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Tinderp Tale #14: Let’s (Not) Learn Cambodian!

Once in a while, I long for the ability to talk with my mother about my dating life. I want to be able to complain to her about fuckboys, ask for her advice on whether I should keep seeing someone I feel ambivalent about, cry to her about my shitty first time, the works. Unfortunately, this wish will always remain a fantasy, planted in my head by Western media depictions of mothers and daughters who don’t face linguistic and cultural barriers that could hinder their relationship the way they’ve long hindered my own relationship with my mother. In addition to these barriers was my mother’s apparent apathy on the matter. Not once has she ever tried to ask me about my romantic misadventures. She’ll occasionally wonder when I’ll get a husband, but seems to have zero interest in knowing about the journey it would take to find someone I would want to marry (and vice versa). Not that I’ve ever actually been on that journey or anything. I was having a hard enough time trying to find someone who wanted to see me past five dates, never mind someone with lifetime potential.

I wonder if my mother’s disinterest stems from the naive assumption that I am an innocent virgin who has never been on a date. Which, to be fair, was a mostly accurate assumption until about five years ago. (I was still a virgin then, but went on a bunch of dates for the first time–and was a lot more optimistic and wholesome about it compared to later years.) Or maybe my mother thinks I’m a hoe and when she tells me “Stop spending money and going out, you need to settle down,” it’s really code for “Stop being a hoe.”

But Ma, I would say. I haven’t even started being a hoe. At least let me give it a shot first!

Just kidding. There would never be a conversation with my mother in which that would be considered a relevant or funny response. More importantly, I had no idea how to say “let me try being a hoe” in Khmer.

I wonder what she would say if I could somehow tell her about losing my virginity. About the asshole who clumsily and selfishly took it, then blamed me for letting him when I told him how he hurt me. About endless nights of crying my eyes out until my chest hurt and my bed was littered with soggy tissues.

What would she say?

Well, that’s what you get for spreading your legs. 

tinderp 14.1f

Okay, so maybe my mother and I are better off not talking about this kind of stuff after all.

Anyway, I bring all of this up to say that the disconnect with my Khmer roots is something that has deeply and painfully colored my lived experiences, even though I haven’t really addressed this subject in relation to my dating stories. I mean, it rarely comes up with the guys I meet up with, because talking about the dissonance and trauma of Cambodian diasporic identity isn’t exactly in the top 10 list of hot topics to discuss on a first date. I had also never been on a date or even in a flirtationship with a Cambodian dude–the only potentially romantic situations I could see in which this heavy subject would be culturally relevant to unpack. (Okay, so there was that one guy Minh, but eh, he doesn’t really count.) The dearth of Cambodian dating prospects wasn’t some intentional self-hating thing either. It had more to do with my passivity when it came to interacting with guys, a lack of access to a Cambodian American social circle or community, and the fact that Cambodian Americans are a minority even when only considering Asian America.

However, on a coincidental and meaningless day at the end of 2016, I finally stumbled across a fellow Cambodian American on Tinder whom I will henceforth refer to as Ricky. I have to admit, I was not aware that Ricky was Cambodian when I first looked at his pictures. (Modern day Cambodians are a multiethnic people, okay.) I swiped right because he looked like a cute, vaguely brown boy to me, which was sufficient enough to pique my interest. He was the one who brought up ethnicity immediately.


You matched with Ricky on 12/21/16

Ricky

Are you Khmer?


Me

Yup how’d you guess


Ricky

One of your pictures with the dress was a good clue. Do you know the culture and language well?


Me

Kind of. I speak it conversationally. I’m not as close to my roots as I would like to be but it can’t be helped at this point.

What’s your ethnicity? [yes I know, I was a little slow to catch on ok]


Ricky

I feel you on that. I wish I could speak conversationally, but Ive lost it through the years. Take a guess on my ethnicity


Cue my epiphany.


Me

Wait, are you Khmer? Lol. My next guess would be Filipino


Ricky

Ya, Im Khmer. Ive been mistaken for Filipino though. Being able to speak it, youre closer to the roots than I am lol. Whats missing?


Me

You mean how am I disconnected from my roots?


Ricky

Ya, thats what I meant, sorry


This was an unnecessarily profound question to ask a stranger you literally just met on a shitty dating app, the kind of question I would typically evade answering 100% honestly. But he was the first legit Cambodian guy I had met through online dating, even if his refusal to use apostrophes was sort of annoying the fuck out of me. I ultimately decided our shared cultural identity made this question affirming rather than problematic, and responded from a place of genuine vulnerability.


Me

I’m just really Americanized/Westernized. I had some Khmer friends when I was young but they weren’t good friends so we either drifted apart or I cut them out of my life. I spent most of my life reading and writing in English and even got a degree in it. The few Khmer people I run into don’t recognize me as Khmer. And although I grew up on Buddhism, I’m not very spiritual.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of being Khmer or anything. But I do feel a degree of separation from my heritage. Earlier this year I went to Cambodia with my mom and her friend and while I’m glad I went, I did feel like an outsider most of the time that I was there

So what’s your identity crisis story lol


Ricky

Your story sounds similar to mines [sic]. Im very Americanized, even though I grew up around a lot of Khmer people. I understood and could speak the language when I was younger, but now I don’t understand many words and cant speak it properly. However, I was always shy/quiet, with introverted tendencies, when I was younger so it made things worse. I also grew up Buddhist, but I consider myself more Agnostic. My mother is very religious so I only do religious things for her sake. I dont really fit in with Khmer people, but I can somewhat relate based on experiences. Cant say Ive ever been to Cambodia though, lol. Has this identity crisis for you always been there or did it somehow get worst [sic] recently?


Me

Yeah introversion played a big factor in my disconnect too.

It’s always been a thing for me. Just having a lot of complicated feelings about being Khmer American. I think I came to terms with certain things eventually. But the identity crisis did get worse in Cambodia, not gonna lie. Idk. This year has been a tough one for me. Something definitely changed when I came back, I kinda feel like I lost some part of myself somehow. Or like visiting there made me realize how deep my loss was, if that makes sense.

Yeahhhh emo stuff going on lol we can change the subject if you want


He reassured me that he was fine with whatever I wanted to talk about, which was kind of him. Our conversation went on to explore introversion further, then lapsed into a bleak discussion of what a post-Trump-elect era would look like:


Me

I think sadly many reproductive rights, civil rights, and environmental protections will be rolled back or undermined. Hate crimes will continue at an unprecedented rate and [be] sanctioned by the state since Trump has a bunch of racists in his cabinet. Deportations and the wealth gap will probably increase. And we may get into a war or two. Ugh


Ricky

Sounds on par with conservative values and the 1% screwing over the 99%. Republican states will most likely feel the full brunt of it though, case in point, the current political climate of North Carolina. Globally, things are going to look scary for everyone.


I found myself enjoying this intellectual exchange. Apparently he did too, because he asked me out.


