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Tinderp Tale #9: I’m An Asshole Again

I had turned twenty-five at the end of last August. I threw myself an awesome birthday party that involved a Trump piñata, a jump house, and Pokémon balloons–an elaborate, immature attempt to repress my anxieties and dread of getting older but not any wiser, richer, or happier. I was still a virgin who hadn’t found what she was looking for (which was literally anything other than seeing a guy a couple of times then never seeing him again). I disliked my nonexistent sex life but stopped caring as much as I had earlier in the year. (Getting an IUD wasn’t a complete waste, I reasoned, because not having a period was pretty awesome.) I went on a few dates here and there–guys I met through Meetup, Instagram, a friend. (Her ex-Tinder date, actually. I told you I was desperate.) Nothing came of them. I wondered what it would take for a guy to like me enough to put in actual effort. I wondered what it would take for me to like a guy enough to let down my guard. Maybe I wasn’t the kind of girl a guy would give chase to. Maybe I wasn’t the kind of girl who could open her heart to a boy who wanted to open her legs.

Over the summer, I tried dating apps outside of Tinder with zero success. Bumble had too many uppity white dudes. East Meet East had too many passive Asian guys (and was also just a really terrible name, period). I was taking the initiative and composing messages to men in hopes of securing their interest. To be fair, they weren’t very good messages, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Like, wouldn’t you feel compelled to respond to this titillating message?

13346580_10208596919096629_5080661148535377128_n

Okay, fine. What about this one?

ear talk

OKAY WHATEVER AS IF YOU CAN DO ANY BETTER just kidding, you probably could.

I thought about how and why I was such a failure in the dating department. I thought about this often. There wasn’t a singular reason I could isolate. I had friends who were feminists and introverts and just plain awkward like me, yet didn’t have as much trouble finding what they were looking for, whether that was a casual hookup or a long term relationship. Other people were also confused about my spinster virgin status, but for the wrong reason. To them, being cute dictated I shouldn’t be single or a virgin. I knew that was wrong. Cute could only take you so far when you’re me.

There was just something in me that refused to compromise, that refused to flatten myself to appear more palatable to the fleeting desires of men, that curled up into a little ball whenever a guy came too close, that pulled flaws out of every single quirk and mannerism and sentiment expressed by a guy and immediately categorized them (and in turn, him) as unworthy and unforgivable, that hated uncertainty even though it was all I knew–especially when it came to romantic and sexual interest, that would prefer solitude over company if company meant having to spend time with a stranger through a contrived set of circumstances. I was impatient and unlikable and an unapologetic misandrist by default, and that was not going to change.

I started worrying about being alone in the long term. Did I have friends who would be there for me when I was old and frail? Or even now, when I get sick? Or would they be too busy with their spouses and future children? I needed to strengthen my safety net. I knew I couldn’t count on falling into a relationship for security. The idea of having a boyfriend was pretty laughable at this point. L***kana’s Boyfriend was a mythical creature, up there with the likes of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. He didn’t exist, except in the confines of my erratic imagination.

I realized I didn’t know how to live life in conjunction with someone else anyway. Being perpetually single had warped me into a solitary, eccentric creature with habits that were questionable and okay fine, sometimes downright gross. I talked to myself out loud. I danced alone in my room and occasionally attempted to twerk (then felt kind of embarrassed and guilty for having tried). I blew my nose and let the used tissues pile up next to me in bed. I clipped my nails and sometimes let them fall where they may. I preferred sleeping alone, watching shows alone, crying alone, reading alone, and writing alone. I had determined that I was pretty much a lost cause.

tinderp 9.1

Actual bedroom does not look like this.

Still. I figured I would keep going on dates anyway. It was similar to what I felt about patriarchy and white supremacy: I didn’t think anything was going to change, but I’ll be damned if it was due to a lack of effort on my part.

I ended up on Tinder again in September of that year. I was coerced into creating a new account by my friend Chelsia, who was interested in trying Tinder Social, a new feature that enabled users to go on group dates (and was probably created to increase people’s chances of participating in a threesome or orgy). She changed her mind, but I stayed on the app, sucked in by all the new prospective dates within reach of my fingertips. Dating in real life isn’t going to be any better, I told myself. Guys are still flakey. Guys are still boring. Things are still going to be awkward and confusing and disappointing. Might as well make use of an app that helps me get through them faster until I find Mr. 38-100 (See Tinderp Tale #4 for explanation).

One day, a guy I will call Tayo popped up on my feed. I knew he was interested, because he had Super Liked me. I skimmed through his photos. Only one of them made me think he was attractive. It was a high res, close up picture of him holding a turtle. I decided the quality of the single photo was enough for me to surmise that he was probably good-looking, and swiped right.

After matching, we talked a little about Pokemon Go (my current obsession at the time) and exchanged numbers. He hit me up via text right away.

9/24/16 1:38 AM
Tayo: Hey cutie. It’s Tayo #teamvalor

Where’s your name from?

Ugh. THIS question? He was a person of color, he should know better than to ask. (You may be wondering, what’s wrong with wanting to know? Well, nothing, if  a question like that is posed to everyone, but it’s not. Nobody asks Becky or John where their names are from. It’s lightweight racist and a microaggressive form of Othering, k.) We had barely chatted and already I was annoyed with him.

 Okay suck it up, or else you’re just trying to be a spinster virgin on purpose, I told myself sternly. I responded to him the next day.

9/24/16 10:21 AM
Me: Sup. Just woke up lol.

It’s Cambodian

Tayo: Sup lol. Well good morning to you. Sleep well?

Me: Actually I did! *beige thumbs up emoji*

Are you a night owl too?

Tayo: That’s good. I slept alright! No morning cuddles from you tho lol.

And yes I AM a night owl haha

Oh god, he was already shamelessly flirting with me. I had always felt that it was a risky move to be that explicit when you hadn’t even met the person in real life yet, but where had that attitude gotten me? Zero sex and zero relationships, that’s what. I decided to take a gamble and flirt back.

9/24/16 1:03 PM
Me: Cool cool cool

Maybe we can resolve the cuddling issue in the near future 😉

Tayo: I’d like that 😉

tinderp 9.2

State of Millennial Dating Culture, 2016.

We started talking about Pokemon again. He suggested we watch the show together sometime soon. I was fine with that until I found out he lived with his family and wanted to come over to my place. MY place??? I didn’t bring guys over to my place. I shared a dilapidated house with 3 other roommates. On top of being rundown, it was always messy and kind of grody (through very little fault of my own, or so I’d like to think). It was definitely not the kind of living situation you’d want to invite a guest into unless that guest was your really good friend or family member who you know for sure wouldn’t judge you and even if they did it didn’t really matter because you know they would like you anyway.

Regardless, the thought of having a guy over sounded awkward and potentially mortifying to me, no matter where I lived. I had never done it before. Would I have to give my roommates a heads up? What if my date and I ran into one of them? How would that introduction go? Was it even necessary? “Hey, this is my roommate Mackenzie. Mackenzie, this is…uh, sorry what’s your name again? Well, never mind, I’m never going to see you again anyway. Let’s go to my room and possibly fuck WHAT I’m just saying what everyone’s thinking okay bye Mackenzie!”

Me: Yeahhh let’s do something else hahaha

Tayo: Drinks?

9/24/16 5:09 PM
Me: Kk

We made plans to meet on a Monday night at a bar in Alameda I had never been to. After confirming our date, I assumed I wouldn’t hear from him until the day of, which was typical in my experience of online dating. But no. This bitch kept hitting me up over the weekend, asking me what I was up to. Honestly, I was weirded out and annoyed by his eagerness to be in constant communication with me and probably that was assholish of me, but c’mon! We didn’t actually know each other and we had already made plans to get better acquainted in person. No need to fill in the space before then with vapid small talk. Maybe OKCupid Learkana would have liked this pre-date back-and-forth, but Tinder Learkana was fed up with it and didn’t want to hear from your trivial ass until she could verify your fuckability IRL.

 Monday night came. I was late to our date because I had gotten sidetracked by discussing the first presidential debate with one of my roommates (aka ranting about what a mediocre racist sexist piece of shit Trump was/is). I felt slightly guilty but mostly apathetic. I walked into the bar and was unpleasantly surprised. It was filled with white people. I was slightly irritated because I like my spaces to be diverse whenever possible. A predominantly white space signaled to me that there was a reason people of color stayed away. But there was no backing out now.

Tayo and I greeted each other with a hug and got a couple of beers. Despite our racially homogeneous surroundings, I enjoyed talking with him. He was easygoing and friendly and it didn’t feel awkward at all. He was a dance instructor for kids at a local school, which I thought was pretty cool. The problem was that I wasn’t really attracted to him. That one picture I had depended on ended up being a fluke. In person, he was more compact than I thought he would be. He actually kind of reminded me of the turtle he was holding in the picture, but like, not in a good way. I felt bad, but it couldn’t be helped. I was also feeling a little uneasy, because I could tell he was still attracted to me IRL. He complimented me on my outfit and subtly touched me throughout the night. It spelled trouble in my mind. I pushed the discomfort away, kept drinking my beer, and blabbed on and on about Pokemon and books and music and TV shows. My attempts to keep things light and breezy were helped by the blinding white environment in which it probably wouldn’t have been safe for either of us to bring up the current election in great detail, although the white people in the background (for once) were pretty preoccupied with playing white people trivia. (Well, I assumed it was centered on white media, because the questions revolved around shows both Tayo and I had never heard of or watched. Could have just been a generational thing, but who are we kidding, probably a white people thing.)

tinderp 9.3

Actual bar was not this fancy.

After a couple of hours of chilling at the bar, we headed out. He walked me to my car, smiled and hugged me. “Text me when you get home,” he said.

I don’t remember if I had forgotten or if I purposely neglected to send him the requested text. (Knowing me, it could have been the latter. Yes, I can be an asshole, I thought we established this.) But a little while after I got home, Tayo checked up on me:

9/26/16 11:07 PM
Tayo: Did you make it home ok?

Me: Yes! Sorry I’m terrible at sending “I made it home” text messages lol I always forget [this is usually true okay]

Tayo: lol you totally forgot haha *laugh-cry emoji*

Thanks for tonight *smiling blush emoji* *rose emoji*

Were those emojis really necessary? What the hell was the rose emoji supposed to represent? If he had actually given me a rose in person, the emoji would have made sense in addition to being a much sweeter gesture, but no. Ugh, millennial dating culture. But anyway! This was bad. I tried to sound noncommittal in my response.

