who exploited her thin privilege by putting trash in her body and “forgetting” to exercise the recommended number of times a week. I possessed the minimum level of social skills to know that was not a charming or titillating point to bring up on a first date, so we talked about other stuff, like where we went to college. “I went to Mills. It’s a liberal arts women’s college.” How many times have I made this statement to a guy on a first date? Too many times to count, but I felt like it was a quick and easy way to check for casual sexism.
“I took a class at a women’s college once,” he said. “It was kind of a weird experience.”
“What do you mean?” I demanded.
“Just the dynamic is different,” he said vaguely.
I let it slide. (Tinder Learkana let things slide!) We talked about pets. Jason loved dogs. He asked if I had ever owned a pet. I said my family had owned all sorts of pets in the past, but most of them ran away or died or we gave them up. I tried to say this in a way that was fun and charming and quirky, but I think it mostly came off as insensitive and cruel. Oops.
Jason expressed an interest in Japanese culture and said he would like to learn the language. This was a turn-off to me, because it reeked of potential East Asian fetishism. “Do you speak Tagalog?” I asked, which in retrospect was pretty ignorant, since it’s not the only Filipino language there is, but it’s the only one I know of off the top of my head, okay. (Side note: according to his bio, Jason is half white, half Filipino.)
He shook his head. “Never learned it.”
“So instead of connecting with your roots, you’d rather immerse yourself in an Asian culture that is more palatable to the Western white gaze?” is something OKC Learkana would have asked or implied in a less articulate, more passive-aggressive manner because it’s hard to spit out flowery, contentious trains of thought in person and on the spot regardless of my ability to frame ideas through the written word in hindsight. But Tinder Learkana slapped on a smile and changed the subject.
We talked about more boring stuff. I couldn’t gauge whether or not Jason was interested in me. He was friendly, but the kind of friendly you would be towards someone you were socially obligated to make awkward small talk with for the next hour or so while you shared a meal with them. He didn’t say anything suggestive, didn’t compliment me, didn’t touch me in the slightest. Not knowing how he felt was making me feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Earlier he had mentioned the possibility of getting a drink after dinner, but now I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. I guess I should have taken the initiative to show that I was interested in him, but I was still feeling the burn from Rishi’s rejection and didn’t want to appear overly eager if Jason wasn’t even remotely interested. Also, I wasn’t actually sure I was interested in him. I was attracted to him, yes, but there wasn’t really any chemistry from what I could tell, and based on my experience with Rishi, I knew chemistry was of the utmost importance–the primary factor required to determine whether expending time, money, energy, and self-respect on “seeing where things went” was worth it. (And okay yes, the whole Rishi debacle was still weighing heavily on my mind at this time and informing Tinder Learkana’s dating approach.)
By the time we got the check and kind of split the bill (I didn’t have enough cash to fully pay Jason for my share, but guiltily told him I’d get him a drink), I was still very confused about what was happening. We left the restaurant and sort of just started walking aimlessly towards no specified destination, which got me really anxious.
“Did you drive?” I asked.
“No, I took BART,” he said.
I remember talking a little bit about family with him as we were walking, and getting more and more panicked at the sense that the dreaded goodbye segment was coming up pretty shortly.
I was right. We wound up at the BART station. I looked up at him and put on a big smile. “Well, here’s your stop,” I said brightly.
“You didn’t take BART?” he asked.
“Nope, I drove. Well, it was nice meeting you!” I hugged him again and instantly regretted it. Again with the stiff and lifeless body! Fuck, did I just hug-rape this guy, twice? Why didn’t he say anything if he didn’t want me to to hug him?! Okay, now I’m victim-blaming. Fuck.
I quickly looked back up at him again. He was giving me a searching sort of smile. Like he was slightly puzzled by what was happening, too. “Maybe you can show me around Oakland sometime,” he said.
I was already walking away. “Yeah, maybe,” I said, smiling again but freaking out on the inside because fuck, this shit was awkward as hell and why the fuck do I keep doing this to myself oh god oh god oh god.