Ricky

We should grab a drink sometime and get to know each other better in person


You know someone’s interested if they’re talking to your random ass from Tinder on Christmas Day. I happily seconded his idea to meet up.

tinderp 14.2

He admitted he didn’t go out often, and asked if I had any suggestions. I proposed Lost and Found, a cool bar I had found out about through my brief stint with Meetup (which is the worst mechanism for making friends/getting laid when you suffer from the double whammy of introversion and social anxiety–just speaking from experience). Ricky and I made plans to meet there on a Tuesday night, just two days later.

I felt somewhat hopeful about this date. Hopeful enough to dress really cute, anyway. I had on some tight-fitting pants I purchased for just $4 from a market in Cambodia, a floral sweater I borrowed from my mom, and a dab of coral lipstick on my mouth. What if Ricky and I hit it off? Transformed our bonding over identity crises into some cathartic fucking? What if he was cool enough to introduce to my mom? Wouldn’t she be delighted at her daughter bringing home a Cambodian dude? Wouldn’t that mean I had finally succeeded in her eyes?

I spotted a lone figure outside the bar as I walking over. Ricky…was a bit smaller than expected, but he would have to do. “Hey,” I greeted him.

“Hey, I think this place is closed,” he said.

The bar was dark and empty and very much closed. Oh, shit.

“Oh, shit. Goddamnit. Okay…” I used my phone to look up the nearest bar on Yelp that was currently open. “Oh, how about Luka’s?” Luka’s Taproom and Lounge was a pretty popular place for drinks and food; I had only frequented it once but didn’t recall anything negative about my experience.

Ricky consented to meeting there instead. On the way there, we made sporadic small talk, but for the most part, I focused on getting us to our new destination. Luka’s was literally just a street over from Lost and Found, but I didn’t trust my geographically challenged ass to take us there on my own and was relying on Google Maps to guide me. Once we arrived, we made a beeline for an empty table in the back and seated ourselves. After a waiter took our order, Ricky and I resumed our small talk. I soon found out that he was living at home with his parents because he was taking a break from school and work. This turned me off. Immensely. Like, what the hell was he doing on this date? Shouldn’t he be at home working on his existential crisis? Could he even afford to be on this date? Was he gonna ask me to foot the bill?

A part of me was aware that this was a very classist and reactionary response, and that he might have been taking a break from productivity for the sake of his mental health  or some other totally valid reason, but the other parts of me didn’t have the patience or optimism or even the compassion to give Ricky the benefit of the doubt. I remained turned off for the rest of the evening. Or rather, the rest of the hour, because I definitely didn’t stay for much longer.

It wasn’t just because he didn’t have a job. Ricky reminded me of a little boy–not necessarily because of his petiteness, but because of his demeanor. He was meek, quiet, hesitant. I didn’t like this at all. Ricky had mentioned being shy and introverted in our messages, but I still expected the charm of his personality to shine through somehow. Where was the guy who talked so knowledgeably and confidently to me on Tinder? I found myself comparing him unfavorably to Nick, the asshole who devirginized me. At least Nick had carried himself with the self-assurance of a grown man, even if he was an asshole.

Ricky’s communication style was also throwing me off. At a certain point it started to feel less like a conversation, and more like an interview. He would ask me question after question without really commenting on anything I said, and giving me no time to ask him something in return. It was weird. This dynamic was also probably due to his shyness, but again, I didn’t have the capacity to really sympathize. It then dawned on me mid-conversation that I had never been given this much space to talk about myself on a date with a dude. I decided in that moment to take advantage of this opportunity. Why not? Fuck wasting my time and energy trying to peel back his layers and coax out his true self, whatever that was. This dude was lackluster as fuck, and I was a badass bitch. So I rolled with it. I talked on and on and on about my passion for writing, my interests, my anticlimactic history of online dating. I laughed at my own jokes and gave unnecessary details I would have normally kept to myself. I had zero fucks to give. Maybe my assholishness would ensure his lack of interest.

tinderp 14.3

Nope. After splitting the bill, Ricky offered to walk me to my car. I humored him so I didn’t come off as totally rude. When we got to my car, he asked, “Is it okay if I kiss you?”

“Oh, uh…no,” I said, smiling and getting into my car before the chastened look on his face could leave an imprint on my conscience. I drove away without looking back.

Of course, I was kind of bummed that my Cambodian lover fantasy didn’t end up coming to fruition, and that I had wasted one whole cute ass outfit on some dude I was never gonna see again. And yeah, it would have been nice to date someone whom I could share a history of intergenerational trauma and diasporic Southeast Asian identity with–someone I could have eventually introduced my mom to without being burdened with more worries about the linguistic and cultural barriers that have haunted me all my life. But hey, at least Ricky and I would always have our one cultural bonding moment from the time before. Before he asked me to kiss him, and I declined. Before he realized he was attracted to me, and I realized I wasn’t attracted to him. Before I walked over to him waiting outside Lost and Found and came face-to-face with a disappointing human being, instead of a charming paragraph of carefully chosen words on my phone screen.

Sometimes the Internet is better, and real life ruins everything.

tl;dr Learkana is emotionally fucked up from losing her virginity and goes on another meaningless date in an attempt to fill the void in her heart and her vagina!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Luka’s Taproom & Lounge
Rating: ***
Review: It’s a decent place to chill with a date or friends, but definitely not my go-to. The aesthetic is too basic. I need divey, eclectic, or upscale–nothing in-between.

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Tinderp Tale #13: I’m Still An Asshole, But You Already Knew That

Okay, let’s talk about attraction.

It’s kind of hard for me to specify what I find attractive without feeling guilty, because I think what shapes my (and many other people’s) perceptions of attractiveness is a bunch of toxic, oppressive bullshit we internalized from being force-fed Western-white-supremacist-cis-heteronormative-ableist-sizeist beauty standards all our lives.

“You like white guys,” a couple of friends have (half-jokingly) accused.

Um, excuse them. I used to passively like or meet up with guys who happened to be primarily white, but now that I’m much more sociopolitically aware I have overcorrected to make up for my internalized racism and unconscious bias by vocally and explicitly preferring guys of color.

When I first started out on OKCupid, the racial breakdown of my (16 total) dates looked like this:

  • 62% White
  • 19% Asian
  • 13% Black
  • 6% Multiracial

tinderp 13.1

Which actually isn’t that bad for someone with internalized racism!

So once I got off OKC and gave Tinder a shot with my new militant racial justice lens, the stats looked like this, 12 dates in (percentages calculated based off 28 total dates–OKC + Tinder combined):

  • 39% White
  • 32% Asian
  • 18% Black
  • 7% Multiracial
  • 4% Non-white Latino

tinderp 13.2

See, Oscars? That’s how you stop being so goddamn white. Be open and intentional about who you wanna fuck with (in your case figuratively, in my case literally) and don’t let your implicit biases turn you into an accidental white supremacist.

