I don’t think I ever despise humanity as much as I do when online dating. Don’t get me wrong – there are some amazing people out there! I’ve made terrific friends and dated some awesome people, but that’s after much sifting the wheat from the chaff.
I’ve been using OKCupid lately, and, unlike Tinder where at least I’ve swiped right, anyone can message you. I despise this aspect of OKC. In the grand tradition of catcalling, men frequently think that their inaugural attentions should be reciprocated, and what’s more appreciated. As if saying “you have beautiful eyes” in an initial message to me means I owe you something.
Someone’s virtual presence on a dating site does not entitle you to their time, effort, and emotional energy.
A compliment is not a transaction. In this case, it’s an overture. When your overture is ignored/rejected or I just stop responding, that has to be ok. Whether I just haven’t been online in a few days because I’ve been busy, or I just don’t like you, or I’ve realized you’re a creep, I don’t owe you my words.
The only time I feel like someone deserves a response is when we’ve been talking for a while, real conversation, and we’ve made plans to meet. That’s just courtesy. Otherwise, you’re a stranger, and I don’t owe you anything.
Here’s a fun case study of a jackass whose message I didn’t respond to. It’s intended to be silly and to elicit a response. I took the bait because the underlying heart of this is (A) it’s okay to be manipulative to a woman to get what you want from her and (B) demanding her time is perfectly reasonable. FALSE.
He kept trying after that, saying I took things the wrong way. No. Bad mansplainer. Bad bad bad. You and your patriarchal subtexts are not welcome in my life, or in my inbox.
I look forward to continuing to break society into pieces.
I remember I was chopping something. I remember freezing as the words washed over me.
Why weren’t the next words out of my mouth “get the fuck out of my house”? Or a simple and elegant “no”?
I looked down, went back to chopping. Clean slice after clean slice. There’s a comfort in moving, especially when your mind has whirled to a stop.
I offered no stunning retort, no rebuke, no wrath. Nothing that was merited. How embarrassing. I am embarrassed at myself in retrospect.
I, I who love words so much, was speechless. Who says that to someone? Someone with whom they’re supposedly friends?
I chopped and chopped said that I was currently thinking about the various waves of feminism and wondering about intersectional feminism’s relationship to the third wave. He was confused by the word “intersectional.” I explained. I listened to some bullshit about feminism and inequality which revolved around inequality being bad and very little being said of substance. I listened to him talk, because he wanted to talk, not because he had anything to say worth hearing in that moment. A bit of the underinformed man-splaining to which all women are routinely subjected as a price for existing.
Chop. Chop. Chop.
I remember my heart falling. This was never going to be a real friendship. I was both adored and belittled. At the root of both lies comparison, comparisons that say you are both greater and lesser than other people. It is having expectations thrust upon you, expectations for which you never asked.
It is tiring being a woman. You talk too much, too little, think too much, too little. There is no just right. “Just right” is the great lie told in children’s stories. Goldilocks is a fairy tale not because of anthropomorphic bears, but because of the idea that a woman could choose something that would be just right. Women can’t get something just right. I’m surprised a man didn’t appear in the cottage and go “NO! You’re sitting in that chair improperly. How can you judge its merits with your feminine ass?”
I police my words as if they might run away. Sentences could turn against me.
I stopped writing. What if the words were wrong? What if the thoughts were wrong? Was Tinder Buttons just a sea of shallow thoughts into which I pull other people?
Well fuck that. My thoughts of varying depths and I are back. And you’re cordially invited to wade in with me.
It’s not surprising. He all but disappeared after our second date, doing that weird not responding to texts thing and falling off the face of the earth beyond periodic “likings” of my Facebook statuses. I got invited to one of his gigs, where I was without warning introduced to his very young and very dull girlfriend (in fairness, even he has acknowledged to me that she was boring) with whom I made absolutely agonizingly tedious small talk. At that point, I’d actually written him off, to the point that my brother, in all his fourteen-year-old articulateness, told me “fuck that guy. Stop talking to him.” And then, lo and behold, he appeared again, having broken up with young boring girlfriend, and becoming the stuff of my musings on conversation. To say I was confused was an understatement.
But he was fascinating. Brilliant. Ridiculously good looking to the point I found myself at a loss for words (and as you might guess, that is an extremely rare issue for me). One of those people who ask incredible questions. Self-reflective. Insightful. Creative. The rare sort of person who inspires you.
And I knew. In my heart of hearts, I knew we were firmly planted in the friend-zone.
He’s told me I’m sweet three times in the way you’d say it about a puppy. That is a friend-zone “sweet” right there. That is an arm’s length, never mind that I kissed you on the top of your head because I’m never going to do it again, let’s just forget how nice it was to have my arm around you “sweet” right there.
Apparently my sense of masochism took over, and I just had to go and say something that I knew would lead to clarification.
I’ve gotten friend-zoned a lot in my life. I’ve been left in liminal places eternally without responses. I’ve had guys suddenly deny having told me multiple times they liked me, meaning they either lied or they were fickle. Those things hurt far, far more than this knowing does. There’s a great blessing in actually knowing where you stand with someone. It feels a lot better, even as much as it hurts.
At the end of the day, I’m still the artsy girl in the glasses in a Freddy Prinze, Jr. movie who never got the makeover (not that I need a makeover. I happen to think I’m pretty awesome the way I am). I’m still going to lose out sometimes to boring women who have cute faces and giggle when you poke them, while I sit with my nose buried in the illustrated William Blake or a book about ideal museum label structure, or go play with a cat and chat with a slightly unhinged drug dealer in the corner of a concert. I am the girl in the strip club analyzing the subliminal messaging on the walls and chatting it up with the girls about how they take care of their feet after wearing those heels all day. I am the girl who unabashedly ran a porn club, who plays in the rain when she’s home by herself, and who drives a mini-van.
I’m more than just interesting or quirky. I’m capable, and I’m fun, and dammit I’m beautiful. Not pretty. Beautiful.
And I get it. I’m not going to fault someone for not feeling chemistry. I wouldn’t want someone to pretend to want me if he didn’t really. We want what we want. He gets to want what he wants. He’s entitled to that, and I can respect that. I’m grateful for his honesty and his forthrightness at long last. I’m pretty sure we have a long and lovely friendship ahead of us after I build a bridge and get over this.
But sometimes we just want to be wanted. And it is valid and just as important to let ourselves acknowledge and feel how much we want to be wanted. It hurts. But it will pass.
Because there are men out there who like us, who feel the chemistry, who find music in our laughter and joy in our eyes. These are the men who dream of us with flour smeared on our cheeks or curled up in library chairs, simply being ourselves. These are the men who text us before bed just to make sure we go to sleep with a smile on our lips, who respect when we say things are moving too fast, who just want to make us laugh-and then in that same breath-kiss us. We wait for these men.
I will always be the weirdo. I am a Gonzo, a total oddball, surrounded by a sea of chickens, perfectly contented to throw myself into whatever may fascinate me. I will always be who I am. Sometimes, that means I don’t get the guy.
But I’d rather be the friend-zoned weirdo without the guy than be anyone besides myself.
And for tonight, that’s a little bit lonely. I’ll still take it.