The Online-Dating Journal

This section will elaborate upon my adventures in the online dating world.

The mid-July Emotional Checkpoint

You all can probably tell, but I haven’t been acknowledging my feelings much lately. There’s a lot there, and I’m scared to even start on it because I haven’t had a healthy outlet for feelings in probably over 6 weeks. I guess this post is going to serve as the litmus test for how much crazy I have been holding in, and can be the check point for whether or not things will get worse as I progress though this summer. This post will also be interspersed with lots of Manul cats to illustrate my face when I think about these things. This species arguably has more emotional range than a lot of humans I know.

For these past 6 weeks (and actually, the last 6 months, but I was in graduate school until May), I’ve been looking for a job. I don’t know if you’ve looked for a job recently, but let me tell you, the job search. Sucks. So Much. Basically, to keep from feeling like I wasted 6 years of my life, I try not to think about it, even though my excel spreadsheet of over 80 job applications and results continues to grow every day. It doesn’t help that I’m living in my parents’ house while I’m searching for jobs. While I’m thankful that they’re willing to let me eat their food and live in their air conditioning, this is the last place I want to be. Also, as a textbook empath, I tend to pick up on literally everything that either of my parents is feeling. So from my mom, that’s a whole lot of anxiety, and from my dad, apathy. Neither of these emotions are things I like to feel for any length of time, let alone almost two months. At this point, I would gladly spend the last of my savings for even just a different place to live, but that would be stupid without a job to keep me going.

On the topic of being an empath–it’s something that I only recently realized about myself and probably should be explored further. But you know, that’s an emotional process, one that could leave me potentially vulnerable, and being vulnerable is literally the last thing I want to be while I’m interviewing for jobs and living with my parents.

2-Manul-Cat

Let’s not.

Source: Oscar Carlos Cortelezzi’s Flickr

Then there’s the stuff in the news–Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the 5 cops in Dallas. These are upsetting times to live through, even if you have a job and you’re not living with your parents. I can’t bear to watch the news on television, though my parents insist on putting it on promptly at 6:30 every evening. The obvious partiality towards Establishment in television news is deplorable to me. As a result, I stay up until around 4:00 a.m., when everyone else in the house is asleep, taking in other, healthier things, such as the far more accurate reporting in posts that I get from my Facebook feed. No regrets.

As for the actual feelings about these incidents, I think my body is not allowing me to feel those at all, not even when I want to. I think it knows it would be too much to handle without emotional support.

15-Manul-Cat

No feelings. Just no. 

Source: Tambacko the Jaguar’s Flickr

As a result of all this, I’ve withdrawn into books and art. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Four books in two weeks? For me, that’s probably a new record. When I was getting an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, I discovered I didn’t need to withdraw as much because there were humans with whom I had deeply meaningful relationships, and whom I trusted enough to go out with and have fun. Right now, I don’t feel like I have any of that. Thus, I have regressed to my introverted high school self, the one that read books and made art. INFP. It annoys me that it takes so little for my entire personality to change, but then again, reconnecting to this part of my personality has its rewards. This blog hasn’t fared this well since 2014!

Effectively, I’ve blocked my usual needs for emotional connection and adventure by regressing and denying. That leaves one need that I have not figured out how to deal with yet…and the problem is, when I say “one” need, it’s probably more accurate for me to say “several”. I guess the best approximation of the whole problem in one word is “sexuality”, though for me it means a lot more these days. I mean, sure, there is a certain desire to be with another human being in a sexual sense, but I’m beginning to discover that I’ve never desired a relationship for sex. In the relationships that I enjoyed, I think I frequently took part in sex because the other party wanted it and it pleased me to give them pleasure. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy or desire sex. I do. I just never seem to want it as much as my heterosexual, masculine partners.

It was the emotional connection that I liked most about these relationships, the fact that these people were willing to reveal some depth about their personalities with me, as well as allow me to get physically close to them. However, it took me many years to realize that one can obtain emotional connection and physical proximity without any sexual interaction.

