This past weekend I finally got around to watching Aziz Ansari’s Live from Madison Square Garden stand up act (if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you Netflix and chill soon). I’ve always been a fan of his writing, his stand up delivery and, as this live act reminded me, his musings on dating in today’s mixed up, muddled up world of apps, texting and ghosting. In fact, this very post is an all too-delayed response to his summer New York Times bestseller, Modern Romance. I toted my copy with me all over New York, but primarily to the dog park with Elvis, where I proceeded to sit on a bench, devouring each page and from time to time, smacking my forehead laughing (by myself, mind you) at an all too-true point he had made. On several occasions, I’m pretty sure I said aloud (again, to myself, by myself), “Oh my god, I HATE when guys do that!” or “Guys like profile photos like that?!”
Yep. My fellow dog park attendees thought I was insane.
And perhaps I was (am?). If we evaluate my love life in 2015, it would be a messy, tell-all album, that is all too fitting for a Taylor Swift 1989 analogy. I welcomed myself to New York. I had recently gone through a pretty pivotal breakup. Luckily, we hadn’t made any serious commitments so there were no legal complications to go through, just a clean break. However while I’m on the topic of this, I have recently heard that a number of law firms like Peters and May (visit Peters And May.com for more info) now offer emotional as well as legal support which I think is a brilliant idea; I’d welcome support from anyone to help me through something so traumatic. Anyway, my solution at the time was to go on a dating spree like I had a blank space to fill. I had to shake it off, when it came to a few relationships that I just knew, despite our best intentions, weren’t going anywhere. And then there was some downright, nasty, all around no good, bad, bad blood.
But, alas, it wasn’t in vain! I learned a lot. About myself. About what I want in a partner. About life. About this crazy world of dating in today’s fast-paced, instant gratification seeking, environment. And while I by no means have it all figured out (ha, does anyone really?), I like to think I’ve gleaned a few lessons along the way. Ten to be exact. Because the alliteration was too good to pass up and I think the SEO might be higher for “10 things I learned from Tinder” as opposed to “7 things I learned from Tinder.” But, I digress.
Before we start with our Tinder Truths, let’s get a few housekeeping items out of the way. First, to any and all of my exes who may still read this corner of the internet, rest assured, this is not a kiss and tell. I won’t be referring in great detail to the specifics of our relationship (if at all, really). So you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re trying to figure out how to have the best sex in the higher consciousness, or for saucy details. I won’t be shaming you either, because, hey, we learned a lot from each other — thanks for that! I won’t even use your name. Except for you, Matt. Women need to be warned about you. (Kidding! Kidding! There’s no Matt. Or is there?) 😉
Next, I’m not a relationship expert. By any stretch of the imagination. Everything that follows here is my bumbling experience dating as a late 20 something (and now 30 year) old! So proceed with caution. And buckle your safety belt. I wasn’t the most experienced online dater when I first got Tinder but after a friend suggested it, I had to try it out. She’s been on almost every online dating site I can think of, including Geek Dating! I didn’t even know that was a thing until she showed me but then I saw all of the guys she was talking with and had to get in on the action.
With that out of the way, let’s begin!
1. The app landscape, you reap what you sow. This might be the most obvious place to start, and perhaps the most cliché, but either way, you certainly don’t need me to tell you. There’s a shit ton of dating apps. (And yes, the swearing was necessary there for emphasis). Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had a friend say, “Oh, have you tried this app yet?” and then proceeded to boast as to why the men were more a. normal b. responsive or c. (my favorite) less creepy. Because that’s where we’re setting the bar these days. Creeps need not apply, and yet someone keeps letting them into the party! (Insert groan here.)
And while I’ll usually download each to give it a fair shot, I’m never all that impressed with the differences between them. Yes, perhaps I can message you first on this one. And on this one, your profile has been vetted by some faceless brand team (in San Francisco? in New York? in India?) to make sure you’re of a certain education and employment pedigree. And on this one, I see how many friends (or 11th connection friends) we have in common on Facebook. But at the end of the day, we’re just looking at each other’s faces and how witty our one tagline is about ourselves. And then we wait for a match. And then hopefully one of us gets the guts up to send a first message. Tomat-OH. Tom-AH-to.
I have friends who bemoan dating apps, saying that it never goes anywhere. And part of me can relate to that. It’s a lot of sifting and casting the net (but ideally not too wide), in hopes that there’s a bite from a normal, over 6 foot guy, who loves puppies and can just as easily crack a joke about Bernie Sanders’ hair as they can intelligently discuss their stance on why the United States should or not get involved in the situation in Syria. Not asking for too much, you know, the usual. But it doesn’t happen right away. It takes some digging. What I’ve found is that the amount of time you’re willing to invest in the digging, is a proxy for how much you’ll actually like the good ones you do find. Because they’re out there. Hiding. But they’re there.
