“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives”- Annie Dillard
Today’s inspirational post on the horror that is online dating is brought to you by the news that the bright shining beacon of ethics we call Facebook will be joining the online dating app world. The dating app world is already as crowded as a Portland farm to table brunch spot. Only instead of a delicious meal served after 2 hours of waiting on a sidewalk in the rain, you get reheated microwave chicken over and over and over again for 7 years. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m pretty over dating* (*online), and I’m going to tell you why.
The last date I went on didn’t suck. He was a nice man, with a job, who runs a lot, does yoga, and eats well. We had a nice enough time at a suburban dive bar, that mostly revolved around him talking a lot and me eating fries that came out of something called the Perfect Fry machine. At the end of the night, I was like “well it’s been real, nice meeting you, I’m taking the dog home now” but what I meant was “this probably isn’t going to happen again”. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him in general. The issues with him were all mine- he didn’t ask me one question all night. His job was on my snooty list of “professions I refuse to ever date again”. He wasn’t bad looking and seemed to have a sense of humor, and he wasn’t an asshole (that’s essentially my criteria these days). But overall, I just wasn’t into him. That was basically it. But HE was on a totally different page. He wanted to come over the next night for dinner (NO). He texted and texted and texted and within a week they were very long “I’m sorry, let’s start over” kind of texts. To be fair to me, I did write back, said that we had just gotten off on the wrong foot and that I didn’t think I had the time to give him the relationship he seemed to need. He got emotional. I stopped replying. And I just couldn’t stop thinking:
dude. We had ONE date. One. If long emotional texts are being sent after one date, this isn’t gonna work. For me.
So I did what any reasonable 2018 single person does and I hit the apps again. Only this time it was all different. It actually gave me a stomach ache to look at them. I finally realized that the very last thing that I need in my life is app based dating. Here’s why.
1. I find it very difficult to be attracted/interested in a picture or two and short little blurb. And so many dudes don’t even write a blurb. I have no genuine impulse to swipe right on anyone. This is problematic. While my list of “what I’m looking for in a relationship” has gotten much less picky (are you not an asshole, not hunt, do you have a job, are you healthy, do you like dogs, do i have to lose weight to date you), I also find I am attracted to fewer and fewer people. Basically, at this point, I am just attracted to kindness.
2. I haaaaaaaaate first dates. Like just really truly hate them. This is a fairly new revelation, but the hatred is so deep. Every time, I’m like “yeah ok I guess let’s go get a drink or whatever. I guess I have to take a shower now.”. This is not the correct attitude to bring on a first date.
3. I’m a terrible projector. I can’t remember the last relationship that didn’t end because the dude was attracted to someone else. I also can’t remember the last time I didn’t feel hopelessly stressed out in a relationship. Because dating is the opposite of fun to me, it is impossible for me to not project all that negativity onto another human. I’ve been gathering scientific evidence for years now, and as much as I want to disprove my own thesis, I can’t.
4. Life is too short to spend it swiping. If you life is how you spend your days, do I want my life to be about staring at pictures on my phone when I could be creating or serving or actually living?
But here’s the thing: these thoughts only apply to the idea of meeting people online. I have no interest in swiping and small talk messaging and blah blah blah, but I am much more positive about pursuing a relationship with an actual human I meet in the real world. If I get to know the person outside of the dating app world, my mental approach is completely different. It took me awhile to figure out why this is, but now I know what it is:
I don’t really *need* to be dating. I need friends. I am totally 100% fine with meeting someone amazing who does not want to date me, but wants to be my friend. Friends are good. Friends are no pressure. I do not have to shower for friends. And I do not have many friends. If you don’t have many friends and you do not have a life that supports you, and you throw yourself into a relationship that inevitably ends, then you are just back where you were before. On the couch and swipe swipe swiping away. I want to be clear that this isn’t an assault on the people who are on the apps. There are lots of great people hidden among the guns and camo pics, I just don’t feel like looking for them.
As an almost 40 year old, who lives in the deep deep suburbs where social lives go to die, and who very much needs to get her professional life shit together, I have decided that other than being a) not exactly high on the partner potential list, b) shockingly boring, and c) incapable of keeping relationships alive, I don’t want to spend my limited life energy on portraying myself fully in 5 pictures and a clever blurb, nor scan through everyone else’s 5 pictures in search of everlasting love. It no longer feels right to me.
An Actual Gratifying Life
So what do I want instead? An actual fulfilling life based around meaningful work that I love, and strong platonic relationships based on interests and commonalities, not “oh he looks hot in that truckers hot” criteria.
See, when you have a good personal life, work is important, but it isn’t everything. I don’t have a personal life. My work is important I guess, but not meaningful in any way. I am generally alone most of the time. This is just how it is- my friends are mostly married, or parents, or in relationships, or better friendships, and I’m just not part of their real worlds. And it’s hard to meet new friends in your 30s. Did Seinfeld not teach us anything?
I only have so much energy to spend on “living my best life” and I have decided that my energy needs to go into building a meaningful and enjoyable professional life and strong friendships. I have to be honest with myself and recognize that for whatever reason, fulfilling romantic relationships do not seem meant for me. I am very lucky to have been married to my soulmate and best friend, with whom I was deeply in love. Many people never even have that! Obviously it ended, and no relationship has worked out in the 7 years since then, but I would still like to have people to do things with, and these are called friends.
I have put a lot of thought and personality tests (INFP, which should surprise no one) into this and since making the decision that I was going to stop actively dating, I feel so much lighter. I feel like I have space in my brain to focus on moving into a career that is meaningful to me, and doesn’t make me sad every day, like my current one does. I spend evenings reading instead of swiping. I have time to volunteer for causes that I deeply care about. I pick out clothes for me, not potential admirers. I am happy with some new friends I have made, who inspire me every day with their passion for living. I am glad I made space in my life for them. I couldn’t really do that when I was singularly focused on Online Partner Searching.
This Isn’t Sad
Look, I know this sounds sad. But really, it’s not. You know what makes me sad and insecure and miserable? Dating. You know what doesn’t? Friendships. I believe that I can have a much more filling and gratifying life by focusing on friendships instead of partnerships. It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome love and a long term partner, I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me and I am 100% positive that it’s certainly not going to happen because Tinder or Hinge or Bumble or god forbid Facebook throws our pictures together. I also recognize that I was very lucky to have had real love for years of my life, and I don’t take that for granted. I am not closing myself off to the possibility of having it again, I just know it’s not going to come from aimless swiping on my iPhone. I get that it works just fine for many millions of people, but it just doesn’t work for me. I mostly use the apps now to play a fun game of “guess who the swingers are”. Yet, perhaps in my pursuit of an otherwise meaningful life, some magic fireworks-y love and romance and Nora Ephron style tale will unfold, but that would be a secondary benefit and not my main goal. But if it doesn’t, I will never regret having built a purposeful life for myself that remains there to support me even when the relationships fail.
So, I’m sorry Tinder. I’m sorry Bumble. Hinge, you’re just kinda weird. But I just don’t have the time to devote to the kind of relationship you want to have with me. I need more than a swipe. I need to live my life. It’s time that we each move on.