As my curly bob falls out of my ponytail at 5 am, I can’t help but think back to my high school self. She used to try and sneakily watch midnight episodes of Sex and the City, idolizing the cosmopolitan lives of Samantha, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte. Now, she’s morphed into the be-careful-what-you-wish-for cliché. Midnight rendezvous and falling in love too quickly are a lot less erotic when the scene doesn’t cut to brunch with friends after, but instead to you, lying in bed as tears run down your face. Although Carrie was always my least favourite, I’ve become her in more ways than I’d like. Driven by emotions, reeking of cigarette smoke, and constantly thinking back to the last meaningless encounter with Mr. Big—in my case, Mr. Bad-for-me.
And trust me, the irony of writing this article isn’t lost on me either.
When I rejoined the world of online dating this time around, I was sure I was ready. My expectations were low, my optimism high, and my libido at a healthy middle ground. Little did I know how unprepared I was for the headaches and heartache that were to come. This wasn’t my first time giving online dating a try, and at the young age of 22, I was actually cocky enough to think that I understood the games to come. Two tumultuous months later, I am 20 pounds lighter, my GPA is a whole grade below where it usually stands, and my phone is full of questionable screenshots.
This no-prerequisite class of How to Date in Toronto in 2017 was by no means a bird course. But not all of my experiences were negative either; I walked away from my now-defunct profile with experience and plenty of great stories. I learned way more than I signed up for and had some great laughs along the way, so I think that it’s time for me to pass on my lessons like a textbook PDF so that nobody who reads it will have to pay after me.
The sexaholic taught me how to be an addictive kisser (Mr. Bad-for-me’s words, not mine). I also learned that if sex is bad in a car, it will be equally disappointing in a hotel room (quality > quantity). He taught me that when a man says all the right things, he’s got all the wrong intentions. He also showed me what pure lust feels like—that dopamine rush kind of passion that has you running energetically on two hours of sleep each night because you feel giddy all the time, and where raging hormones have you nauseously eating tiny portions of food whenever you can force yourself. And, finally, he taught me how liars react when you confront them about their wives. Hint: if he has to go see his sister at 11:30 on a Friday night and doesn’t let you come over because of his “crazy roommate,” you’re the other woman.
He taught me that no matter how romantic the first date is and how memorable it is to be caught getting hot and heavy on Lakeshore by two police officers, you can’t force chemistry. I always knew that I have to be mentally stimulated by people to feel sexually attracted to them, but this situation taught me that it’s also true backwards: someone physically attractive can become repulsive to me when they are intellectually lacking. The guy told me on the second date that I knew 90 per cent of his life, so I thought, why keep dating at all!? To my surprise, I learned that people with no personalities do exist, and they point this out in their online profiles with the phrase “good listener” (This is code for awful conversationalist with no opinions).
He taught me that an intimate bond can be formed over a few phone calls before you ever meet. By sharing your deepest and darkest thoughts with someone before you ever see them face to face, you create an ideal character on the other end who can’t possibly live up to the reality. He was supposed to be the Clyde to my Bonnie. The worst part is when they play into the character—sometimes they woo you with romantic promises, and sometimes they say phrases dirty enough to be forever burned into your fantasy. But when you meet them, they always fall short. They are shy and the date is platonic, except for that one sexy moment that you accidentally bump elbows.
As for the workaholic, Mr. Bad-for-me, well, that one I’m still processing. A friend once said to me that a relationship really isn’t that hard, that it requires people who are attracted to each other and are on the same page, and now I realize that we only had one of the two down. It was my first true rejection, where I was vulnerable and wanted only him, but he wasn’t interested in anything serious. Our final words were something along the lines of: “Maybe if we meet sometime in the future, things will play out differently.” It would have been easier to get in a huge fight and storm out, but I couldn’t to do it, and somehow I still hold out hope of bumping into him ten months or ten years from now and picking up where we left off.
He taught me that there are men out there who, at this point, I thought where myths. Men who can keep up with me, who are smart and accomplished and charming. He also reminded me that the people we fall in love with never come in the packages we thought that they would: they look, sound and think differently than we fantasized. He made me realize that strangers from different corners of the Earth can have their lives intertwine perfectly for a moment and then unwind just as quickly. The specifics of conversations and order of events fade, but details like the gentle bump on his nose or the way he kissed my neck still haunt me. This is not to say that it was love; at best, it was an infatuation, and I’ve always been one to confuse chaos with passion. He also reminded me that sometimes coincidences and dreams are just that, and not signs from the universe. The phrase ‘right person at the wrong time’ keeps playing over and over in my head when I think of how he’s working all hours to extend his work visa, but then this thought is trumped by the classic “maybe he’s just not that into you.”
As days go by, even the second idea gets overturned by a healthier inner voice which declares that the reason doesn’t matter, that he missed out on something great, and to move on and not fight for people who wouldn’t do the same for you. Letting go was my only option, because continuing what we had would be like investing in a house which wasn’t for sale. Now I just wait for time to heal my wounds, and for the day when I stop looking for his smile in crowds. Am I just a hopeless romantic looking for love in the wrong places?
I know of two long-term relationships which came from online dating, but I still maintain that OkCupid should be renamed OhConfusion. Maybe the problem lies in the abundance of options and easy access to the next best thing. Or maybe online dating takes away a unique piece of attraction that comes from meeting someone in an unexpected way: the chase, the tease, the spontaneity, the originality. Many conversations online echo one another, and there are only so many coffee shops in the city to take your first dates.
Then again, maybe online dating would benefit from support groups.
In the end I left not because of the strange characters I encountered (believe me, you haven’t even heard about Eli the penis guy), but because I didn’t like the character I was becoming. I entered with the purest of intentions, swearing to only treat others the way I’d want to be treated, but this last week I’ve found myself ghosting, replacing, rotating and using people. The online dating world sucks you in and has you become an advertisement of yourself, a product for others to admire, try out, and return at no cost besides their time. No wonder men lie about their heights and jobs and women lie about their appearance and age on here. For a minute, I forgot that there are people behind the user- names—people who have baggage and real life worries and hopes the same way I do. After a few months’ hiatus, when I have time to process everything that went down this semester, I might try the route of paid online dating and see if that scene is any different. But for now, I need to put this successful distraction on the back burner as I figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Before I do, though, I’ll finish off with a final bit of wisdom that I picked up: never lower the standards you set for yourself or for what you deserve from others.
All images courtesy of Sabine Osmann-Deyman