“Hello!” I write to John*, my newest Bumble match.
There is a voice in my head that always urges me to say something more clever than “Hello!” on Bumble, the dating app on which women are plagued with initiating the conversation.
Then I remember that A) there is nothing that grinds my gears like a man whose profile demands a match say “something cooler than hello” and B) I am not as invested in this process as my therapist, friends, family and society wish I would be.
So “Hello!” it usually is.
The light of my phone flashes with a soft glow, not unlike like the candlelight I imagine radiating from my and John’s wedding table centerpieces. “Hey!”
A response! A three-letter, one exclamation point, perfectly acceptable response. We’re in business.
“How’s your weekend?” I write. I send it a few minutes later, even though I saw it immediately.
He responded: “Soo tired! I’m a teddy bear and wasn’t in use today!”
Imaginary candles blow out. Vomit feelings activate. Unmatch.
I screenshot (duh) and text the exchange to a (married) friend along with the requisite “I’m going to die alone.”
A friend recently told me about an unsolicited dick pic ― no, I’m sorry ― an unsolicited dick Boomerang (you know, the endlessly looping, frantic-paced hallmarks of bachelorette parties and brunches) she received from an online dating match.
A FREAKING BOOMERANG. All of this is to say: What is wrong with you people? And why do you only exist on my apps?
Cringeworthy and unsettling exchanges on online dating services are so common there are entire social media pages dedicated to the worst of them. And that’s just one part of the horror that is trying to communicate with people on apps.
If someone isn’t acting like a total weirdo, they’re talking to you forever with no intention to meet. If they’re not signing up to you be your pen pal, they’re ghosting you. If they’re not ghosting you, they’re straight up not responding to your message. I had a therapist once who told me it was my responsibility to reach out to 25 matches every single day. That woman is, very obviously, no longer my therapist.
And yet here I am, deep in credit card debt from (happily) celebrating dozens of friends’ weddings. It is hard to date. But it’s not impossible. So why, when I sign in to one of the three dating apps I’m on currently, does it feel like it is?
People around me, those who are in relationships and those who are not, shudder at the thought of saying or behaving in the way some of my matches have behaved in their purported attempts to connect. I think about how my friends’ boyfriends and husbands might go about it: What would they put on a dating profile? What would they say to a match? These are good, nice dudes with interesting jobs who can hold conversations. Do those guys just not exist on the internet?
Of course they do. They must. They make up some of the couples I mentioned above. They’re not matching with me, in large part, but they exist. Do you know what kind of complex a person gets from swiping endlessly and barely even matching anyone, let alone a person with some semblance of normalcy and compatibility? You can ask my current therapist.
It’s easy to take a lack of connection and onslaught of unsettling messages personally, of course. But in talking to the single friends I have who I find to be smart, funny, attractive people, I have to believe it’s not just me ― everyone who online dates complains about the kind of conversations they are having.
It’s a common thread throughout the stories of those who use online dating as a means of actually trying to meet people and form a connection, not just emblematic of my utter and extreme undesirability.
The dehumanization of dating is at play here. Sorting through potential matches from behind the wall of the internet takes away any real consequence for the way you treat another person. Add that to the fact that people can be less filtered online and that technology is making us less social and well, yeah, of course people are seemingly more awful than they might be in real life.
But talk to me at midnight after a few glasses of wine and a fruitless swiping spree and I could swear I’m all alone on single forever island. Well, aside from my painfully cliche and very real pet cat.
At the risk of sounding like Charlotte (when I am so obviously a Miranda):
They say it’s a numbers game. They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs. To whoever “they” are, I say, from here on out, I respectively choose to exclude myself from this narrative.
I’m not saying I won’t keep swiping. If there’s a funny, bearded Brooklyn man out there who is driven, creative and funny (but not as funny as me), by all means, slide into my DMs. I’m just saying that there has got to be a better way than this, and I would rather put my energy into finding it than talking to any more “teddy bears” of the online dating world.
*Name has been changed to protect person’s privacy despite the fact that I put what seems like their go-to pick-up line on the internet for the entire world to see.