There are lots of get-out clauses to people online dating: It’s not them, it’s me, it’s my Tinder matches, it’s my exes. But I’ve always fallen for them. Because, like the most lazy, selfish beings on earth, we don’t have to go out to look for a partner: the internet’s waiting for us. And sometimes, in a panic, we take a wrong turn into disastrous situations.
These men are not mine. I don’t know their full names, cities or universities, only their names. I can only assume they fell in love with themselves. This is even though, every moment of each day, millions of strangers know even less about my attempts to find love than I do: my name, my race, my surname, my age, my circle of friends. And there is no truth in it. A large part of it is bullshit. I’m pathetic. But I am not alone.
This would be impossible to avoid, especially after scrolling through someone’s Foursquare map of social media, looking to tell their ex they didn’t check in at their favourite restaurant because they didn’t want to – who cares? Because this will only happen to other people.
We see it in the cafes, watching people sit down, seeing photos of them greeting their significant others, breathing and joyfully embracing. We see it on social media sites. But this is so not us. We are much more similar than we are different. We have similar social habits and routines. We smile at the same loud and proud noise. We send messages to the same guy every time we’re together, same mutual networks. So, we’re not the same.
A friend went on a date, and then on to a second one. She didn’t tell him anything about her life.
When I finally met this man, I was comfortable with him. He asked me out, I accepted, we went to brunch and then went to coffee. We joked, we cuddled. He wasn’t into certain things that I was into, so we discussed the small differences. Our dates became shorter. He asked me out more often. We went on more date nights. But it was weird. I couldn’t grasp the fact that someone who was “attracted” to me, I mean, rather than in love with me, I wasn’t interested in his entire life. I didn’t know how to break the news. I felt bad. I wasn’t vulnerable enough.
Part of me wanted to prove to him I wasn’t crazy. This was too nice. I should feel more of an insecurity when I’m with a guy. It’s how I deal with love: my whole self, all at once. Maybe I should feel more insecure. Maybe I should see flaws in them because, like when I’m dating, I’m really in the presence of a stranger. But, as I typed, I thought about my self-esteem. It feels like it’s on the rise, but I haven’t had the right guy yet.
This is not how it works. I’m young. I need a sternly worded warning. If a human specimen was analysed when it was a child, the outcome would probably be: It’s not me, it’s the parents. But, as we all know, it’s not. It’s the person around them. It’s their friends and colleagues and classmates.
I need to feel these things: self-confidence and emotional investment. Not lukewarm enthusiasm. Not afraid to embarrass myself, both on and offline. I’m so anxious about this subject that I fall asleep online every night. I need to stop lying.
Sometimes, I think I know the feeling, of being an emotional backhander that is being handed a low-quality, cut-rate piece of meat. I know that for most women, it’s subconsciously known as “an idiot guess”, with a dash of “hypocrite” sprinkled on. My stomach is a fish tank stuffed with metaphorical tiles.