“So, what are you looking for?”
It’s a straightforward enough question really, and one that comes up a lot when you foray into the world of online dating, but it’s one that I sometimes have a hard time answering.
What am I looking for…?
The truth is, it’s hard to know what you’re looking for in a place that you’ve found yourself by accident.
I’m 31, divorced, and dating again for the first time in 7 years. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at it 7 years ago, and my “time off” hasn’t done me any favors. It’s real weird.
I met my now-ex-husband on match.com when I was 23 years old. We joked that I bought him online for thirty dollars. (In retrospect, I might have been better off putting that money towards a new pair of jeans; I have several well made jeans that have generously outlived that relationship.)
At 23, online dating was a lot like a buffet; you might not like everything that’s available, but you’re bound to find something that agrees with you. At 31, it’s more like a gas station deli counter: pick the least objectionable option, get out quick, and hope to God it doesn’t make you sick.
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I’ve met some great guys so far. Just not Mr. Right. Not even Mr. Right Now. There was the fantastic guy I connected to emotionally but had no physical chemistry with. (Proof that the universe is deeply unfair.) The great guy and amazing kisser that I had physical chemistry with to spare but struggled to emotionally connect to. (Proof that the universe is still deeply unfair.) The guy I was sort of into who wasn’t into me. And then I the guy I was really, really into who wasn’t into cats. (To be precise…he was deathly allergic to cats, and I have six.)
But, as a rule, I’m not gaining faith in the male gender through this experience. There’s the guy I really liked who ghosted and stood me up. (That’s a real kick to the ego.) The guy who was 15 years older than me with whom I had very little in common that wouldn’t let up on all the reasons “age doesn’t matter” until I eventually blocked him. The smattering of inappropriate solicitations. (People are brazen online, hiding behind relative anonymity.)
I don’t have the sort of life where I “get out and meet new people”–my life is really just an endless loop of work, farm, and my yoga studio–so I find myself mindlessly flipping through dating profiles, swiping left and right with relative abandon. It feels like window shopping. It’s light and breezy and easy.
(“He’s cute.” Swipe Right. “He’s funny.” Swipe Right. “Oh, face tattoo…” To the Left.)
The dating though, the part where you actually meet? That’s more like the time you spend in the changing room when you pull something off the rack. Suddenly you aren’t the size you thought you were, you don’t actually look good in orange, and the outfit you pulled from the sales floor looks way the hell better on the mannequin. Drinks. Dinner. Coffee. But you persist, hoping for that perfect fit. The dress that makes you feel like royalty. The jeans that make your ass look amazing. The guy you actually click with, the one who makes you smile and gives you butterflies. The dress, the jeans, the guy: those things are out there somewhere; it’s sorting through all the rest of it that can get exhausting.
I’m not good at dating really…and I never have been. I’m an introvert. I don’t usually enjoy playing 20 questions with random strangers. I’m not optimistic that a meaningful relationship is going to be built on swiping right.
Here’s the thing though…While I’m, admittedly, not good at dating, I’m really good at relationships. I’m good at giving little meaningful gifts, remembering someone’s coffee order and bringing it to them at work, making brownies for birthdays, cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, holding hands while road tripping to an out of the way restaurant we both want to try. The problem is that the the whole relationship part is dependent on getting through the dating mess. (You can’t take home the outfit until you make it out of the dressing room.)
Swipe Left. Swipe Left. Oh! Cute dog. Swipe Right.
I really thought I was done with all the dating nonsense, but it turns out I was really, deeply wrong. (Guys, I am learning that I am so good at being wrong.)
So, I find myself bumbling through Bumble at 31, wondering if I accidentally swiped left on my soul mate because of bad lighting.
What am I looking for…
I still don’t really know the answer to that question, but I think it might be something like a really great fitting pair of jeans. I’ll know it when I find it.