If someone asked if you were looking for ‘something serious’ right now, you might shrug and say, ‘maybe a new drama to binge-watch.’ But if they asked you again, late at night, when your world is quiet and your brain is not, you’d say, I am.
Like Plath’s beating heart, I am, I am, I am.
And you think the universe knows — not only because you’ve been single for five years, but because your fierce independence has become such an important and obvious part of your identity, your persona, your interactions, your habits — both online and off, it’s hard to imagine a life otherwise.
Boy, does the universe know.
But these thoughts that keep you up at night don’t match your actions, nor have they ever, really. It’s dating behavior you’ve exhibited without question for most of your adult life, simply in avoidance of swiftly sinking into something potentially painful. (‘A relationship,’ if you will.) This isn’t news to those who know you and your fascinating and forthcoming interactions with men. Dating apps, of course, have encouraged this dismissive behavior by making it easy to not take dating, or the people on them, seriously. Tinder and Bumble and Happn and Hinge and OKCupid — you have a collection of rejected Santa reindeer names on your phone, each one teeming with even more men than the last. Without a doubt, it is the ultimate challenge to translate a culture of constant swiping and first dates and ‘onto the next one’ and ‘boy, bye’ into standing still, investing, devoting time, energy and emotions into one person. And with so many options, why would you? Sometimes it’s easier just to ride out the plateau, to wrap yourself in the comfort of possibility instead.
Frankly, dating it is truly a comical activity. Larry David said it best: “A date is an experience you have with another person that makes you appreciate being alone.” It is supposed to be a means to an end, but it is, by far, a means to endless fodder. You have written thousands of words about the unbelievable texts, pick-up lines, dates and hookups you’ve had over the years because documenting these encounters makes something so tedious so enjoyable — to have a new story to tell is the ultimate reward. The end result, if not love, is always content. If it doesn’t work out, at least you have a priceless anecdote about some poor sap who didn’t live up to your expectations – or worse, he’s got the story. Choosing to take dating lightly means you don’t worry about texts you never received, you don’t overanalyze every interaction you had at the table, and, quite simply, you don’t get hurt.
There’s an obvious downside to that.
Listen. You can continue to sneak ‘I think I’m ready for a relationship’ into blog posts and daydreams and whispered wine-soaked sentences, but those words don’t matter until you walk into a bar on a first date with a clear head and a rebranded ego. As someone who has a tendency to pair dates with other after-work activities — because why dedicate an entire evening to someone you don’t know? — you often roll up several cocktails in, which makes you (in your own head) fun, flirty, feisty, ready for anything this man may throw your way, good or bad. In other words, you are not always your best self when you meet a new fella for the first time, especially when you’re on the defense, ready to go into battle, if necessary.
Recently, you went on a second date with a man you and your friends called ‘The Ginge from Hinge’ (which was an endearing name for another cute, tall, red-bearded dude from a dating app). He was also a full-time manny, and therefore, that’s what you saved him as in your phone. A few minutes into your second meet-up, in the back corner of a bar, he asked you randomly and ever-so-curiously if you actually knew his name. How dare you think I wouldn’t know that on a second date. But the reality was — you didn’t. You had no fucking clue. You had given this man so many nicknames, you forgot to make sure you knew his real one. Sure, it was rude and careless (albeit an easy mistake), but who could take you seriously? Remember the guy’s name, for god’s sake.
Last week, you were also texting with a man you met on Bumble, and after a work happy hour, you suggested you meet for a drink. It was 11PM on a Tuesday. His response: “Just come over to my apartment instead.” A total stranger! Wanted you in his apartment! Late at night! You watch too much Dateline to fall for that, so you said, “Just so you know, I’m looking for something really serious.” To which he replied, “Inviting me out for last-minute drinks at 11PM doesn’t exactly fit that logic.”
He is not wrong.
With the theme of ‘something serious’ CLEARLY leading your summer, you came home from a party a few weeks ago and changed your Tinder bio to read: “Just quickly — I’m looking for something ridiculously lovely and unbelievable.” Just so the boys got the message loud and clear. (It was neither of those things.)
Then you woke up and deleted it.
If you want something, anything — you have always worked hard to make it happen, because that’s just the kind of go-getter gal you are. But this is one thing you have clearly failed to work for, perhaps because the alternative — living your best single lady life always — has sustained you for so long. And also because ‘working for’ a relationship always seemed like a scam. Shouldn’t those things happen effortlessly? When you’re not looking? When you’re starring in another one of your fantasy rom-coms?
…the single lady asked rhetorically.
You’re too smart to think you can keep telling the world you want something more, something meaningful, something ‘unbelievable,’ then make no effort to take these dates and these men seriously. A serious date can still be funny, you know?
Yesterday, you received a text from a guy you dated three years ago. He asked if you wanted to get together soon, and you didn’t really have an answer. You had gone on two dates, both of which you showed up to in relatively poor form. He was a nice guy with a good smile, and he had potential, but apparently, that didn’t matter. Your mentality was: Who cares if it doesn’t go well ? ‘Onto the next one.’ Swipe, swipe, swipe. Boy, byeeeeee.
Before you responded to his three-years-later text, you decided to Google him, just to see what he’s been up to. He’s a writer, which drew you in to him initially, so you were absolutely mind-fucked when you opened his portfolio to find he had written a story about you last April, two years after you went out.
The title of the piece was a witty line from your dating app bio, and the main picture was a blonde woman drinking a cocktail, with a man drowning in it.
Yep. There you are.
You won’t link to the story, because honestly, it was a blip in a past life. Or maybe it’s a page out of your current shitty playbook. Either way, it was a cringeworthy read. And after writing about so many men in your lifetime, it was a taste of your own medicine — a pill that triggered a variety of aches instead of any relief. He essentially recounted your two dates, where you were, in essence, a tipsy asshole, someone who melts men down into their cocktail and swallows them whole. Historically, if you can’t immediately tell someone is interested, your wall, without hesitation, rises and rises and rises until no one could possibly get in, making the question as to whether or not he likes you completely irrelevant. Your sweet and charming side goes home, your gratuitous, brassy sass stays. You shut it down – or he does. And you move on.
Until they write about you, of course.
But this is why you write, too. And why you don’t blame him for telling his story – or for looking for a follow-up three years later. You write to overshare, to overanalyze, to overreact, to overcome, to overstate, to go over and over and over the details. And to get over it. And you use it to climb out of whatever dark bar you’ve been sitting in, with a heavy pour and a heavy heart, and to grab a seat near the window, in the light, where the best parts of you can seriously shine.