Me: Yeah! I had a good time [I mean it was true, just not in the way he wanted]

Tayo: Cool. Let’s do it again soon. We never watched Pokemon hah

Oh god, he was still fixated on that?! I cursed myself for flirting with him and carelessly indulging his Netflix-and-cuddle fantasies before we had even met up in person. Lesson learned: Do NOT flirt with someone until you’ve looked them in the face. (Or at least keep it to a bare minimum and don’t suggest intimate activities beforehand.) Watching Pokemon was probably a euphemism for fucking. Even if he had no ulterior motive, I still didn’t want to watch Pokemon with him. I was perfectly fine with reliving my childhood and retrospectively hating Ash’s arrogant, mediocre Pokemon trainer ass on my own, thank you very much.

If I was a decent person, I would have sent a very tactful response explaining that while I had a good time with Tayo at the bar, I regretfully didn’t feel much of a spark. But at the time, I couldn’t think of what I could honestly say without sounding like a total asshole. The truth was that I wasn’t physically attracted to him, and that sounded terrible no matter how I tried to spin it. I didn’t want to lie either. So I took the coward’s way out and didn’t say anything, which still made me an asshole–just a more passive one.

A few days passed. He texted me again, much to my dismay.

9/29/16 8:06 PM
Tayo: Hey u

Me: Sup

Tayo: How are you

9/29/16 10:05 PM
Me: Hella tired *dead-eyed emoji*

Tayo: I feel it. I’ve been falling in and out of sleep.
How is your week going?

I didn’t respond. The thought of texting either small talk or a politely worded rejection to him overwhelmed me. I couldn’t deal with it. Please just let him take the hint, I thought.

He didn’t. Or maybe he refused to. (Dudes are socially conditioned to be pursuers, after all.) Over a week later, he sent me another text.

10/10/16 2:19 PM
Tayo: We totally should go Pokémon hunting
around lake Merritt. I want more dratini’s lol

Goddamnit why couldn’t he just get that I didn’t want to see him again?! I wasn’t sure what to do.

“Just text him that you’re busy and will hit him up when you’re free,” said my friend Susan.

“But…isn’t that lying?” I said incredulously, as if my silence didn’t also make me an asshole.

“Just do it,” she advised. “That’s how dating works. If you’re not interested, tell him you’re busy. He’ll get the hint eventually.”

I unfortunately took her advice.

10/10/16 9:22 PM
Me: Hey! Sorry I have a lot going on right now, I’ll let you know when I’m free

Tayo: Ok

I wasn’t sure if he finally got the hint in that moment or maybe days, weeks, even months later, but I never heard from him again. I’m pretty confident that I reached new levels of assholishness with this exchange.

Looking back, I wish I had responded to his text message about wanting to meet up again with something along these lines:

Me: Hey, so I think you’re a great guy and I enjoyed hanging out with you. But I didn’t really feel the sort of chemistry I’m looking for in a potential dating partner. That said, it was nice meeting you and I wish you well. 🙂

Or maybe that message would have been more hurtful than what I did. I’m not sure. I’d like to think honesty is the best policy, but I know not everyone thinks that. I also know that pairing tact with honesty doesn’t guarantee a warm reception. “The truth hurts” is cliché for a reason. Suffice it to say, rejection sucks on both ends. (Although yes, quite a bit more on the receiving end. Ugh. I’m really sorry for my shitty behavior after our one and only date, Tayo…who will likely never read this apology considering that it’s embedded in a very wordy blog post written almost a year later and addressed to a pseudonym.)

If I was deeply invested in the idea of cosmic consequences for individual human actions, I would say that the universe probably wanted to punish me for how I treated Tayo, because my next misadventure ended up being the worst thing to ever happen to me thus far in my sporadic dating life. But that’s an excruciatingly humiliating and tediously complicated story for another time.

tl;dr Learkana is going to die alone and unlaid, probably! Learkana ghosts on a guy because she didn’t want to tell him she doesn’t like his face although in hindsight she definitely could have used her writing skills to offer up a more nuanced and considerate rejection! Learkana is an asshole!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Swell Bar
Rating: *
Review: Too many white people. But if diversity is not your thing, you’ll like it okay.

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Tinderp Tale #8: I Hate Kissing (Or Maybe Just Men)

Sex was at the forefront of my mind lately. Before, my thoughts around it was just background noise: Oh yeah, getting laid, that’s something I definitely need to do at some point. Now my train of thought was more along the lines of, OH MY FUCKING GOD LEARKANA JUST FUCK SOMEONE ALREADY! DO IT NOW DO IT NOW DO IT NOW–

While I was hornier than I used to be, it was more so a combination of curiosity and panic that was fueling my desire to have sex. I constantly wondered what it was like, being naked with someone. Having them look at me in such a vulnerable state, touch me, and engage with body parts I rarely indulged in myself. Trying to imagine the logistics of sex deeply confused and intrigued me. It was strange, knowing I had a published sex scene in my name, yet had never gone past first base with anyone. Part of me wanted to have sex just to be able to write about it from a more authentic place. But I was also freaking out because I wasn’t getting any younger and losing my V card, in my mind, was tied to my independence and freedom as an adult woman.

I had already meticulously read up on birth control methods and forced my OB/GYN to shove a hormonal IUD up my vagina and into my uterus in November.

tinderp 8.1b

My OB/GYN does not actually talk like this.

The next thing to do was find a penis attached to a hot dude whose company I tolerated enough to have him stick it in me and get it over with.

This was easier said than done.

Other people thought the opposite. They argued that because I was cute and a girl, that I could literally walk up to any guy at random, ask him if he wanted to fuck, and ta da! I would instantly have access to dick. I didn’t think so because I strongly felt that the process of having sex was wayyy more complicated than that. Case in point, this text convo with a Tinder dude I ended up never meeting up with:


Tinder Dude: I’m sure you can get laid.
It’s a matter of you picking someone

Me: Everyone keeps saying it’s easy but I disagree.

Tinder Dude: Guys are not picky when it comes to sex

Me: But I’m picky. I don’t want it to be terrible

and I don’t want to feel used

Tinder Dude: Aren’t you using them?
I mean if you’re out there just lookin for sex,
then you’ll meet a lot of the like minded guys on tinder.
It seems to me it’s more of a mutual agreement.
Both sides benefit.

But those are my thoughts and I don’t want to sway
you into thinking like me.

Btw I’m heading back to OC now.
If you ever decide to visit let me know.
If you want to have sex, awesome.
If not and you just want to be shown around,
I’m cool with that too. Sex doesn’t drive me believe it or not

Me: Okay you are starting to sound a little judgmental. Smh. I don’t want to have sex with just anybody. If I picked the first willing guy from Tinder and told him up front I just wanted to have sex it’s probably going to be shitty. I can’t tell based on a few crappy pictures and a mediocre bio whether or not I’m going to have chemistry with someone. And I’ve never been able to get to the emotional space to ask someone to have sex with me. To me sex is about being really vulnerable and intimate in a way I haven’t experienced, it’s kind of frightening because I need to find someone who would make me feel safe

Also guys don’t seem to want to deal with virgins. The ones who do are sexist assholes with archaic ideas about women and purity


Basically, I was my own cuntblock. I couldn’t see sex as purely physical because my brain likes to add layers on top of everything. There’s the physical aspect yes, but there are also the emotional, psychological, social, and political dimensions of sex that I couldn’t ignore. This multifaceted lens didn’t just apply to sex. It applied to everything going on in the world that I interacted with. I internalize everything, dissect it in a million ways, and the reductive conclusion of this over-analysis more often than not boils down to: I’m fucked up. The world is fucked up. I can’t do this. It can be exhausting and self-sabotaging, but it’s an automatic thought process that I haven’t really been able to control. Honestly, if you could somehow try living in my head for a day, you’d probably kill yourself.

On a lighter note, I was still determined to get laid. I just knew I had way more internal hoops to jump through before that could happen.

Tinder was a total joke to me at this point, but perusing the inadequate profiles of strange men had become a habit. An ego boost for every match made, even when words were never exchanged. A double ego boost when a guy “Super Liked” me (a kinda creepy new feature that enabled a user to immediately let another user know that they were interested, regardless if the Super Liked user had reciprocated that interest by swiping right or Super Liking back). I’ve never Super Liked someone and rejected most Super Likes I received. But along came a guy I will call Brian #2 (due to him having the same IRL name as “Brian” from OKC). There was nothing special about Brian #2. He had a bunch of shitty pictures taken of him at a distance that gave me the impression that he was either really, really hot, or very average looking. He had written a little paragraph in his bio that told me things about himself, nothing memorable or of importance. And he had Super Liked me.

I decided to swipe right. Why the hell not, I thought. He made an effort, which is a lot more than most of the garbage I’ve seen on here. I’ll take a chance. It’s not like I have a lot of options anyway.


 Brian #2 Super Liked You on 2/4/16

Brian #2 

Hi 😀

Favorite boba place in the bay?


Yes! Starting the convo with boba. He was scoring points with me.


Me

Hey

*gif of Danny Tanner from 90s family sitcom Full House putting up a finger gun*

Lol the gifs are a nice new awkward touch

Favorite boba place would have to be green bubble since it’s pretty close to where I am. I also like sharetea, honeyboba and tea papa


After bonding over boba, Brian #2 got a bit more flirtatious:


Brian #2

So I know you have a resume, but what would I need to be considered a good candidate for you? 😀

Haha that’s true! [referring to a comment I made that we may have run into each other at Green Bubble without even knowing it] But I’d like to think I’d remember you. I did swipe up after all 😉


Me

I think I list a few qualifications in my resume lol

But honestly idk. You wrote actual stuff about yourself in your profile so you’ve pretty much met the bare minimum of what I’m looking for

😀


After a few more messages, Brian #2 finally asked if I was free next week, which I assumed would segue into asking me out. I gave him my availability. A few days passed. No response from him. I was confused and annoyed. Why had he pretended to be so interested in me if he was gonna go ghost on me so quickly?

tinderp 8.2b

I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and checked in on him.


