Why I need to remind myself that online dating can be fun
As far as mating rituals go, the North American Millennial has it pretty easy. If I were, say, a male praying mantis, I’d probably get my head bitten off during sex. So, it could be worse.
Still, despite the relative dearth of cannibalism in our culture’s mating practices, dating isn’t really that fun for me.
I do it for the same reasons I exercise and vacuum my room: it seems like an essential part of being an adult. It makes me feel like I’m being proactive instead of letting life pass me by.
For a long time, I dismissed my aversion as the result of my own personal anxieties and neuroses (I never know what to wear, and I can barely make it 20 minutes without bringing up one or all of the Kardashians).
But as I watched my peers navigate the mucky, scummy swamp of dating apps, it became clear that a huge portion of the young and single were trudging just as reluctantly and joylessly through the dating process as I was.
The endless cycle of swiping and matching and chatting and dead ends and drinks and sex and ghosting and coffee and more swiping and more dead ends feels like being trapped on an eternal, emotional treadmill — but instead of toned legs and increased cardiovascular strength, you end up with commitment issues and a phone full of unusable numbers.
What exactly is so stressful about dating?
Barring acts of violence, the worst-case scenario for a date is that it’s comically bad. Maybe they smell like boiled cabbage, say that feminists are “man-haters,” or end up being your distant cousin. But even if what can go wrong does go wrong, at the end of the night, you can go home to your hummus and half-watched episode of Sherlock; no harm, no foul.
Best-case scenario, you meet someone who wants all the same things as you — whether that’s the occasional casual hookup, a committed monogamous relationship, or something else.
But I think I take dating too seriously because the worst-case scenario isn’t actually the comically bad one.
The worst-case scenario – the one we only admit to our shrink or the bottom of a bottle of wine — is that we like someone and they don’t like us.
The worst case scenario is that someone gets just below our skin enough to scrape at our insecurities – infecting us like some disease that makes us achy and feverish and fills our minds with hallucinations of romantic bliss – and then they look at us and say, “Meh. I’m alright, thanks.”
We’ve inoculated ourselves against this terrible eventuality by entering into dates covered in layer upon layer of defensive armor and, if you’re me, a pretty decent amount of Pinot Grigio that you spilled down your front while pregaming and repeating “Don’t bring up Scott Disick,” into the mirror.
I’m so worried about maybe, possibly getting hurt that, somewhere along the way, I’ve lost sight of the fact that dating is supposed to be…fun.
Dating isn’t just a means to an end; it can be an end in and of itself. Nervous laughter, slow smiles, subtle touches… It’s all strange and exciting and awkward and thrilling. Humans have been courting each other since the first caveman went up to his first crush and said, “Wanna go for drinks or something? Maybe stop for some mammoth?” We’ve been doing it for millennia and yet, if done correctly, a good flirt can feel groundbreaking.
Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life on a date, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have an amazing time, maybe you won’t. Dates shouldn’t be taken seriously. They should be undertaken with the same sort of whimsical open-mindedness with which one approaches a guilty pleasure movie:
In any case, you’ll get to engage in some harmless, shameless flirting and, unlike a male praying mantis, go home at night with your head intact.
Like I said – it could be much worse.