By the time I got home, I was actually shaken by the date. The uncertainty of it all was messing me up. I couldn’t tell if he was interested, and I didn’t know to what extent I was interested, but as usual, it was contingent on to what extent he was interested, because I didn’t want to be interested in someone who wasn’t really interested in me, because that meant I was more interested and therefore more invested in him than he was interested/invested in me, which would mean I was the interested loser and he was the disinterested winner and I didn’t want to go back down that fucking road again because it really sucks okay. (Yes, this is how my petty and fucked up mind works. Dating is a game. You must try to win the game by giving the least fucks until you hopefully meet somewhere in the middle with a shared amount of fucks then BAM! Mutually fulfilling relationship of some kind.)
I relayed all of my concerns to my Dating Sensei, but probably in a way less coherent manner. “In conclusion, I’m still terrible at dating,” I said.
She seemed perplexed, then advised me to text him and see how he responded in order to gauge his interest. Ugh, again with the practical advice to reach out. How well did that work out last time?
Still, she was my Dating Sensei and she was right in the grand scheme of things, so my ungrateful ass texted Jason to let him know that I had a good time. He responded that he did too. The conversation ended there.
The next day, I texted him a “Memoji,” which is basically an emoji, but, like, with your face. (If you’re a narcissist like me, you can download it from the App Store! If you have an iPhone, that is. Don’t know if it’s available for other types of smartphones.) Here’s a sample array:
Pretty cool, right? Or maybe pretty dorky/tacky/self-absorbed, whatever, but we can all agree that it warrants a fucking response, right?
Well, I sent Jason a Memoji of me smiling and waving, in an attempt to say “Hi” in a cute millennial way, and this motherfucker didn’t say anything.
In fact, I never heard from him again.
I was kind of crushed, because it’s normal to feel pretty sad and pathetic when you send a gif of your face to someone you think you might like, and that bitch just ignores you.
I guess I could have texted him one more time (with words and not an animated image of my face), but I was done with confirming rejection, like I was some desperate weirdo with an inability to pick up on social cues. I had gotten the fucking hint, okay. (And yes, for a little while I did cling to the hypothetical scenario in which Jason never received the Memoji, but I eventually made my way back to reality and was forced to accept the much more likely if painful and offensive possibility that he saw it, didn’t give a fuck, and completely disregarded it. Truth hurts, people.) I mean, Jason was only here for the summer, so he couldn’t have been the love of my life or anything, logistically speaking, but I mourned the lost potential. Like, he could have fallen in like with me enough to invite me to the east coast! Or he could have been a really awesome fling! Or he could have fucking responded to my fucking Memoji with a “Haha that’s kinda cool”!
So where did things go wrong? Was it because I had casually mentioned animal neglect as part of my family history? Was it my face? Did he not like my face? Was the hugging that terrible? (Was I really a hug-rapist? Oh God.) Was I that boring? Was my first impression that bad? Did he just want to get laid, and I didn’t seem like the type to have sex on the first date? Or–wait a minute–was I the one who came off as disinterested, so he in return was disinterested? Who rejected who first, and why?? Why didn’t we ever make it to the bar? Also, did he not care that I owed him a drink???
I have been told, time and time again and by multiple people, that these are very unimportant questions that are a waste of time to think about. So naturally, they consumed a good chunk of my brainpower for the next week or so, or really for the next few years and forever, because being neurotic and going on one disappointing date after another will do that to you.
tl;dr Learkana goes on her first Tinder date! Learkana fails at hugging, twice! Learkana realizes she still sucks at dating and that really blows!
With that said, it’s now time for…
RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Burma Superstar
Review: I mean the broccoli was delicious but c’mon, $11.95 for fucking broccoli and you don’t even pay your kitchen workers? Fuck that shit. (Yes yes they are *alleged* workplace violations but I’d rather err on the side of caution and support the underdogs. Also, there are plenty of great Bay Area restaurants that thrive without rumors of labor exploitation swirling around them. Just saying.)