There are a number of confusing things about myself that arise from all these thoughts. The first would be that I’m asexual in some sense, which also means I’m queer in some sense. Strictly speaking, I’m not actually “out”, and I don’t intend to be. I toyed with the idea of being an “out” queer person, and then I had my horrifically bad experiences in New England and decided that was not something I want to do. At worst, it’s not even in a “It’s just not for me” type of way, it’s a “Wow, I vehemently disagree with the way the queer movement has been appropriated by the United States, and I really don’t fucking want to be a part of that.” That’s a post for another day.

On the other hand, though, I still experience strong attractions. Strong, stupid, idealistic, over-the-top, romantic, INFP/ENFP attractions. I feel them for people I haven’t seen in years. I feel them for people I meet in interviews. I feel them for people I’d rather not feel them for. I feel them for people who do not reciprocate the feelings. And I can’t help feeling like I am in deep, deep shit because in the entirety of my life, I have never sat down and talked to any of my past sexual/romantic partners about any of these things–not one. I picture some distant future in which I’m sitting down on my first date with some (probably masculine?) human and having to say things like, “So what do you want from a relationship?” or even “Do you want a relationship?” For some reason, this causes me the deepest, most unimaginable anxiety, probably because the first thing my brain does is go, “WHICH HUMAN IS GOING TO RESPECT YOU ENOUGH TO GO THROUGH ALL THAT? WHICH HUMAN IS NOT GOING TO BE OVERTLY ABUSIVE AND COERCIVE? WHICH ONE? DO THEY EVEN EXIST?”

9-Manul-Cat

This cat gets me on a deep level. 

Source: Wendy Salisbury’s Flickr

This probably explains a lot about why my past “relationships”, if you can even call them that, were so unsatisfying (with the exception of perhaps one). It also explains why I suddenly feel a paralysis in the realm of starting relationships. I mean sure, I’m on all the online dating websites and I feel attracted to people, I might even flirt once in a while. At heart, though, I’m scared out of my mind. How have I never noticed how safe it is to be alone before now?!

All in all, let’s be real, I need some hella help. I’m scared to seek it out at the moment because I keep thinking I won’t be where I am for long. Let’s say I’ll come back to this post in a week to see if I’m doing any better. I’ll plan what I do about it at that point.

 

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Heer used to call Ranjha on his cell phone

This is a statement I am willing to put a lot of money on: For most women, the first time they have sex is terrible.

I should clarify that this post will not be addressing cases in which the first time is rape. It will only address consensual sex. This is not to say that I don’t think the rape cases are important. As an assault survivor, I will say from my experience that men’s entitlement knows no bounds, not just because of the frequency at which sexual assault happens to women and goes unreported (and happens to and by other genders as well), but also because of the number of times a woman’s first time is a sexual assault, and she is not made aware of this until later in life, frequently much, much later. In this manner, from our first sexual encounters, many of us are conditioned to believe that assault is what a man does if he loves us. We are conditioned to believe that it is normal for our bodies to be brutalized and violated, and that that is how we should expect to be treated as women. It shakes my faith in humanity, truly.

But even for the consensual first encounters, the first time a woman has sex is probably terrible! The reason why I am so certain is because of the many encounters I have had that have been god-awful. The few that are pleasant seem to happen randomly, though there are threads of commonality in those encounters. How could I get so many different results even though I felt that I did the same thing each time? I think I have figured out the factors that brought about the god-awful and the pleasant, what was missing in the former and what was coincidental, but present in the latter.

I recently read these two excellent posts about being able to talk about your sexual desires and dating people with whom you are actually compatible. Forgive me for the next nerdy things I’m going to say. It is very telling of my (rather privileged) background in higher education.

This got me thinking about (brace yourselves) the ways in which we construct meaning in intimate relationships. I’m serious, it did.

This thread of thought has been seriously complicated for me to unravel, so bear with me. Now, as far as I know, all meaning is constructed. Nothing we do has any meaning until we put it into the context of past experience and accumulated knowledge. Bumping into some attractive person has no meaning without the construction of who is considered attractive (to you), and comprehending that you are attracted to this person (as dictated by knowledge). This is true for all interactions having to do with intimacy. Nothing is intimate without putting interactions into the context of what we have learned is an intimate gesture and comprehending that gestures are intimate.