Anyway, at this point in my dating exploits, white guys were certainly not my type.

“Hipsters,” said my friend Darcy. “You’re attracted to guys who look like hipsters and then you become immediately repulsed by them when you find out they’re douchey, or whatever.”

“No! Well…” I thought about the most attractive guys I had been on dates with. I mean, sure, they wore trendy, fitted clothing and occasionally put on ironic or condescending airs about low-brow culture and routine work life, but… “Okay. Maybe,” I admitted.

So what, I’m attracted to dudes who dress well, and maybe that includes a plaid button-down and some degree of pretension. Sue me!

It’s difficult to really pinpoint anything else though. This is where the toxic, oppressive bullshit comes in; stuff that I have recognized is likely problematic and will take ongoing time and effort for me to sit with, reflect on, and change as necessary. I have a tendency to be attracted to dudes who are on the thinner side, but not too skinny; they need to be sturdy enough that I could assess their ability to give me a piggyback ride with full confidence. I am unbearably heteronormative and I’m not attracted to guys who showcase stereotypically or traditionally feminine physical attributes or mannerisms; but I am also not attracted to guys who showcase hyper-masculine physical attributes, personality traits, or mannerisms. (This especially applies to the way a guy speaks or sounds, as many of my friends know.) Okay so what the fuck are you attracted to then, you might be wondering. If I had to quantify my personally ideal mix of (binary) gender expression for a prospective male dating partner, it would be approximately…70% masculine, 30% feminine. (Keep in mind, this is purely physical. Personality-wise, 100% feminine please.)

As you can see, I am arbitrarily particular about the physicality of the guys I go on dates with, which okay yes, has been somewhat of a factor in why I have not had much success with dating. A couple of friends have (half-jokingly) accused me of being shallow. But I take into account other shit, too! Jeez. It’s not just about looks. As has been made clear by previous dates, I will immediately stop liking you if you are completely ignorant about rape culture, if you make unfunny jokes about lesbians, if you express a preference for virgins, if you are a white dude and justify racial preferences in dating, or if you play devil’s advocate.

No wonder I’m going to die alone!

tinderp 13.3

In the meantime, however, I just needed temporary rebound dick.

Okay, not literally, actually, because in the winter of 2016, I was too sad and self-hating to be horny. I just needed some male company that would make me forget about the asshole who devirginized me. I was swiping frantically on Tinder, trying to line up dates that would hopefully ease the pain of being fucked over by a trash dude.

I ended up matching with a guy I will call…Francisco. Francisco had an actual bio with substance, which is a rarity in the cesspool of Tinder. (Okay, so maybe I don’t remember specifically what was so substantive about his bio, but…whatever!) Unfortunately, he also had shitty pictures (DUDES WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THIS STOP DOING THIS I SWEAR I’M GONNA START UP A BUSINESS WITH MY FRIEND LAURA TO FIX YOUR WACK ASS DATING PROFILES), but it seemed like he had the potential to be hot, so I clung to that.

Francisco was sweet in his messages to me. He complimented me on a poem about capitalism that I wrote and posted on my Instagram, which had never happened before with a random dude from the Internet. So when he asked me out to drinks at Starline, a bar/restaurant/venue in Oakland, of course I said yes.

tinderp 13.4

Someone who appreciated my writing, recognized capitalism as an oppressive system that should be dismantled, and didn’t seem like an asshole? I was all in!

Well, until I wasn’t. I found myself once again crying in my office at the end of the work day, because I was still stuck in the pain inflicted by The Asshole and I didn’t know how to get out of it. This time my coworker Jakki was there to witness my embarrassing meltdown, but she was being very nice and non-judgmental about it while I sniffled and ranted and looked at the time and bemoaned how I was too much of an emotional wreck to go on a date tonight plus the scarf I was wearing smelled kinda funky but I had to keep wearing it because my outfit didn’t work without it so hopefully he wouldn’t notice the smell since I sprayed Febreze on it ugh omg did I have to go on this date I should have cancelled when I had the chance but now it’s too late and in fact I really should be going over there now oh fuck I’m gonna be late ok bye Jakki see ya!

The bar was incredibly packed when I arrived, several minutes late. I took a moment to survey my surroundings. Francisco had texted me to let me know he was already here, but I didn’t see anyone who looked like what I thought Francisco would look like. I got the sense that this was a bad sign. “Learkana?” asked a stranger now blocking my view.

“Oh, hi!” I said, smile plastered on. Francisco looked…well, he looked like this was going to be another disappointing night. It’s not like he Catfished me–I could see the resemblance. But he also was just…burlier and plainer than I expected. Don’t be a shallow asshole, I told myself.

Francisco asked me what I wanted. I got my usual cider, and we both sat down at one of the small tables by the entrance. I remember enjoying the conversation. We talked about our families, our jobs, our passions. He asked thoughtful questions and was a good listener. I could tell he was into me. He spent a good while talking about his niece and how he wanted to make sure she knew about feminism and the strength of women, which I recognized was an attempt to impress me. On occasion, he would ever so briefly and gently put his hand on my leg or the small of my back.

In one of these moments, I looked at his hand touching me, and then I looked at him. I thought to myself, This guy is sweet and sociopolitically aware. He likes me. He’s not ugly. He’s probably good in bed because he probably cares about the sexual pleasure and wellbeing of his partner, unlike some asshole I know. So why not let this happen?

But I just couldn’t see it. “It” being a future with him. A future in which I felt more than vague detachment at his hands on my body. A future in which I made out with him and felt aroused. A future in which we laid naked with each other and I didn’t want to leave the bed. It wasn’t there, and I wasn’t going to force it. Every subtle touch from him spelled out trouble instead of possibility. A part of me was sad. Sad that I couldn’t feel anything for this guy, who didn’t seem like an asshole, because I was hung up on a guy who was. I finished my drink, wondering how to end this.

tinderp 13.5

By the time he walked me to my car, I still didn’t know. He asked me for my number. I smiled, flustered, and told him I would message it to him. He took it in stride, said good night, and walked away. I got into my car and cried again on the drive home.

The next day, I sent him a lengthy message explaining that while it was great meeting him, I didn’t think it would work out because I was still recovering from a really bad dating experience. I told him that meeting up with him made me realize I needed to focus on myself instead of dating. He said he understood, and wished me well.

I unmatched with him and felt terrible. Part of what I said was true, but mostly, it was a lie to cover up the fact that I wasn’t physically attracted to him.

I wonder if men feel this bad about rejecting women based on their appearances. Do they inwardly chastise themselves for being shallow? Do they spend a majority of the evening trying to convince themselves that their date is attractive in a certain light, a certain posture or gesture, a certain circumstance?

