2019: Dating in the Land of Disposable Emotion Resulting in Temporary Dreams...
My report from the online dating battleground isn't great. For me, it is best described as the land of disposable emotion and temporary dreams. I am a seasoned online dater, lest you think that this is theoretical. In fact, I met my first husband online and while it didn’t work out - it was a relatively straightforward process and wasn’t all that bad.
It wasn’t all that good either.
I started virtually dating in the early 2000s, got married - 13 years passed - got divorced and returned to the online dating pool in 2015. 13 years changes a lot!
First my particular online dating pool has aged - the people I would choose to date - we have done a lot in those intervening 13 years. We likely married, had children, changed jobs a couple of times (maybe even career paths) and gotten divorced. So we are not the same people that tossed up an online profile 13 years ago. Back then it seemed like the bulk of people out there, men and women alike, were searching for their soulmates. Seemed as if we all still believed there was such a thing. It was a quest of sorts to find THE ONE. We all seemed to have the same objective: find our partner and settle down.
Now this was not everyone for sure - there were cads out there back then too but, from my experience, that was the exception not the rule. Today is a whole different story...
When I left my husband, we had not had sex in years. (If this is TMI - then skip 4 paragraphs down - it is going to get worse). Literally years. I won’t give it a number because it is just too depressing and honestly embarrassing. Now, there were many reasons for our lack of passion: it was never great to begin with, I had some deep seated issues that I allowed to founder, he was sick, our son was seriously challenging and was sick in a different way. There were lots of reasons that our love life failed but the cold hard truth was that I was never really all that attracted to him. He is a handsome guy and a kind person but he just didn’t do it for me. To be fair, I had not really addressed my own sexuality in any real way so I was “shut down”.
To sum up, we both loved each other but I don’t think either of us wanted to fuck each other. I mean throw-you-down-on-the-bed-hair pulling-smack your ass kind of sex. Nope not us!
So after years of having no sex life (even pretty much with myself) I was both terrified and longing. After about two months of sitting alone and fantasizing about what another man might feel like, I returned to online dating to put myself out there. It was WEIRD!
The first guy I slept with was a raging alcoholic that was living more like a 19 year old boy than a 50 year old man. Regardless it was sex and I was happy to be having it. I wasn’t looking for a relationship - I just wanted to get laid. Being a woman who tends to bond to those she is fucking, I got out of that one quickly because I did not want to stay with someone who was actively drinking himself to death. Been there - Done that - Not going back.
Thus began a string (ok can three be a string?) of online lovers. Hot, passionate and a lot of fun but no one that I really felt much for. I think I was just making up for lost time. I was like a kid in a candy store - there were so many options and willing partners sometimes it was hard to rule men out. I literally could be having sex with a new person every night of the week. That isn’t me so I didn’t do that but I could have - really any one can these days.
So I sowed some oats for awhile and I was really, really having a good time. Then I met HIM. (Those who regularly read this blog know who HE is). I won’t go into now but it was worth the pain that would come later. I spent the next two years trying to make that work (it didn’t) and then attempted to re-enter the online world with little success.
Was it me that changed or had the online world changed drastically in those two years? Turns out, both.
The woman who entered the virtual dating world in 2015 was not looking for serious - she was looking for fun. She had made decisions: raising kids and working was all she really had time for so she would find respectable men to have sexual relationships with and then she would move on to the next one when that one came to its inevitable end. I have to admit I was pretty fucking content with that arrangement (pun intended).
The men available to date in 2015 were fun and interesting and for the most part kind. They returned calls and said what they wanted. Most were pretty up front about whether they were just having fun or were looking for more. It was a pretty straightforward world. Of course, there were liars but I really didn’t encounter any. I was earnest and seemed to find matching men. I really had no bad experiences. On the whole, the relations that I had were mature, caring and loving in a non-committed kind of way. It was empowering and felt good.
Then there was the great love experience that forever changed me. I fell in love and I fell hard. There is no way that experience didn’t change me.
I spent a year grieving the loss of that relationship that I thought was going to be my last relationship. It was hard. In especially lonely times, I would throw up an online profile and see what I could find: a whole bunch of men that were not worth finding in the first place.