In this way, sex has meaning when we give it meaning, and by giving it meaning, we take ownership of the act. By taking ownership, we give ourselves agency.

Why should you give a fuck? Because if you change the acts or interactions that you are giving meaning to, by changing the way you take agency, by changing the meaning itself, we are able to give ourselves more satisfying, pleasurable, fulfilling relationships.

Okay, enough theoretical shit. Time for the part where I tell you how this applies to real life.

I want a person who intentionally puts off having sex until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what sex is to us.

Something happened recently that put my health at risk very suddenly. I had to reframe many of my priorities, and the topmost was intimate relationships. I came to the realization that I actually DO know what I want in a relationship, though it is intensely difficult to name. It feels like the kind of empty promise one makes to themselves at the beginning of a new year. My mother always says cliches are cliche for a reason. I think I now understand at least one: meaningless sex does not work for everyone.

Now, for some people it does, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, it just doesn’t. In fact, meaningless anything just doesn’t work for me, but that’s a post for another day.

On to the realization: I want a person who intentionally puts off having sex until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what sex is to us. That sounds way more complicated than what it actually is. Basically, I want a person who is interested in understanding what I want out of sex. I also want to have time to get to know what this person wants out of sex. If these things happen to match, we will probably have a very enjoyable experience. If they do not match, which will be the more probable case knowing the depth of human diversity, then we must BOTH be okay with the pieces that do not match up, or we need to be able to change the nature of our relationship so that one or more of us does not get hurt. And this is a process, not a single conversation that we have one time. Things change. What we like may change. What we dislike may change. Again, products of our experience. The conversation must be ongoing.

And the thing about this formula (ew, I came up with a formula for my personal life. I am a nerd) is something that applies to more than just sex. In fact, for me it’s basically a template for a bunch of things at this point.

I want a person who intentionally puts off X until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what X is to us.

Possibilities for X:

  • marriage
  • a relationship
  • intimacy
  • moving in with each other
  • dating
  • friendship
  • love
  • physical contact
  • anything else two people can do together

Now, if you think about it, I’m actually not that smart. It took me almost 24 years to figure out the most basic principle of existing with other people: you have to work shit out together. I seriously wish someone could have told me this a decade ago! I have had so many terrible sex encounters because of a lack of knowing how to name things. This is not to say that all of my sexual encounters have been bad. Some were of the pleasant, steamy variety. But right now, the bad outweighs the good, and life is not meant to be lived that way.

Still, ever optimistic and now armed with my shiny new knowledge, I will forge onward! Or rather, I now have the ability to be more (and VERY) intentional about what kind of people I allow in my life.

 

Day 5: How the Date Went (written on the 9th)

I’ll start by saying, I don’t think I have all my answers to the questions I wrote last time. Let me tell you how terrible I am at following through. Hopefully, it will be an ongoing process.

_What do you expect from this relationship?

His answer: (It isn’t clearly defined, but he wasn’t at all phased when I told him the past year of my personal life has been pretty rough. Neither was he phased by me saying I might marry someone one day. Nor by the fact that I want a traditional Assamese wedding. He isn’t phased by much. That’s kind of different.)

_Do you have any STDs? How frequently do you get tested?

His answer: No. (the second part is unknown)

_How frequently do you expect we will be having sex? (I need a serious answer)

His answer: (I haven’t found out as of yet.)

_How much time do you reasonably expect to see me in a week?

His answer: (I have gathered from our exchanges that it will most likely be one or two times a week. He seems pretty easygoing).

_Do you want this relationship to be monogamous?

His answer: (I haven’t found out as of yet.)

 

Anyway, the important part–the date!

To give some context, I haven’t gone on too many dates in my life. I went on about 3 in college. The first two were with a very traditional white, Christian guy who was great company and with whom I enjoyed some decent food. He called off the whole thing after the second date, though, so I didn’t really get to know him very well. And the third was with this white, Jewish RA guy who spent as little as possible on me but took me to pretty cool places, and generally only wanted to get in my pants.

