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Open Questions for New Daters

Scenarios to consider before you jump into online dating.

Have you ever moved to a new city, looked at the unfamiliar skyline, gotten lost 17 times between your apartment and the bus station a block away, and suddenly realized you have literally no idea how to meet people as an adult? Did you call one of your friends to commiserate, and did she suggest you take a look at online dating? Did you try to act coy about the idea, at first telling her that — oh no — you don’t need to meet people on the internet, you can meet people the normal way? Did your friend remind you that you literally just called to complain about how hard it is to meet people in this so-called “normal” way? Doesn’t she know that THAT ISN’T THE POINT HERE, KAREN?

Did you low key Google “best dating apps,” only to be assaulted with a dozen different logos in varying shades of resignation, each claiming that its app feels least like the acknowledgement of your personal failings? Did you finally click on one and think, no harm in seeing what’s out there, right?

And as you sat there, trying to think about what username would communicate how interesting, quirky, smart, funny, and sexy you are in 20 characters or less (without using emojis), were you hit by daydream after daydream about how you’d finally meet the Kanye to your Kim K?

Did you imagine being one of those well-dressed-but-also-kind-of-basic people, smiling into a camera, smugly in love with the husband they met during their own game of app roulette?

Was that fantasy quickly replaced by the fear that you might end up across the table from a total babe who is funny and charming and seemingly normal — but who later drugs your drink while you’re in the bathroom and then drags you to his horrifying torture dungeon to do super upsetting things to you (like 50 Shades, but even less consensual)? Did you shake your head and think — you know what — any person is just as likely to be a charming, attractive date-rapist, so might as well not let that fear stop you from going on a couple of first dates, and maybe getting to visit a really innovative torture dungeon, right?

Was there a moment when you sat back on your couch and realized — oh man — you’re really going to try this, aren’t you? Did you stare at the profile prompts asking you to tell future babydaddies about yourself? And did the profile prompts stare back, as most overly judgmental questions do?

Did you think maybe you’ll put short, silly answers so people think you’re not too serious about any of this — because it’s so desperate to be anything more than “laid back”? Or did you think — actually, no — you’re going to write a long introduction that really shows the world your A+ personality and what your exciting hobbies are so only people who relate to you and your Pokemon collection will send you messages? Did you start to consider that brutally honest self-reflection and realize — nope, nevermind — people don’t need to know about your existential fears or your aversion to white condiments or your addiction to Vanderpump Rules until after you get married?

Did you start swiping through the vast mountain of neckbearded mouthbreathers (a tip of my fedora to you, m’lady), hulked-out gym rats (cool gym-selfie, bro), and whiny Justin Biebers (why won’t anyone love meeeeee), looking for that moment you know it’s love-at-first-swipe?

Was your inbox almost immediately filled with one-word grunts and demands for sexual favors from men whose understanding of the English language was about on par with the president’s understanding of covfefe? Did you begin to lose all faith in humanity?

But then — did you finally find someone who at least appears to have his shit together, and wink, wave, like, or swipe him? And did he return the favor? And did he send a message — in full English sentences, no less — and did you smile, decide he probably doesn’t look like a serial killer, and message him back? Before long, did you realize you were actually having a pretty decent conversation?

And then did he ask for your phone number? Did you pause, wonder whether a phone number was enough for someone to steal your identity, and then remember you have no money in the bank for anyone to steal anyways, so — fuck it — here it is?

Were you actually pretty surprised when your phone lit up with a new text, and were you even more surprised when he asked you to meet him for a drink?

Did you try to walk the line between interested but not desperate, telling him — sure — you can probably fit him in around your busy schedule of bingeing Sex in the City and eating poptarts for dinner?

Did you take 11 wrong turns getting to some dive bar you’ve never been to because Yelp said they had the best negronis in the city, and you wanted to sound like you have charmingly eclectic tastes even though negronis are pretty gross, tbh? Did you sit at a dimly lit table, waiting for him to arrive? Was it because you completely forgot what he looks like — pretty sure everyone in this city looks exactly the same — and rather than face the embarrassment of guessing, you arrived appallingly early to shift the job of picking out the right person over to him? Did you wonder whether he would be six inches shorter than you or smell like Axe Body Spray or sound like Spongebob Squarepants when he talked? Did you worry that maybe he would see through the lies your Instagram-filtered photos told and decide to call the whole thing off? Or that he just wouldn’t show up at all?

Did he walk in the door, sit down next to you, and shake your hand? Why was he shaking your hand? Is shaking hands a normal greeting on a date? What about hugging? What about a euro cheek kiss? What the hell is the protocol here?

Was your conversation pleasant enough, politely tiptoeing around landmines like your exes, your most fucked up family dynamics, and whether the sex scenes in The Shape of Water were sweet or upsetting? Were you watching him sip his negroni, trying to remember things from his profile (born in Nebraska, spent a year backpacking in South America, obsessed with Magic the Gathering), but also trying not to feel too stalkerish or mix him up with the eight other people you’re chatting with?

Did he ask what you do for fun, and did you suddenly feel like the most boring person alive? Do Friday nights eating Chinese takeout and reading Harry Potter fanfic count as fun?

Did the bartender ask whether you were going to cash out together or separately? And was there a weird pause before he said “separate” (way to charm a lady, Scrooge McDuck), and did you give him your best version of fuck-you eyes before reaching for your wallet?

Did you walk out the door together and was there another eternal, unending moment where you couldn’t decide whether to hug, kiss, or simply walk away? Did he go in for a kiss? Did you spin it into a hug so awkward it would make Michael Cera seem like Rico Suave? Did he say “let’s do this again sometime!” and did you say “sure!”? Were you actually sure?

Did you go home, pour yourself a big glass of wine, and replay the night in your head? Did you wonder if he would text you again, even though you weren’t that into him? Did you want him to text anyways, to know that it was you who would deny him instead of the other way around? Did you really want to have this happen for every date?

But, did you hop back onto the dating app and start the process all over again? Twenty first dates later, did you feel like you were in some warped version of Groundhog Day that has more uncomfortable hugging but less uncomfortable Bill Murray sex scenes?

But did you keep going on those dates because you’re actually having a lot of fun? And when you look back years later, will you think it’s the most exciting time in your life?