In the intervening three years it seemed that a lot had changed. Now there was “ghosting” to deal with. I get why people just disappear...it is easier - when you are trying to develop an intimate or at least sexual relationship with 30 different people - you just can’t have the “its not you, its me” conversation every damn day. So you just go away. Poof! Gone. Leaving the other person to wonder what the fuck just happened. Was it something I said, did, didn’t say, didn’t do? Total mind fuck. Dating expediency requires that you move the fuck on because someone better is in the next swipe...really, I am sure of it!
In fact, I would go so far as to say, that swiping ruined online dating. Not that it was the best in the first place but now you don’t even have to know anything at all about a person. Just swipe and decide their fate based solely on a photo. Left and they are gone forever and right to see what happens from there. If you are cheap (I was) then you never even have to deal with the people who like you but that you would never in a million years go out with - they don’t ever appear in your cue.
The swiping world has become the land of disposable emotion and temporary dreams. All people, men and women alike, are useable commodities, easily discarded for the next one. No real care or concern, no skin in the game, they almost aren’t even real (ok, there are some that really aren’t real) they are just faces on a screen miles away from you and your real life. They exist in cyberspace and can just be left there.
It is easy to conjure up stories about these faces on the screens. Those stories can go either way and frequently go both.
Scenario One: The possible You like his face, he likes your face. You exchange some texts that are not all that personal. Boring really. Mundane. A lot of the possible died for me right here. If they didn’t say or do something that caused me to pay attention they just became inbox fodder that caused my ego to think that I am way hotter than I actually am. The ones that made it beyond this initial text volley engendered a fantasy life for me. I would wonder if they were THE ONE. I would ascribe them certain characteristics based on the very limited information I had about them (not really ever accounting for if what they said was true). Each of these men would spin off in my head the same way: temporary dreams. Inevitably, the bubble would burst upon talking or meeting. It was no big deal. I could quickly return to swiping and whoever they were or I thought they were was also swiped away. Disposable emotion.
Scenario Two: The Impossible I leave this category for all the men that I never even gave the chance. I summarily swiped them off the face of my virtual world and never thought of them again. This universe was quickly over crowded with the hordes of men that started off in scenario one but were quickly relegated to scenario two. It doesn’t take long to swipe through all of the available men online and have not one single person you are interested in.
Now I am doing all of this and so are the men. We are all just out there seeking and spending less than 5 minutes attending to any one person unless they really catch our interest. Catching my interest was really hard to do because I could always believe that the right guy, the better guy was in the next stream of men. This endless cue begs to be examined ever so shallowly - it is addicting. Just keep swiping and you are sure to find something worth dating.
But, for me, the swiping just created the need for more swiping. Satisfaction and contentment existed in that next profile. Why should I settle for the guy that lives two hours away that is a little heavy in the middle when I can believe that Mr. Perfect is just a few swipes away?
In the end, I had to quit the online quest. It just reinforces the shallowness in me that I already have a hard enough time getting rid of... I had to quit seeking the disposable emotion and chasing the temporary dreams. I can’t get deeper by swimming only in the shallow end of the pool. I am not ever going to find someone of character when the accepted and encouraged MO is to ghost each other. I cannot believe in a system that is based upon quantity not quality. Even worse, the system supports me not looking all that closely to begin with...
That all being said, I kind of miss it. The thrill of all the likes and super likes (I never super liked anyone on purpose) but that didn’t stop me from believing that all the super likes I got were totally valid and deserved. The endless and contemporaneous options! I could be exploring how I might fit emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually (stop laughing) with 10 different men at the same time! So fun!
In the end it was just exhausting. I had to quit. I already have two full time jobs: mothering and working. Online dating requires a lot of time, commitment and fortitude. All things that I need just to get through my days without adding anything more.
On a more existential level, it made me an asshole. It reinforced my love for shallowness. It helped me stay light and broad and helped maintain this belief that others exist for my pleasure and convenience. I once said and meant “men are like tissues in a box - you take one out, blow your nose all over it, throw it away and viola! There is another waiting for you.” UGH! (See...ASSHOLE!) That is NOT what men are! They are people: real live human beings with feelings and thoughts and dreams and fears and needs. They are real and they deserve to be treated as such as much as I deserve to be treated as important and well.
I am never going to get anything real by taking fake things in a fake setting and pretending they are real. It is kind of like 3D printing fruit and then injecting it with flavoring: looks like fruit and may even taste like fruit but it is totally not fruit.
