So here we are- separated, recently divorced or single, maybe enough time has passed to try and get back out there. Or you took the leap and got your heart broken and are petrified to go back out.
Regardless, this whole starting over process is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned. Or am I an anomaly here? Because I find this whole thing terrifying.
The exception might be if it just happens organically. Facebook is actually your ‘friend’ in this scenario. You reconnect with an old boyfriend or friend and discover or rekindle a connection. You like each other. You know what you need and want and can be honest and candid with this person because you have a history. You trust each other enough to approach intimacy in a way that is safe enough to start with. It’s a much less painful approach, I assure you.
But this is rare, unless you are in the proximity of your network of old friends or recyclable boyfriends. If you are not, your options are a bit more… well, you’ll see soon enough. Please know, I feel your pain.
Match.com, Bumble, Tinder. These are the ones I have dabbled in. I’m sure there are a dozen others, but these three have sufficiently traumatized me enough to hold off on taking anything else. And I have downloaded and deleted all of the above at least 3 times in the past 3 weeks.
Lessons learned thus far: free apps are for the most part a vehicle for a one-night stand. If it is sex you are after, Tinder is your go to. Bumble is a notch above as far as substance goes, but it’s a tossup. Match.com you pay for, so a bit more of an indication that there is some potential longevity. But it’s still a tossup.
This is precisely why I have deleted and re-downloaded enough times to keep their heads spinning with regards to whether I’m in or out.
It’s such a fine line between not being ready, still too fragile and you just need to get out of the house… and your head. Or maybe you really do just want to have sex… which is completely valid despite how taboo this admission still seems to be, especially for women. Really? Are we not past this antiquated stigma? I find it kind of shocking, to be honest.
So you agonize over your profile, wondering if it is too much or not enough. Which picture shows your best angle but still looks enough like you so as to not elicit disappointment if actual contact is made. Does your profile description sufficiently represent who you are without scaring the shit out of potential prospects, or is it too bland? Either way, you increase your chances of heading ‘left’.
I’m pretty sure mine might be a bit much. I wrote it on a day I just wanted to get over with- Christmas. What better day to write something that is supposed to confidently boast all of my best qualities and outlook on life? My venue, the brewery down the street- the only place other than Starbuck’s that was open. And let’s be honest, the task at hand warranted something a bit stronger than a venti latte.
Admittedly, the tone was a bit cynical. The chosen quote, the first thing my prospects would see when they click on my picture, was the following:
“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, someone not everyone knows how to love.” – Warsan Shire
Well, that should reel them in.
Next, profile description:
Adventurous, compassionate, globetrotter, save the world kind of girl. A DEMOCRAT, through and through, active, fun, independent, a little crazy (mostly in a good way), Virgo, considerate, kind, a bit of an introvert in an extroverted fashion, animal lover, NOT a homebody. Normalcy scares me.
I’m interested in finding someone who can keep up, who is kind, smart, compassionate, worldly, socially/globally aware and engaged, fun, healthy, fit, active, handsome, interesting, adventurous…. with a great sense of humor. A unicorn, in essence.
Shockingly, I instantly got a constant stream of men claiming to be ‘my unicorn’, the majority who were between the ages of 54 and 60. There were a handful, like five, who had some potential, maybe three who refrained from taking a picture of themselves half-naked in their bathroom mirror or at the gym, and maybe one who did not feel compelled to share a photo opp boasting their prize catch or brand new car.
Be clear, you get to select your ideal age demographic, and I did not select my cutoff to be 60. Forty-eight is not 60.
What the hell?
Now commences the slew of indicators we have to endure to express even the slightest interest: The wink, a thumbs up, ‘he’s interested’, ‘you’re his favorite’, ‘your move’…
Now what, exactly? Do I wink back? Or should I favorite him instead? Does he see these with the basic subscription, or does he need premium? What if his ‘notifications’ are not activated? If I really think he is cute or I see potential, do I email him? Too forward? Truly, is there a manual for this?
When you finally manage to select the appropriate indicator of interest, now begins the process of dating via thumbs. First contact, think of something witty and engaging to say to catch their attention. So do I offer up my wittiest banter, or is that too scary? Maybe more casual and aloof is better. You finally reluctantly press send and wait. And then the back and forth ensues.
