My experience with Tinder was vastly different from my foray into OKCupid. For one thing, I had control over who messaged me, which was a huge factor in my preference of Tinder over OKCupid. The downside was that most of the guys I matched with on Tinder seemed way more passive–they were totally okay with saying nothing at all. (Then again, it could have been a racial difference, given that I had instructed my Dating Sensei to only swipe right on dudes of color. Maybe the white boys on OKCupid felt more entitled to my time and attention, because of white supremacy and Orientalism and other complicated shit I don’t feel like getting into right now.)
Suffice it to say, I was forced to take more initiative on Tinder. I started messaging guys first with the hope that they would follow up by asking me out, only to have it not pan out, even if they appeared interested initially. In addition to not striking up conversations, these guys were also completely fine with meaningless small talk that trailed off into silence. It was annoying, to the point where I finally started sympathizing with cishet dudes who adhered to sociocultural expectations of being pursuers and instigators. To put yourself out there, again and again and again, with no results? It’s pretty soul-crushing and demoralizing after a while.
So it was ironically refreshing to return to established gender roles when I eventually stumbled across someone who was proactive in his interest in me. (Let’s call him Ben.) Soon after we matched, Ben sent an incredibly flattering and straightforward message that went something like this:
Ben – Summer 2015
Hey, I want to say that reading your bio was a huge turn-on for me. I’m not too knowledgeable about social justice issues but I do my best to check my male privilege, and I would love to take you out and learn how to please a strong, independent woman such as yourself if you’re willing to give me the chance.
I checked out his profile. Honestly, nothing stood out in particular. I couldn’t really tell if he was physically attractive based on his pictures but I mean, how can I reject a dude who writes a message like that?
(I should probably tell you what exactly in my Tinder bio inspired this message, but the truth is, I’m not really sure. I’ve changed it so often that all the attempted witticisms are just one big blur in my mind. However, I can say with moderate confidence that it very likely involved references to feminism and low-key insulting men.)
So I responded with something very articulate like “Lol oh wow thanks” and then we made plans to meet over dinner.
This is where my memory gets really fuzzy, but after mulling it over and using a combination of half-assed Yelp research and eye-squinting reasoning skills, I am 70% positive that we met up at Belly, a restaurant in uptown Oakland.
He was very tall in person. I was disappointed to find that I did not care much for his face. Obviously, this is a shitty reason to bail on someone, so the date continued. He paid for dinner, and was really smooth about it, too. (I don’t expect guys to pay but it’s nice when you’re a broke motherfucker–or any motherfucker really.) We sat at a little table by the window and ate. I had ordered a salad. He had ordered something that definitely was not a salad. We talked. Well, he talked a lot and I half-listened, tired and semi-disinterested.
I don’t remember much of what was said. It probably mirrored most first date conversations I’ve had with other guys. It starts feeling like a script after a while. Where I’m from. Why I moved here. Where I went to school. What I do for fun. The music I listen to, the shows I watch. Where I work. My family. Your entire being gets distilled into a handful of small talk, your complexity and nuance flattened and hidden behind your reserved persona and a wall of carefully chosen words, barriers put in place for a whole slew of reasons that include social anxiety and a general mistrust of men. You recite the same lines and hope you get a slightly different reaction you can work off of. You’re always gauging interest–yours and theirs. You gauge, and gauge, and after all the mental gymnastics you go through you are only rewarded with uncertainty that eats away at you to the point where you are just tired and going through the motions of someone on a date and wondering why you even bothered in the first place. Or, you know, maybe that’s just me.
When we finished with dinner, Ben asked if I wanted to grab a drink at a bar nearby. OKC Learkana would have made a shitty excuse and gone home. Tinder Learkana went along with it, because she was trying to be open-minded and easygoing for once. We walked a few blocks down to Woods Bar & Brewery, a pub Ben had stumbled across on Yelp. We got our drinks and sat down at a high table along the wall. The atmosphere was intimate. The beer was surprisingly good. (Woo, house brews!)
“Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah,” chattered Ben.
“Blah blah,” I replied.
(Yes my memory is too hazy and I’m too lazy to seriously try reconstructing our conversation. But I’m pretty sure my estimate of the blah blah ratio between us is spot on.)
We ended up lapsing into a lot of long conversational pauses that made me squirm in discomfort. “Don’t you hate awkward silences?” I blurted out (yes I know, really not helping matters at all).
“Nope,” he said. “I enjoy them. I like sitting here and looking at you. You have pretty eyes.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say to that. No one had ever said anything remotely like that about my eyes. Except my friend Elizabeth who I’m pretty sure had a weird Asian fetish thing. But Ben was Asian and probably didn’t have a weird Asian fetish thing, so I decided it was a valid compliment, which in and of itself was still bewildering, because the guys I went on dates with didn’t usually compliment me.
