Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Disappearing Acts, Unmatching, and What I Really Want

Recently, I had a nightmare that I was getting married. I couldn't see my groom's face; he was turned away from me in the dream. My mother was in the dream, and she was thrilled that I would no longer be an "old maid" (one of her favorite insults for me ever since I entered my thirties). The church was full of smiling people who were all happy for me, and all I could feel was a sense of dread and the realization that this wasn't what I wanted. In the dream I started walking down the aisle towards my groom, and then I woke up, relieved that it wasn't real.

My dream more or less confirmed something I've suspected for a while now but didn't want to admit: I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone. I'm not saying that I never want a boyfriend, but I've been on my own for so long that I've grown accustomed to my independence. I like that when I got the job in College Town, I was able to just pack up my stuff and go. I didn't have to consider how it would affect my significant other because I didn't have one. I like that if and when I get a new job and leave College Town, I can just pack up my stuff and go. There's a sense of freedom in being single, and I'm not prepared or willing to give it up...at least not yet.

I think that's one of the things that drew me to the Model. He made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't looking for anything too serious and that he just wanted to have fun. And it was fun with him, until I developed feelings for him, texted him that I wanted to see him again, and he never answered.

One thing I've observed about dating in my thirties is that it's very different from dating in my twenties or my teens. When I was in my twenties and still living in Chicago, people dated because they just wanted to have fun. But I didn't get to have fun in my twenties, not really. While other people were barhopping or clubbing and staying out all night, backpacking across Europe, or taking cross-country road trips with their friends, I was going to graduate school and working three jobs. I taught at various schools around the city and worked retail jobs, where I regularly resisted the urge to bitch-slap rude customers and twenty-two-year-old supervisors on power trips.

While I definitely have no desire to go clubbing and stay out all night (especially not when I have to teach an 8 AM class the next day), at the same time I just want to go on dates and have fun. (But I feel like since I'm 36, I'm not supposed to say that and am supposed to be looking for someone to settle down with.) And as far as having children goes, I think of it as like winning the lottery: it'd be a wonderful life-changer, but it's okay if it never happens. And I'm not going out of my way to buy lottery tickets.

Now that I'm in my thirties, most of the guys my age that are on the dating scene are divorced and/or have children. The Artist and the Musician were both divorced with children. I'd never dated anyone with kids before, and it's hard to picture myself as someone's stepmother. Whenever I try, I just get this image of myself as one of those wicked stepmothers from a fairy tale, talking to a mirror while stroking my pet raven.

On both Tinder and Bumble, you can only message (it's basically the equivalent of texting, unlike the e-mails that are exchanged on eharmony and match.com) someone if you "swipe right" on each other. On both apps, you can choose to "unmatch" people that you've matched with if you change your mind. What often happens to me is that I'll match with a guy, and if I send a message, he won't answer or will unmatch me soon after. I can't help wondering if maybe my age (36) is working against me, since I know that most guys, including the ones my age, prefer younger women.

Sometimes, the guy will initiate the conversation, but then he'll disappear for days without saying goodbye, and then he'll suddenly pick up the conversation where we left off. Recently, I got messages on Tinder and Bumble from guys who disappeared in the middle of our chats three weeks ago, and then messaged me again without apologizing for or explaining their prolonged absence. I didn't answer and unmatched them.

Another thing I've noticed about guys in their late thirties and forties is that a lot of them want to be in relationships ASAP, and they'll reject me in the middle of our conversations (or sometimes I'll unmatch them if the conversation gets too intense) because I don't want what they want, like this one guy I'll call Loverboy. Here's an abridged version of our chat:

Loverboy: So what are you looking for on this site?

Me: I'd just like to meet new people and go on dates. You?

Loverboy: I'm looking for my SOUL MATE. I want to find a woman that I can adore and spend the rest of my life with. Does that sound good to you?

Me: Um, well, I'm not  ready to be in a serious relationship right now, but I'm not opposed to being in one eventually.

Loverboy: Well, then you're not the one for me because I don't want to love somebody who won't love me back.

Me: Aaannnd we're done here.

It's one thing to go on a dating site looking for love, but I think it's weird to say something like that in the first conversation with someone you haven't even met in person yet. My reaction to guys like that is similar to the reaction that most guys would have if I posted a picture of myself in a wedding dress in my profile with a tagline that reads, "Now all I need is a groom!" or if I posted a picture of myself holding a baby doll with a tagline that reads, "I can't wait to hold my real baby."

