I’d like to begin by saying that the article you are currently reading is not the article I intended to write. The article I was intending to write was going to be a rallying cry for independent women everywhere (“Text your crush! Eat the cake! Buy the shoes!”) — but the article you’re reading is being written with a side of bourbon whiskey and a serious dose of humbling honesty.
Let’s back up a little. You may remember me as the girl who went all in on online dating (or you may remember me as the girl who said “bag” no less than 25 times in a 3-minute video… either one is fine). Back in February 2017, I embarked on a modern woman’s journey to find love — no, I was not the Bachelorette, but I did come close. I spent one full month actively using five different dating apps at once.
While it was a fun experience and a great story (if I do say so myself), nothing of substance came from it. What did happen, though, was that I became VERY burnt out from communicating with men — after the month was up, I quit all dating apps cold turkey.
So that was two years ago — and I have gone on a VERY minimal amount of dates since (I told you I was going to be honest!!). There have been a few blind setups, an is-it-a-date-or-is-this-friendship-did-he-just-touch-my-lower-back situation, and… nothing else. While I’ve been working, sleeping, going to spin classes I really can’t afford, and brunching my way through Chicago, my friends and peers have been dating up a storm — something I didn’t think I was missing, until I realized that I was.
All that being said, about a month ago I decided that I was officially ready to open myself back up to the dating game. “You can’t complain about something you aren’t actively trying to fix,” I’d preach to all my friends. Time to take your own advice, Ab — get back on the horse (and by “horse,” of course, I mean “dating apps”).
Never one to half-ass anything, I decided that the only way to effectively get back in the ring was to jump in with both feet (am I mixing metaphors?). While I was going to commit to only one app (Bumble), I did want to take it seriously — I made a vow to start up a conversation with every single guy I matched with.
It’s kind of a common theme among us Dating App-ers™ to swipe for the instant gratification alone (“It’s a match! Gosh, I am so hot.”) And while there’s certainly a place for that, simply matching and then never following up is no way to meet a partner. (It’s a great way to get a little ego boost — but not to form a connection.) You know what I mean — you’re swiping away, then going through your matches to see who liked you. It’s very validating (in an admittedly shallow kind of way), but it often stops there.
THIS is what I’ve been working on avoiding — and instead giving every single guy a chance (or at least every single guy I had already matched with). If I’m remotely attracted to him, there could be something there — right?
So what did that look like?
Alright, a quick background for those of you unfamiliar with Bumble. First thing first: you make a profile — it’s a bunch of photos of you, a few details like your height, religious and political preferences, job, hometown, and a spot for a quick bio. Once you set up your profile and your preferences (more on that in a minute), you’re faced with profile after profile of eligible people. On each profile, you have the option to swipe your screen either left or right — left means “no thanks,” right means “yeah, I’m interested.” If two people mutually swipe right, they’re a match — and the woman gets the opportunity to start the chat (in the case of women matching with women, either woman is able to start the convo!).
All that being said (as great as it is to not get creepy “U up?” messages bombarding your inbox), it’s a LOT of pressure to always start the convo. I armed myself with a LOT of openers, prepared to blow the minds of the men of Chicago with my wit and charm.
K Abigail now let’s get to the good stuff.
I started off guns-a’blazing, but with a catch. My 5’9″ brother would kill me for what I’m about to say (and for what I just said, sorry Josh), but I set my restrictions to only give me guys who were above 6′ tall and ALSO matched my religious values. It was a tall order (get it), but I wanted to narrow my pool to serious applicants only.
In a move that should shock no one, my narrow parameters did not prove super fruitful, and I grew super frustrated. I matched with a handful of lovely guys, but I wasn’t packing a punch. This was my first Red Flag (Red Flag capitalized because it will be important later in the story).
My second Red Flag started even after I expanded my parameters. The boundaries widened, opening up an influx of eligible (and smart, and handsome, and successful) bachelors — but I still felt like I wasn’t hitting the mark. I was boldly opening the convo — but literally nothing was piquing my interest (Red Flag No. 2).
Until, of course, something (or someone — dun dun dun) did.
His name was (and still is — he is not dead) Kevin (it’s actually not — I changed it to protect his anonymity, lol) — and we hit it off LITERALLY instantly. I was in quite a groove with my opener — I’d either ask “What was the best thing that happened to you this year?” or (depending on the time of day and my mood) “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” For Kevin, I started with the latter. His wit was palpable, our banter was immediate, and I was, frankly, smitten. He was cute, hilarious, and SO nice — after hours of in-app chatting, he promised to be in touch again. I was ecstatic. (I literally couldn’t sleep that night and my resting heart rate was about a solid 170 bpm. Slightly dramatic, but you get the picture — I took like 20mg of melatonin to get myself to sleep.)
Long story short, the banter moved to texting and lots of long convos. I hate to admit it, but I officially stopped “talking to every guy I matched with” (k you caught me, the headline is kind of a lie). Without even meeting him yet, I was all in. “It feels really different,” I proclaimed after three glasses of pinot. After two weeks of flirty texting, he asked me on a real date.
LONG STORY LONG, the date was good. We spent two hours eating weird foods neither of us had ever had before, laughing so hard we couldn’t catch our breath, and mentioning small details the other had mentioned weeks before — I was floored that someone could make me laugh this hard AND seem so thoughtful. His Uber came quickly so our goodbye was rushed, but I left feeling really glad we had finally met.
So then why did I immediately call my best friend on the walk home — and tell her it was “weird”? Red Flag No. 3.
Kevin and I are still talking (and he literally might become either the father of my children OR “that guy who got me to try octopus that one time”) — but, as long-winded as this story has been, Kevin is not the thesis statement of this story. The thesis statement of this story, in fact, has nothing to do with Kevin at all (it’s about me, which is allowed as I am the writer of the story) — and it’s also about you too.
You wouldn’t still be reading this story (and maybe nodding along) if you weren’t also in the middle of some kind of a confusing dating situation (or maybe you’re just entertained by the dating stories of single people, that’s fine too) — or if you haven’t been in one (or several) in the past. SO MANY OF US have felt uncertain, or unfulfilled, or unsatisfied in a number of dating situations — and I’m here to tell you that’s okay.
I wanted to write a story telling you that it would feel empowering to start dozens of conversations with hot strangers, and it DID — but it also didn’t. I wanted to write a story telling you that it’ll all be worth it when you match with that one person who makes your heart skip a beat, and it IS — but it also isn’t. I wanted to write a story that ended with me becoming Andi Anderson to someone else’s Benjamin Barry — and maybe I did, but realistically, I maybe didn’t. And I’m here to tell you that that’s okay.
You can go into a dating app (or a blind date, or speed dating, or just a Friday afternoon spin class) with ALL the right goals and it could still leave you feeling lonely. You could ALSO go about your damn life without a second thought to dating at all — and meet a smokin’ stranger in line for coffee who makes you so happy you forget your own name. There’s not a right or wrong way to date, so long as you feel comfortable — and a little bit uncomfortable too. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone by chatting with all those guys, by moving from the app to actual phone numbers, and by going on a real date — and if all I got out of that was the knowledge that I might have a few walls up and dating might be more of a challenge for me than I previously thought, then THAT’S WORTH IT.
Just because a situation doesn’t give you immediate butterflies, or isn’t exactly what you pictured, or isn’t OMG-THIS-IS-IT-CALL-OFF-THE-SEARCH, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a future — and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile.
When it comes to dating, sometimes the positive outcome is a happy relationship with the person of your dreams. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, the positive outcome is an even happier relationship with yourself.