I don’t need or want 50 guys. I don’t want an endless stream of men passing through my life, my bed or vagina. I just want one. One that means the world to me. One that is worthy of committing to and being committed to me. One that wants a partner to ride the waves of life together. That is not what I found online dating to be about these days. From my experience, online dating is about NOW! Right now, getting what I want right now so that I can reject it and move on to the next one. It is the land of hungry ghosts that are constantly consuming everything in sight but are never satiated. Never satisfied.
I offer this opinion from no moral high ground - I seriously could do that consumption and not think another thought about it. Except that I have committed my life to having a spiritual experience. (Again, no moral high ground - I was given a choice - seek a spiritual life or perish...not really much of a choice). My spiritual life requires that I don’t just take the easy way. I don’t just seek the first thing. I question and seek to go deeper. I sometimes so wish that I didn’t have to live this way. Getting what I want right now would be so much easier and satisfying. In the final analysis, I have move toward the thing that scares me most - intimacy. Showing up in my life in my authentic skin. Letting you know me and taking the time to get to know you. None of that can happen NOW. It takes time, effort, commitment and a real willingness to be fucking uncomfortable a lot.
So for me online dating all boils down to this: I can’t keep showing up at the beauty pageant and getting pissed that I can’t win because all I have is the philanthropic portion. I got nothing for the swimsuit portion, the ballgown portion or the talent portion. And I am all pissed off about it. I have to consider my venue. Beauty pageants judge, that is what they do! I am the crazy one entering the damn contest and then being upset by the fact that the process that I have willingly engaged in lacks depth, authenticity and judges me for what I look like in a ball gown and swimsuit.
It isn’t online dating’s fault that I can’t find depth and intimacy. The fault is mine for taking something superficial and demanding that it be more what I want it to be. Online dating for me has become Amazon for men. There are a ton of options and sometimes if I take enough time to read the product description, I get a really nice product. However, most of the time, I spend little time reading and more time shopping and end up with about a hundred things in my cart that I don't want, need or sometimes even like!
I know that people find real love out there online because I did. But that was a long time ago - it is different now. You don’t have to get closer or more intimate with anyone because you can always just keep swiping and then when you find someone worth examining just a little closer you can do that until you find something you don’t like then poof you can vanish leaving no trace that you were ever there in the first place.
My personal conclusion: Online dating and I are a no go. It is a process that more fully develops a part of myself that I already don't like or find useful in my life: The Consumer. On the most superficial level, I am delightful, fun and attractive. However, on a more substantive level, I am something else all together...someone who has been historically afraid to be real. For me, I have had to quit the online quest and seek to know myself better. My lesson?
I've learned that I am a person who wants to leave a mark and be imprinted upon. I want to feel your presence and absence in full. I want to make an inedible mark on your soul and yours on mine. So I have to do something radical and different. I have to stop thinking that what I want out there can ever be produced on my cellphone or computer screen. I have to get out there in the world where I think real people still live. Where I think there are still people who are willing to do the work to risk being seen and really seeing. I have to put down the technology and live. I have to check my dreams and emotions and inventory them for superficial motives and then do the work to address my inadequacies. I have to stop pretending that an endless stream of humanity is ever going to satisfy me. I have to do the work to be satisfied in each moment as it comes. I have to believe that love is born of purity of heart, cleanliness of motive and integrity of action. I have to believe that there has to be more than a snap swipe right or left decision. I have to believe that something precious and rare cannot be obtain through the internet. I have to be willing to say no to the easy in order to get to the better. I have to be willing to move closer to myself so that I can come to be willing to know you at all. I have to wait and be patient and stop demanding to be entertained all the time. I have to be willing to see all people with value - who exist more than just for what they can provide me. I have to open to the idea that just because I can doesn’t mean that I should.
In the end, for me, it just can't be up to me. My only real job is to get out of the way and let whatever is happening in my life, unfold. I have to retire my belief that I am in charge and that me being in charge has ever gotten me where I wanted to go. I have to be willing to allow the temporal to pass and sit with my many uncomfortable but fleeting emotions. I have to stop being so willing to believe the disposable emotions that result in temporary dreams.
Good luck out there - may you find yourself in your dating quest and in that may you find everything you have ever wanted or needed.