What I want is to go on casual dates with several guys, get to know them, and then figure out which one I like most and am most compatible with. And it's fine with me if they date other women, as long as they're not already in serious relationships and want ME to be the other woman (THAT would NOT be fine). But I'm not sure how to convey that to the guys who ask, "So what are you looking for on this site?" I figure that it will take time, at least several weeks, for me to figure out which guy I like best, but the problem is that a lot of the guys on these sites want to get serious sooner rather than later. I suspected that one reason the Artist texted me every night wasn't just because he wanted to get to know me; he wanted to keep tabs on whether or not I was on dates with other guys.

I'll keep my Bumble account open for now, but I deleted my Tinder account (though I might reactivate it later), partly because these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for me and I need a break. And partly it's because of Tinder profiles like the one below (which I initially thought was fake but it included the guy's pictures, so methinks he was actually serious):

After seeing THAT profile, all I could think was, "Aaannd I'm done here."

What about you? When it comes to relationships (as Carrie Bradshaw would say), what do you really want? How would you answer the question "What are you looking for on this site?" if you weren't ready for a relationship but didn't want a casual hookup either?


  1. My thoughts: A person can be happy and fulfilled without being in a relationship. And if a relationship does develop hopefully it will only magnify that happiness.
    Have a jolly day.

    1. Hi Sandra,
      I wish my parents, particularly your mother, shared your perspective. She's convinced that I'll never be happy unless I'm in a relationship. But I do agree with you. Even though it would be nice to have someone special in my life, at the same time there are several other things that make me happy.

    2. Oops, I just reread my comment and realized I wrote your mother when I meant my mother. Sorry about that!

  2. I think the problem with conversations like the one with Loverboy is deciding you will fall in love rather than let it develop naturally - it leads you down the wrong path, in my opinion. Going out, having lots of fun, will eventually throw you into the path of someone you like enough to fall in love with. I think you're on the right path :-)

    Merry Christmas, NW, and a fantastic New Year!

  3. Hi Annalisa,
    I know, right? People like Loverboy put too much pressure on not only themselves but everyone they're interested in dating. I think it's partly a cultural thing; around here most people marry young, so the people who don't feel self-conscious about it. That makes some of them, like Lovely, even more anxious to get married.
    If and when I do fall in love, I want it to be with someone who doesn't expect me to spend hours talking to him every night and who has his own life, but also makes me an important part of it. And of course, I would do the same for him.

    1. Oops, I meant Loverboy, not Lovely. Darn autocorrect.

    2. Lol, I thought you were on nickname terms already ;-)

  4. Loverboy sounds straight up loco in the coco. Deciding you absolutely must fall in love before you can even go on a date? That's a lot of expectations you're gonna have let down, dude.

    But I think there's a lot of advantages to finding fulfillment in just yourself. Looking for fulfillment only from a relationship will definitely let you down really quickly for sure. It honestly sounds like you understand what you want from yourself and any potential boyfriends/relationships, which I think is awesome.

    1. Hi Caitlin,
      I'm sorry for my late response; I was traveling all day on Friday and didn't have time to sit down to blog until today.
      Loverboy was definitely weird; I mean, it's one thing to want to fall in love, but it's something to automatically reject someone who doesn't want to rush into a relationship with him before meeting in person. Major red flags there.
      All of these online dating experiences have definitely helped me develop a better understanding of what I want and don't want. I know one thing for sure: I don't want to date anyone who tries to make me commit to a relationship before I'm ready, because I think that's a sign of controlling behavior. That's one of the things that turned me off about the Artist. Most of the guys I met before him were fine with just exchanging a few e-mails and then setting up a date, but he wanted to talk every night before we even met. It was too much too soon, and it (and he) was annoying.

  5. If I ever found myself single, I'd want exactly what you want - dating a lot of people and having fun and not putting pressure on anything to develop into a relationship. But I bet that's hard to communicate on the dating sites without it sounding like all you want is a series of random hookups. Good luck figuring it out so you can connect with the right kind of guys.

    A lot of men are needy and looking for a woman to take care of them. After my friend's dad died a few years ago, her 70-year-old mother immediately had widowed men in the neighborhood after her! She knew it was just because they wanted her to cook & clean for them, so she told them all to flake off. Women are so much better at being independent than men.

    1. Hi Nicki,
      I'm sorry about my late response; I've been blogging much more sporadically lately. Sorry about that! That's interesting about what happened to your mother; I admire her for standing up to all those guys. And I think you're right about women being independent; if and when I form a relationship with a man, I'd want him to be independent as well, rather than have him expect my life revolve around him (I would stay far away from a guy who has those kinds of expectations). I think that some guys think that because I'm 36 that means I want to get married and have children sooner rather than later, but I don't. I want to get to know the guy I'm dating first before we make any kind of commitment to each other.

  6. That profile is so creepy! Ugh. No wonder it's difficult to meet normal interesting fun people!

    1. Hi Deniz,
      I know! I think that guy is the ultimate narcissist, or maybe he's just stupid.