Looks aren’t everything. But they are something. Yes, my perceptions of what constitutes attractive is most likely rooted in fucked up desirability politics that I’ve unconsciously internalized over the course of twenty-five years, but that couldn’t be undone in just one night. And as much as I felt guilty about rejecting Francisco based on his looks, I also thought it would be even shittier of me to continue seeing him while secretly still finding him unattractive. I would never want someone to date me in spite of my looks, so why should I feel obligated to do so? One could argue that attraction takes time, but as my dating exploits have demonstrated, time has never been on my side. I understood that much. Time was primarily allocated to chasing our dreams or chasing stability, traveling, and fortifying ride-or-die relationships with loved ones already in our lives, not hit-or-miss dates arranged on millennial dating apps. I was giving and getting scraps, and suffering as a consequence of it. But reframing the situation was beyond my capacity at the time.

I should have quit Tinder at this point, but I had no real intention of doing so. Being a shallow asshole on a dating spree wasn’t the greatest or healthiest coping mechanism, but it was the only one that gave me a sense of control, even if the reality was me spiraling out of it.

tl;dr Learkana is emotionally fucked up from losing her virginity and goes on another meaningless date in an attempt to fill the void in her heart and her vagina!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Starline Social Club
Rating: ***
Review: Honestly, I didn’t stray too far beyond the entrance of the bar so I can’t really judge. I should go back there with friends sometime. Seemed very popular judging by the loud crowd and difficulty in finding my date even though he was literally three feet away from me. Also I heard Solange performed there, so it has to be somewhat legit right?

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Tinderp Tale #12: Devil’s Advocacy Is A Pussy Dryer

I’ve been told that my standards for men are too high, and that is the root of my problems when it comes to dating. Too picky, is what many friends have described me as. Which is why I decided to lower these standards when I got on Tinder again in the fall of 2016. Standards? Who needed those things? They were just cunt blocks preventing me from fulfilling a goal that was actually viable: losing my V card.

And it happened, not long after my return to Tinder. I had sex for the first time, and it was…pretty awful. An item finally checked off my bucket list, but at the cost of my pride, dignity, and emotional wellbeing. I came away from the experience feeling undesirable and out of control, with no closure or comfort from the asshole who had devirginized me.

Instead of focusing on building up my self-love again, I went on a dating spree in a misguided attempt to lessen the pain of being treated like shit by a guy I had mistakenly assumed would be a kind and decent human being to me (a guy, I will add, who specifically made sure I felt stupid for expecting human decency and kindness from him–I just wanna make sure we’re all on the same page and understand that he was and is total basura, k). I even hit up a guy I had ghosted because dating multiple dudes at once is generally very stressful and annoying for me. Let’s call the guy I ghosted…Brian #3 (since his actual first name is shared with 2 other dudes I’ve written about–Brian #2, the bad kisser, and Brian #1, the white guy with an eye twitch).


You matched with Brian #3 on 10/5/16

Brian #3

Hey, how’s it going 🙂


Nov 30, 2016 (nearly two months later…😅)

Me

Hey! Sorry for the late response, things have been hectic. How are the holidays going for you? 😊


Brian #3

They’re going alright. Not too hectic for me :)~~


Me

Okay, cool. That’s good


I looked at his profile again and remembered the other reason I hadn’t bothered responding to him the first time. His bio was completely blank, and the few pictures he had uploaded of himself were shitty in quality and revealed nothing about him. The fact that I was talking to him at all spoke volumes about my lack of standards, but I think that’s pretty obvious by now.


Me

So I literally don’t know anything about you, tell me about yourself


Brian #3

Hmm

I’m an east bay native living in the area but currently working in SF

I’m an INTJ

And I like pizza

How about you?


Here we go again. Was there a way of automating all this basic ass info about myself so I didn’t have to expend energy typing out the same shit to a different guy over and over again? Ugh.


Me

I moved to the Bay for college and decided to stick around cus my hometown sucks

I’m a IDGAF

And I love boba


Brian #3

I liked how you framed your answers just like mine

I wish you had more respect for the Myers Briggs though 😫


Me

Sorry not sorry lol


A few more messages in, Brian #3 popped the millennial dating question.


Brian #3

Want to go on a date with me?


Me

Sure, you’re probably not a murderer


 

tinderp 12.1

It took several more days for us to actually make plans, mainly because I was being really passive. I had no energy to take the initiative, still stuck in the emotional throes of my post-devirginization turmoil. Luckily (or unluckily), Brian #3 was very persistent in messaging me and asking pointed questions about when we were meeting up and what we should do. We eventually decided on grabbing dinner at La Penca Azul, a Mexican restaurant in Alameda.

On the night of our date, Brian #3 was waiting outside for me (as they usually do). My heart plummeted at the sight of him (as it usually does). His proportions were all wrong. I had tricked myself into thinking he was taller and leaner, with an imagined swagger (which yes, is very sizeist of me, but it was unfortunately the reality of what I felt). To my disappointment, I was met by a smaller, gawky dude who seemed to have trouble making eye contact with me.

Things didn’t get better from there. Apparently La Penca Azul was a very popular restaurant, the kind you should make a reservation for on a Saturday night. We did not have a reservation, so we awkwardly waited just inside the door, watching harried servers rush back and forth between already occupied tables. In the first 5 minutes or so of waiting, Brian #3 and I attempted small talk that quickly petered out. 10 minutes, 15 minutes ticked by. We silently stood watch. My discomfort and apprehension grew. So did my resentment. This restaurant was his idea, after all. What a terrible choice. He really should have thought this through. Shouldn’t we just leave? Maybe I should leave.

After we had been waiting for at least a half hour (if not more), Brian #3 called it quits. “Let’s go somewhere else,” he muttered, turning around and walking out the door. I followed suit. “Somewhere else” ended up being a Thai restaurant just across the street.

Neither of us had been there before. The food was decent. The conversation was not. The semblance of wit, charm, and warmth I had discerned from him throughout our Tinder messages had all but disappeared now that we were face to face. He was withdrawn, expressionless. I tried to make the best of it, chattering about nothing, everything, smiling, smiling, smiling, and pretending everything was great.

We inevitably landed on the topic of the presidential election. “Who did you vote for?” he asked.

“Hillary,” I said grudgingly. “You?”

“Gary Johnson,” he replied.

I couldn’t hide my dismay. “Are you serious?”

“Yep,” he said.

“But…he doesn’t even know geography!” I spluttered.

“Did you know about Aleppo?” he asked.

“Well no, but I’m not the one who was running for President!” I retorted.

“What about Hillary’s e-mails?” he shot back.

I bristled. “That controversy is nothing compared to Trump being an outright racist and a sexual predator. I hate how the media has been setting up false equivalencies between Hillary and Trump. Yes, Hillary is shitty but she’s the lesser evil. Trump is going to be so much worse. At least Hillary has actual political experience.”

Brian #3 shrugged. “I was just playing devil’s advocate,” he said.

