And now we’re…over it?
Yes. I think we’re all totally fucking over it.
Pandemic Underscores Retroactive Personal Growth in Cisgender Hetero Male Along His (sort of) Quest to (sort of) Date Again.
Help Me Help You: The Soloist, Part One.
Foot Shot Out The Gate
My ongoing takeaway of this current…mess, is that flexibility is key. Many things were cancelled or altered, but in the wake of these upsets, opportunity always lurks somewhere. A bit of humility is a part of the equation as well; I’m not running the show, I’m just a commentator with a loud microphone…that can be cut off at any time a la the Grammys. This was how I approached the slow way way back to some sort of paradigm even remotely helpful to readjusting into healthy practices. Which includes (online) dating. With a recommendation from a friend, I chose a platform, made a profile (shown further on in this piece), and put my flag in the ground with the tried-and-true instant turn-off. Casual.
Now why would I go and do a thing like that? Casual has a long, shady historic reputation; is everyone who claims this denomination a part of some unitarian church of emotionally broken, sexually unhinged alley cats with no standards and a deep-seated aversion to commitment? Please see super-detailed infographic shown below.
How Women (supposedly) See Casual Men:
How Men (supposedly) See Casual Women:
I chose to plant my flag in the ground that made the most sense. I understand the difference between a connection and an institution, and I was looking for an opportunity to be a part of a dialed-in co-op of possibility which builds from the ground up, not some acceptable rubric mark-up. I’m an artist, so I make them from project to project. I’m not in the Pokémon league per se, but neither am I for counting my chickens before they hatch.
Marking oneself as looking for a relationship is hardly a reliable indicator of stability, elevated morals or quality. Often times, people use it as civilian-grade camouflage against the prison floodlights of social stigmatism. Every person has their own reasons for what they choose, and quality comes in non-conforming packaging. Case in point, I came across quite a few profiles that proclaimed its user to be “ethically non-monogamous”. Times are changing, it seems – in en vogue increments. I mean, pardon me for saying, but that just sounds like a gentrified way to say casual (or a race of aliens in a 60’s Star Trek series episode; or some alternate reality qualifier in a prequel to Inception).
Choosers Can’t Be Beggars
I’ve become more selective (for many other reasons besides COVID, may it damned). So many things caused me to swipe left that I developed a western (my west, not yours) hemisphere callous on my thumb. Here’s the short list:
- Jumping in the air for some unanswerable/arbitrary reason.
- Photos-only profile. The more I have to wonder what type of person you are, the (rapidly) less attractive you become.
- Busted first picture. Someone put you up to this.
- Filters. Of any kind. I’m gonna be mighty disappointed when I don’t see dog ears sticking out of your head in person. Or super big, shiny-scrubbed eyes. It’ll just ruin the whole thing for me (isn’t that, like, 2016 anyhow?).
- Every photo is of you doing over-the-top, extra-extracurricular shit (re: asanas whilst dangling from the edge of a cliff, napping on sedated tigers, practicing Muy Thai in a semi-active volcano, et al.). Where exactly are we supposed to go from there, a cup of coffee, or…?
- One photo. You thought better of it, but didn’t have the heart to delete.
- Demands for someone with their “shit together”. Fun fact: people with their shit together have no need to shout it into an empty room (a fistful of professionally shot portraits in dinner gowns holding wine flutes are not a valid contribution of proof), nor do they need to demand that of others. Suspicious. I wonder: are your latrines set up to handle the waste you will inevitably/unavoidably bring to the table? Did you get a personal white glove check from Megan Thee Stallion? Did you include emotional and spiritual shit, too? Then I really start wondering: wouldn’t the Universe have blessed your shit-together head-ass already? Why are you still on here looking? Wouldn’t that— and before I know it, my OCD (obsessive compulsive deducing), a raging category 5 tornado of internalized side-bars has swept me up and away (after I’ve swiped left).
- “A” random/incongruous photo posing with “a” black person. Look, there’s no exacting reason you need to demonstrate token solidarity on a dating app; I’m pretty sure that memo from HR applied just to when work you’re at work.
On quite a few occasions the app politely, but I feel like, kinda still judging me, let me know I ran out of candidates and asked me to readjust my standards.
I can see from a certain point of view this level of particular seems odd. Yet, I consider this to be growth. You know, for all the truth there is to this being an aggressively patriarchal/phallocentric society, there are a lot of humans who are passively (or unwittingly) a part of this eroding set-up for no other reason than being born on whichever side of the gender line – in this case, male – and therefore subject to reinforcement of these ways of being via societal cues, peer pressure, tradition passed on/not corrected by older males, etc. I was no different. Over time, self-examination and reflection (and errors on e-R-r-O-R-S on E-R-R-O-R-Ssooooomanyerrors) exposed my modus operandi for what it was: a manufactured, gender story-dependent shame masquerading-as-pride-prompt to be challenged by the things I didn’t want. According to the story, I can change what I don’t like by sheer exertion of will, or tangible force. A no can become yes. Night can become day. Rejection can become opportunity. This founding seed of delusion has long been the gateway to the stereotypically negative male behavior towards women. Within a healthy/civilized context, many women appreciate a man who knows how to court and pursue…capture – but that’s not what I’m talking about. The catcalls, the threatening reactions in the face of rejection, the stalking, the physical violence and psychological abuse, the relegation of a whole human to the pop-up status of a t’ing that get the spotlight. While I’ve occupied the lower ends of this non-exhaustive toxicity spectrum, the fact is, I still occupied it by keeping my place on the conveyor belt as a cover-up to protect a societal-enforced context of my self-worth. There is truth to the axiom: people treat others how they treat themselves.
