Tag Archives: online dating

A Dog Could Eat Your Face (online dating tourism and intellectual labor)

I kind of hate living in an interesting city sometimes. There’s suddenly all this pressure from visiting people to know cool things they would personally be interested in, to be free to hang out. I feel guilty for having a life (or needing to sit quietly in my room, which, let’s be honest, after too much time on the central line, you need some days) when people are in town. But it’s always nice to see them! Even if it’s not for as long as they would like. And these people are generally a-ok with me putting my sanity/well-being first. That’s what makes them friends, not strangers.

But what gets my goat is strangers using online dating profiles to get travel advice, often with the insinuation of a hookup.

What they say, interspersed with some infantilizing “baby” or “sweetheart” type words: Meet me for a beer right now. Show me around town. Recommend a place for dinner. Convince me this city is where I should move. Make London a pleasant experience for me. Entertain me.

attentionWhat they seem to expect in response, sans sarcasm: OH YES HERE LET ME DO SOME FREE LABOR FOR YOU. THIS IS THE SHIT I LIVE FOR. Lord knows, without attention from a man I will wilt like a flower without sun. Please, please, shine the glowing light of your masculinity on me so that I may once again find purpose! And maybe could we make out a little bit? Just to make sure your time in the city is really, truly great and worth telling your buddies about when you get home, so you can high five and bro it out like the goddamn champion you are?! Because that’s all I want for you out of this trip here. #DIFTSBRO

It adds up. Even just the time reading these dumb messages presuming that I would somehow be invested in their experience of London. Let alone all the time it would take to fulfill all these men’s touristy dreams. Often, they’re making these requests in their very first message, not even after exchanging greetings. Conveniently, it does make it very easy to trash their messages.

a club last weekAsking for a date is one thing. There’s a mutual burden of being interesting and a shared hope that it might be fun; however, asking someone to provide what is essentially a service simply because you found them interesting and they had the nerve to exist on the dating site in the city you’re in is absurd. You want to eat/drink/have fun like a local? Read a guide book. Watch Anthony Bourdain. Use Google. Don’t ask me.

Because I really don’t care if you enjoy London. I did not move across the planet to be some North American angel of tourism. I did not set up an OKCupid because I wanted to guide bored men to Borough Market or show them round to pubs I like. I barely have the time/energy/inclination to do that with people I already know.

Stop asking women for their time for your convenience, rather than seeing yourself as having an equal responsibility to entertain them. Got it? Now read that again, with handclaps between every word.

Emotional labor is labor. Intellectual labor is labor. And if there’s none of that being exchanged, that’s called-wait for it-wait for it- TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SOMEONE. And I’m not interested in having someone use my time, my mind, and my own sense of “well I’ll just take 5 minutes to tell you all this to be nice” for their own benefit.

boredI don’t want to list fun places for you to go. I don’t care where you go. You mean nothing to me beyond some words on a screen. Right now, a dog could eat your face, and I’d never know. And guess what? I’m ok with that.

So here’s a better plan than my meeting your only-in-town-for-the-weekend self for a drink: I’ll stay in my pajamas and have another glass of wine while coloring in “a cluster of fucks” by Never Stay Dead and watching 30 Rock. You get a travel app on your phone.

goodbye foreverWe never speak again.

EVERYONE WINS. Unless a dog really did eat your face. In which case, please seek medical attention.

You beautiful tropical fish (of compliments and broken egos)

compliments-tropical fishI love Leslie Knope of Parks and Rec’s unabashed use of compliments to celebrate the people in her life. While her metaphors may seem absurd, they speak of the intensity of her love for her colleagues and friends. She values them, and they’ve come to accept that, bizarre as Leslie’s esteem may be, it comes from a profoundly genuine place.

So when I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my favorite Tinder fellows this week, I found myself surprised as I reconsidered my own relationship to compliments.

This gentleman does wonderful things for the world, for his community. He stumbled into an opportunity to help others and has seized it, serving on a board advocating for those who need a champion and a role model. He worked hard to get a job at a place he dreamed of working. He mocks people on HGTV like a champ.

Oh, and word around the block is he can make chocolate chip cookie dough spring rolls.

I think he’s pretty amazing. He jokingly attempted to refute me. I wasn’t having it.