Me

Uh does your silence mean you’re not free or no longer interested? Maybe both? *contemplative face emoji*


Brian #2 responded the next day, letting me know he had been sick with some sort of flu. He asked if we could reschedule. I said okay and wished him well. A few more days passed. He let me know he was feeling better and would still like to get boba with me. I told him I was still down to do that. His overall response time, however, was so slow that by the time we finally made concrete plans and exchanged numbers, nearly a month had passed since we initially matched. At this point I was pretty wary of this dude and was skeptical of whether his flakey ass would show up to our date. I mean, I get that he was sick, but come on! A whole month? That’s like YEARS in millennial dating time.

He did in fact show up to our date. I was running late, as per usual. He was waiting for me in the middle of the shopping center in Oakland Chinatown. I spotted him sitting on a bench by the fountain with headphones on, looking serene. I almost felt like I was intruding in some way. “Oh, hey,” I said. He looked over at me, took off his headphones, and smiled. He was a bit too skinny for my taste, but he was stylish and had nice teeth. We walked over to i-Tea, a boba shop next door. After getting our drinks to go (which was the only option, the place was so tiny), we decided to take a stroll around Chinatown.

It was a surprisingly pleasant first date. We ended up at the playground briefly, and hung out on the swings until I felt nauseous from the physical activity combined with the milk tea I had quickly gulped down. We walked more blocks after that. The streets were dark and empty. We were going past the same dinky shops and late night restaurants, but I stopped noticing after a while. One hour turned into three then four, which was way more time than I had anticipated spending with him.

We talked about our jobs (I think he worked as a graphic designer), family, past dating experiences. Brian #2’s family situation sounded pretty bleak, from what I could remember. His parents split up when he was young. He had a ton of siblings, but wasn’t close to many of them. He was a serial monogamist and confessed that he broke up with past girlfriends because they wanted to be more serious and get married, but he didn’t. I actually wasn’t sure why he was being so open about all of this, but I found it fascinating to listen to him. The more I learned, the more I started rationalizing how compatible we were. He had a dysfunctional family who probably fucked him up in ways he still doesn’t understand to this day, which was great, because I also have a dysfunctional family who fucked me up in ways I’m still trying to understand! He wasn’t interested in anything serious due to a deep-seated fear of commitment, which was perfect, because I wasn’t interested in anything serious due to deep-seated feelings of misandry! He’s had a bunch of girlfriends who wanted to marry him, which was awesome, because he must be good in bed with all that experience and I’ve been wanting to lose my virginity to a guy who knew what the fuck he was doing! (Completely flawed analysis, I know, but let me live in this moment, okay.)

By the end of the night, I saw him in a different light. He had become much more attractive since the first time I laid eyes on him. The waiting game was finally working for once! At one point during our conversation, I looked at him and thought, I would let this guy fuck me.

tinderp 8.3b

Was not actually rainy on our date. “Oakland chinatown night” didn’t really yield many Google results for me to choose from ok

He mentioned having his own place nearby. I wondered how to get him to invite me over. It seemed like a bad idea to directly ask him myself. It would come off as desperate, which I kind of was, but that was unattractive and so I had to pretend like I wasn’t because that was one of many arbitrary rules in the game of heteronormative millennial dating. I got the sense that he was also interested in me. Why else would he spend hours walking endless circles with a strange girl in a neighborhood he had grown up in, conversationally pouring his heart out? Just make a fucking move already, dude.

He didn’t, sadly. It was getting late, so I told him I had to go. He walked me to my car. I smiled at him. “I had a good time.”

“Oh…me too,” he said.

I waited. He just stood there, a look of uncertainty on his face.

I realized right then that this bitch was more awkward than me.

God fucking damn it. What a turnoff.

“I’ll just hug you, if that’s okay,” I said.

“Oh…” was all he could utter.

I hugged him. “Okay–good night!”

I got into my car and drove off.

I was actually pretty optimistic about my prospects with this guy, in spite of the anticlimactic goodbye. I was leaving the country soon for a three-week vacation trip to Cambodia with my mother, so it was now or never. I asked Brian #2 if we could get together again before I left. He said yes. We made plans to meet at Cafe Van Kleef, one of my go-to bars for dates. Once again, I was running late. He texted me that he was already there drinking.

Brian #2: I shouldn’t drink too much. I start touching people when I’m tipsy 😛

I decided this was the opportune moment to showcase my slowly budding flirting skills.

Me: Well, depending on how the night goes we can negotiate the no hands policy 😉

He sent a blushing face emoji.

I finally made it into the bar. Brian #2 was sitting at a table in the back. I got a beer and joined him. I was disappointed to find that whatever attraction I felt toward him from last time had disappeared. Even worse, our conversation had regressed into jagged stops and starts. Fuck. How was this possible?! I was sober last time. It didn’t make any sense. “Wanna play a drinking game?” I asked in an attempt to salvage our connection.

“Sure,” he said. I explained the rules: We take turns asking a question that could be about anything. The other person must answer honestly, or drink in response.

The game was fun at first, but quickly spiraled into dangerous territory. My stubborn, shameless ass answered everything he threw at me, with the exception of “What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in high school?” (I drank instead, because the answer to the question involved my period and even I knew period talk was a no-no on a second date–again, per the rules of heteronormative millennial dating.) The game inevitably led to me admitting I was a virgin, and doing so felt just as uncomfortable as the last time (due to my own insecurities, not anything he said or did). Brian #2 was also game to answer every question I posed to him. I don’t remember much of the details–but it was all very personal and sexually explicit. At one point in this game I thought, Okay, we should stop. But calling it quits would make me a coward. And what would the alternative be? Having nothing to say to each other? So we kept at it, even when we were done drinking and in the middle of leaving the bar.

“Should we keep playing?” I asked once we were outside. “We don’t have anything to drink now.”

“Okay, instead of drinking when we can’t answer something, how about we kiss?” he suggested.

Oh my fucking God. “Okay, sure,” I replied, smiling to hide all the panic and turmoil churning inside of me. Kissing?! Well, it was obvious he was interested in me now. I was nervous because I didn’t have much experience with kissing and I wasn’t sure if that was something I wanted to do with him. I’ll just keep answering whatever he asks. That way I won’t have to kiss him, I thought.

We walked around downtown Oakland, engaged in this rhetorical game of sexuality and desire. Questions became more probing, more intimate. I answered them all. He did the same. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t just say good night and leave. I guess I was still clinging hard to the possibility that I could eventually like Brian #2 enough to have him devirginize me, per my aforementioned desperation.

tinderp 8.4

We started interrogating each other about kissing. I confessed I hadn’t kissed anyone in about 3 years. He asked why. “I don’t know if I like it, honestly,” I said. “I didn’t really enjoy any of my experiences. The first guy I made out with used too much tongue and it really grossed me out.” I asked him if he was good at kissing. Out of all the questions I asked him, this was the one that stumped him for whatever reason. He stopped walking. “Let’s just kiss,” he said.

I stared at him. “What?”

“Let’s kiss,” he repeated.

“Um–okay–” I leaned in and closed my eyes. His hands fell to my waist. And just like that, we were kissing. In the middle of the sidewalk. And it felt…gross. Ugh. I was stuck on how bland his mouth tasted, the sliminess of his tongue. The unavoidable wetness. I pulled away and resumed walking. Good thing no one was around.

“So how does it feel to kiss someone after 3 years?” Brian #2 asked, falling into step beside me.

“Um. It feels okay,” I lied. I felt betrayed, even though some part of me knew I was being irrational. But I had told him what I didn’t like about kissing, and he went ahead and did it anyway. “How was my kissing?” I asked out of curiosity.

This bitch actually paused to deliberate. “Hmm, I think you should use more tongue. But let me see.” He stopped me so we could kiss again. I hated it just as much the second time. I let him walk me to my car, feelings of repulsion and resentment and disappointment boiling underneath the surface.

“Well, thanks for hanging out,” I said. “I’m gonna be gone for that trip, but it was nice seeing you.”

“Would you like to kiss again?” he asked, smiling.

I smiled back. “No.”

His smile faltered, then disappeared altogether. “Oh–okay.”

My insides twisted momentarily. I ducked into my car and tried to ignore the slinking figure I had rejected and was now driving past.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. I was angry–at him, at myself. Why couldn’t he just be a good kisser? Why couldn’t I just enjoy kissing him? Will I ever enjoy kissing someone? Was the problem with me? Why hadn’t he taken notes from what I had said about kissing, and applied them in our situation? Did he really think he was the exception to the rule? And he had the fucking nerve to actually critique my kissing ability when his was shit! If my kissing was so bad, why the fuck did he keep asking to kiss me? The fact that he kept initiating meant that he must have enjoyed it on some level. You don’t keep asking for things you don’t enjoy.

The worst thing of all to contemplate was whether this disconnect would happen with sex. Was a guy going to fuck me and enjoy it, while I was going to be left feeling disgusted and disappointed? What was the point of being straight when cishet men were so clueless, unsatisfying, and inconsiderate? I briefly wondered, not for the first time, if I was asexual or a lesbian. I didn’t think so, but still. Fuck men. Fuck dating. I was fed up with it all. Thank goodness I was leaving the country, where I wouldn’t have to think about my shitty dating life.

Visiting Cambodia was a profound experience for me. It was beautiful and affirming to be there with family I had never met, but it also served as a stark and painful reminder of how much of an outsider I was, whether I was in my mother’s homeland or in the country I was born. By the time I returned to the United States, I found myself engulfed in the throes of a deepening existential crisis. I didn’t know what direction my life should be taking. Not even the people in my life stayed constant. I burned bridges, one after another. I realized I hadn’t felt happy in a while. Only Queen Beyonce and her masterpiece, Lemonade, provided me with any relief from the stresses of life.

There wasn’t much room for dating exploits in the midst of all this. I deleted Tinder at the end of April, the month after I came back from my trip. The optimism I had worked so hard to keep aloft had deflated considerably. So what if I died alone, unlaid and unloved? I had other things to worry about, like systematic oppression and the meaning of life.

Of course, if you’re a loyal reader of mine, you would know this was just a brief hiatus from the bullshit of millennial dating culture. I would get back out there and fail again. I still really wanted to get laid, after all.

tl;dr Learkana desperately wants to lose her virginity! Learkana makes out with a guy and wants to throw up! Learkana does not get laid!

 Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: i-Tea
Rating: *****
Review: I ordered the milk tea with boba. It was delicious. The tapioca balls were perfectly made: soft and chewy, with a sweet undertone. 5/5 for the boba alone. There’s nowhere to sit but you and your date can walk around the area and talk. (Being active can make things less awkward anyway. Right? Fuck if I know, shit’s always awkward for me regardless.) Totally visit the playground. The playground is fun. (Maybe just sit on the swings though if you get milk tea.)

0

Tinderp Tale #7: Feminist By Convenience

It was the start of 2016, and I was still a premature spinster virgin. Some days it was a struggle; other days, a nonchalant passing thought. Love of a romantic or sexual nature was becoming a shrinking possibility in my mind. At this point, I just really hoped I would get laid, preferably before I turned 25 in August. (Being a 24-year-old virgin was bearable in my eyes. Being a 25-year-old virgin, however, was completely intolerable and had to be prevented at all costs.)

I was sporadically using Tinder at this time, but hadn’t been on a date with anyone in months. It seemed to take much more effort than it used to. Where did all the thirsty dudes go? I used to have drawn-out conversations with guys I matched up with that would result in an ask to drinks, but now I was getting a lot of matches who were content with empty chatboxes. Was it because I wasn’t taking Tinder as seriously as when I had first started out? (Which to be honest wasn’t all that seriously, because c’mon, it’s fucking Tinder.) Was it because I was much more cynical and dysfunctional with my dating approach, and it showed? How could that be if these passive motherfuckers weren’t talking to me?

Oh, yeah. It probably had something to do with one of my profile pictures, which was a fairly detailed dating resume I had written after a spontaneous burst of inspiration:

12030307_10206799816330183_1801416795006048513_o

I mean, it’s pretty entertaining, right? Who needs wholesome and well-adjusted when you can get colorful dysfunction in the guise of jokes? Clearly, I’m dating material!

A part of me questioned my unfailing tendency to cultivate a persona of myself as a brutally honest and pessimistic misandrist in my dating profile. Was it a defense mechanism? Against what? What would it hurt to frame myself in an equally entertaining but more positive light? The other parts of me told that part to shut the fuck up, I can do whatever I want.

Anyway, in spite of my strategically interesting profile, dudes weren’t biting, which meant I had to start taking the initiative again. I decided to message one of my most recent matches because he seemed pretty cool (also possibly hot, but his photos were kind of shitty UGH get it together, dudes on the dating interwebz).


You matched with Minh* on 1/14/16

Me

Hey it’s been a week and I figure the sensible thing to do is message you for no apparent reason at 3am when you are probably asleep

*name changed to protect the clueless


Surprisingly enough, he responded the next day.


Minh

Darn you missed it by like 30 mins. I think I slept at 0230. Someone Had a ratchet Friday night?


Me

If by ratchet you mean eating pasta in bed and crying as I’m rewatching the hunger games then yes


Minh

That’s next level ratchet. When a ratchet graduates.


I enjoyed messaging with Minh. He didn’t ask any of the boring questions about where I worked, or what I liked to do for fun. We just said stupid shit to each other and occasionally flirted. He complimented me on my smile. I complimented him on his face.


Minh

My face thanks you

So do you use your online dating experience to fuel your blog? I should add fuel to that creative process.


OH NO.

OH NO NO NO NO NO NO.

HE READ MY BLOG?!

AHHHHHHHHH FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!!!??!!??!!11111

Okay, you’re probably wondering why I would be shocked and horrified by this when my blog is public domain and I’ve purposefully promoted it across multiple social media platforms. It’s my “hiding in plain sight” strategy: I operate under the assumption that most people, especially those who have little to no emotional investment in my creativity, will find my semi-shameless social media plugs annoying and disregard every blog-related post or link I share. I figured random dudes from the Internet in particular would be too lazy and disinterested to look at this blog, which had proven true so far–no one I’ve been on a date with at this point had ever made mention of it.


Me

Oh fuck, you read my blog *smiley emoji with sweatdrop*

Haha well yes I’ve been documenting past online dating experiences but only when things didn’t work out.* Which has been a recurring theme in my dating life *contemplative face emoji*

*To clarify, I’m defining “things didn’t work out” very specifically. Obviously, all connections I make will most likely not work out in a literal sense, unless I end up married to someone until death do us part, which is improbable even for someone way less cynical, less man-hating, and less isolated than me. What I meant is, if I go on a few dates with someone and it goes nowhere, I will write about that. If it ends up becoming a meaningful and ongoing relationship of some kind regardless if it ends after just three months or a year, I won’t write about it. (I mean, I will probably write about that person in some manner, but it won’t take the form of a lengthy and detailed prose narrative accompanied by crudely drawn pictures of stick figures and sperm.)


Minh

Haha you and me both. I haven’t read it, but I inferred it in your dating resume.

Yea dating is exhausting :/


Me

Lol oh right. Yeah idk why we subject ourselves to this torture

I mean I guess in hopes of falling in love or getting laid or whatever


Minh

I guess it’s nature sprinkled in with some cultural entitlement here and there. [I have no idea what he meant by this]

With that said, I would be grateful to see you’re [sic] sarcasm and quick wit in person 🙂


Me

Lol oh right.

I don’t think my wit is as quick in person lol but yeah, let’s meet up


tinderp 7.1

We made weeknight plans to get coffee at Philz in Berkeley, his home turf. In person, Minh was shorter and stockier than expected, and not as cute as I’d hoped. Still, I was determined to be open-minded. I was excited to learn that he was part Cambodian. “You can call me by my real name, Leh!-keh-nah,” I told him as we walked over to the coffee shop.

“Okay, Lahgena,” he said, completely butchering the actual pronunciation of my name.

I cringed. “Uh. Never mind. Just call me Learkana.” It became even more apparent as we made small talk that he hadn’t been raised Cambodian and spoke zero Khmer, which was somewhat disappointing, but I wasn’t going to count it against him.

After getting our caffeinated drinks, we grabbed a table upstairs. It felt comfortable and easy, conversing with Minh. He chatted about TV shows, working as a nurse at a psych ward, and having an allegedly sarcastic sense of humor (allegedly because I saw no proof of it and at one point wondered if he knew what sarcasm meant). I smiled and nodded and looked at him and tried really hard to find him attractive. It was kind of working. Wasn’t it?

I soon became painfully aware that we were the only ones engaged in animated conversation in the cafe. Everyone else was studying. Minh didn’t seem to notice or care how loud and obnoxious he sounded. His dude-bro voice droned on, penetrating the silence like some oblivious phallic object. I was embarrassed. I also felt old as fuck, sitting in the middle of all these college students. “Can we go somewhere else?” I asked. “This place is too quiet and I feel kinda awkward.”

“Okay, sure,” he said. We left the cafe and walked a few blocks over to a tea house. Minh led me to the patio in the back, where we sat on some steps to talk some more. I don’t quite remember how the patio looked, but it was pretty fancy and almost romantic, except I felt absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, it seemed Minh could tell. He kept making “jokes” about the date going badly and my lack of interest in him, but I would just smile and say nothing in response, and that probably only served to confirm his suspicions. I felt trapped in some ways. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t like him, but I couldn’t bring myself to express interest outside of simply being there with him. I also didn’t know how to flirt in person, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, even if I had known how. At this point I usually would have made up some excuse about being tired and left already. But I didn’t want to call it quits this time. I was sick of giving up so easily. I needed this to work, because I couldn’t bear the thought of this being the first of yet another long and tedious string of first dates with guys I would never see or hear from again.

So the date dragged on. We were running out of things to talk about. At one point, Minh asked me what I was going to write about for this date.

“Oh. I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t really think about it until afterwards.” I didn’t want to tell him that this date was probably going to be pretty boring to write about.

We somehow ended up sitting at a table outside of a restaurant we weren’t planning on entering. Minh was looking at me, trying to engage me in a discussion about past dating experiences. I was avoiding his eyes. I hated this conversation. I hated it because reliving my failures was no longer fun for me and talking to him was no longer comfortable or easy.  I suddenly felt anxious, panicked. I didn’t know what to say to him. We had said all the things that needed to be said. I was so bad at this. “I’m really bad at this,” I said out loud. “Sorry. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m sober. I usually drink on first dates to make things less awkward. I know, it sounds bad.”

“We can go to a bar if you want to,” he said. “I don’t mind.”

“No, that’s okay,” I said quickly. “I don’t want to depend on alcohol.” I was such a dumbass, trying to take the high and sober road. We should have gone straight to the nearest bar to get shitfaced drunk so we could move past the inability to verbally connect and sloppily make out in some corner. Instead we awkwardly sat outside until he suggested we get pho for dinner and I said sure.

He drove us to a cute little Vietnamese place that was mostly empty. “Is this the worst date you’ve been on?” he asked in what I was certain was only a half-joking manner.

“No, I’ve been on worse,” I reassured him. I recounted to him the story of the torturous hike I went on with someone from OKCupid. “He kept making these dumb jokes that weren’t funny at all,” I said. “It was awful.”

“So my jokes are better,” he said lightly.

“Haha, yeah,” I lied. We sat down and ordered. He finished his pho in no time; I gulped down a few noodles. I wasn’t really hungry. I agreed to dinner because I didn’t want to be the one to say no. I was playing the waiting game, passively sticking out the date in hopes of one spark. It never happened. Conversation had slowed to an agonizing trickle. Looking back, I’m not sure how I lasted so long in awkward first date limbo.

tinderp 7.2b

The check finally came. I asked the server for a container so I could take my three quarters uneaten pho home. Minh put down his card. “I’ll pay for it.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Oh, you’re not going to offer to pay?” he inquired. “So you’re just a feminist when it’s convenient.”

I looked at him. He was smiling, so he was probably joking. Half-joking. A lot of things flashed through my mind in that moment. The fact that I have never expected, suggested, nor insisted a guy pay for me on a date, in contrast to some of my feminist friends who were still invested in chivalry as a consolation prize for systematic sexism.  The fact that I usually paid for myself on these endless dates that never went anywhere. The fact that free food is a tempting offer regardless of gender politics, because I live paycheck to paycheck and being cared for even in small material ways feels nice. The fact that he and I both live in a white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy that primarily operates through capitalism and refusing his payment for my food wasn’t going to help end it, nor should it be a strike against my feminism when fighting for gender equality goes well beyond who pays for dinner.