I resisted the urge to flip the table and throttle him right then and there. Devil’s advocate??? Fuck this dumbass who voted for Gary “What Is Aleppo” Johnson and enjoyed playing stupid rhetorical games involving the future nightmare of our country. I was done. I should have known better than to indulge someone who had a blank bio and low-res pics.

tinderp 12.2

Actual restaurant not depicted (actual restaurant was nicer).

After dinner, Brian #3 walked me out. We didn’t say much. I knew and he knew that this had not been a good date. It didn’t need to be said aloud, or texted about in hindsight. We would never see or speak to each other again after tonight. Sometimes the red flags are unambiguously clear.

Once we said goodbye and went our separate ways, I got into my car and drove back to Oakland. On the way home, I started crying. I was thinking about Nick, the asshole who devirginized me, and how even though he had been an asshole to me, I still missed him especially in light of tonight’s debacle of a date, and this was just sad because it meant my standards had really fucking hit rock bottom, and knowing that made me cry even harder.

I wish I could say this was the last time I cried about Nick in my car, or the last time I cried about any man or men in general in my car. But I’d be lying, and I don’t like to lie. Even when the truth is painful, cruel, humiliating, and undermining my feminist principles. My truth is really all I have. So here it is.

tl;dr Learkana is emotionally fucked up from losing her virginity and goes on another meaningless date in an attempt to fill the void in her heart and her vagina!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Toomie’s Thai
Rating: ***
Review: It was okay. I’m incredibly biased though because this date sucked ass and the restaurant was basically empty which made the date more awkward and also I like Cambodian food better but kudos for the hella Asian decor?
  

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Tinderp Tale #11: Cynicism Is A Boner Shrinker

Why am I so cynical?

Well, a thorough investigation of this question would exceed the limits of this blog post and require the long term intensive support of a licensed therapist, but I would say that my pessimism around humankind began in childhood, a somewhat unpleasant time in which I painfully learned that people who allegedly cared about me would inevitably disappoint me. Why set my expectations high, when people would fail to meet them? Why believe the best in people, when more often than not they would show me their worst? Optimism was exhausting and burdensome. It was better to be wary and mistrustful.

This attitude has easily translated over to my views on dating cishet men, a demographic I haven’t had much experience with until recently. At this point, I had already gone on about 30 first dates with different guys, with little to no results. It didn’t matter how optimistic I was going into a date; I would usually come out of it feeling disappointed and frustrated. Either I didn’t like him, or he didn’t like me, or we didn’t like each other. Or, even worse: We liked each other until something inevitably got in the way.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to be negative about my dating prospects (self-fulfilling prophecy and blah blah blah), but I couldn’t pretend that having to start over with another guy for the umpteenth time was all that exciting anymore. Instead, I settled for a middle ground of resignation that a first date with a guy probably wouldn’t end well, but at the very least, its failure wouldn’t be for a lack of trying on my end.

This pragmatic albeit slightly pessimistic mindset was what forced me to message a guy whom I will henceforth refer to as Michael. Michael had “Super Liked” me in October of 2016, and after some brief consideration (which basically consisted of “eh, he doesn’t look very hot but my options are pretty limited so what do I have to lose”), I decided to “like” him back. We matched, and then absolutely nothing happened for several days, at which point I decided to take the initiative because of my aforementioned mindset.


Michael Super Liked You on 10/4/16

Me

It’s been a week so I thought I’d say hi to counter the prolonged awkward silence


To my surprise, Michael quickly responded with a wall of text.


Michael

Agh! Sorry, it’s been a crazy month for me. I’ve been juggling personal projects and forgot about this. I totally love your profile pics

And I like Cyndi Lauper [referring to my chosen Tinder “anthem” at the time, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”], but I’ll have to admit my favorite from her is “Goonies R Good Enough”

Mostly because I’ve finally read the lyrics to it, and I still don’t understand what that song’s about

What’s the nerdiest thing you’re into, and how do you feel about small talk?


This was a rather overwhelming message to get, because it warranted a detailed reply that was thoughtful and interesting, which I actually hadn’t expected. Of course, I decided honesty was my best bet, and replied accordingly:


Me

Lol no worries. And thanks!

Never heard of that song <.<

The nerdiest thing I’m into…um I guess as a lifelong thing it would be Harry Potter. But recently I did a planning session for Dungeons and Dragons and I’m excited to play as my newly made character!

Small talk…it’s an obligatory and awkward social mechanism to get to know people but it’s not as bad if I feel comfortable with the person lol


We went on to discuss nonsexual roleplaying, gaming in general, and our Halloween plans until he finally asked me out on a date, to which I said yes, then inquired if he had anything in mind for what we could do.


Michael

Nothing in mind yet, whereabouts are you? I live in Berkeley but work in SF so I could do dinner around either


Me

Ok. I live and work in Oakland and would rather not go to SF lol [do I need to explain this? SF is touristy and gentrified]


Michael

Haha sounds great! Let’s get something to eat early next week!

My phone number’s xxx-xxx-xxxx I text faster if you want to chat! ;p


 

tinderp 11.1

We talked more about our hobbies and interests through text messaging. We both loved the TV show Community, had backgrounds in writing, and had written screenplays. Michael also mentioned having performed standup comedy for a few years. I thought it was cool, connecting with a fellow creative who had so many different passions.

Michael suggested a few Berkeley restaurants for dinner next Tuesday. Out of the options he provided, I decided on Eureka, a semi-fancy white people food place. The night before we were set to meet, he reached out to confirm that the date was still happening. In typical millennial fashion, this led to us sending each other Pokemon emojis, which then led Michael to send me selfies of him melodramatically posing with Pokemon plushies on his shoulders.

I was slightly taken aback by these selfies. They were bad selfies, and by “bad,” I just mean he looked very unattractive in all 3 of them. Did he actually think he looked okay in these photos, or did he just not give a fuck? I marveled at his ability to instantly take a picture and send it to his date without worrying about how cute he looked in it. It definitely wasn’t something I would ever think of doing. Taking a selfie, in my experience, typically involved a long, tedious, and frustrating process requiring a series of cringe-inducing takes in which my self-esteem took multiple critical hits before bouncing back with a thin facade of self-love upon finally taking the one shot I deemed acceptable enough for me to filter and upload to social media. I was also kind of turned off by Michael’s lack of fucks, and fervently hoped that he would look better in person.

He did not look better in person. It hit me when I laid eyes on him, a messy-haired, stocky and lone figure waiting for me outside the restaurant. I swallowed this observation and braced myself for the possibility of a tiring night spent convincing myself that leaving my room had been worth it. We greeted each other with a brief hug, went inside, and were seated at a small table by a waiter.

I remember being somewhat put off by Michael’s demeanor. He seemed distracted, not quite present. He looked off into the distance with a perplexed expression often, and gave long pauses between sentences. This was all exacerbated by his long and spiky hair, which resembled a disheveled hedgehog with the way it stuck up.

Once our food was ordered, he immediately went in for the hard questions. “So what are you looking for?” he asked.

