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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 #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:

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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)

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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 #1: Nonconsensual Hugging

It was the summer of 2015. A summer of new beginnings: I had created a Tinder account. My hair was growing out and I was wearing makeup consistently enough that people had mostly stopped freaking out about it. I looked like the Kawaii Asian Girl (TM) everyone wanted me to be, instead of an androgynous, pre-pubescent Asian Daniel Radcliffe who for the record still could have gotten laid if she wanted to okay but whatever moving on.

New online dating app, new me.

“Can you swipe right for me?” I asked Sayuri, my roommate and newly christened Dating Sensei. “And do, like, 5 matches a day for me?”

“Sure!” she said.

Same old schemes.

“No white guys,” I warned her.

She nodded without missing a beat. “Got it.”

The matches came in. I was giddy from the speed at which I could flirt with guys, the rapid pace at which I could reject them if they or their bios said the wrong thing (e.g., “I’m pretty indifferent about Beyonce” ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS *unmatch*).

There was so much power at my fingertips. I was UNSTOPPABLE.  (Cue diabolical laughter, and that smiling purple emoji with the devil horns.)

Fuck OKCupid! Tinder was awesome. (Or maybe it was awesome because I finally stopped talking to white guys. Hmm.) Tinder got to the point. It got to the heart(lessness) of the matter. There were no endless blocks of text for me to overanalyze and agonize over, no lengthy paragraphs to compose out of some weird unspoken adherence to the medium of the message thread. Best of all, the guys I talked to weren’t afraid to use emojis, which meant they didn’t sound like robots in my head (which may have also been a racial difference).

It wasn’t long before I started chatting up a very promising match. From what I recall, he was slightly younger than me and cute in a kinda dorky way, was working as an engineer at Tesla for the summer before he returned to college on the east coast, liked to do magic tricks, and wasn’t afraid to include a picture of him and his mom as part of his dating profile, which I interpreted as adorable and wholesome instead of weird and awkward.


Jason*

Hey hey. Share with me your current favorite YouTube video. So I know it’s *real*

Also tell Dating Sensei I said thanks [yes I mentioned Sayuri swiping for me in my Tinder bio at this time, yes I was/am that shameless]


Me

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b81Cr97ANrk [a Buzzfeed video featuring the Try Guys, a quartet(?) of 4 dudes who challenge social norms around masculinity and do other random shit, in this video they explore childbirth and use a labor pain simulator to recreate what that experience would feel like: shitty and painful AF #TeamEugene #ILoveHimOMGHesSooooHot #MasculinitySoFragile]

Lol, will do. I actually have to report to her on my results so thank you for your voluntary participation


Jason

Labor: painful as getting kicked in the genitals 500 times


*name changed to protect the oblivious

So we went back and forth with more small talk, until I got fed up with it and I asked him if he’d like to meet up.

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That’s right–I, Learkana, took the initiative and asked a boy out! Tinder Learkana had way less fucks to give than OKC Learkana. Tinder Learkana was bold and brave and asked boys out instead of passively hoping guys would perform their socially assigned gender role and ask her out first. Tinder Learkana also didn’t give a fuck about a guy’s sociopolitical views. (Okay fine, she still kind of gave a fuck but wasn’t gonna force the issue if she could help it.) She mainly wanted to know if looking into his eyes would make her heart jump down into her vagina, and she wasn’t going to actually know this until she met him in person. She will now stop narrating in the thirdperson, okay thanks.

We exchanged numbers and made plans for dinner on a weeknight at Burma Superstar on Telegraph. (This was before I had heard about their exploitative labor practices, okay.) Because it was closer to my office than my house, I went straight to the restaurant after work, feeling just a little weird because I was wearing an outfit that was more business casual than date appropriate (a form fitting sleeveless turtleneck dress with a cardigan and flats). Oh well. Tinder Learkana doesn’t give a fuck!

Jason was running late, and texted me to let me know. I figured I could just grab a table for the two of us. A server told me nope, everyone has to be present in order to be seated. So I stood awkwardly outside for a good ten minutes or so until the server felt sorry for me and seated me at a table between two very chatty couples, and by that time I felt kind of embarrassed and annoyed and maybe slightly pathetic. Where the fuck was this dude?

Finally he showed up, and he was pretty hot, so I instantly forgave him. (What?! Don’t get all holier-than-thou on me, we’re all shallow assholes.) I even got up, gave him a smile, and proceeded to hug him, in accordance with my friends’ advice to be more physically affectionate.

Wrong move.

Or at least, it felt like it.