I didn’t have the mental capacity, time, energy, or will to articulate any of this in a way that was socially acceptable, so I reached for my bag instead. “You want me to pay? I’ll pay.”

“Oh no, that’s okay,” he said, chastened. “I can afford to.”

After Minh paid the bill, we left the restaurant. I stopped in my tracks. “Fuck. I left my pho in there.”

He shrugged. “Oh well.”

His response made me feel worse. I wasn’t sure why.

We got into his car and he dropped me off at the downtown Berkeley BART station. I thanked him for dinner and we said good night to each other. By the time I got home, I was in low spirits. Why was I still terrible at dating? I had wanted to believe I had changed as a person. That I could be optimistic and carefree and open-minded. But when faced with the opportunity, I shut down. Pessimism, anxiety, and judgment overshadowed all thoughts in my mind. I couldn’t hold them at bay.

I decided that even though I was a failure tonight, the very least I could do was reach out to Minh and apologize for being such a lukewarm date.

Me: Ack sorry if that was weird. I’m terrible at social interaction

Minh: No not at all. I think I overwhelmed you

He overwhelmed me? What a weird, condescending thing to say.

Me: With what? Your Berkeley food recommendations? Lol

He never responded. At first I was upset that he wasn’t willing to put in the effort to see things through. It meant I wasn’t worth his time or interest. But then I realized he was only ending our mutual suffering. We weren’t a match in real life. It was so plainly obvious on that first date. I just didn’t want to let it go because I was sad and tired and lonely and didn’t want to get back out there and meet up with another stranger only to have the same anticlimactic situation repeat itself like it had so many times before. But now I had no choice. I was going to die alone, but at the very least I should go out with a bang. That meant more bad and awkward dates. That meant boring dates and exciting dates and hot dates and ugly dates. That meant dates that left me sad and confused and disappointed and also dates that left me hopeful and giggly and nostalgic. I had to keep trying because failing spectacularly is better than failing timidly. Because sitting across from a guy I will never see again is better than sitting at home and wondering what if. Because feeling lonely with someone is sometimes better than feeling lonely alone.

tl;dr Learkana has a dating resume! Learkana is still really bad at dating, like reeeeeeeally bad, but you already knew that! Learkana refuses to give up!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Philz Coffee
Rating: **
Review: Okay I feel kind of bad because I think the awkwardness had to do with the time and location and not really the coffeehouse chain itself. So I’ve thrown in an additional star out of pity and will also be specific and advise anyone trying to plan for a date to NOT meet up at a cafe in Berkeley on a weeknight that is not in the summer. It will likely to be filled with very studious college students who will incidentally make you feel old as fuck even if you only graduated college like 2 years ago (okay fine 2 and a half)

0

Tinderp Tale #6: Accidental White Dude

Over the past few years, I have garnered the reputation of being the anti-white bitch on social media. But let’s be clear: I am anti-whiteness, not anti-white people. I take issue with the oppressive structure that upholds whiteness as the superior racialized social construct, not with individual white people. (Why is this so hard to understand?! Oh wait.) Basically, if white supremacy didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have a problem with white people as a whole. Actually if white supremacy didn’t exist at all, white people wouldn’t exist either, come to think of it, but that’s an underdeveloped train of thought for another time/blog post.

Anyway, ever since my women’s college shook me out of my apolitical stupor and opened my eyes to the necessity of a liberatory social justice praxis, I’ve been doing my best to abide by the feminist mantra of the personal being political, and I decided no exception could be made when it came to dating. Well, I decided that no exception could be made when it came to race within the dating realm, which is a pretty huge factor. White supremacy is everywhere; it didn’t have to get all up in my vagina too. Which basically meant I was reverse racial profiling on Tinder. On occasion, I would stumble across a really cute white guy with a semi-interesting, allegedly progressive profile and be sorely tempted to swipe right. But then I’d do a check-in with myself–Are white supremacy and white privilege over with, Learkana? No? Then swipe the fuck left like the decolonized ho you wanna be–and the moment of temptation would pass.

Racial profiling is pretty hard. I’m not sure how racists do it so effortlessly (well, being ignorant hateful fucks kind of explains it). Whenever a racially ambiguous/maybe just white passing dude popped up on my screen, I had to quickly decide whether or not he was white enough to have unconditional racial privilege, and honestly, I erred more often on the side of caution than not in that split second of determination.

But there was this one dude. Let’s call him Antonio. He looked super white: fair skin, light brown hair, blue/green eyes. But! He didn’t have a typical white boy name! And I think he had international flag emojis in his bio! So maybe he was Latino or something and was just really white passing in which case it wouldn’t be fair to swipe left because he wasn’t necessarily like full-blown white or anything and I mean he is pretty cute and seems nice enough okay damnit I’ll swipe right!


You matched with Antonio on 8/23/15

Antonio

Hey! Good morning!


Me

Good afternoon lol [Was not actually trying to be clever with this comment, I’m just compulsive about taking things literally and by the time I responded it was no longer morning ok]


Antonio

Hehe! How are you? Rough night yesterday?


Me

I’m a little tired but otherwise doing all right. I stayed up late hanging out with friends *beige OK hand sign emoji* how are you?


Antonio

I’m good! Sunday off, sunny day! Took a walk around lake merrit [sic] and done a few other stuff! I’m feeling productive:) haha


 

We made more boring small talk. I learned Antonio was born in Brazil, moved to Italy  with his family when he was young, and came to the U.S. for work, which meant he spoke like 3 languages, which was cool considering I barely spoke 1.5 (I blame Amerikkka). While this conversation was kind of informative, it didn’t really help me figure out whether this dude was white or not, and this became kind of a burning question of sorts for me.

tinderp 6.1

I was pretty well-informed on racial politics in the United States, but shamefully didn’t have much of a clue of how race plays out in other countries and cultures. Well, Antonio was Brazilian, right? I mean I guess he was Italian, but Brazil was his national origin, right? So, Latin American. Right?

“How does race operate in Latin America?” I casually asked my friend Andrea.

“The fucking same,” she replied.

Goddamnit. So I had matched with a white dude. An international, “exotic” brand of white dude, but a white dude nonetheless. Oh well. I wasn’t literally a bigot, so when Antonio asked if I wanted to meet up and get a drink with him, I said yes. He was probably a somewhat decent guy. (Maybe.) When I tested the sociopolitical waters by mentioning to him that I had recently attended a trans rights rally addressing the recent killings of transwomen of color, he took no issue with it and just made a weird joke about transwomen liking karaoke. Maybe his sense of humor didn’t translate very well. (Was that somehow racist? Oh, I give up.)

I remember feeling completely unexcited about this date. The novelty of using Tinder had worn off at this point. I was tired of going on disappointing dates, and my past record was strongly suggesting that this one wasn’t going to be any different. The only thing that stopped me from giving up altogether was this theory my roommate Mackenzie had mentioned to me one night when I was griping to her about my mediocre dating life. “So the theory is, somewhere between the 38th and 100th person you make a connection with will be the one person who is the most suitable for you to end up with.”

“Connection? Like, just messaging with them counts? Or do you have to meet up?” I asked.

“I don’t know, whatever falls under the definition of connection,” she replied, shrugging.

Keep in mind, this was one late night conversation I had a while back, so the details are a bit fuzzy and obviously I just paraphrased what I thought my roommate had said. But my takeaway was that I wasn’t meeting up with enough dudes to find someone to be in mutual like with. It was all just a numbers game. (A point that had been reiterated to me by my former boss–I rant about my mediocre dating life to everyone, okay.) So all I had to do, in spite of my anxiety and impatience and insecurities and uncertainty and judgments, was keep trying. I mean, there are so many fucking assholes in this world who are happily married! Didn’t I deserve the bare minimum of actually dating someone, at the very least?

So far on Tinder, I had met up with 5 dudes. Factoring in my numbers from OKCupid created a combined total of 21 dudes who hadn’t worked out. Which meant I needed to meet up with at least 17 more dudes to hit that window of possibility for meeting Mr. Good Enough. Antonio couldn’t be him, but he was #22 and therefore a necessary stepping stone, which meant I shouldn’t cancel on him even though I was kind of tempted to. (I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. But, like, we’ve already established this! Also Pottermore Sorted me into Slytherin, just FYI.)

Antonio and I met up at Beer Revolution, a divey sort of bar in the Jack London Square neighborhood of Oakland. Damnit. I was less attracted to him in person. He had a really big head on top of a slender body. And unfortunately, his bodily proportions would go on to bother me throughout the rest of the night. “Hi! I’m Antonio,” he said cheerfully. “Is it okay if I kiss you? I’m Italian, it’s how we greet people.”

“Uh–okay,” I said, and let him plant a kiss on each of my cheeks. I didn’t kiss him back. I was wearing lipstick so I didn’t want to leave marks on his face, but even if I wasn’t wearing any lipstick, I wouldn’t have kissed him anyway because ugh, that’s weird. I was even weirded out by him just kissing my cheeks. I hadn’t had a guy’s mouth touch me in over a year because I was too physically awkward for that (among other things).

We sat down, got a couple of beers, and talked. Blah, blah, blah, the usual stuff. He told me he worked at a pizza shop. I tried really hard to remove my internalized classist lens and not make a silent judgment on that, because whatever! It’s not like we were getting married and his income would determine the quality of life for our imaginary children, or something. He also talked about how Bay Area public transit sucked and how Australians were racist (although my guess was that he meant xenophobic in his particular case). I distinctly recall my conversation with him not feeling very datelike. It was almost like we had gone into that bar separately, happened to have sat next to each other, and struck up a conversation just for the hell of it. We were simply two polite, emotionally detached strangers passing time, trying to keep loneliness and awkwardness at bay and failing at it.