Piercing the Veil
What was honesty to digital distance? Like the boy who carried the butter on his head all the way home, by the time it reaches its destination, it’s not in the same form any more. Largely because honesty, conflated with truth, is subjective. You tell it how you see it, not how it is, and then honesty bleeds into its disrespectful neighbor, convenient truth. There was one potential match I made that progressed with a fair amount of velocity. We bantered for a bit, and before long she invited me to meet in person. Convinced that I was her type, she made sure I knew it; her hyper focus on external details (namely, my height) nagged me to double-check hers. She then admitted that her photos were not up to date. Naturally, I asked her for a few that were. She demurred, making excuses and deflections that echoed long after my simple request. From there, what seemed like a storied connection unraveled. If you haven’t deduced by now, I can be a cheeky SOB, especially when I feel my mettle – or even more egregious, my intelligence – is being challenged.
“Look, queen,” I texted, “I’m gonna tell you straight that I don’t eat catfish, and if you bringing it to me, I won’t even touch the plate.” The music grinded to a needle-scratching halt that preceded a figurative, neck-swiveling tirade (well, had I allowed it to build steam; I mashed the un-match button and kept it moving) that killed any possibility of connection. The exchange was short, but the message was clear. How dare I?
The conveyor belt analogy I mentioned earlier isn’t just reinforced by the male portion of society, and vice versa. People as a whole may be blind, but they aren’t dumb. We have been trained to accept what is given as what is, and within the framework, to make it work for us the best we can even if things aren’t that great. Each side keeps the other trapped in these roles, and for a variety of reasons. My role is a utility, and my purpose alongside a woman is to be useful, and grateful to be useful (because it doesn’t have to be me, the line is long, etc.). By all accounts this was a gift horse, no? I basically discouraged a sale from a willing customer (her) wanting to buy a product (me).
As I dismantle this paradigm for myself, some things began to make more sense in the outside world. Most powerfully, I now see the dating arena as a customer’s market; there are TWO customers, no product. In this space, each gathers to see how their worth is measured and reflected against where they are emotionally, intellectually and sensorily within a perception of how others exist based on what they choose to show. Which direction one swipes is determined by what one feels measures up to where one’s aspirations are, not one’s reality. And if one’s reality is not calibrated in a compatible way, then that match will always be out of reach. Casual starting to make sense yet?
The era of the op-ed length profile is over, never to return, which is a shame because I enjoyed reading those. The bid for relevance is now mandated by the governing body of 500 characters. Trying to stuff substance and depth into such a small space is challenging; not everyone is a writer (I think in my case, that might have made it worse). See my attempt below:
Crickets are the best compliment – don’t ever let anyone tell you different.
Now what kind of compatibility was I up against? Take a look at some of the profiles that I came across in the ocean of personality bites and judge for yourself. These are from actual women. Tap the icons below to enlarge. You probably won’t want to miss a word.
Ax’ing For a Friend
What’s that you ask? Have I had any luck? To quote the sage advice of DMX (may he rest in power) twenty-two years past but still relevant today: mind ya business, lady. The experience of making an effort in spite of this figuratively barren landscape was reward enough. It gave me the jolt of reality that I needed. National trauma aside, people are still people, and nothing really changes that. Well…maybe something. My love language is physicality; tactile stimuli helps me intuit genuine/valuable experiences and in this socially distanced/remote-mandated world, I feel a bit caged in. The illusion of closeness in this kind of environment is at least a small comfort to a lot of people, whether they’re serious about finding a match or not. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can appreciate the irony of the much more serious risk to life and limb with one’s clothes on.
This new landscape is here to stay a while. The worth here is that someone is always on the other line and all you have to do is have patience. Stripping away the demands, the fears and false perceptions from truth, in the end, what are we ever really looking for in others? Proof of life? Of value? Of substance, worth? Most of us really don’t know, and are not honest about that ignorance. With everything that’s been going on, I come away with a fair amount of gratitude. Others have not been given the opportunity to be appalled, entertained, amused, humbled, wisened, annoyed, and head-over-heels (last one is pending).
Aaaand…please, enjoy this gem on the way out:
“Bumble needs to make the site traditional where men chase the women. This is exhausting.”
Yes, queen. Totally fucking over it.