Then I realized I was being a giant hypocrite. So often when people pay me a compliment I try to brush it off. I try to play it as humility, as if modesty were some magic circle that made being complimented acceptable.

compliments-regina georgeHowever, that’s operating on the assumption that accepting a compliment is somehow to be vain. I’ve spent my life treating embracing compliments as a shortcoming. I want to appreciate people. I love telling people why they inspire me, why they bring me hope, joy, and inspiration. Why would I not give them the joy of appreciating me if they should want to do so? Why hide behind the guise of modesty?

The answer immediately rang in my head, and I’m ashamed to admit it’s because I don’t think I deserve it.

I’ve spent the past year feeling like a giant loser. Hell, right now I’m applying to jobs like crazy and can’t manage to get an interview. I’ve taken to paying for groceries in change (sorry not sorry, people in the self-checkout line at Kroger). I couldn’t even afford my own car insurance (generous grandmother to the rescue!), can’t afford to get my eyes checked, and haven’t had a haircut in over a year. Between stress eating and OCD meds I’ve gained a stunning number of pounds, reducing my wardrobe to mostly jeans, leggings, and t-shirts.

My ego has been shot to pieces.

I didn’t realize how vain I was until I found myself hitting what has felt like rock bottom. Me, Miss Phi Beta Kappa, fancy liberal arts degree, talk your ear off, charming to a fault, somehow held down three jobs at a time during college—an incompetent mooching failure laid low by OCD and the job market.

And yet people still seem to like me. As all the things I thought I valued in myself have fallen away, academic success, employment, even my old appearance, people still like me. People still somehow have compliments for me. It’s absolutely blown my mind. I found myself attempting to dismiss kind words with a laugh, or sentences starting with “yeah, but…” Upon further thought, as someone who so values words, how unkind of me to dismiss someone else’s for the sake of my current lack of self-assuredness.

I’ve learned people value who I am so much more than what I achieve. They celebrate for me when I succeed and hurt for me when I struggle, but at the heart of that is a profound respect for who I am as a person, in spite of what I may or may not accomplish.

So often we forget that the measures of our own esteem are inherently flawed, twisted by years of assumptions and false comparisons. While we may think we fall short, in another’s eyes we may absolutely shine.

Even if in my heart of hearts I’m struggling to see myself in a positive light, I owe it to these people to believe them when they say kind things to me and to trust, even if I can’t quite see the good things myself, that compliments come from a genuine place based on their experiences with me.

compliments-do you trust meSo, you beautiful tropical fish, if I tell you you’re wonderful, trust me, and I’ll do you the courtesy of trusting you. Here’s hoping that the more we let ourselves be wonderful in each other’s eyes, the more we’ll learn to be wonderful in our own.

Avoiding the White Slave Trade in Midtown (or, My Safety Rules for Tinder Dating)

Mom: “You met his cats?! You went to his house? How do you know he’s not a white slaver?!”

Me: “Mom, I’m pretty sure that the white slave trade isn’t exactly flourishing in Midtown.”

For the record, the cats were absolutely fantastic.

That said, let’s talk safety. I’ve had a number of people ask me about ways to approach this crazy adventure that is online dating safely. Here are my personal rules, which continue to evolve as I explore the world of Tinder.

1. If someone makes you uncomfortable just chatting with them, trust that feeling. Sometimes that’s just being disconcerted or a bit wary or even bored. When you feel that odd little twist of a feeling that says “maybe you don’t want to do this,” listen to it. Be safe. Be happy.

When in doubt, channel Liz Lemon.
When in doubt, channel Liz Lemon.

You don’t owe someone your time just because you’ve talked to them and they were nice to you. Nice people can still make you uncomfortable. And that’s okay. Just because someone is nice doesn’t mean that’s someone with whom you want to spend time in person and go on a date. You don’t have to risk your happiness and comfort just to humor someone else.

The times I haven’t trusted that feeling I found myself stuck listening to a lot of masturbatory self-commendation and then got asked for a handjob in a parking lot. Um…let me think about that…no.

2. Always meet in public places at first. Always. I don’t care how hot his picture is or how nice she seems. There are plenty of hot, nice batshit crazy people out there (note: Why is guano particularly crazy? Is it for its super power fertilizing abilities?).

