The pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of one date that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out.
I’m sitting in my car. These things always start in my car, at least half an hour away from my usual stomping grounds; it’s my fault for setting the search radius to 20 miles. I’ve deluded myself in believing the reason I can’t meet a nice guy within my usual circumference is because there aren’t any. My head knows this isn’t true, but the $20 lipstick in my purse tells me to shut up.
Two years earlier, I sat on the floor of a friend’s dorm room, listening to her own Grand Tinder Adventure.
“If you’re wondering how hot you are on a scale from one to ten, get on a dating app,” she said, brushing my lashes with expensive mascara. “Those guys will tell you, and you know they’re being honest because they have nothing to lose.”
“What do you think I am?” I foolishly asked.
My friend rocked back on her heels, tilted her head and squinted. “Solid seven. Eight with the right makeup.”
Two summers and a college diploma later, my solid-seven-selfies are on every app in the game. There’s an app for classy strangers, another for a heightened chance of a meet-cute, one to find the not-totally-random acquaintance, and a Christian app to make my mom happy. I’m up to my ears in two-text conversations, brief written flirtations with a slew of men with names so generic that I can’t keep them all straight. My phone’s contacts are flooded with every spelling of “Josh,” “Matt,” and “Zac/h/k/ary,” the cache full of cheesy gifs and empty flirtation.
“I hate bad parents,” says Bachelor #1, sipping a lidless iced coffee through a straw.
“Do you have kids?” I ask politely.
“No, I just think bad parents are the worst.”
Bachelor #3 spends our second date loudly discussing his professional passion for the human colorectal system. It’s all very clinical, but the people seated inside the restaurant ask the waitress to close the window to the patio so they don’t have to hear about it. At the end of the date, he proves an equal amount of passion for low-concept frenching. We do not go for three.
Bachelor #6 spends our time together enthusiastically talking about the Biblical case for male masturbation. I happen to be running a 100-degree fever. Six months of silence later, he appears out of nowhere to like my Facebook profile picture, and I debate the social ramifications of a restraining order.
Sadly, it’s not until the seemingly perfect Bachelor #30 tells me that depression is a result of insufficient faith in God, that I hit the brakes. What, exactly, am I doing here? Am I really letting a stranger make me cry at a restaurant with a neon cow on the roof? I am a solid seven, dammit! An eight, with the right makeup! I want to leave, but I’m so desperate for a connection that I’m still hoping this night turns around– and for what? So Bachelor #30 and I can live happily ever after? Do I really think that little of myself?
#30 and I part ways semi-amicably, but that question nags me the whole ride home: why am I doing this? It’s not because I love ordering the cheapest thing at dive bar on a weeknight, or because my true passion is listening to secondhand stories from wild bachelor parties. I’m still not sure why that one guy felt the need to tell me his FICO score if he wasn’t going to call me. And then it dawns on me: I’m not doing anything.
For months, I’ve sat across from every guy age 20 to 29 in a 15 to 20 mile radius and pretended to invest in their lives, contributing virtually nothing but compliments and big-eyed, tight-lipped interest. Can I even name my top 3 favorite movies? I should really figure that out…
That night, I delete the apps one by one. First the one for classy strangers. Then, the meet-cute, and the one to make my mom happy. The mutual friends app emails me a few months later to let me know they’ve changed. I ignore them; I have a lot of movies to watch.
Melynda Malley is – in no particular order – a costume designer, vintage shopstress, comedy podcaster, toddler wrangler, freelance writer & ampersand enthusiast, who resides in the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not doing all that, sympathetic readers of this piece will be happy to know that she is also girlfriend to a lovely man whom she did not meet on an app.
Her colorful life-tornado is best followed on instagram @lyndigram.