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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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Tinderp Tale #7: Feminist By Convenience

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

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

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

12030307_10206799816330183_1801416795006048513_o

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

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

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


You matched with Minh* on 1/14/16

Me

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

*name changed to protect the clueless


Surprisingly enough, he responded the next day.


Minh

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


Me

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


Minh

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


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


Minh

My face thanks you

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


OH NO.

OH NO NO NO NO NO NO.

HE READ MY BLOG?!

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

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


Me

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

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

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


Minh

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

Yea dating is exhausting :/


Me

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

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


Minh

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

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


Me

Lol oh right.

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


tinderp 7.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tinderp 7.2b

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

“Okay,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

He shrugged. “Oh well.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: With what? Your Berkeley food recommendations? Lol

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

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

Now it’s time for…

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