2. Ghosting, who ya gonna call (or not call)? I recently heard a stand up comedian joke about “ghosting,” the act of just not responding to someone after you’ve been dating/seeing/talking to each other consistently. His punchline was that it’s really not an appropriate name for it, being that, if they were “ghosting” you, they’d call you every night at midnight and let out a blood curdling scream.
Botched jokes aside, I think Aziz sums it up best in his stand up act. He asks the audience to respond (by applause), how they typically handle it when there’s someone they don’t want to continue seeing, the options being a. silence b. pretending to be busy or c. tell them the truth. As you can imagine, most folks opted to clap for the a. silence category. But when asked how they would hope someone would handle the situation if roles were reversed, unsurprisingly everyone clapped for the truth.
So at the risk of sounding like an after school special, let’s be honest with each other. Because it sucks when people aren’t honest with you. Or worse yet, just don’t say anything at all and leave you wondering if their phone is permanently broken.
3. Playing games is like the Hunger Games, if you allow it. Let’s get this one out of the way. Games suck. But maybe they’re one of those necessary evils. Within reason, of course. Everyone has different ways of navigating them and how they want to balance them. I can be a really responsive texter or I can be a bit aloof, depending on how busy I happen to be that week with work and other commitments. If I ever don’t feel like myself though, I try to cut it out. Fine, we both want to take hours to text each other back? OK, I got stuff I can get done in that time. But the minute I’m obsessing over whether my last text sounded “too eager” or had one too many exclamation points, then we have a problem. And I’ll take a step back. As Efie would say, may the odds be ever in your favor.
4. If you have to make up excuses for them, then it’s probably over before it started. We’ve all been there. We pass a phone around, asking our girlfriends to read a series of text exchanges with our latest “match” asking them to make sense of it all. “What did he mean by that?” and “Did I sound too eager there?” get thrown around, as if we need to diagnose the sick relationship. Usually, at this point, I’ll look around the table at my friends. All of them confident, successful women. And I wonder why we’re arguing over text semantics, especially when said semantics involve emojis.
The bottom line is this: If you’re both genuinely into each other, it’ll feel easy and unforced. And if you don’t respond back to me for several days when I ask you to hang out, while I would love to make up excuses about how maybe you are out saving the lives of underprivileged children in the third world and somehow forgot to bring your phone, I know better. Your phone is sitting in your pocket and you would just rather not see me. Of course, there are exceptions here and there, but you can generally get the feeling when someone is giving you the slip. Don’t waste your time making excuses for them. On to the next.
5. You both apparently need secretaries. Because, damn! Scheduling is hard! It’s a frantic dance of “How does your week look?” // “Oh, maybe we can grab drinks on Thursday?” // “Shoot, I’m busy on Thursday and leaving town after work on Friday. Maybe next week?” // “Great! Tuesday perhaps? I know a great spot in the East Village.” // Tuesday might work, let’s check in on Monday.”
And then Monday rolls around and you never hear from them again.
Aziz cites this in Modern Romance, urging that dating apps aren’t actually dating apps at all. They facilitate you meeting potential dates. Whether you actually end up dating some of them, all depends typically within the first few days of exchanges. My MO: vet them long enough to get a sense of their humor (and decide if you like it) and try to throw in a few unexpected questions in the lineup to see how they respond (one guy asked me once ‘what’s something about you that I wouldn’t be able to tell from your photos?’ which I thought was vastly more refreshing than ‘what do you do?’). Total time span: 2-3 days of texting back and forth max before one of you should suggest a meet up. Suggest a few dates that actually work for you and, assuming you’re into him, stick to it (even if Netflix and wine sounds better for your Friday, you’ll thank yourself later for just getting out there, I promise).
6. The text dance is a really complicated tango. And it takes two. Maybe this is another obvious one, but texting is the name of the game, isn’t it? We don’t call each other. We don’t meet in real life right away. To me, you’re a contact in my phone (usually saved with the last name of ‘Tinder’) and all we can do is make judgements based on social media presence and how articulate we come across via text. Personally, I appreciate creativity, humor and, yes, good grammar in my text conversations. And trust me, I will strive to do the same for you. Bonus points if you can throw in relevant current events and talk about things aside from what gym you go to.
Again, this comes down to asking engaging question that go beyond “what are you up to right now?” and try to get to the core of why either one of us should care what the other person is doing. This goes for guys and girls — let’s not bore each other, OK? Find some questions for a good conversation and ask your date some of your favourites!
7. Call! Just call! So you know that thing you use EVERY DAY for Instagram, SnapChat and texting? Well it’s capable of calling people. You know, that thing we used to do where we exchanged messages in real time, voice to voice? As wrapped up as we are with our phones, it’s funny to me that we almost never use them for actually calling someone. We could be in a burning building and would probably want to text 911 instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m just as guilty of this as the next millennial but it’s something I’m actively trying to work on. I remember the first time a guy I had been seeing called out of the blue and my initial knee-jerk reaction was to assume something was wrong. I answered the phone in a confused panic, anticipating him to tell me he had been in an accident of some sort, when in reality, he was just saying hi and that he was in the neighborhood and wanted to know if I’d like to grab a drink.