After finishing our beers, Antonio asked if I wanted to take a walk. I agreed, mainly because I needed more time to sober up. We left the bar and strolled up and down a few blocks. Some part of me was waiting for him to become attractive to me. Like maybe if the night went on long enough, and he talked long enough, and he smiled and said some of the right things, I would feel something. It never happened. He was still an uninteresting scrawny white dude with a big head to me by the time we called it a night. I wasn’t sure what was going on in his head. He probably felt a similar way, right? Or else he would have made a move by now. Ugh. I hated this so much. The ambiguity and nonchalance, the reification of gender roles. Was this really the only viable channel through which I could get laid? (In my situation, yes.)

tinderp 6.2

Antonio walked me to my car. He respectfully asked to kiss me goodnight. I let his lips touch my cheeks for the last time, got into my car, and drove away feeling empty.

We never hit each other up again. The usual mutual apathy and disinterest, as I suspected.

I inexplicably found myself on a semi-hiatus after this date. I chatted with a few guys, but never met up with any of them. There was one good-looking dude who expressed interest in devirginizing me, but we got into a huge fight about whether or not some John Mayer song was sexist (IT WAS AND IS) and we never talked to each other again. Story of my life. (Much later down the road, I would stumble across his Facebook profile and see a public Valentine’s Day post in which he sweetly referred to his mother as his Valentine and thanked her for raising him. I experienced some weird cognitive dissonance, reading his status. I couldn’t quite reconcile the sentimental mama’s boy on social media with the horny fuckboy who wanted to send me dick pics and got aroused at a picture I sent him of just my bare legs. Yeah I know, people are complex or whatever. But like, do cishet guys not get how hilariously fucked it is to act like fucking saints to the women whose vaginas they exited, then turn around and be fucking dickholes to the women whose vaginas they’re always trying to enter? Like, is this an Oedipal thing where they’re just mad that they can’t return to the safety of the womb because that would mean fucking their mothers and society makes that unacceptable so they displace that pent up sexual frustration and anger onto the hapless women they try to get it in with, whose vaginas don’t and will never compare to their original home? #FREUDIANFUCKBOYTHEORY #LongestParentheticalEver)

Anyway, a few months passed without a single date scheduled in my calendar. I hung out with friends, worked on creative writing endeavors, worried about the state of the world. I holed up in my room, my primary source of freedom and comfort. I went to bed alone, except on the rare occasion when a friend or family member spent the night. Sometimes I’d long for someone to curl up under the covers with. A cuddle buddy who wasn’t my plush Olaf from Frozen. A guy who could just come over on weekend nights and hold me until the ache went away. (You know, like that Sam Smith song, except hopefully like way less needy-sounding.) Why was it so hard to name that desire? To ask for it? To put it out into the universe in some way and wait for someone to answer?

You’re okay, I would tell myself. You are way better at being alone than most people. So what, you might potentially be unlaid and perpetually single for the rest of your life. These aren’t things that take away your self-worth. The ache will come, and it will go. You have learned to live with it. You’re okay. You’re okay. And for the most part, I believed it.

tl;dr Learkana is not racist! Learkana meets up with her first white dude in a while! Learkana survives another cold and bitter virgin winter by hibernating in her premature spinster cave! (Oh, and masturbating)

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Beer Revolution
Rating: **
Review: Too noisy and not enough seating. A good place to kick back with a good friend or two, but definitely not an ideal place to meet up with strange men from Tinder who want to put their penises inside of you.

 

1

Tinderp Tale #5: Too Dope For Tinder

I don’t know if anyone else does this, but sometimes, I’ll picture a room filled with all the people I’ve been on dates with. I try to imagine who would get along, who would size the others up and feel better or worse about themselves, and most importantly, what sort of conversations they would have about me. (Yes, I am realizing as I’m typing this that it’s a full-fledged exercise in narcissism, but bear with me, please.)

SETTING: a low-key bar in downtown Oakland.

Todd is playing pool, or possibly bocci with Brian. “Learkana was cute, but kind of a bitch,” Todd says rather bluntly. “We made out in my car one time and then I never saw her again.”

“Yeah, I feel you,” Brian agrees. “I wanted to see her again but she didn’t seem to care much, so I ended up dating someone else. Of course that’s when she tried to come back into my life.”

“Yup. Like I said, kind of a bitch,” Todd remarks with a shrug.

Over in the corner, Steven #1 shoots the shit with Rishi over drinks. “She didn’t like me. I’m not sure why.” Steven #1’s brow is furrowed as he sloshes the beer in his glass, all the while shaking his head.

“Wait, who are we talking about?” Rishi asks.

“Learkana, the Asian girl on OKCupid we both met up with on separate occasions,” Steven #1 replies. “And the only reason we’re talking about her is because she’s dictating this completely self-indulgent and imaginary scenario. See? I wouldn’t say any of this stuff in real life.”

“Learkana? Doesn’t ring a bell,” says Rishi with cruel obliviousness. “Gotta go, don’t wanna be late to my anarchist meeting. Catch you later, man. Resist!” He puts up a power fist and strides away.

Meanwhile, a couple of stools over, Steven #2 and Eric are debating who was treated the most like shit by Learkana.

“She immediately lost interest in me because I didn’t know what rape culture was!” Steven #2 tells Eric. “Which is ridiculous, because most people don’t know what that is. Not knowing what rape culture is didn’t keep me from being a Stanford graduate, so how is it a big deal?”

“Oh, she asked me that too,” Eric replies. “She was kind of like a caricature of a feminist, almost. Anyway, at least she didn’t stand you up! We were supposed to meet up at a bar for our second date but she ditched me and claimed she didn’t see me waiting outside for her.”

“Well, at least you made it to a second date!” Steven #2 argues. “She rejected me an hour after meeting me!”

“Oh, Learkana?” says Jack from behind Steven #2, reaching over the pair for his whiskey. “I liked her politics even if she didn’t know what she was talking about half the time. Wasn’t down to fuck though. Her loss.”

“Did anyone have sex with this girl?” inquires Abed. “Just curious, not actually interested.”

“Honestly, I think she might have been a lesbian who wasn’t out of the closet just yet,” offers Sherlock.

“While I feel very indifferent about Learkana and have been happily married for over a year now, I doth protest at the sexist dialogue currently unfolding,” interjects Colin.

Okay, END SCENE before this starts taking a toll on my self-esteem.

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So why have I indulged in weird fantasies like this? I don’t know, probably because I’m pathologically self-conscious to the point where I am always fixated on my self-image and the impression (or lack thereof) I leave on other people–in particular, what impression I leave on strange men I’ve met from the Internet. It was becoming apparent to me that most of the time, I didn’t leave a very good one. I was usually cold and distant, awkward and quiet. I never got to the point where I could be fully comfortable around a guy. By this time (Summer ’15), I had officially been on the online dating scene for 2 years and was still having mild anxiety attacks before each date. I thought dating was supposed to get easier, but that definitely hadn’t been the case.

I decided to take matters into my own hands, which simply meant tweaking my Tinder bio to more accurately reflect my jaded, misanthropic views and introverted lifestyle: Only doing half hour boba dates from now on.

I mean, 30 minutes was sufficient time to make a determination of whether we were interested in each other, right?

I was swiping on random dudes everyday. 90% of the time I swiped left. But on occasion, a guy would catch my eye. Sometimes it was a good picture, other times a witty one-liner, but most of the time, it was at least one really good picture and two really promising ones. A guy I will henceforth refer to as Charlie fit the latter profile. The one really good picture was of him twirling on a lamppost while wearing a dress that showed off his tan, muscled arms. A man of color with sexy limbs AND zero fucks about gender norms? Yes please. I swiped right. We matched. Yay!

I immediately messaged him, complimenting him on his choice of apparel. He warmed up to my flattery.

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We moved from Tinder messaging to texting pretty quickly, so things were getting serious. (Just kidding, I’m a ho when it comes to giving out my phone number so it wasn’t a big deal. Speaking of which, there’s probably 10+ fuckboy numbers I still need to delete from my contacts…) Charlie was being really flirty and I was also trying to be really flirty back except when I was making things awkward for no good reason.  Below is an example of this:

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To clarify, he was actually talking about weed, but you probably already knew that.

Also, if you couldn’t infer from the screenshot, I had asked Charlie out. We had already made plans to meet up at Woods Bar & Brewery in downtown Oakland, which was sadly and obviously not a boba place. I think I chose the bar because I didn’t really know of any quality boba places at the time other than my regular spot, and I didn’t want him to ruin my boba spot if things went poorly–which, statistically speaking, they probably would.

I was intrigued by Charlie because he was in some local pop punk band I had never heard of, and musicians were not a demographic I typically went on dates with. I was curious enough to look up his band on YouTube and watch an amateurish music video they had made a while back. Charlie played guitar, and his vocals were pretty decent. He sounded like that dude from Simple Plan, but less annoying. His voice did sound very juvenile though, which was honestly kind of a turnoff. (I have this thing about voices. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I hate my own voice so I compensate by seeking out dudes with voices I deem attractive. Who needs therapy when I can psychoanalyze myself?)

In person, Charlie was attractive. His voice and the way he talked, however, were worse than I thought. He sounded like a whiny white dude-bro. His life story was interesting enough to somewhat make up for this, though. Charlie was raised by a single mother whom he was pretty close to (an understatement, given that he had a tattoo of a heart with the word “MOM” inked in the middle of it on his arm–a stereotype of a tattoo I didn’t know people in real life actually got done). He was stuck doing some job he didn’t give a fuck about while trying to chase his dreams with his band, had worked as a freelance music critic by setting up his own blog and tricking people into thinking he had important things to say, and smoked a lot of pot because it made him more creative and stuff.  He seemed to have carefully crafted a casual, cocky demeanor for himself–like, he knew he was pretty awesome, but like, whatever, dude. You know?

It occurred to me more than once that I was on a date with a high school girl’s wet dream. The thing was, I wasn’t in high school anymore, so the more he talked, the more I was conflicted about my interest in him. I looked at my phone to see that the timer I had set was now at the thirty-minute mark. (Yes, I was assholish enough to stand by the half-hour rule specified in my bio.)

“So, did I make the cut?” Charlie inquired. He actually looked a little nervous.

God, I felt like such a douchebag. He had been warned ahead of time, but still. “Yes, we can keep talking,” I told him, feeling my insides twist because I wasn’t sure whether I had said yes because I actually wanted to keep talking to him, or because I didn’t want to follow through with being a total asshole. (Probably a little of both.)

