A year after my breakup, I found myself uploading photos of me to a dating app profile. I needed six of them - sharp and flattering- and a good bio to summarise the palatability of my existence to complete strangers. This mandatory preliminary requirement made picking my best photos feel thrillingly shallow. I also needed to answer question prompts to help summarise my personality while keeping it within the acceptable bandwidth of ‘date-able’: Netflix or nightclub? How often do you hit the gym? What do you do after work?
I was 25 and disappointed- in myself, my dating record, and in men. So I wrote looking for serious disappointments only as if to preempt a known conclusion.
Often, I’d swipe right and find the app rejoice into a ‘Congratulations!! It's a match!!’ banner. This signalled pre-existing attraction, and it was proof of being wanted even though it reduced me to an object of desire. How did I get here? Perhaps, from a place where I witnessed a relationship go bankrupt on love, and my own self-worth reduce to a vessel of too much need. Back in that place, there is a video reel of ten years centered around a singular, familiar face, and this video plays on a loop. This place was in me, it constituted me. Back then, I’d pretend I didn’t know this, but I did. Every time I’d run through a round of swiping left and right, I was hoping he’d show up on my screen.
About the dates themselves: I believe I started everything with the preconceived assumption of incompatibility, or rather, the understanding that eventually, everyone is incompatible anyway. And yet, on Friday nights I found myself shampooing my hair, putting a date-night-appropriate-dress on, and winging my eyeliner. I got good at the process - picking up half baked conversations, sitting with the awkward static between strangers, ordering my drinks. I resized and repackaged so many goodbyes, it practically became a hobby. Dating apps have a way of rewarding the impulsive and the detached- you could commit and take it back or you could not commit and still come around. Being on them was a juxtaposition of thrill, overwhelm, decision fatigue, and boredom. Eventually, you must return to your life. In a sense, dating apps get it: all romances, including the pursuit of romances, are performative. Whether we admit it or not. Once you’re on the app, you can’t pretend to be above it.
This is continued further on our blog, since newsletters are, well, too short to hold all of the feelings here.
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