After the texting courtship, it’s so nice to move to a little voice action — you get to hear their laugh, their cadence in speaking and their comfort in moving from topic to topic that you wouldn’t otherwise get to appreciate via text message. It’s the subtleties that make all the difference.
8. Feast or famine? Depends on your attitude. Aziz talks about this a lot in Modern Romance and I think it’s one of my biggest complaints about dating today. As easy as it is to meet a ton of singles at the swipe of an app, it’s also our downfall, too, especially in large, metropolitan cities like San Francisco, New York and LA, where your potential matches are seemingly endless. In a city of primarily young, successful professionals looking for love, your soul mate could be waiting around the corner. And then a new one around the corner after that. And then another. And then another.
You get the picture.
You could literally be lining up your next 3 Tinder dates while en route to one.
In an age where meeting someone cute and new is as easing as binge watching How to Make a Murderer in one afternoon, we’ve gotten a bad case of dating ADD. We don’t give the same time and attention to getting to know someone anymore — and as a result — we go on an endless carousel of first dates because we don’t want to commit too quickly to the first person we really like. What about those 10,000 other singles waiting for me? I don’t know about you, but that just sounds exhausting to me.
The fact is, you’re probably going to go on a lot of first dates and that’s important! Some good, some bad, some downright scary. And then you’ll have a few GEMS, where you really hope to hear from them again. My two cents? Forget the games. If I’ve had a great date with someone and I hope they ask me out for a second, I’ll follow up (with a text) either that night or the following morning letting them know I had a great time and thanking them for the evening.
With any luck, they feel the same and if they don’t, at least you know you made it clear you were interested. There’s nothing worse than leaving something unsaid.
9. Speak your truth, the good and the bad and the ugly. I went on a series of dates with this guy in San Francisco late last year and I really liked him. Like really liked him. I thought we had good chemistry, never ran out of things to talk about, and hey, he was pretty easy to look at. So when it ended rather unceremoniously as most fresh relationships do (by someone just not responding anymore), I was disappointed and a bit crestfallen. I didn’t try reaching out after my last unanswered text and figured it wasn’t meant to be. I left it alone.
Fast forward a few months when I randomly reconnected with said former date and he informed me he actually did like me but was bummed I didn’t seem to feel the same way. Being confused, I told him I thought it was the other way around — I was convinced he wasn’t all that into me. And just like that, our games and “acting cool” had gotten in the way of two people who maybe liked each other, from actually liking each other.
Moral of the story? Don’t beat around the bush. If you like someone (or don’t), make it known (in whatever manner you’re comfortable with, of course). And if they don’t reciprocate your feelings, at least you can walk away knowing that you were honest with yourself and with them. You’ll respect yourself, as will they and you won’t have to sit around wondering, months later, “what if…?”
10. Don’t forget about the old fashioned ways of meeting people! This one is my favorite bit of advice, because let’s face it: you may have 20 apps on your phone, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore some of the people sitting right under your nose. Ask around your group of friends or maybe your coworkers (if you feel comfortable) if they have any single friends that might be a good fit for you. Chances are, they know your personality and their cute friend’s personality pretty well, that they’ll match make you better than Tinder can. Heck, I even had an ex-Tinder date set me up with his friend, and despite it sounding kinda scammy, it worked out pretty decently. We even dated for a few months!
And then there’s the super old fashioned way of meeting someone new: when you’re out and about in the city! I know that sounds easier said than done, because who really goes up to total strangers anymore to give them a compliment, but I assure you, it happens, and maybe you need to be the one who initiates it!
Case in point: just this past summer, I was walking Elvis around the neighborhood when a guy I didn’t know came up to me to tell me how much he liked my outfit. I was caught off guard but he made me blush, we continued to chat and, had I not been in a long distance relationship at the time, I would have given him my number. While it didn’t work out for obvious reasons, before we parted ways, I told him how much I appreciated him taking the time to go out of his way to come talk to me. And having been single since then, I think it’s something that should be paid forward. And I have on numerous occasions.
Because the bottom line is this: It’s not a matter of he said/she said and blaming the opposite sex for being too complicated, or too aloof, or too non-committal. After all, we’re all human beings looking for the same thing: companionship of some sort. So we should stop trying to outsmart, outwit, outmaneuver each other and ourselves and just be honest. Or as Aziz puts it:
“There’s something uniquely valuable in everyone, and we’ll be much happier and better off if we invest the time and the energy it takes to find it. But seriously, if the person doesn’t clip their toenails or wear clean socks, look elsewhere. There are plenty of options.”