This year, I learned to drink. Really drink.
Eight months ago, I had been inconvenienced by a broken heart, like it was an errand I needed to get out of bed on a Sunday morning for. Somebody somewhere said alcohol numbs the pain, so I consumed it as prescribed: every Friday and Saturday night at eleven. Patricia, my best friend, taken aback by the constant puffiness in my eyes—”Ah, so you can cry after all!”—had gone the extra mile and said there are 228,000 species of fish in the sea.
That’s how I love: in numbers and details and endlessly excruciating repetitions of words. It made logical sense to try and recuperate in the same manner.
It was then that I found myself on Tinder. Constructing my online dating profile made me anxious: What is my key selling point? Which pictures of mine are flattering but still realistic? Does my bio come off as pretentious? (Short answer: It’s Tinder—everybody is pretentious by default.) I sped my way through the first few guys that popped up and realized that Dora the Explorer had inadvertently predicted the future of millennial romance: swipe-or-no-swiping really was a game. Only now, instead of feeling triumphant afterwards, one is compelled to soberly self-assess. What am I doing here, really?
Three months in, I meet Daniel. He asks me about my favorite rappers and why I live on my own. I am clueless when I realize he’s taken to sending me routine good morning texts. I am out of my depth when I find myself asking him out on a date. We agree to meet that Sunday. I overthink and underprepare.
Midway through Wonder Woman he asks if he can hold my hand. I nod gingerly, secretly disappointed that for the first time in my life, handholding didn’t come up organically for me. Was I to go through the motions until I felt something that vaguely resembled kilig?
He seemed happy I said yes, and took the liberty of intertwining his fingers. I felt like a fraud. In the dim glow of the cinema, I thought about the parts of him I didn’t particularly like. He was shorter and skinnier than I thought, and his voice was on the tinny side. Then I thought about the parts of me he might not have liked—my stomach rolls, the bags under my eyes, my nasal laugh. The trouble with Tinder is its heavy, almost exclusive reliance on mutual scrutiny. If you can’t sweep somebody off their feet in under three seconds, you’re done for.
After a week and a half, I casually mention I’m seeing other people. He’s visibly wounded by this information and wishes me good luck, saying he didn’t want to be an “option.” He writes a blog post to blow off steam, then writes another blog post asking me to give him another chance, as if I’d rejected him in the first place. After a few more days of back-and-forth, and words that inspired genuine fear in me (“commitment” and “future” and “us”), he throws in the towel.
“I think you were the right feeling, but the wrong girl,” he begins.
“I’m afraid you didn’t like me for me, then,” I respond. I remind myself that I am a terrible person for allowing things to get this far.
Within 15 minutes of meeting this guy, I had already made up my mind. But I was afraid of hurting him the way other people had hurt me. In my naïve, willful stupidity, I had convinced myself being overly polite was better than just being honest. I guess that’s how you hurt people—by trying too hard not to hurt them.
I go on hiatus for a month, and then I meet Christian. This time it’s almost too good to be true. He checks in on me at a moderately comfortable pace, makes a real effort to understand what I do for a living, and calls to make plans in advance. Who calls in 2017?! Decent men, apparently.
We share a love for comic books and Game of Thrones. When I mention I’m in love with Jon Snow, he lights up, saying he’s always had a thing for Ygritte, which leads him to say that we’re meant for each other. It’s cute and romcom-like and utterly terrifying, because there’s got to be a catch here. Things are never this circumstantially perfect. Not for me.
Perhaps the quest for meeting The One, assuming the concept is reliable, was mysterious and exciting back when we had no idea how to find them. Today I am crippled by choice, frozen in place by the unknowing of it all. Tinder has gotten people married. Humans have been born into existence because of this tiny little square on my phone. But maybe my decision fatigue just means I’m far from ready.
I guess that’s how you stop finding people—by trying too hard to find them.