Finding Love in the City: Entry 1 – The App Game

I find myself wondering who genuinely still has their ringer on in 2022. Most people I know have their smartphones set to silent or vibrate, less the barrage of notifications interrupt the space around you. Grocery stores. At home watching a movie. Allowing yourself to disconnect for a few moments – only opening your phone and checking messages when you want to, versus when your phone tells you to.

For someone like me, who uses social media for work, keeping my ringer on isn’t an option unless I’m genuinely expecting a call. 5 Twitter accounts. More than a dozen Facebook pages. So many Instagram accounts, I can’t log into them on the app at all times. Two Snapchats. Four TikToks. At one point, my Samsung asked me if I need all four hundred of the apps I have downloaded.

I assured it that it did. And then I downloaded more.

*bzz*. My phone has completed an update. I’ve got it charging in the room next to me. Its install is complete, and it’s already going off. I tried deleting Facebook messenger to get away. I now I have two versions of the app.

My mother asked me how I felt about having the “tap” available for banking. I told her that losing my phone would be akin to losing my purse. My car. My phone is every much as important as my Chromebook or my keys. Safe to say, I know where it is.

*bzz*

If the cosmos are right, you’re supposed to give yourself a chance to heal from a recent break-up in a golden formula they’ve set out – one week for every month you’re together. *Checks notes*. I’m right on schedule.

Hit up the Playstore to the old favourites. Tinder. Sure. OkCupid, no. Plenty of Fish – fuck no. Oh, what’s this? Hinge? You can barely escape a website or any app without it flashing an ad. Okay, Hinge it is. Download complete. Set up your profile. Add a photo. No, more. More. Add a … a what? A voice note? The fuck is this? Skip. Skip. Skip. Your profile is only 64% completed.

*bzz*

What’s cruel and unkind to be single in your forties is simply that – single in your forties when you had no desire to be single. Not one of my previous relationships did I walk into thinking – yes, the intention here is to end up single. Though when you’re 25, and your waist is tiny, and you’re still miles away from becoming the jaded, foul-mouthed, self-conscious misfit of your forties, being single is exciting, thrilling, and welcomed. Especially if you’re a single parent like I was. A single Mom, handling her singleness ways with her independence lapel affixed firmly to her outerwear like a badge of honour. And you show up at the bridal showers, and the family get-togethers, and you use your single self as a weapon – self-depreciating jokes about divorce lawyers, and getting another stamp, the next failed marriage is on them. Making light of the fact that you’re still so young, and unattached, and your custody arrangements are rock solid and in place, and suddenly being single isn’t so bad. It’s actually pretty fucking awesome. You can make decisions. You can walk slowly or run quickly into relationships and leave them just the same. Your bounce-back is boundless. You are confident, and quirky, and strong, and unforgettable.

Until suddenly you’re forty and running away from relationships becomes less you leaving, and more you feeling alone. And now you’re looking back on all the mistakes that were made, and the what you could have done differently-s, and you wonder – is this where I am now? And do I have the strength to start over again, when the first few chapters of “starting over”culminated in a few extra pages of a nightstand book, but now I have enough run-on to complete a novel?

Then – the dance. Do I want an LTR? And for those who aren’t embroiled in the stew of dating games, and apps and acronyms – LTR = long term relationship. Do I want to meet someone, just to end up single all over again? What do I really want? Start from the beginning. What don’t you want? Let’s go from there and build. I don’t want a hook up, I tell myself. Sex is fantastic, and great, and wonderful. But a hook up? Come on, now. I know me too well.

*bzz*

There it is. The little fire sign that gleans at the top of the screen, next to the messenger notification, and the battery life. It shines at you, and your heart skips a beat. “Someone likes you!” it proclaims in its gamey-fashion. The dance has begun.

There it is. The little fire sign that gleans at the top of the screen, next to the messenger notification, and the battery life. It shines at you, and your heart skips a beat. “Someone likes you!” it proclaims in its gamey-fashion. The dance has begun.

Thinking back to the relationships I had in the past, I start to wonder how many of these apps actually lead to the relationships I actually found myself in. And I think only one time did I find myself in a meaningful partnership based off someone I found online. So, what’s going to be different this time? Especially when the dating pool begins to shrink, when you’re forty, and jaded, and frustrated.

God bless my mother, who repeatedly asks me where I am in my romantic life and endeavors. The poor woman has three girls – two of whom are happily married and committed, with children running at their feet. I, on the other hand, have always steadfastly consumed her with worry and dread. She meets someone, she loves them. I love them. It doesn’t work out. We start again. My propensity for walking away from relationships that don’t fulfill my soul just boggle her mind. My parents have been together since they were sixteen – defying odds. And in my mind – defying logic. They are two teens at heart, who ride motorcycles and take vacations together. They defend one another, handle life together. They have only ever been each other’s only. And that works for them. At one point in my life, I wondered if my rebelling against the longevity of relationships was based solely on not wanting to become my parents. And that “will to leave” became the Achilles heel of all I’ve become today – single at forty.

*bzz*

So where do you begin. It starts with the apps, and then forges into your “best foot forward”. Strategizing your uniqueness into what you’ll reveal early, what you’ll save for later dates. What you’re willing to spill now. Trying to follow the life lesson’s of yesteryear. What if they ask about my past relationships? What boundaries are you allowed to put up? What deal-breakers are you allowed to create? Wants kids. No. Lives 65km away. Lives with parents. Doesn’t drive. No? No? No? Are you starting to become too picky? Are you asking too much? Are you the one who’s driving the dating pool into the shallow end? What are you willing to bend on? What do you want them to look past in you, in order to forge something new.