Ben soon launched into a lengthy monologue about dropping acid in college and how everyone should drop acid at least once in their life because it’s really awesome and will expand your mind, to which I tried to respond in as pleasant and neutral a manner as possible in a poor attempt to disguise the fact that I had the drug history of a straitlaced prepubescent schoolgirl and wasn’t planning on changing that anytime soon. (This also, embarrassingly enough, was my first inkling that experimenting with drugs other than weed was a normal pastime for a lot of seemingly well-adjusted people my age. Yes, it’s possible to be a sheltered girl from the wrong side of the tracks.)
I was somewhat buzzed. I felt warm and relaxed. As Ben rambled on, I thought, This isn’t so bad. He talks a lot but I don’t really feel like talking anyway. He’s nice. I can just sit here and kind of listen.
Eventually though, we left the bar. He wished me good night and said, rather bluntly, “I’d like to go on another date with you.”
Who was this guy? His honesty and unabashed interest in me were terrifying and awkward as hell. “Um. So I think you’re really cool but…I would rather be friends,” I said slowly.
He took it well, thankfully. “I’m fine with that.”
We hugged and parted ways.
By the time I was fully sober and had gotten some sleep, I regretted my choice of words. The more I thought back to that night, the more I realized I did not want to be friends with Ben. He was nice, sure, but he talked way too much about himself and if I was being honest, I had mainly found it tolerable due to sleep deprivation and intoxication. Anyway, let’s be real, I wasn’t looking for friends on Tinder. I was looking for someone I liked and wanted to do sexual things with, and it wasn’t going to be him.
It’s not like he was straight-up ugly or anything! (Ugliness is a social construct, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, blah blah blah.) I personally just didn’t find him attractive. If someone didn’t find me attractive, I certainly wouldn’t want them to continue seeing me in spite of my looks. I mean, how insulting is that? So really I was doing him a favor that he didn’t know about, right?
I really hoped he wouldn’t hit me up again. I mean, why would he? He wasn’t looking for friends either, right? And I had made it very clear we would not be fucking, right? Unless he thought hanging out would eventually lead to me fucking him, right? Ugh.
A few weeks passed. Radio silence from him. I exhaled in relief and moved on with my life.
Then…a couple of months later, I got a text from him. It went something like this:
Ben: Hey! Sorry I took so long to contact you again. I’ve been really busy but now that I’m free, when are you available to hang out? Mondays, Wednesdays, and weekends are good for me.
I didn’t know what to say.
‘Hey sorry, I changed my mind about wanting to be your friend. After sobering up, I realized you’re boring and not worth my time lol.’
Or what about…
‘Hey sorry, I don’t wanna be friends cuz I already have enough friends plus you talk too much and it’s actually kinda annoying now that I think about it. :(‘
Or how about the classic, ‘New phone. Who dis’?
“Don’t say anything,”my friend Chelsia advised. “Just ignore him. He’ll get the hint and move on.”
“But–but isn’t that fucked up?!” I cried.
She shrugged. “What can you say? Just say nothing. Nothing is better.”
So I did it. “It” being nothing.
I also unmatched with him on Tinder. You know, just to shove the knife a little deeper into his chest. For funsies. (Okay really it was because I started freaking out about the possibility he would hit me up on Tinder again and demand explanations for my assholish behavior.)
Poor, oblivious Ben. I felt guilty as hell.
It’s official, I thought. I’m an asshole, just like Rishi and all the other guys I never heard from again.
Oh, whatever, shot back my inner voice that just so happened to be manifesting as a bitter premature spinster. He’s gonna marry some nice, cute, well-adjusted Asian girl who will totally think he’s hot and totally drop acid with him. And I might as well come to terms with being a full-fledged asshole now, it’s not like online dating is going to get any less ruthless.
The cynic has spoken! On to the next one.
tl;dr Learkana messages passive guys who don’t give a fuck! Learkana finally gets asked out by a refreshingly forward dude! Learkana meets said dude in person and realizes he’s not cute and actually kinda boring IRL and she feels really bad about ghosting on him but it’s her life, her choice!
With that said, it’s now time for…
RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Review: I mean I suppose it’s not totally fair to rate this venue given that I’m only 70% sure that it was the actual venue of my first and only date with Ben. But I swear the setup of the restaurant looks A LOT like what I remembered! And it was also definitely in uptown! And it’s MY blog and through MY lens, SO THERE. Anyway, the food was good from what I recall, but I did feel the minimal seating made for an awkward first date arrangement. My philosophy is: the more randos around you to provide a moderate amount of background noise, the less uncomfortable it is for you and your date when you two inevitably lapse into awkward silence!