Hello, my name is Hala, and I am an addict.
Shoes? No. Rose all day? Yes, but no. Brunch? Yes.
But no, I’m talking about the new drug: Online dating.
I know I talk a lot about my adventures in online dating on here, both the comedy and the tragedy, the laughter and the horror. It’s objectively funny, I know, when it’s not your life. And while I’ve been on some site on and off for probably the last two years since my last breakup, for whatever reason in the last few months I’ve gotten aggressive. It started out as signing up for Match, thinking if people are paying for the site they might be more serious. But after my 75th message from some guy with no teeth from the hinterlands of West Virginia, I realized that maybe this wasn’t my crowd.
So next I got onto okcupid, Match’s free, and easier sibling. There I got messages from guys closer to my age and interests, but way more overtly sexual. Look, I like sex, but maybe I should know your name before you’re asking me about my position preferences, Mr. Hunggg69? Plus the interface was annoying, and for some reason I was super popular with 25 year old guys from Egypt and Morocco, who couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to talk to them… I believe in the power of love, but that’s a bit of distance to contend with, am I right?
So in a fit of frustration, I did the unthinkable, and downloaded Tinder. My thought was I could more quickly weed out the sexually aggressive weirdos, and might get to an actual meeting more quickly (something between the first message “let’s get drinks” and the interminable 37 email volley about the weather).
And once I’d downloaded Tinder, it made sense to also download Bumble, the “feminist Tinder” which is different from actual Tinder only insofar as when you match the woman must message first on Bumble. I don’t really understand the logic, but the premise is the men on Bumble might be more evolved. They are not. They are actually worse than the guys on Tinder, because in additional to being sexually aggressive right-swipe monkeys, they also do not even have to form a thought to talk to you. You do all the work, and call it empowerment… there’s a broader metaphor for modern feminism in there, but I’m too tired from both bringing home the bacon and frying it in the pan to actually work it out.
So now I was on a total of four different sites, four different apps, all pinging and buzzing and red light flashing whenever I got a new match or a new message. It started to feel like I was doing nothing but responded to people I didn’t really want to be talking to in the first place. This amount of frenzy, this anxiety-provoking technology did not feel like the way I was going to meet the father of my future children, but I didn’t know what else to do. This was love in the time of techno-cholera. This was modern romance.
It was at about the 5th night in a row, staying up until 3am talking to strangers on the internet that I realized this might be a problem. That living for the little red exclamation point notifications on my iPad was no way to live. I was losing sleep and patience, anxiously craving the next hit of validating dopamine in the form of a like or a “hey” from some (maybe?) handsome internet stranger.
I was in the full grip of chasing this particular dragon as I drove to North Carolina to see a friend get married. Now I will confess that this wedding wasn’t easy for me. I had wanted to bring a date, that hadn’t worked out for a variety of reasons. And everything about this wedding was so fucking perfect to a T exactly what I’ve always wanted for myself, it was a bit like going as a guest to your own dream wedding. Which coupled with my emotional state, was not the easiest thing to endure. But seeing two people who love each other so authentically and sweetly celebrate with 40 of their closest friends in a beautiful setting brought into stark contrast how unaligned my actions were to my goals. Online dating wasn’t the problem, in fact, these two had met online. But they way I was using it, to validate, to make me feel better, to scratch an itch and push away the dark feelings of disappointment and loneliness were a problem.
So I gave it up. I ended my meaningless conversations, I deleted the pinging apps. I am still on Match, because I paid for an account, but I actually have to *gasp* log into a computer to access those messages. It is a more deliberate, thoughtful process than just mindlessly swiping. I’m reading, I’m sleeping, I’m journaling. I’m working through the sadness and disappointment with my therapist. I’m not hiding behind the cynicism and laughter. This is something that I want. This is something that I do not have, and do not have any idea how to make happen. It is an existential reality over which I feel like I have very little control, and I fucking hate it. But covering it up with a narcotic-like band-aid of validation from strangers isn’t going to make it go away. It will just make me numb. And I don’t think you can fall in love when you’re numb. So I’m going to choose to feel the pain, in the hopes that feeling something bad means I’ll notice when I feel something good.
So what does this mean? Well, it may mean that you get to see fewer funny instagram posts about the asinine shit that happens to me online, and for that I am sorry. But I think I’m finally figuring out that my mental health and sense of wellbeing are not worth a funny brunch story. I hope you’ll understand. I can be funny about other things.