I gave what was probably a long and rambling answer that could have easily been condensed to “I’m desperate and open to anything, really.”

He then went on to ask me what my dealbreakers were. I squirmed a little. Damn. This conversation was getting a little too real. At one point in time I would have found this refreshing, but for better or for worse, I had gotten used to playing the game, even though I was bad at it. I skirted around the harsher truths: I don’t want to date or fuck a guy I don’t find physically attractive. I don’t want to date or fuck a guy who doesn’t have his shit together even though I definitely and hypocritically don’t have my shit together either. I don’t want to date or fuck guys at all, actually, but unfortunately I just happen to be a heteronormative feminist who is paradoxically disgusted by and attracted to men and masculinity. I think I mentioned flakiness as a turn-off. A safe bet.

I asked Michael the question in return. He provided answers that demonstrated much more thoughtfulness and deliberation on his part. One of his dealbreakers was cynicism. “I can’t stand cynical people,” he said. “Why would you spend so much energy on having such a negative outlook of the world? It’s a disservice to yourself and everyone else. Being cynical doesn’t do anything or anyone good. It’s not going to change things for the better.”

As he ranted on, my smile became very fixed, as if to guard against its collapse into an outright grimace. He was speaking generally, but it felt like an personal attack on my cynical ass. Well, I’m not cynical in the way that he’s describing, I reassured myself. Obviously I hold on to some kind of hope for humanity or else I wouldn’t care about social justice. Right?

I told him I “used to be” very cynical, but that my outlook has gotten more optimistic over time. It felt like a half-assed lie, but I didn’t want to be transparent about my dark and complicated worldview. Although I still wasn’t attracted to Michael and in all honesty, wasn’t particularly thrilled about being on this date with him, I was still a somewhat hopeful motherfucker, goddamnit, and that meant I was going to try my hardest to see this through.

After Michael paid for dinner, he asked me if I still wanted to hang out. I said yes, and suggested we get a drink somewhere. He asked me what I liked to drink. I replied that I was in the mood for wine. He led me inside a small wine bar nearby that was mostly empty. “You can pick whatever you want, I’m not going to get anything,” he said.

I stood there for a moment, feeling awkward and indecisive. I was hoping we could both sit down together and drink enough wine to fully buy into the fantasy of each other’s romantic and sexual potential. Instead, I felt like a sulky teenager being told by her dad to hurry up and pick the thing she wanted so he could get out of here and do things that were actually worth his time and money.

“Never mind, let’s go somewhere else,” I said hastily, fleeing the bar with Michael in tow.

We ended up at a boba tea shop just a block away from Eureka. As I was sitting across from him and drinking my boba milk tea, I realized there was no salvaging this date, no matter how much I loved boba or how many interests we initially seemed to have in common or how hard I stared at his face and attempted to will a spark into existence. I didn’t want to kiss him. His jokes were unfunny and made me wonder how many times he had been booed off the stage while attempting standup. He kept asking questions that revealed our differences: he was an optimist, and I was a cynic; he was the kind of nerd who went to anime and comic conventions to cosplay, and I was the kind of nerd who stayed holed up in her room to read and dissect sociopolitical thinkpieces for fun.

tinderp 11.2

I wondered what was his impression of me. Did he find me attractive? Was he turned off because I wasn’t stereotypically nerdy? Why would he continue keeping me company if he wasn’t interested in me?

Then again…why was I continuing to keep him company given I wasn’t all that interested in him?

He noticed my growing reticence and made lighthearted comments about me not liking him. I smiled politely, uncomfortably, and told him we should head out.

We walked back to Eureka to say our goodbyes there. Along the way, he kept a running commentary on tonight’s possible outcomes: “So, are we going to see each other again? You going to try to hold my hand to show your affection? Maybe a goodnight kiss? Or maybe you’re too shy in the face of my devilish handsomeness. Or maybe you despise me and plan on ghosting me once we go our separate ways.”

“I enjoyed meeting you,” was all I could say.

He didn’t look convinced, but grinned and let me go.

I went home, feeling guilty about not telling the complete truth. I had to some extent enjoyed his company, but I should have been forthright and told him I didn’t think we were a good match. Rejection was a hard conversation I didn’t know how to have. Feelings potentially got hurt and I didn’t want any part of it. At the same time, I knew that if I really wanted to grow as a person and not be a hypocrite, then I needed to be transparent with my dates, and that meant having open, honest, and vulnerable communication.

The next day, I resolved to make things crystal clear through text.

10/26/16 1:30 PM
Me: Hey, I know you’re probably thinking, “Man that bitch lied” but I did actually enjoy meeting you. But based on the things you said, I don’t think we’re compatible. Just want to be honest. (Or is ghosting a better strategy? lol)

Michael: Haha thanks for taking the time to do this! For future reference, what did I say that was the breaker for you?

Me: When you said you couldn’t be in the company of cynics lol. I’m not the most cynical person out there but I can’t pretend that I’m a total optimist either. I also get the sense you’d be happier with someone with nerdier inclinations

Michael: Haha good call on both of those, thank you for your candor and best of luck out there!

Me: No problem. Same to you! 🙂

I felt relieved and pleasantly surprised after this exchange. I hadn’t expected it to go so well. If only all my encounters with dudes ended this smoothly and painlessly, I thought.

It was a trivial moment in the grand scheme of things, but I was proud of myself for initiating the conversation, and for balancing honesty with consideration. Hopefully I could continue mustering the courage to have these kinds of dialogues with other dates down the road. Maybe I would even work my way up to having them in person. The future would have many, many more disappointing and mediocre guys in store for me, but I had faith in my ability to tackle the onslaught of failures to come.

See? I’m an optimistic cynic.

tl;dr Learkana hates people but remains horny and hopeful! Learkana meets a guy who is well-adjusted and doesn’t hate people! Learkana acts like an adult and politely rejects the guy!

Now it’s time for…

RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Eureka
Rating: ****
Review: The inside is cute and has a nice atmosphere. Lots of small tables that are awkward to maneuver around though especially when it’s crowded and you’re just trying to get to the bathroom.

Venue: Purple Kow
Rating: *****
Review: Okay, I’m like 90% positive that this was the boba place we went to. I definitely remember going to a two-story shop and this is the only one in the downtown Berkeley area that I found in my Google/Yelp searches. I should definitely reclaim my time and go there again, but with friends whose company I unequivocally enjoy!

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Some More Thoughts On Aziz Ansari, Women’s Pain, and Shitty Hetero Sex

Note: This post is very heteronormative because the situation that inspired this post was, by all accounts, fairly heteronormative. I believe commentary and analysis should be specific to the individuals and conditions in a given set of circumstances. I in no way intend for my thoughts here to minimize or erase the experiences of LGBTQ+ survivors or male survivors of sexual violence, which require separate and nuanced analyses that go beyond the scope of this post (and let’s be honest, the expertise of this cishet writer).