Swipe right. Send a like. Start a dialogue. Chat for hours, end up being unmatched by morning. The familiar twinge of pain that prods at your heart. You start to learn to swat the feeling away, like a child who’s reached up to touch a hot stove, and you quickly move their hand to keep them from being burned. When is it time to move to texting? Facebook friend-adding? When do you think you’ve revealed too much? And are they catfishing you? (Another of our love-lingo terms, meaning they are not, and probably do not, have an ounce of truth in their pictures or their bios. Beware.)

Part of you starts to swing in opposite directions. Part of me wants so badly to just be completely, and utterly satisfied with my lack of relationship status, meaning that I am totally content with being a woman who’s nearing “empty-nest” status, and being held back in a relationship would mean reevaluating life goals. Then the opposing contestation – what if their goals aligned with your own. What if what you want in four years, five years, six years – what if that’s what they want to? *eye roll* I’m not entirely convinced I’m going to find that in app.

Scan my condo. I like what I’ve done with our place. I like my room. I had to completely start over when I got here. I had so few items, and much of my clothes were lost in transit before I arrived. And while I and “starting over” have sort of become synonymous, I absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably hate starting over. I don’t care if I’m great at it, or I’m “so strong”. The fact is, it fucking blows. The elasticity in my bounce back is fraying rapidly. I don’t have the will or desire to go through another year, or two years, and wind up back in a position where I feel I’ve landed rock-bottom, scrambling up the side of the mountain to level footing. I don’t wish that on anyone. I really don’t. It’s scary, and time-consuming, anguish-inducing, and energy-sucking. And you spend more time fighting the bitterness, especially if the end sees one person successful and the other treading water to keep their head afloat. Stuffing that anger into box and super gluing the lid on tight is just a game my heart has grown completely weary of. And wants to avoid at all costs. More than hating starting over, I hate being angry. I hate giving someone the power to keep me angry months later.

*bzz*

But then. The other side. The other side where you’re watching a movie, and you long to be touched. The part where you’re brushing your teeth in the mirror, wishing they were in the room, folding down the sheets, setting the alarm.

Climbing into bed now, noticing you’ve left their side completely untouched, or unchanged. It’s habit. Habit you’re trying to break. It takes days. Weeks. Months, before you’ve completely consumed the entire bed to yourself.

You miss the message that goes off in the morning, wishing you a good day. The time they say ‘I love you’ for the first time. The goddamn song that comes on the radio that makes you wish you were slow dancing in your kitchen, where time stood still for just a moment, and in that universe, it’s only the two of you. No one else.

Can you get that from an app?

Can you find it from an app?

Rides a motorcycle. Has a beard. Wears tattoos. Likes to rollerskate. Looking for honest faces in a crowd of unverified profiles, and couples seeking out thirds to make their sex lives pop. Only here for a week, looking for adult fun. Left, right. Left, right. Someone super liked you. Pay to upgrade to see all matches. Superficial adds. Superficial unmatches. What can you get from an app that you couldn’t on a first date? Oh – pictures with his Mom. Is that .. is that his ex in that photo?

*bzz*

Tinder lends itself to new and sweeping measures to find matches. Imposing “date nights”. “Super Surges”. You go on the app, and the same fifty dudes are there you’ve seen time and again. The haunting realization – they think the same of you.

Bumble forces the woman to message first. Is it because women are weak, and should be given the chance to lend themselves to the pariah of online dating, or is it a forward-thinking approach to a new era in online dating? I don’t know. I deleted it.

Hinge. Designed to be deleted, is their slogan. On the free version, you get a certain number of “likes” to hand out on the app to worthy prospects who might suit your fancy. And it’s not simply photos. Hinge engages you to write about your deal-breakers. Your dreams. What attracts you. Your commonality in weirdness. Your perfect first date. Oh. And voice notes. Fuck the voice notes. While some are cute, and funny, and endearing, there’s the others that are angry, and aggressive in their disdain for online dating – why are you here, then? I think to myself. Then, wondering why I am, too.

Humans are pack animals. We’re not designed to be alone. And that word ‘alone’ doesn’t necessarily intomb the idea of a romantic partnership. It could simply mean the strength of friendships, sisterhood. Work. Colleagues. The relationship with yourself. The one where you can sleep on both sides of the bed, enjoy coffee and Wordle in the morning during sunrise. Being completely satisfied with your ability to overcome destruction, and rise again. Sometimes the relationship that you needed was the one where you were a seamstress on your own heart. And stitch by stitch, you found yourself able. Able to move on. Able to get up every morning. Able to cover your own bills, and care for yourself and your children. And able to say: I’m ready to see if my weird aligns with their weird. Because if it doesn’t, I am okay by myself.

The cosmos don’t have to be right. It doesn’t have to be a formula, or a timeline to repairing the damage of your heart. Even when you move along to the next healthy relationship in your life – be a romantic partnership, or simply the one that you have with yourself – you may still feel that hurt that lines the fabric of your heart. The part where they have moved on. Without you. The part where they are happy and satisfied and content without you. The part where you wonder, even for just a second, what it would have been like if things had been said differently. Done differently. Or what you’d be like now if you’d followed your instincts from the start, and never let it happen at all.

Baz Lurhman, in Everybody’s Free, once said: “don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. And don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.”

My best guess is that going on the apps is a commitment to myself. I’m not here because I’m looking to heal my heart.

I’m here because I already, capably, put back together the pieces of my broken heart. And though it’s cracked, it’s glued back together. Perhaps a little crudely. Perhaps a little eroded from the times I spent gingerly working together the pieces that no longer fit properly. But it’s in tact. And I did that. I did that myself. I didn’t need someone to do it for me.

With my relationship with me dusted off, standing up straight, looking forward – it’s time to see if someone will match a foul-mouthed, tattooed misfit with too much to say.

*bzz*

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