My arms briefly enfolded his body, which felt stiff and lifeless in my embrace. Why is this like hugging a tree, but, like, a dead tree with really strong ‘get the fuck off me’ vibes? Fuck, maybe I shouldn’t have done this. He was too tall for me to gauge his facial expression during this 5 second physical exchange. I pulled away, slightly unnerved. Does he already not like me?

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He seemed okay as we both sat down though, so maybe I was just being a tad neurotic or maybe he was just an awkward hugger. He ordered something with chicken. I wasn’t that hungry, so I ordered broccoli. (Like, fancy stir fried broccoli that was overpriced, if that sounds more appealing to you, but probably not.)

“Broccoli? Are you a vegetarian?” he asked.

“No, I’m just not that hungry,” I said defensively. (Side note: why is it that a meat-eater can’t order a vegetable-only menu item without everyone assuming they’re a vegetarian? Meat eaters aren’t contractually obligated to gorge on dead animals every time they feed themselves, jeez.)

I felt like he was judging me for only getting broccoli, like maybe I was one of “those” girls who watched what she ate and weighed herself all the time, when really I was the kind of girl on the other side of the same coin who exploited her thin privilege by putting trash in her body and “forgetting” to exercise the recommended number of times a week. I possessed the minimum level of social skills to know that was not a charming or titillating point to bring up on a first date, so we talked about other stuff, like where we went to college. “I went to Mills. It’s a liberal arts women’s college.” How many times have I made this statement to a guy on a first date? Too many times to count, but I felt like it was a quick and easy way to check for casual sexism.

“I took a class at a women’s college once,” he said. “It was kind of a weird experience.”

“What do you mean?” I demanded.

“Just the dynamic is different,” he said vaguely.

I let it slide. (Tinder Learkana let things slide!) We talked about pets. Jason loved dogs. He asked if I had ever owned a pet. I said my family had owned all sorts of pets in the past, but most of them ran away or died or we gave them up. I tried to say this in a way that was fun and charming and quirky, but I think it mostly came off as insensitive and cruel. Oops.

Jason expressed an interest in Japanese culture and said he would like to learn the language. This was a turn-off to me, because it reeked of potential East Asian fetishism. “Do you speak Tagalog?” I asked, which in retrospect was pretty ignorant, since it’s not the only Filipino language there is, but it’s the only one I know of off the top of my head, okay. (Side note: according to his bio, Jason is half white, half Filipino.)

He shook his head. “Never learned it.”

“So instead of connecting with your roots, you’d rather immerse yourself in an Asian culture that is more palatable to the Western white gaze?” is something OKC Learkana would have asked or implied in a less articulate, more passive-aggressive manner because it’s hard to spit out flowery, contentious trains of thought in person and on the spot regardless of my ability to frame ideas through the written word in hindsight. But Tinder Learkana slapped on a smile and changed the subject.

We talked about more boring stuff. I couldn’t gauge whether or not Jason was interested in me. He was friendly, but the kind of friendly you would be towards someone you were socially obligated to make awkward small talk with for the next hour or so while you shared a meal with them. He didn’t say anything suggestive, didn’t compliment me, didn’t touch me in the slightest. Not knowing how he felt was making me feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Earlier he had mentioned the possibility of getting a drink after dinner, but now I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. I guess I should have taken the initiative to show that I was interested in him, but I was still feeling the burn from Rishi’s rejection and didn’t want to appear overly eager if Jason wasn’t even remotely interested. Also, I wasn’t actually sure I was interested in him. I was attracted to him, yes, but there wasn’t really any chemistry from what I could tell, and based on my experience with Rishi, I knew chemistry was of the utmost importance–the primary factor required to determine whether expending time, money, energy, and self-respect on “seeing where things went” was worth it. (And okay yes, the whole Rishi debacle was still weighing heavily on my mind at this time and informing Tinder Learkana’s dating approach.)

By the time we got the check and kind of split the bill (I didn’t have enough cash to fully pay Jason for my share, but guiltily told him I’d get him a drink), I was still very confused about what was happening. We left the restaurant and sort of just started walking aimlessly towards no specified destination, which got me really anxious.

“Did you drive?” I asked.

“No, I took BART,” he said.

I remember talking a little bit about family with him as we were walking, and getting more and more panicked at the sense that the dreaded goodbye segment was coming up pretty shortly.

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I was right. We wound up at the BART station. I looked up at him and put on a big smile. “Well, here’s your stop,” I said brightly.

“You didn’t take BART?” he asked.