Hi there. Just your everyday heteronormative millennial feminist chiming into this whole Aziz Ansari mess, because shitty sexual encounters with cishet men is something I happen to be somewhat knowledgeable about.

I just want to put it out there, first and foremost, that I believe and have empathy for “Grace,” the photographer who recounted her reportedly awful interaction with Aziz to Babe, a media website “for girls who don’t give a fuck” (okay, I have to admit I kinda love that tagline). I believe Grace’s assertion that she was harmed by what occurred and I don’t fault her for handling the situation the way that she did according to the report. Aziz has acknowledged the existence of the encounter in a public statement, calling the encounter “by all indications…completely consensual,” which honestly pissed me off, but more on that later.

Secondly, I want to say that I’ve been a huge fan of Aziz. I watched all his comedy specials on Netflix (I appreciated the chronological trajectory of how less douchey his jokes became with each special that came out); read his book on millennial dating culture, Modern Romance (interesting confirmation of what I’ve experienced but frankly, my dating blog posts are way more entertaining); and I’ve watched both seasons of Master Of None (aside from the fixation on falling in love with white women, I enjoyed the show). So reading the original report from Babe made me feel disturbed and disappointed in someone whose work I had enjoyed, which cannot be consumed in the same way again, especially considering how Aziz’s work has centered on cultivating an image of him as a sensitive, self-aware male feminist with the social and emotional intelligence to understand gendered social and dating norms. In fact, because he has made a career out of this kind of comedy is what makes this recent controversy such a betrayal to me as a fan.

Thirdly, there are people who argue that the reporting was too shitty for us to get a clear sense of what happened, thereby 1) forcing everyone outside of the encounter to speak from their own personal traumas and baggage and 2) ruining the opportunity for us to have a real conversation about misogyny and sexual misconduct. I agree that the reporting could have been better but 1) we can’t pretend that Grace’s pain and discomfort isn’t apparent in this story, 2) regardless of the quality of the reporting, everyone will always be speaking from their own life experiences and worldview on the things they read–it’s difficult to speak from a place of objectivity (whatever the hell that is, tbh) when it comes time to address something as murky and controversial as sexual assault, and 3) although not in the best circumstances, the opportunity to have the conversation is already here and the conversation is definitely rapid-fire happening, so let’s not pretend like the opportunity has been “missed” and instead let’s keep talking and unpacking this.

Based on a couple of inflammatory think pieces and a number of comments I’ve read online, the thing that most people seem worked up about is Grace reportedly describing her experience with Aziz as assault. People have dismissed it as simply bad consensual sex. Many have criticized Grace for her seeming inability to explicitly say no and leave right away once she knew she felt uncomfortable, pointing out that Aziz cannot read minds. Some have also argued that categorizing the experience as assault undermines what the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are about: survivors of “actual” assault and rape. And some have gone on further to defend Aziz and bemoan the current state of feminism that is alienating “good” men and “destroying” their careers. (LOL)

I vehemently disagree with the above opinions, and regardless of their original intent, I think they sound an awful lot like victim-blaming rhetoric.

Would I personally qualify Grace’s encounter as sexual assault? Trick question. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the person who was harmed to define their own experience. And if Grace defines that encounter as assault, then I respect her right to do so. Which brings me to why I was pissed at reading Aziz’s public statement: you can’t call an experience consensual if the other person involved disagrees with you.

He should have stated, “I assumed it was consensual” or “I inferred it was consensual” or even “I thought it was consensual,” but by stating point-blank that the encounter was “completely consensual,” he invalidates his partner’s experience. Like, can we be on the same page with this? Consent requires the consensus of all parties involved. And if two people are coming away from a sexual encounter with very different perceptions of what happened, then something is very wrong and needs to be addressed.

What I feel needs to be addressed at large is not so much the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz specifically, but rather the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz as a Stand-In For Any Cisgender Heterosexual Male Down To Fuck. Because Grace’s encounter with Aziz is unfortunately not a rare occurrence, which some of the above critics have acknowledged. Why is that bad? Because whether or not we believe Grace’s experience can legally or officially qualify as sexual assault is besides the point. The point is that Grace came away from her encounter feeling harmed, and if that is what a lot of women are identifying with when they read her account of how things went down, then shit is really fucked.

I am one of those women who read her story and cringed at the ways in which it reminded me of my own bad sexual experiences (not too many, but enough and hopefully not many more). Experiences in which the guy jackhammered his dick in me and called it a night without a single thought to my wellbeing or pleasure. Experiences in which I felt less like a human being and more like a vaguely sentient vagina. Experiences that were dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, or just downright disrespectful.

But hey! That’s all okay, right? Because I consented to them.

But why would I consent to dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, and just downright disrespectful sex?

Good question! I didn’t. And that’s what makes things complicated.

To clarify, I view my shitty sexual experiences with cishet men as technically consensual and I would not call any of them assault, rape, or coercion. At the same time, there’s been a huge disconnect between expectations and reality in these cases. I don’t go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that both my dignity and my cervix are going to take a severe hit. I go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that the person I am attracted to will treat me like another human being instead of a lifeless semen dumpster. And when it turns out that I’m going to roleplay the lifeless semen dumpster, it doesn’t matter how consensual I later tell myself it was, it doesn’t erase the discomfort, pain, and trauma I felt during and after these experiences. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that a couple of these incidents were a little bit rapey.

Rapey, but not rape. A fine distinction, right?

You might be confused at this point. You might be thinking, Okay, so you’re saying Grace’s story reminded you of bad consensual sex you’ve had, so aren’t you making the case for also classifying Grace’s experience as bad consensual sex?

Nope, as I’ve stated above, I am a firm believer that the person directly impacted should define their own experiences on their terms. What I’m trying to get at is, having sexual relations with a cisgender heterosexual dude can be traumatic as fuck regardless of whether you define your experience as consensual or not, and the fact that I can share this pain with another woman who identifies her sexual experience differently goes to show that the root causes of our shared pain are the same.

The root causes here would be toxic masculinity, misogyny, and heteronormativity, by the way. Or you know, patriarchy, for shorthand.

I’m sure you’ve heard this stuff before. Men have been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive, to treat women like objects, and to pursue them as conquests. Women, on the other hand, have been socially conditioned to be passive and polite, to coddle the egos of men, and to put everyone else’s needs before our own. Is it any wonder then that a byproduct of this social conditioning is shitty hetero sex at best, and outright sexual assault at worst?

Men take what they want and women get what they receive. It’s a shitty gendered power dynamic but it exists and it’s ridiculous for anyone to say that this dynamic is not pervasive in our culture–not just in the workplace, but also in the streets and in the bedroom. Which means that Aziz still had power over Grace as a man (a wealthy and famous one at that) in this reported encounter, even if he wasn’t her boss. His male privilege, wealth, and cultural capital don’t miraculously disappear just because he didn’t happen to be sexually coercing her on a film set while namedropping celebrity friends and throwing Benjamins around.

