Dispatches from Dating Apps
Somewhere along the way, someone offered me this sage piece of advice — when you go to a man’s house for the first time, check his bookshelf to get a better read on him; making sure to take note of the state of this bookshelf. Is it color-coordinated? Organized using the Dewy Decimal system? Are the spines cracked? Is there a stained and clearly overused copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Are pages ripped and dog-eared? God forbid, he has too much Hemingway, any amount of Bukowski, or says things like “Lolita is my favorite book.”
Armed with this advice, I’ve always inspected men’s bookshelves before I’ve slept with them. If there is no bookshelf or books at all, I high-tail it out of there. That is, of course, depending on just how good-looking he is. This requires a specific sort of risk-analysis, at which I have become very adept. So, when I found myself in his apartment for the second time, I moseyed around casually, hoping to get a glimpse of his library. Two things stood out but were not of any particular note — his spine-broken copy of Infinite Jest and a row of history books mostly about World War II and the Civil War. Classic history buff material. It reminded me of my father’s bookshelf. This new suitor had a penchant for listening to old speeches from powerful men in history, which I found somewhat obnoxious but mostly endearing. One time we got high and listened to Winston Churchill's speeches, inevitably falling into bouts of lazy stoned sex.
When I ran into him on the street today, I was surprised. He had always kept such a tight schedule, one that never seemed to allow time for something like a leisurely walk. We could only ever see each other on his time, which was fine for me. I was neither desperate nor overly-interested. The sex was good enough, and I liked the way he didn’t talk too much. When I say I was surprised, what I mean to say is — I was shocked to see him walking towards downtown donning a bright red hat, a “Stop the Steal” pin, and a tactical backpack that I didn’t even want to wonder about. The mayor had just announced a curfew, and the streets were eerie and quiet, everyone I’d passed on my walk gave me a suspicious side-eye.
Staring at him from across the street, I couldn’t manage to walk towards him. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, sure I must have imagined it was him. The crosswalk lights blinked orange and beckoned me forward. Instead, I stood there and watched him — the man I’d been sleeping with for nearly half a year — making his way downtown for the attempted far-right coup.
I was speechless, which was foreign for me. As a political pundit and part-time professor of political science, there is nothing I enjoy more than talking. But by god, I was speechless. How could I have missed this? Which is to say, how could I have missed the fact that I had had a neo-nazi inside of me for the last six months?
A few months earlier when we were going at it during the Republic National Convention and Donald Trump came on to speak, I thought nothing of it when he, my undercover Neo-Nazi man, seemed slightly energized by the President’s drolling voice. I assumed, wrongly of course, that this sudden burst of energy was the result of me — an overtired but certainly sexually exciting pundit who had spread her legs for him. As his thrust grew harder in tandem with the ever-increasing volume of Trump’s voice, I’d imagined that he was simply trying to drown out the sound rumbling from the television.
Those nights getting high and watching Churchill and having sex suddenly seemed sickening. When I’d asked him about the collection of biographies he had stacked neck to his bed, I had so quickly accepted his explanation for having a copy of Mein Kampf. He’d been a history major after all.
As I stood on the street corner, I watched him sauntering down the street toward the Capitol. A flood of seemingly innocuous moments continued flooding into my mind. On our first date when there was a slight twinkle in his eye as he waxed on about the style and class of Ivanka Trump’s family. One of our early dates, when he’d suggested Antifa might be a terrorist group. Or when he’d defended the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. A rush of the moment came to mind — just how many times had he spouted a controversial (i.e. racist/sexist/anti-democratic/homophobic) comment by first saying, “I’m just going to play devil's advocate for one second.” Imagine all the white men who will go to hell only to find out that the devil has already got an advocate.
When I am able to pull myself from the spiral I have just gone down, I walk straight to the nearest bar. This is, of course, a faulty plan because all the bars are closed due to the global pandemic happening and the people rioting inside the Capitol building. Instead, I round the corner to the liquor store and get a couple of airplane-sized bottles of London dry gin. Standing back outside in the fridged air, I take a sip from the tiny bottle. The juniper taste lingers on my cracked lips tingles and I quiver. Just then, my phone buzzes in my pocket, and I am ashamed that I hope it is him. My calendar notifies me of the weekly Wednesday night class I have been teaching on Zoom.
I take another shot from the bottle and then throw it towards the nearby trash can. It falls into the gutter and I decide to leave it there. Pulling up Twitter, I am immediately inundated with #civilwar2021 and some other trending story about Kanye West that I cannot and do not care about at this moment. No matter how hard I try to avoid my fascist lover’s Twitter feed, I cannot. But I am infuriated to find he hasn’t posted anything other than a retweet from some conspiratorial fan-page. I down another baby-bottle of gin and notice it is nearly 6 pm. The curfew is set to start in a few minutes.
I think about calling him. Or maybe texting. But cannot think about what to say. I think about deleting his number, but I feel like I need closure. For a brief moment, I consider if the good sex was worth it. I pull up my Tinder account and write on my profile — Just found out my guy is a Nazi-sympathizer, actively seeking a liberal-leaning, anti-fascist oat milk latte-drinking type of man. I stumble back inside the liquor store and purchase three more tiny bottles of gin. This time I buy roasted peanuts to look less conspicuous. The cashier winks and me and says, “Better get home before the civil war breaks out,” and then he chuckles. I do not laugh. Instead, I feel a ravenous urge to punch him. Yet, I smile and nodded. Walking back outside, I realize I have five minutes to get home before the curfew begins. I take a swing, pull out my phone, and send him a text — if I see you in any of these photos im calling the feds. Almost immediately I see that insufferable little ellipses — don’t worry baby, im wearing my mask.