He exhaled in relief. “This bar is pretty cool, by the way. How’d you find out about it?”

“Oh. Uh…the answer’s kind of awkward.” I guess I could have lied, but I’ve always been bad at lying and really good at word vomit. (I blame my mom.)

“What’s awkward?” he asked.

“Well, uh, I know about this place because a different guy I went on a date with Yelped it,” I confessed.

Charlie shrugged, unaffected, and resumed talking.

After we were done with our drinks, we walked around downtown. “You know, I don’t know why you’re on Tinder,” Charlie said at one point. “You’re pretty dope.”

I just giggled and avoided delving too deeply into why I found that statement laughable. Mostly it was him talking and me half-listening. He told me none of his relationships had lasted longer than a month, which was a turnoff to me because it signaled emotional immaturity and assholishness in general on his part. (Well, that’s how my cynical ass interpreted it, anyway.) He also talked about growing up multiracial and how the black girls he went to school with used to make fun of him, which was why he wasn’t really interested in dating black girls. This tirade made me pretty uncomfortable because it reeked of borderline misogynoir to me, but at the same time, I didn’t want to invalidate his experience as a mixed-race black guy, so instead I just shut up and felt really weird.

I suggested we take a walk around Lake Merritt instead. He was down. For whatever reason, I drove us there instead of just walking the half mile or so from downtown. I guess it was because I was feeling some combination of lazy and rushed, and was hoping a change of scenery would set the mood better. By this time, it was pretty dark out. Perfect. The shining lake, the dimly lit pathway, the aesthetically pleasing landscape minus the ubiquitous bird shit…a recipe for romance! Or so I thought. I was still nonsensically clinging to the idea of Lake Merritt as a site for igniting sparks, as a catalyst for chemistry. Third Fourth Fifth time’s the charm, right?

We walked for a bit along the lake. Charlie kept rambling on, while I was trying to figure out how to be smooth about holding his hand. I realized this was a pointless endeavor when there was nothing smooth about me (I mean figuratively, ok). “Can I see your hand?” I asked instead, very unromantically.

“Why?”

“Just let me see it,” I said impatiently and even less romantically (if that was even possible, because holy shit none of this was romantic).

He extended his hand towards me. I “looked” at it and held it in mine, feeling triumphant.

“Wow, you could have just asked to hold my hand,” said Charlie, rolling his eyes.

“Whatever.”

A few minutes ticked by. Charlie kept talking, seemingly unaware of how loud and obnoxious his voice sounded against the backdrop of the silent lake and brisk night air. I was trying to pay attention to what he was saying, but was soon overcome with the sinking feeling that my attempt at replicating what I had experienced with Anthony was failing, because holding hands with Charlie sucked balls.

I honestly didn’t even know holding someone’s hand could be so unappealing. His hand felt like it was chafing mine. Also, my arm felt like it was stiffly and awkwardly positioned, rather than dangling free. Was it because his arm was disproportionate to his body? Was my arm disproportionate to my body? Was it a combination of bodily disproportion happening? Was he just a shitty hand-holder? Was that even a thing?

tinderp 5.3

I felt confused and disappointed. Out loud I told Charlie that it was getting late and we should start heading back to my car.

I drove us back to the downtown area, where his car was parked. I had both hands on the steering wheel when he tried to put his hand over my right one. I automatically flinched.

“Oh, sorry. I thought you’d want to hold hands.”

“Not while I’m driving,” I said in what I hope was a lighthearted tone.

I dropped him off and we said our goodbyes. The next day, he texted me, asking me if I wanted to binge watch some show with him. Ugh. That meant going over to his place, and that meant he was planning on having sex with me.

I texted him back, vaguely telling him I wasn’t in the mood to watch that particular show but would maybe be open to watching something else. He never responded. I wondered if he could sense rejection between the words I had sent, or whether I was completely oblivious and really he was the one who had rejected me. For the most part though, I was unbothered by this exchange and devoted my brainpower to fretting over other inconsequential things.

A couple of months passed. In one of my lonely nostalgic spinster moods, I looked Charlie up on Instagram to see what he was up to. A few of his recent pictures featured him and an Asian girl with punk-styled green hair. Ew. I mean, not ew at the girl, but ew at the increased likelihood of this dude having an Asian fetish. (Okay, so maybe I was being paranoid but still, when it comes to the implicit politics of desire…CONSTANT VIGILANCE!) Good thing I never met up with him again, I thought, and proceeded to move on with my life.

A few months after I cyberstalked him, Charlie hit me up on Tinder again.


Charlie

Hey, are you still on this thing?


Weird. It was rare for me to have someone from my flimsy dating past try to reconnect with me. I decided it couldn’t hurt to respond.


Me

Yup, still on here, unfortunately.


Charlie

Wanna get a drink with me sometime?


Me

Uh. This is very unexpected. Why’d you stop talking to me last time?


Charlie

You didn’t seem interested in me, so I went with someone else.


Damn. So guys did know how to read between the lines.


Me

Lol okay. Idk honestly I didn’t think we had chemistry


Charlie

Well, you’re really hot so I thought I’d take my chances and ask you out again 😉


I was equal parts amused, flattered, and annoyed by this. When did I become a one-dimensional Hot Girl (TM) to cishet dudes? I wondered. Oh, yeah. When I started wearing makeup and became less modest with my clothing choices. Just a year or two ago, I honestly thought my appeal was rooted solely in my quirky personality and sense of humor. (HA. HA. HA.) Experience was now telling me that nah, my personality’s the boner shrinker, just be hot and literally nothing else.

I made a mental note to never call myself shallow again. Dudes were shallow AF, and shamelessly so. At least I had the conscience/social conditioning to be semi-apologetic about my superficiality, jeez.

Anyway, while I was flattered and stuff by Charlie calling me hot, I was fixated on one thing and one thing alone: chemistry. And I definitely didn’t have it with this dude. So I had to tell him it was a no-go.


 Me

Lol thanks but I would rather be friends


Charlie

Okay. My band has a concert in February. Would you come out and kick it with me?


Me

Sure


He never wrote back after that, and eventually he either deleted his account or unmatched with me. Guess he read between the lines again.

Damn. He should really teach that skill to other dudes.

tl;dr Learkana reflects on her ghosts of OKCupid past! Learkana learns someone can be shitty at handholding! Learkana is really hot!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Woods Bar & Brewery
Rating: *****
Review: Um yes this place is awesome, mainly because their beers actually taste good. The setup is cool too.

0

Tinderp Tale #3: Truth or Drink

What are you looking for?

That’s it. The most important question you can answer as a single navigating the dating scene. The 3 options and their consequences to keep in mind are as follows:

a) If you answer dishonestly, you might hurt someone down the road.

b) If you answer honestly, you might scare or turn someone off.

c) If you skirt around answering or addressing the question, you or whoever’s the most neurotic in the flirtationship will live in an amorphous and complicated state of confusion, anxiety, and stress over where things are going and why.

In my experience, we millennials rely heavily on c), much to my dismay and detriment as a neurotic single. Apparently, direct communication is out of style. Let’s just be chill and not specify what the fuck we’re actually doing!

Back on OKCupid, I was looking for a long-term relationship while also pretending that I wasn’t actually looking for a relationship. (Obviously, this plan was set up to fail and did, in fact, fail.) Now that I was on Tinder, I was unclear of what I was looking for but knew it vaguely had something to do with chemistry, whatever that thing was. Must I resist the urge to throw myself at him in person? Then yes, it’s really a match!

There wasn’t much room to be selective on Tinder, anyway. You judged based on pictures and a brief bio, which may or may not have actual words in it. Which in my case translated to: I forced my Dating Sensei/roommate/friend Sayuri to judge based on pictures and on the bio which should definitely have at least SOMETHING in it, because I’m not that fucking shallow, goddamnit.

One of the matches she obtained for me was a guy I will call Anthony. Anthony was cute. He had high quality photos that included an adorable close-up of him and various action shots that showed he was a fun guy who possessed an actual social life. Also, his bio had words that made sense! (Yes, my standards for dating material had lowered considerably post-OKCupid.)

I was excited and optimistic enough about Anthony to hit him up first and decided to go with a pickup line I would never have the guts to use in real life. (To be fair, it wouldn’t make much sense in real life anyway.)


You matched with Anthony on 6/25/15

Me

What brings your handsome mug to this dating cesspool? 😉


 Anthony

Wow I was about to give up on this whole tinder thing. First time a cute girl actually messages me first


Me

So I win?


Anthony

Yep, I think I owe you a drink or two now


Looking back at this exchange, I must say I’m pretty impressed with my ability to establish flirtatious rapport with a cute guy without fucking it up even once. (It’s the little victories, okay.)

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Anthony and I made plans to meet at Cafe Van Kleef, a divey sort of bar in downtown Oakland with eclectic wall decor. The last time I was there on a date was 2 years ago, but I figured it was unlikely I would run into Steven #1. Anyway, I had given up on making an effort to try new activities or places for first dates and decided recycling through previous bars would suffice. (Lowered standards, check. Brief flirtatious exchange based off little to no information, check. Half-assed planning, check. My transformation into your typical millennial dating app user was complete.)

I think Anthony got there before I did. (I am more often than not shamelessly running late to dates. Time as we know it is a Western bullshit construct anyway! Just kidding. Actually, that might be true. Hmm.) He was sitting at the bar and got up to give me a hug when he saw me. Much to my relief and joy, he looked just as good in person as he did in his pictures! We each ordered a beer and got to talking.

I remember enjoying our conversation and feeling somewhat shy, which tends to happen when I’m around guys I find attractive (and is really fucking annoying to my inner/outer radical feminist). He was a techie college dropout who was completely disconnected to his Latin roots, but he was hot and a good listener. His laugh however was really annoying, to the point where I was inwardly cringing every time he chuckled, but I mean, it would have been stupid of me to make that a dealbreaker, right? (Although the dude waiting in line with me for the unisex bathroom at one point in the night jokingly[?] offered the opinion that I should just run away when I confided in him and another stranger about how my date was going (yenno, because I’m an embarrassingly open book, on- and offline).

I could tell Anthony liked me because whenever the conversation trailed off, he would just stare at me and smile. I would look back at him, but I couldn’t maintain eye contact for too long. He made me nervous. It was too intimate. But it was nice, being looked at by someone who clearly desired me in a consensual, non-creepy way.