I find this exhausting. My thumbs can’t keep up. So I now allow them only 3 exchanges and then throw out the ultimatum. We can either meet or you can continue on your path of winking and swiping right or left.
It’s so superficial and unrealistic and basically equivalent to a video game. You go into pilot mode and just start swiping whatever direction your mood dictates. Mine is left more often than not. In fact, I have swiped left so many times in a row the app keeps on asking me if I know how it all works. “To match with someone, you might consider swiping right.”
Yep, got it, thanks. Give me some effing decent options then.
You know you are maybe not doing it correctly when you frequently receive the message: ‘looks like you are out of people. Check back soon or invite some friends.”
Wait, what? Invite my friends? I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t really want to date my friends, nor do I want to subject them to this whole thing.
So, below are the results thus far:
- One Tinder date, app promptly deleted.
- One Bumble date, not terrible, but not enough to keep me swiping right. Deleted.
- One Match.com date. Success, first try. A good but brief first attempt. But it didn’t work out. The dreaded deal breaker. Timing… deleted.
Timing. As much as I tried to convince myself that ‘love conquers all’. It just doesn’t. It simply won’t work if the timing for either one of us is wrong. I think this might even be worse than rejection. You know it could work, you know it has the potential to be beautiful and enduring. But it can’t be right now, and most likely won’t be in the future. So you let it go and keep swiping.
Most likely, we have been a bit deprived in this department if we have been married for decades or are too timid or scared to get back out there. Chemistry is kind of a make it or break it at this point, at least for me.
So we made it through all indicators and rapid-fire text exchanges. Your two hours proved good enough to transition to the next stage. Now what? Do I make the first move, or does he? Do I lose his respect if I do, is that still happening, or is that a relief for him? Are we still expected to wait until the 2nd date? Or is the third considered more appropriate? Is the first date completely out of the question if we want a second? Do we really want a second if there is no chemistry on the first? What the hell are the ‘rules’ now?
Someone, a manual, please. I would do it, but I have absolutely no idea how to navigate this part.
We have to be safe, so we comb through all things social media- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn to start- their friends, their family, their friends’ and families’ comments, their responses. Do they have a lot of friends? Do they seem ‘normal’, are they kind and responsive? Is there enough contact where you can see a pattern in their responses?
If they sufficiently pass the social media screening, how do we approach the whole sex thing? Cocktails are definitely in order, but not too many. Do you talk about it before, or do you just let it unfold? How and when do you broach the whole disease/protection discussion? How do you know for sure? Most people assume they don’t, but clearly, there is no required certificate confirming their negative/positive status. The safe route is clearly best, but what if it goes past a handful of dates? Do you demand proof or a trip to the doctor before you proceed?
Somehow you made it through all the initial phases, but it’s just not there or isn’t going to work long-term. So you stay in it too long because you are terrified of having to go through all of this again with the remaining prospects that you reluctantly left in your queue just to have some options or validation that someone believed you worthy of ‘right’.
So how do you end it in this day and age? It feels like there is so much more pressure now. This is my downfall. I know we are all fragile and trying to get back out there, build our confidence back up, learn how to do this whole thing after decades of comfortable complacency (if there is such a thing). The last thing I want to do is make you feel bad. And I don’t want to feel bad. So do I just start responding to your texts less and less? No, I need to act like an adult and tell you the truth. “I’m just not ready. It’s too soon. It’s truly not you, you are awesome…”
Jesus, this is all just too much work right now. Deleting all things virtual dating seems like the best option.
But then what is the alternative? Joining a running group or a group anything and finding yourself surrounded by single millennials who make you feel old and desperate?
No, all three deleted. I truly am not ready- still too fragile, too picky, too worried about making you feel bad. And as much as I need a solid meal and some validation that I am still worthy of ‘right’, enduring two hours of forced conversation makes me just want to be back home and wallow. And, as I have been repeatedly told, I scare the shit out of you anyway. And I don’t want to be scary, nor do I want to waste two hours with someone who can’t handle me.
Maybe I should just embrace abstinence for a spell.
But I don’t want to be abstinent. Jesus, fine, I’ll give it one more try. Forever the optimist, it seems.
God help us all. We’ll get through it. But you have been warned…not for the faint at heart.