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?
Okay, fine. What about this one?
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.
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.
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 😉
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
9/24/16 5:09 PM
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.)
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
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
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
Review: Too many white people. But if diversity is not your thing, you’ll like it okay.