This is it, I thought excitedly. This is what they call chemistry! 

I ended up suggesting we play the game “Truth or Drink,” in which we took turns asking each other questions. You had the option of either answering honestly, or passing and taking a drink. Unlike previous times I’ve played this game with other guys from the Internet, this round with Anthony opened up actual dialogue. There were two things of note that were brought up in the game: his ex and my virginity.

I think it started with me asking, “How long was your most serious relationship?”

“Seven years,” he answered.

WHAT. “Wow, that’s a long time,” I said. “What happened?”

“One day she just stopped loving me,” he said with a straight face.

“Uh, okay.” Kind of a grody way to answer, but okay. I wonder if he was still hung up on her. Given the way he phrased it, maybe. Ugh.

“How long was your most serious relationship?” Anthony asked in return.

“Oh. I’ve never been in a relationship,” I replied, feigning casualness.

He was taken aback (as they usually are). “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you ever been with anyone…? Like intimately?”

“Oh, uh…no,” I said quietly. “I’m…a virgin.”

It was uncomfortable to say it out loud. I had never been a proud post-adolescent V-Card holder, honestly. Not that it’s anything to be proud of (boo to implicit slut shaming!).  But to me, being a virgin signaled a lack of worldly life experience. It meant I was sexually naive and immature, and only three-quarters of an actual adult. It wasn’t like I was waiting until marriage, or anything like that. I was simply too awkward and insecure to make it happen, and a real opportunity had never presented itself.

My public confession was made worse by the look on Anthony’s face. I could have been reading too much into it, but he looked like he was the slightest bit dismayed by the news. Like maybe me being a 23-going-on-24-year-old virgin spinster was a total turnoff and dealbreaker. Like maybe he wouldn’t have sex with me because he thought I was an attached bleeder.

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From S1E04 of the HBO show Girls.

I was definitely not looking at him anymore.

“Are you okay?” asked Anthony. “You’ve gone quiet.”

“Oh, yeah…” I mumbled. “I just feel like…it’s weird.” Damn it, I should have drank instead.

“I mean, it’s fine,” he said. “I’m not judging.”

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The subject was changed, and we thankfully moved on. At the end of the night, he walked me to my car. He smiled like he meant it and gave me a hug that told me he wanted to see me again. I drove away, in awe that I had finally met someone I was interested in, who was also interested in me! Maybe this would turn into something real for once. Maybe I wouldn’t be left disappointed.

He texted me a few days later, asking me if I wanted to get dinner.

I said yes. Then, my worst dating nightmare happened: I had an acne breakout.

FUCK. WHY?!

It was one of the worst breakouts I’d gotten in a while. Of course this would happen right when I had made plans with a guy I finally clicked with. Of course.

He thinks you’re cute, I tried to console myself. So what if you have a couple of pimples on your face? You’re still cute. The pimples will pass.

Shut up and crawl under a rock, you ugly fuckface, my inner mean girl voice replied.

I cancelled the date, citing tiredness.

That’s when Anthony invited me over to his place.

Oh. My. God.

This was it. My opportunity to get laid!

Excitement quickly devolved into anxiety and fright. This was a really last minute request. I hadn’t even properly groomed myself (i.e., thoroughly shaved down there). And I still had those fucking gross zits to reckon with. I bravely looked at myself in the mirror. It’s okay. You can do this. You deserve this. You’re beautiful. You’re awesome. You’re–

Nope. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do this. Insecurity took over.

Well, maybe we don’t need to have sex.

Bitch, please. He did not invite you over to play board games. 

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I was disappointed and frustrated with myself. I had spent years trying to unlearn the shame and self-loathing that came with my body and my sexual desires, in a world that taught me both were wrong. It seemed I still had a ways to go.

I let Anthony know I couldn’t make it. He seemed okay with that.

A couple of days later, he texted me with some bad news.

Anthony: Hey I know this is really sudden, but I’m moving to New York next week. My company offered me a promotion and I accepted. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. The timing sucks because you’re the first girl I’ve really liked in a while.

I read his words, feeling kind of sad but not too upset. I didn’t know him well enough for this to have really impacted me, but it was disappointing that the first guy I ever had chemistry with was being snatched out of my hands by the tech industry. I mourned the lost potential. I would never have sex with him now. I mean, I could, but he was leaving for good and having sex with someone in those circumstances would make me feel used. Was this it, then? I realized I still wanted to see him regardless, even if we weren’t gonna bang.

Me: Thanks for telling me. It sucks because I like you too, but I’m happy for you. 🙂 Would you be down to hang out one last time?

Anthony: Lol sure

Per the suggestion of my Dating Sensei, Anthony and I met at Off the Grid in Oakland, a weekly food truck event hosted by the Oakland Museum of California. My breakout had subsided by that time. I was relieved when he did not look at me like I was a fizzling slug. Instead he hugged me and briefly rested his head on mine, a small gesture that made my heart leap with joy.

We ordered food and sat down to watch people dance along to the live band playing salsa music.

“I don’t understand how you’ve stayed single,” he exclaimed at one point. “You’re so cute!”

I gave him a small smile and shrugged. No point in ruining his projected fantasy of me. But it also irked me, to be diminished to this one word: cute. He only liked me because I’m cute? Is that really the only prerequisite for a guy to like a girl? I was more than just cute. Cuteness was only something I had recently made a conscious effort to cultivate. It was mostly aesthetic and superficial, and I had other valuable qualities outside of this flimsy label. Obviously, this train of thought didn’t make for dateable commentary, so I just shut up and took a huge gulp of my Coke.

The event ended close to 9. I asked Anthony if he wanted to walk around Lake Merritt with me. “Is this where you take all your dates?” he joked.

“Haha, no,” I said. (Just some of them, ahem.)

Night had fallen by this time. We walked side by side, under the soft light coming from the lamps strung along the path. I had this strong urge to hold Anthony’s hand, because I had never held hands with a guy before. Yes, this is pitiful, but bear with me. Who knew when I was going to meet a guy with whom I shared mutual attraction to again? The time to lose my handholding virginity was now.

“I….I have a question to ask you,” I mumbled.

“What is it?”

“Um…uh…it’s a really awkward question.”

“Just ask me.”

“Uh…”

This literally went on for 10, 15 minutes and is definitely one of the top 10 Most Embarrassing Date Moments I’ve suffered in my entire anticlimactic dating history.

Eventually I burst out with, “Canweholdhands?”

“Sorry, didn’t hear you,” said Anthony. “What’d you say?”

“UGH! FORGET IT!”

He laughed, came closer, and slipped his hand over mine. It sent thrills through me. I was elated, and also really nauseated by how elated I was by this sappy, innocent gesture. People passed by us. It struck me that to them, we were a couple in love, not two singles going on their final date together before they never saw each other again because why the hell not. It was sad. But also, gross. I had become one of those people who blocked up public pathways with my desire for physical affection.

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We ended up cuddling on a bench overlooking the water. We talked about random shit, but kept returning to the subject of relationships (or the lack thereof).

Anthony elaborated on his 7 year relationship. They started dating when she was a senior in high school and he was in his first year of college. They were even living together, but then she started getting distant. She eventually cheated on him and that was the final straw. They split up.

And apparently, this officially ended like only a month or so ago. He did clarify that the breakdown in the relationship happened long before, but still, COMPLETE turnoff. Part of me was glad he was leaving. But I knew that at this point, I couldn’t really be picky about anyone’s relationship baggage, just because I was some weird anomaly who had none.

“I don’t really like dating,” said Anthony. “I prefer relationships.”

“I don’t know if I could be in a relationship, honestly,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I like being alone, and being independent. If I were to be in a relationship, I would want some personal space. I wouldn’t want to hang out with someone all the time or feel obligated to text or call someone everyday.” As I was explaining this, I could see disagreement register on Anthony’s face. Hmph. I guess it was a good thing he was leaving after all.

“I still don’t get why those other guys never worked out,” he said.

I took a breath. “Okay. So when I first started doing online dating, I was set on finding someone who had the same sociopolitical beliefs as me, because I don’t want to date someone who’s racist or sexist or whatever. I would ask guys to define rape culture on the first date, and bring up feminism and stuff. But then I realized doing that wasn’t helping me find someone I liked or clicked with. So I stopped.”

“Oh. Well, I consider myself a pretty open-minded guy, so–”

I looked at him. “I think you should stop talking.”

He laughed. We stayed on that bench for a little while longer, trying to savor the moment.

Eventually we made our way back. He walked me to my car and gave me a final hug. “I’m glad I got to see you again,” he said.

“Yeah, me too,” I replied. He was just looking at me and smiling. Anxiety kicked in. Oh god. Were we supposed to kiss? It didn’t seem like he was trying to do that, though, and I didn’t know how to initiate one. I didn’t think I wanted to anyway, because kissing in my experience was shitty and I didn’t want to ruin our farewell with a gross, sloppy tongue dance. Also, we had both eaten garlic shrimp pasta for dinner, so no. Definitely not.

He told me to keep in touch. I was surprised.”Do you mean it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Yeah. Why not?”

I didn’t keep in touch, and he never reached out to me again either. What was the point? We were on opposite sides of the country. He was looking for love, and I was looking for something that couldn’t be provided to me through a long distance connection.

I think about him from time to time, wistfully wondering what could have been. It’s my default dating mode. I’m always looking back. Pinpointing mistakes. Stuck on what-ifs. Longing for what isn’t. Fantasizing about what could never be. Filled with regret. It’s incredibly lonely when romance and desire are experienced more through retrospect than in the present. But the ache is so familiar, it’s become a part of me.

tl;dr Learkana finally has chemistry with a guy! Learkana freaks out about some zits and her cunt and doesn’t get laid! Learkana engages in some nauseating handholding for the first time, woo hoo!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Cafe Van Kleef
Rating: *****
Review: Well, this is the second time I’ve been here, so obviously I think this place is awesome. Chill vibe, cool decor, nice people. 5/5 would go again (and did *cough*).

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Tinderp Tale #2: I’m An Asshole

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.

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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.

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Not a picture of the actual bar, the first page result of a Google search has failed me.

(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.

Godfuckingdamnit.

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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!
Venue: Belly
Rating: ***
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!