“Nope, I drove. Well, it was nice meeting you!” I hugged him again and instantly regretted it. Again with the stiff and lifeless body! Fuck, did I just hug-rape this guy, twice? Why didn’t he say anything if he didn’t want me to to hug him?! Okay, now I’m victim-blaming. Fuck.

I quickly looked back up at him again. He was giving me a searching sort of smile. Like he was slightly puzzled by what was happening, too. “Maybe you can show me around Oakland sometime,” he said.

I was already walking away. “Yeah, maybe,” I said, smiling again but freaking out on the inside because fuck, this shit was awkward as hell and why the fuck do I keep doing this to myself oh god oh god oh god.

By the time I got home, I was actually shaken by the date. The uncertainty of it all was messing me up. I couldn’t tell if he was interested, and I didn’t know to what extent I was interested, but as usual, it was contingent on to what extent he was interested, because I didn’t want to be interested in someone who wasn’t really interested in me, because that meant I was more interested and therefore more invested in him than he was interested/invested in me, which would mean I was the interested loser and he was the disinterested winner and I didn’t want to go back down that fucking road again because it really sucks okay. (Yes, this is how my petty and fucked up mind works. Dating is a game. You must try to win the game by giving the least fucks until you hopefully meet somewhere in the middle with a shared amount of fucks then BAM! Mutually fulfilling relationship of some kind.)

I relayed all of my concerns to my Dating Sensei, but probably in a way less coherent manner. “In conclusion, I’m still terrible at dating,” I said.

She seemed perplexed, then advised me to text him and see how he responded in order to gauge his interest. Ugh, again with the practical advice to reach out. How well did that work out last time?

Still, she was my Dating Sensei and she was right in the grand scheme of things, so my ungrateful ass texted Jason to let him know that I had a good time. He responded that he did too. The conversation ended there.

The next day, I texted him a “Memoji,” which is basically an emoji, but, like, with your face. (If you’re a narcissist like me, you can download it from the App Store! If you have an iPhone, that is. Don’t know if it’s available for other types of smartphones.) Here’s a sample array:

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Pretty cool, right? Or maybe pretty dorky/tacky/self-absorbed, whatever, but we can all agree that it warrants a fucking response, right?

Well, I sent Jason a Memoji of me smiling and waving, in an attempt to say “Hi” in a cute millennial way, and this motherfucker didn’t say anything.

In fact, I never heard from him again.

I was kind of crushed, because it’s normal to feel pretty sad and pathetic when you send a gif of your face to someone you think you might like, and that bitch just ignores you.

I guess I could have texted him one more time (with words and not an animated image of my face), but I was done with confirming rejection, like I was some desperate weirdo with an inability to pick up on social cues. I had gotten the fucking hint, okay. (And yes, for a little while I did cling to the hypothetical scenario in which Jason never received the Memoji, but I eventually made my way back to reality and was forced to accept the much more likely if painful and offensive possibility that he saw it, didn’t give a fuck, and completely disregarded it. Truth hurts, people.) I mean, Jason was only here for the summer, so he couldn’t have been the love of my life or anything, logistically speaking, but I mourned the lost potential. Like, he could have fallen in like with me enough to invite me to the east coast! Or he could have been a really awesome fling! Or he could have fucking responded to my fucking Memoji with a “Haha that’s kinda cool”!

So where did things go wrong? Was it because I had casually mentioned animal neglect as part of my family history? Was it my face? Did he not like my face? Was the hugging that terrible? (Was I really a hug-rapist? Oh God.) Was I that boring? Was my first impression that bad? Did he just want to get laid, and I didn’t seem like the type to have sex on the first date? Or–wait a minute–was I the one who came off as disinterested, so he in return was disinterested? Who rejected who first, and why?? Why didn’t we ever make it to the bar? Also, did he not care that I owed him a drink???

I have been told, time and time again and by multiple people, that these are very unimportant questions that are a waste of time to think about. So naturally, they consumed a good chunk of my brainpower for the next week or so, or really for the next few years and forever, because being neurotic and going on one disappointing date after another will do that to you.

tl;dr Learkana goes on her first Tinder date! Learkana fails at hugging, twice! Learkana realizes she still sucks at dating and that really blows!

With that said, it’s now time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Burma Superstar
Rating: *
Review: I mean the broccoli was delicious but c’mon, $11.95 for fucking broccoli and you don’t even pay your kitchen workers? Fuck that shit. (Yes yes they are *alleged* workplace violations but I’d rather err on the side of caution and support the underdogs. Also, there are plenty of great Bay Area restaurants that thrive without rumors of labor exploitation swirling around them. Just saying.