This date was actually really cute. Okay, so to give more context, (I realize I almost never mention the place where I live–for safety reasons, but this isn’t going to make any sense if I don’t put that information out there) I live in western Massachusetts. Me and the date guy both live in the same little town. Our original plan was to eat brunch at the restaurant under the Book Mill in Montague, but that didn’t end up happening because we couldn’t find parking.

Instead, we went to this place out in Greenfield, which is a little further away, but I love the all the quaint countryside you pass by on the highway. I also really like date guy’s company. He’s such a dork. He must have turned the wrong way about 3 times on this drive, and he did nothing to hide this, either. Like me, he enjoys making fun of white people (he’s from Brazil. He considers himself brown, too.)

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon on the bank of the Connecticut River, at this little spot in Greenfield. I can’t remember exactly where, but there was this very pretty bridge.

(to be continued)

Day 2: Tinder

It’s true, I have more thoughts.

There is a reason why I’m more excited by the interaction I get on Tinder. The conclusion I reached last night was Tinder satisfies that stupid human need for an adrenaline rush. I figured this out while I was talking to Smart Friend while she drove me home after hanging out with a few friends. She specifically said a lot of people on Tinder are looking for hookups. Cue: red flag. And then it all made sense.

I thought about it. On OKCupid, you answer a TON of questions that measure your compatibility with other people. It’s also suggested that you fill out several sections about yourself. This provides people with a lot of information about you–your goals, what you’re doing, where you’re going in life. You could potentially gather enough information about a person to figure out whether or not you could live with them or whether or not you want something long-term with them. This is all very useful practically for the person looking for a partner. Romantically, though, there is always something to be said about mystery, or just the possibility that there is more to someone than what you see. If the OKCupid formula is used correctly, it can definitely find you a person well-suited to your needs, but might also kill the intrigue.

On the other hand, Tinder is all about those vague and stupid “sparks” people obsess over in romantic relationships. You see someone, *sparks*. You message them, you meet up (without ever really indicating what you expect from a relationship, what length of time you expect the thing to last, how romantic and/or sexual you would like it to be–if we’re only going by what people say in their profiles), you have however much fun you want with said person, and hopefully it’s a good experience. If it’s not, hopefully you have salvaged enough of your heart to be able to pick up your sorry ass and move on.

I personally have no belief at all whatsoever in “sparks”. I mean yes, I have experienced that carnal attraction to someone I find very attractive. But that’s not what I build my relationships on. I used to do a lot with “sparks”. It wasn’t very fun at all. The strategy I use these days is–protect my heart, just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from.

It’s ironic, but the first person I’m planning to meet up with is someone I messaged on Tinder. Now begins that most arduous task of meeting for the first time and laying out my expectations. What I’m going to do now will seem rather bizarre, but there’s a list of things I plan to cover on this first date, which I will include here. I feel these are things I should be allowed to bring up on a first date and expect honest answers. If we can’t discuss these things, well then that’s a deal-breaker. Afterwards, I’ll see how much of it I actually covered.

_What do you expect from this relationship?

His answer:

My answer: In a nutshell, what I’m looking for can be summarized in the word “cuddle buddy.” I’m not really looking for sex at the moment. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not my primary reason for starting a partnership. If that’s your primary reason, then you’d best move along. I will not satisfy you. I’m also not looking for love. I have no interest in something long-term and demanding. I have one year left in the place where I am currently, and then I will most likely move pretty far away. I’m not looking for deep, emotional attachment. If that is something you want, you’d best move along. I will still leave in a year. Your ass will be heartbroken.

However, if you like having someone around with whom you can eat cider donuts, go foliage-hunting, check out random art galleries, or sit on the couch and watch a movie, I’m your person! At this moment in my life, I’m more into the read-on-the-couch-together aesthetic than I am in a DEEP PASSIONATE ROMANCE thing.

_Do you have any STDs? How frequently do you get tested?