If the person you’re seeing can’t wait until you’ve had a cup of coffee somewhere to get you alone then you should be seeing red flags everywhere. If they’re insistent on meeting somewhere privately, take it as even more red flags, or you can whip out my favorite line, “but how do I know you’re not an axe murderer? :D” If they don’t back down or realize and respect that you have standards for ensuring your own safety, back away quickly. Seriously though, the smiley face has magical powers. It makes it less creepy, more funny. Trust the power of the smiley. Not the potential axe murderer.

Not the best way to end a date. Given the choice between a first kiss versus it puts the  lotion on its skin? I'll go with first kiss. Every. Single. Time.
Not the best way to end a date. Given the choice between a first kiss versus it puts the lotion on its skin? I’ll go with first kiss. Every. Single. Time.

Plus, there are plenty of awesome public places to go. Get creative, and think outside the box. I’ve been to drag shows, to eat my first oysters (it’s totally just an excuse to eat saltine crackers and hot sauce, and I am ALL ABOUT THAT), to hear amazing bands in very cool bars, to beloved local coffee shops. Private locations can wait until you’ve built some trust and feel confident you’re not going to wake up in a pit reenacting Silence of the Lambs.

3. Always have a point of contact. I often have two. One is my best friend; the other is actually my mother. I’ve recently decided I want to start using GPS on my phone to drop my mom a pin so she knows exactly where I am, and she always has an ETA of when I’ll be home, or I text if the plans change (I live with my parents. But that’s a story for another day). Even when I’ve been out with a guy before, and even if I feel perfectly safe, I’d always rather take the extra 30 seconds and do this. I’m absurdly naive at times, and I’m quick to give people the benefit of the doubt, even strangers. It’s a blessing and a curse. I continually have to remind myself that you don’t really know who a person is until their true colors start showing, and for some less earnest people, or simply shy people, that can take a really long time.

You don’t get brownie points in life for blindly trusting people. That’s not being nice to yourself. That’s simply not prioritizing yourself and your safety, and it’s being nice to someone else before you’re nice to you. And you deserve that much from you.

The feeling I get when I don't have to worry about not being able to call someone in the event of an emergency makes me do this dance!
The feeling I get when I don’t have to worry about not being able to call someone (or call a cab/get an Uber)  in the event of an emergency makes me do this dance!

4. Have your cellphone charger with you. My phone dies all the time. It’s been known to jump from 40% battery to 1% in a matter of seconds. Make sure you have a means of contact, and that even if your technology is randomly on the fritz you can still pull an E.T. and phone home.

5. Don’t have sex with someone unless you can comfortably talk about your birth control and your STI prevention plan beforehand. If you can’t feel comfortable asking someone when they last got tested, how can you possibly feel comfortable letting them take off your underwear with their teeth? If you can’t ask them to put on a condom, how can you ask them to put their finger in that spot that you really really like?

One of the most romantic things I’ve been asked is “are you on the pill?” Not even kidding. In my dream world, talking about birth control plans would make our hearts flutter and be seen as foreplay. Just imagine Marvin Gaye seductively singing “let’s get condoms” instead of “let’s get it on” when you go to get it on.

I'm all for having sex, but not getting pregnant OR dying.
I’m all for having sex, but not the getting pregnant or the dying.

6. That said, if you’re interacting with people sexually, take the time to get tested. I need to take my own advice on this one. It’s been about two months for me, and that’s too damn long. Even if you’re feeling super confident, take the time to give yourself and your partner peace of mind.

No one wants to end up crazy like good old syphilitic French painter Toulouse-Lautrec. Think how much more sexy art he could have made had he just been able to pop down to the department of health services and find out he had an STI before it made him nutty and then dead!

So those are my rules. They’re ever evolving. Some were gleaned from not so great experiences, others from “thank goodness I did this!” type revelations. Sometimes I break them inadvertently (mostly the forgetting to text my contact people in a timely manner). But these are the  best practice guidelines which have emerged from my time online dating, and the way I’d like to move forward. These may not work for everyone, and that’s okay. But as for me, this seems to be a good plan.

Got rules of your own or more ideas for making sure people stay safe when online dating? Feel free to share them in the comments, or get in touch with me using the new Tinder Buttons comment page or our email address at tinderbuttonsblog@gmail.com!