Recently, I experienced my first time.
No, I am not going to subject you to a first-hand account of the loss of my v-card. That would be gross and unpleasant, and you definitely aren’t interested because it involved neither sneaking into the White House nor a Duplass brother. (Hey, a girl can dream.)
The “first” I am referring to is the popping of my Bumble cherry. It sounds salacious, no?
For those of you in committed relationships, who predate the age of dating apps and are wondering what a “Bumble” is, I’ll explain.
Regrettably, it’s not as egregious as it sounds. Bumble is the name of a dating app on which the user swipes to match with potential dates in her area, much like Tinder, Hinge, Happn and the rest.
Bumble distinguishes itself from other apps by the fact that once you have “matched” with someone, the male party cannot message the female party first. The woman must contact him, and she has to do it within the first 24 hours of matching. For same sex couples, either person has 24 hours to message.
The app has been around for a while now, but it is new to me, a woman who never updates her phone. (Bumble requires iOS 8.0 or later, and I just got that). Or perhaps, more accurately, it is new to me because I am a huge chicken.
In theory, I love the idea of Bumble. It feels feminist, and I consider myself one. It’s a huge positive that one cannot just receive a dick pic, or a series of repugnantly sexualized Emojis in place of a “Hello, how are you?”
A recent Vanity Fair article, aggressively entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse,” alarms readers to the plague of “f*ckboys” looking to sleep with as many women as possible. So, it makes me appreciate any app that keeps the ladies in mind.
In reality, Bumble forces women to make the first move. Ah, there’s the rub. I used the word “forces” to describe the act of a woman on a dating app messaging a man first. Making the first move — if only a message — terrifies me, as I have never done it.
To be clear, I hail from north of the Mason-Dixon line, and I am hardly traditional. In no way do I believe men should always be the alpha when it comes to courtship. This “never making the first move” in real life or otherwise is also not because I am the coolest, hottest lady in all the land, who is constantly fielding millions of offers.
On the contrary, I am so single, my parents sometimes worry about my aversion to cats in thinking about my future. This could all probably be helped if I were less cripplingly timid when it came to approaching men. (Or perhaps, I really just am more leprous than I imagined.)
Like most sane people, I am wary when it comes to the possibility of rejection. But unlike most people, my “E” in the “Introvert-Extrovert” dichotomy of the Myers-Briggs personalty test becomes full on unimaginable when I encounter someone I would like to flirt with.
I revert to a shy, childlike version of myself, even when presented with an interested party. This is all very embarrassing because I am a 26-year-old, grown-ass woman.
It’s not just the first move that’s difficult for me. More recently than I’d like to admit, upon meeting up for our umpteenth date, I had a hard time leaning in to kiss from a very kind gentleman I was seeing. I ducked out of it like a true assh*le. (And this was a guy I liked. I mean, he was a guy I “constantly-checked-his-Instagram” liked.)
I struggle to snuggle back. The first time I slept with the same dude, he requested I please postcoitally reciprocate, instead of keeping my hands to myself like a massive “weirdo.”
A few weekends ago, I was awarded the “Anti-Cuddler” superlative of the beach house my friends rented. Both nights, I got out of a very comfortably shared California king-sized bed to sleep on the floor because I “wanted space.” I’m just not an intimacy-loving, affection-showing, first-move-making lady, although I’d like to be.
For me, a true “weirdo,” Bumble presented an opportunity to practice being normal. Making the first move was going to be scary, but trying it out on an iPhone instead of in real life seemed doable. (Yes, I am aware of how embarrassingly Millennial I am.)
I downloaded the app and started swiping. It was no sweat, totally manageable.
As I began matching with other users, the app encouraged me to start a conversation. It oh-so-casually displayed a clock counting down the “24 hours left,” but I wasn’t ready yet.
The more I swiped, the more I noticed how many nice looking, smart men who didn’t have phallic profile pictures were on Bumble. I thought I really should start messaging them because they were “expiring” soon — “48 minutes left!”
Of course, I happened upon old hookups, roommates of old hookups and even a nice dude I had been going on dates with recently (oops). But overall, the guys on Bumble were much more adorable and seemingly not certifiable than the deep dark pit of Tinder. (It’s hard out here for a girl who doesn’t want a f*ckboy.)
I got a final prompt to message a match reading:
Hurry up! Say something, a connection is about to expire.
His name was Jordan. Jordan is a hot name in a “reads-Didion-but-knows-how-to-use-a-wrench” way. I thought about that, and about how single I was, and I decided to make a move.
I typed “Hi Jordan,” and hit send. Yes, that’s all I wrote.
He never wrote back, and I don’t blame him. My pride felt wounded for about one minute. I spiraled down the rabbit hole of insecurities thinking, “I wasn’t pretty enough,” and, “He must’ve meant to swipe left.”
But then, I thought about the messages I had left unanswered both on dating apps and in real life. (I’m a terrible texter, often sounding flippant or just going radio silent). And 99 percent of the time, it wasn’t personal.
I forced myself to send more messages.
Sometimes, I got replies, and other times, I did not. Soon, messaging was not something I had to “force” myself to do. Being the first to say hi did not break the rules of “The Game,” or leave me wildly exposed as a loser (as I had feared).
Instead, it made me feel a little bit powerful. It was a whole damn new world.
I learned how incredibly difficult it is to compose a moderately intelligent pick up line, felt badly about messages I’d left unanswered and developed an enormous appreciation for (gentlemanly) men who have the courage to ask a woman out.
I mean, I was once asked out by a stranger in Grand Central. I’m too timid to even ask anyone for the time in Grand Central. (Also, I think there’s a big clock).
Dudes out there, for all the grief I love to give you over not having a period and making more money than we do, I give you so much credit. And to the women out there who make the first move sans-hesitation, I admire you even more.
I know it’s not just a gender thing; it's a me being shy thing. But being forthcoming in asking for things seems less inherent to women than it is to men in our society, though it has the potential to be.
I very much fall into the feminine habits of saying “sorry” and “just wondering,” and not taking up space. Maybe messaging strangers is good shock-aversion therapy for me, a human with hindersome hesitations when it comes to asking for things she wants, whether it's a boy’s phone number or a promotion.
Then again, maybe I’m just making utterly ridiculous connections.
At the end of the day, contrary to what my neuroses tell me, my logic-driven brain knows it’s not weird or unattractive to put myself out there. It’s pretty normal, and in fact, it's an incredibly attractive thing to do.
It’s essentially what they teach you to do at the top business schools in the country. It’s powerful, and it’s what I love in other people.
While I continue to be a grown-ass woman and message new matches on Bumble first, I still haven’t gotten around to being the first to ask for the first date, or even a phone number.
Maybe, I’ll try that this week. And hey, if I’m feeling really rowdy, maybe I’ll do it in person.