My answer: No. I try to test every 6 months if I can help it. I’m due for testing soon.

His answer:

_How frequently do you expect we will be having sex? (I need a serious answer)

My answer: Not much, if at all. Once a month seems pretty generous. Admittedly, I’m probably a gray-scale asexual. I don’t require much sex.

His answer:

_How much time do you reasonably expect to see me in a week?

My answer: I’ve got quite a bit going on this semester. I’m basically working the equivalent of two jobs, and I might pick up a third. All are things I want to be doing. If you like spending study time with me, then we’ll probably get by. I can’t be spending nights all the time. I’m too busy. I can spare maybe one night every two weeks.

His answer:

_Do you want this relationship to be monogamous?

My answer: To be super honest, no. I think I’d like it to be an open partnership, just because I’m at a point in my life where a lot of things are transitory and I don’t like committing to anything too exclusively. Though if it really bothers you, I can be monogamous. Just know that if I find someone better has come along, I might leave. That will probably hurt a lot.

His answer:

 

I think that covers most of the bases. I’m beginning to like the word “partnership” to describe my romantic endeavors rather than “relationship”. The latter just always seems so serious. It also implies so much. I feel like “relationship” immediately conjures up monogamy, long-term, mostly-heterosexual, traditional power dynamics, traditional romance, traditional sexuality, and traditional everything. Sometimes that’s okay. I think in the long-term, I’m more traditional than I let on. But for right now, I need to break a few rules. Mostly the traditional ones.

Day 1 on Tinder

I think one of the reasons why this whole online dating process feels so bizarre to me is because it actually takes me a little while to figure out I’m attracted to people. I’ve got to have at least one conversation with them, online or otherwise. I thought about it and I realized OkCupid and Tinder are just basically Facebook. What differentiates online dating platforms from something like Facebook? You know for a fact that 99.9% of the people you see on these platforms are looking for a partner, whether that’s romantic, sexual, or both. Some of them are doing that just by looking at a picture of you. Isn’t that weird?!

I created a Tinder account, too. This app makes…absolutely…no sense. If you wanted to, you could literally just swipe right for hot, left for not. That’s Tinder in a nutshell. Some people write stuff in the little profiles, which I’ve actually been reading because I swiped right on a 21-year-old not too long ago, and I’d like to be seeing someone who is at least my age, thank you very much.

On Tinder, I give much more credit to folks who get creative. There was a profile not too long ago that was created by a guy posing as a glitch, claiming he was just bits of stuff put together. His pictures were, as he describes them, “a mix of photography, 3d modeling, and glitch art”. I messaged him.

I also messaged a guy who had a cello in one of his photos.

Both have replied, which is kind of exciting. Although why I am more excited on Tinder than I am on OKCupid escapes me at the moment. I get this vibe that Tinder users are just being slightly more honest, and are not as likely to be fuckbois. That might just be because I’m impressed by all the bells-and-whistles of a cleanly designed dating app. It just seems more legit.

I also have 4 other matches, and one message I don’t plan to reply to. All matches so far have been from men.

I’m sure I will have more thoughts on this soon.

Day 1 on OkCupid

I have decided, after much deliberation, to succumb to this online dating phenomenon. I do so rather reluctantly. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned or I just have a lot of pride, but I actually do not believe in online dating at all. I just think it reduces people to a commodity, to a degree. I feel like there’s something to be said about seeing a person as a human first–literally–and your potential partner or what-have-you second. This is a lot easier to do (in my opinion) when you see them in real life than when you see them as a picture on a website. Regardless, I’ve decided to give it a go.

The reasons

My reason for making this decision probably spells my imminent failure (but then again, which person has a dignified reason to resort to online dating? I’m letting too much of my pride show).

What happened was, I found someone (before I started online dating) who I felt was actually worth the time I was spending on him. He’s very smart and very handsome. He also speaks my language, which has an allure that I never thought it would have. There’s a lot about me that he understands without me ever having to explain it. I’ve been surrounded all my life by people who think I’m a novelty, or some exotic beauty. It would be nice to just be a human around someone.

