I’ve never been good at online dating. In the four years since my last long term relationship ended, and the handful of years I was single before it, I’ve dipped my toes into the murky waters of the online dating pool and it’s not something I enjoy, or find “fun” in being single.
I’m pretty much a serial monogamist, who’s fairly particular, and has high standards for who I let into my life. I’ve built a pretty special one over the years, and I want to protect that. Typically, I’ve met my past boyfriends out at a bar, or through a friend, we like each other, we continue to go out, and then we end up together for a few years.
Serial dating has never been something I enjoy, or have participated in really. But with online dating as the norm now, this has proven even trickier to get by with – as it seems serial dating is now necessary for me to find my next match. And if I abstain from it? Well then, I must not want it badly enough. Well, maybe I don’t.
I never really intended to write on this topic as I have a pretty complicated relationship with my feelings on it, but after reading Shani Silver’s eye opening piece for Refinery29, aptly titled: “I’m 36 & I’ve Been Single For 10 Years. Spoiler: I’m Fine.”, I was inspired.
The feelings I have towards my single status, my seemingly never ending hunt for a relationship, and what I want out of that relationship at this point in my life, are so complex and, honestly, are feelings that, while I do think about them a lot, I haven’t quite worked through yet to know what they mean to me.
Honestly, read Shani’s article before even reading any further here. It’s a refreshing perspective, and one that, while I’m sure many people feel, no one is really talking about. A lot of it rings true for me, and I didn’t even realize I felt that way until I read the words, and it’s really forced me to want to examine these feelings head on. So, thank you Shani.
Online dating sucks. As Silver wrote, “Dating is the worst part of being single. I am fine with my single existence until the moment I try to alter it. Then I’m plunged back into the bleak waters of knowing within 30 seconds of meeting my “date” that I’m not interested in him. But I showed up, because “you never knoooowwwww,” so I still have to stomach palpably boring conversation and two glasses of mediocre wine before I can politely lie and go home.”
Can I get an amen?
I’ve always said that I value my time too much to waste it on a night out with someone I don’t know I’ll even have chemistry with or click with. A lot of my friends are into dates with someone they met online because, hey, free dinner, or, well, I have nothing better to do anyways – plus, “you never knooooowww.”
For me, the chemistry/”click” is what compels me to ditch my night otherwise spent content at the gym, with my dog, writing, cooking, catching up on the latest “it” Netflix series, or out with a friend. That chemistry indicator is what interests me, what makes me think, “hmm, maybe I’ll invite you into my life.” When it comes to dating, it’s what drives me to want to spend time with someone. It’s never the free meal, the possibility of a new friend, because I enjoy talking to new people (I don’t), or because I have nothing else to do. And you can’t get that indicator on an app.
First of all, online dating profiles are often scant and riddled with typos and grammatical errors (ugh). Trying to start a conversation even just for the first few introductory sentences can be like pulling teeth. It’s hard enough to get a gauge on whether someone has a personality or not, let alone whether there will be chemistry. Secondly, you literally have to judge a book by its cover. I know there are guys who I’ve met in person who I’ve had chemistry with and was attracted to based on that, that I would have definitely swiped left on if I stumbled upon their Bumble profile.
I don’t think I’ve gone out with anyone from a dating app that I knew deep down was someone I wanted to meet, but I did it anyways because “you never knooowwww”, so I put myself out there and then I was never surprised when I didn’t want a second date. So why do I keep torturing myself with wasted nights out all in the hopes that I’ll find the “tall, dark and handsome, with a great sense of humour” needle in a haystack?
I have a life that I’m happy with. I have a nice, decently-sized apartment in a nice neighbourhood midtown with plenty of bars, shops, and entertainment nearby – which you’ll know is a win if you know anything about Toronto’s housing market. My commute to work isn’t the worst. I have a doting dog who keeps me busy and full of snuggles. I have a great job that pays me enough and gives me enough time off to do the things I love. I have ambition to keep growing in and building my career. I live close to my family and get to spend time with them. I have an amazing network of friends across the country. I can travel when I want (kind of… dog), I can move if I want, I don’t have to think about anyone else if I quit my job, or spend a whole paycheck on clothing, or stay out way later than planned at dinner with friends.
So what is seemingly missing, then? That “person” to spend my time with. The time that I’m not doing all those other things that fulfill my life. Or, the times that I am, but want to have someone I love to join me in them. It’s the every day moments, the in-between, the big life moments, the mundane, the little things. It’s when I’m participating in a life that I love alone, that I feel having a “person” by my side to build and enjoy that life with, is what I’m meant to want. It’s the human condition to want connection and company.
Now don’t mistake this for loneliness, because I don’t feel lonely. It comes back to the argument that Shani poses in her article and the entire school of thought she’s trying to fight against with her words. We live in a society that dictates “coupling” as the norm/the goal, and being single as the one thing you want to avoid most in adult life. But why?
I don’t know if I want to get married. I don’t know if I want to have kids. Two very good reasons to couple up, if that’s what you want. I’ve always said that (I think) I’ll know the answers to these questions once I meet the person that I want to build that version of a life with. But in absence of knowing/wanting at least these things for certain, it really begs the question: what is driving me to want to abandon my single status so badly, when my life is pretty fulfilling?
Perhaps it’s because my friends are slowly pairing up, getting married, having kids. You get a sense of FOMO, wishing you had kids that could grow up with their kids, because that’s what you see in the movies. In the early days of those pair-ups, you lose the crew that you used to rely on for the every day, little things: the weekly brunches rehashing the night before, lazy Sundays on the couch watching movies, day trips out of the city, Saturday nights drinking wine and ordering in… eventually they start doing those things with their “person”. Real life doesn’t continue on forever as an episode of Sex and the City.
I’m perfectly content to do these things on my own, or as the third or fifth wheel, but when I think about a lifetime of doing it that way, I get sad. And is this because I’m actually sad, or is it because I’m conditioned to think my life isn’t complete if I’m always the third wheel? Or, is it that the older I get the more I realize that my biological clock is ticking, so the proverbial clock on it being my choice whether or not to have kids is running out?
These are questions I still haven’t answered, but I think in the meantime it’s time to ditch the apps and the feeling of failure every time I don’t open one, or every time I don’t act on a match. Ditch the forced connections and the wasted time, just live my life as I want to, and know that someday the connection will come, organically, when it’s meant to. If it’s meant to.