And yes, I agree individuals have agency and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions–but within the context of pervasive and toxic gender norms that also exist. What I hate so much about the backlash I’ve been reading about Grace’s perceived inaction is how the social conditioning of women has been downplayed or completely overlooked. It’s not that people defending Grace are making the argument that women are inherently too helpless or weak to speak up for themselves, as some have alleged. What we’re saying is that patriarchy has created conditions that have made women speaking up for themselves difficult, whether that’s in a factory, on a film set, or at a horny guy’s fancy apartment. And it’s not that easy to override social conditioning when it’s so deeply ingrained.

Take it from me. I’ve been told I’m strong, confident, opinionated, and independent. Yet I have struggled to assert my agency during some of my sexual experiences with cishet men. Why? Because of that damn social conditioning (which goes doubly for me as an Asian woman, ugh). I get anxious about giving feedback to my sexual partner because I worry about hurting his feelings, especially when sex already makes people feel vulnerable enough. A part of me fears that any objections or resistance on my part will escalate a situation into outright violence, and that would mean I definitely couldn’t dismiss the encounter as “just bad sex” anymore–I’d have to deal with it as assault. And even when I do muster the courage to voice my desires or concerns, I’ve had cishet men disregard them (yes, even the more respectful ones), which erodes my confidence in being listened to, makes me think I was the one who said or did something wrong, and causes me to wonder if anything I say really matters anyway.

Just think of all the emotional energy I’ve been expending, trying to create space for communication so I can articulate my needs without offending my cishet male sexual partners. I wonder how much energy was spent by them on trying to do the same. I am willing to bet money that the answer is little to none. Because wordlessly shoving their dick in me and calling it a night has sufficed.

Women are taught to be careful around men. We are also paradoxically told that it’s misandrist of us to assume that ALL men could be predators or abusers. These are confusing messages to drill into our heads. So when women take the chance to meet a strange man for a date because he’s attractive and seems cool, we do so hopeful that the man in question will respect us while also wary that things could go awry. And when he’s being disrespectful, we have to do the mental gymnastics to figure out whether the possible physical or social repercussions are worth calling him out: whether or not rejecting him right then and there will be “too rude” or “too melodramatic,” which can maybe lead to “too dangerous.” Some of us second-guess our intuition. Some of us want to play it safe and avoid confrontation. Some of us get stuck between “yes” and “no” and are punished for our uncertainty.

The onus has largely been on women to speak up, do more, and be more in regards to our entanglements and relationships with cishet men. We are told what we need to do or what we should have done. We are told that we are weak and at fault if we fail to do these things. Yes, in a perfect world free from the tyranny of patriarchy, women should be able to advocate for themselves, and ideally we would be able to do so perfectly, unapologetically, and without having to weigh the risks and possible consequences. But that perfect world doesn’t exist yet. What exists is a world in which men are at an advantage and non-men are not. So at a minimum, we need to be met halfway by our male counterparts. I would even go so far as to argue that men should meet us three-quarters of the way until we have made substantial strides in achieving social parity between men and women. For instance, it should be easier for someone who has been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive to start a conversation about sexual desires, than for someone who has been socially conditioned to be passive and polite.

What does it say about us as a society when we are focused more on grooming women to resist the advances of men, instead of demanding that men just respect women in both public and private spheres?

Which leads me to what bothers me most about holding women more accountable than men when it comes to shitty hetero sex: the implication that women must be taught to better ask for our humanity to be recognized, more so than for men to simply recognize the humanity of the women they are sexually engaging with. That’s really the heart of the matter: if you respect someone as a human being, you would care about what they thought and felt, and you would notice if they were uncomfortable. The issue is that many cishet men can’t be bothered to view women through that lens, especially when initiating sex. They can’t be bothered because society has allowed them, encouraged them, and even enabled them to be selfish and unfeeling in their behavior towards women. And apparently, teaching men to be kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic towards women is just asking too much.

(Seriously though: Why can’t we expect cishet men to just fucking ask questions or read body language? Is it that difficult to ask “Can I kiss you?” Is it too hard to observe that when someone is pulling away from you, that is a sign of disinterest? That has nothing to do with mind reading, that is just picking up on goddamn social cues.)

In short (well kind of), I believe that sexual violence is a long, discordant spectrum, with catcalling a stranger on the street on one end, sex trafficking on the other end, and bad sex somewhere close to the middle. I believe and understand how bad sex can become a slippery slope to sexual assault or rape because of how the dynamics of sex can change from moment to moment. I believe in and support ongoing, affirmative, and enthusiastic consent. I believe women have the agency to define our own experiences and the right to be trusted when we say we have been harmed. I believe we have much more work to do when a woman’s response to Grace’s story is “Ha! You’re stupid, I’ve suffered worse than that and I’m fine!” I believe we will not progress as a society if we are only willing to exercise empathy for the stories of people who meet our legal definitions and socially accepted expectations for what trauma looks like. I believe patriarchy has created conditions that have made it risky and at times downright dangerous for women to vocalize dissent, and the onus is on individual men to leverage their privilege to help change these conditions so that women aren’t afraid of advocating for themselves, whether in a professional or personal setting. I believe that rather than diluting movements against sexual harassment and assault, stories like Grace’s give them greater complexity and nuance, because we are asking people to look beyond the minute details and at the bigger picture of gender-based violence perpetrated by cishet men, in which the safety and wellbeing of all women and femmes have been systematically compromised in so many different ways, all of which are worthy of our time and attention and empathy. And lastly, I believe that the pain of women, in all its heartbreaking shades, need not reach society’s threshold in order to be validated.

tl;dr SMASH THE PATRIARCHY WITHOUT VICTIM-BLAMING/AZIZ ANSARI HOW COULD YOU GRRR

Thank you to my friends Jakki and Allison for unintentionally helping me write this post.

LINKS TO GOOD NON-VICTIM-BLAMING THINKPIECES/POSTS ON THE AZIZ ANSARI DEBACLE THAT HAVE INFORMED/INSPIRED ME:

“What happens to Aziz Ansari isn’t the point” by Molly Brown (Washington Post)

“On Aziz Ansari And ‘Bad Sex'” by Katie Anthony (Bust)

“On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal” by Emma Gray (HuffPost)

Kat Blaque’s Facebook page (she wrote a very thoughtful post on the matter on 1/17/18, just scroll til you find it)

Guerrilla Feminism’s Instagram (check posts made during the week of 1/14/18 – 1/18/18)

“The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it.” by Anna North (Vox)

“The Patriarchy Strikes Back” by Sarah Jones (New Republic)

BONUS THINKPIECE WRITTEN IN 2015 THAT IS RELEVANT AND VERY VERY VERY GOOD:

“Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.” by Rebecca Traister (The Cut)

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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. Learkana’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.

3

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.)