However, he isn’t looking for a relationship at the moment, so we’ve agreed to be friends for now. It’s not as sad as it sounds. He lives far away, and we’re both oh-so-busy graduate students anyway. Sometimes it’s pleasant to observe someone from afar.

I came back to my little college town with the goal of doing a better job of building community for myself. I’ve been doing so by spending lots of time with my mostly female, platonic friends. We have a lot of fun, but since we’re platonic and all, it’s not really possible to cuddle with them before going to bed at night. Not that that’s a requirement for me to get by, but it would be nice.

Thus, I began my social experiment. That’s probably a terrible way to think of it, but at this point, I really can’t take this process seriously. It’s hilarious.

Deception at it’s finest: Creating an OKCupid Profile

I decided I would try both OKCupid and Tinder, since a good handful of my friends are on both. I started with OKCupid.

I actually really like most of the profile questions. They’re probably all the things I consider, but never give voice to (because we intuitive types can’t always explain what we’re thinking). Some of the ones I like:

  • Would you strongly prefer to go out with someone of your own racial background?
  • Do you believe your country would be more or less safe if every adult owned a gun?
  • Say you’ve started seeing someone you really like. As far as you’re concerned, how long will it take before you have sex?
  • What is the most exciting thing about getting to know someone?

In your profile, you have the option of filling out any number out of 8 different sections: My self summary, What I’m doing with my life, I’m really good at, favorite books, movies, shows, music and food, Six things I could never do without, I spend a lot of time thinking about, On a typical Friday night I am…, You should message me if.

I filled out all 8, to varying degrees, as well as most of the “My details” section on the right side. I’ve decided to indicated that I’m “heteroflexible”. I mean, it’s true. All of my relationships have been with men. But I’ve been attracted to women before, and I’m not completely closed off to the possibility of dating one, though if the person in question is looking for a life partner, I might have to disappoint.

Even before I was finished writing, people were already liking my page. I must have received 15 likes in that first hour alone, though since I refuse to upgrade, I can’t view who is liking me. I’m guessing the likes were coming because I had uploaded a picture before I started filling out sections. I used that picture of me from the “About me” page, with the hat. People seem to really like that picture…

Anyway, then I started browsing people. I already notice some patterns. First, women are more likely to write more in their profile sections than men. They tend to include more details about what they like and what they are like. The profiles in which men were very detailed included a lot of lists or, oddly enough, were from men in very tech-y fields. The vast majority of straight men’s profiles are very stereotypically like…”I like hamburgers. I’m a chill dude.” In other words, I don’t find significant enough details in most men’s profiles to really piece together a person.

I noticed that the vast majority of my profile views are from straight white dudes. Go figure.

Lastly, maybe this is just the area I’m in, but I also notice that there are a lot of skinny ginger guys who post a lot of shirtless pictures. I don’t know what that’s all about, but I’m decidedly not attracted to the aesthetic.

Initial Contact

Not surprisingly, I received two messages within two hours of creating a profile. One was from a Middle Eastern guy with a kid. The other was from a SWD. I’m pretty naive, so I messaged both of them back (after briefly consulting with my other online-dating-savvy friends this morning, I soon learned that this is a no-no. From this point on, I don’t plan on replying to anyone I’m not actually interested in, at least in some way). It literally took 4 messages for Middle Eastern guy to suggest meeting up. White guy was hinting at it by the second. Clearly, folks are thirsty.

I reached my first match within 3 hours of browsing around. It’s with a woman. She has a lovely profile photo, very flirty with red lipstick and curly brown hair. I just feel like if we were ever to meet, I’d want more so to be her friend than her date. Maybe I’ll message her. We’ll see how that goes.

24(ish) Hours Later

I received 4 more messages from random people who I’m probably not going to reply to. I think the best one so far just said “hey hun”.

It’s kind of cool, I’m close enough to New York that people from there are included in my radius. I’m definitely seeing more diverse profiles when I browse New Yorkers. My friends caution me that I might receive messages from crazies in the city. I don’t doubt it.