My struggles with dating have been well-documented -- in a sort of self-deprecating, "ha, woe is me" kind of way.
The past five or six months, as far as dating goes, have been — how do I say this — comical. At the very least, laughable. I’ve trolled my Tinder matches with Adele lyrics and used an ATM receipt as my profile picture on Bumble. You won’t win hearts and minds with those kind of stunts.
But despite all of that, dating hasn’t been as bad as I’ve maybe made it out to be.
OK, it’s still not great. Who am I kidding? It’s nowhere near acceptable.
OK, it’s bad. You happy?
Put it this way: It's so bad, I’ve resorted to building a makeshift shrine to La Niña (or is it El Niño?) to pray to every night. That’s the kind of dry spell we’re talking about.
In this analogy, I am a thirsty resident, and if women were gallons of water, I would hastily drive to Flint, Michigan THIS SECOND and start chugging lead.
I can complain all I want about not being able to find someone, but of course, I’m not the only single person out there diving into dating apps and reading “How To Deal With Being Ghosted: Volume II."
But the kinder me — I’m trying to be kinder — hasn’t appreciated the difficulties others are having with dating. Like, for example, the woman this story is about.
I can’t use her real name or even what she does for a living because, as she said,
I’m literally the only newly divorced, mid-thirties (something)ologist, serial-dater living in Las Vegas.
OK, no problem.
I know the easy, lazy intro is that Rebecca* is your "typical woman.” But she’s not, actually. At her core, Rebecca is a bright, witty goofball, with a dollop of Texas Pete hot sauce on the side.
And over the course of my own recent breakup, she too, was going through one — worse, perhaps, but on a much different level.
In that shared experience called heartbreak, Rebecca and I have been able to vent to each other about our bad dates, make jokes about the really awful, "don’t ever text him/her again; does he/she have your number; oh, he/she does?; oh, that sucks; block him/her" ones, and lament on the ones we really liked but never heard from again (sad emoji).
Recently, we’ve held UN Security Council-level meetings discussing whether or not I should retire from dating and just get a Chesapeake Bay retriever, name her Diane and call it a day.
Rebecca is now single, having left her partner after 15 years together, 11 of which were spent in what I refer to as "conjoined life," aka marriage.
That’s a long time, 15 years. A little less than half her life. And if that alone — the anxiety of jumping back into dating after such a long time out of it -- was the only reason for this story, I’d be justified. I could write a thousand words just on that.
But Rebecca also lives in Las Vegas. And before you say, “I bet Vegas would be the perfect place to find a man,” you’re wrong. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Half of the men she meets are in “open relationships” (eye roll), and the other 90 percent are tourists (I don't care if the math doesn't add up).
So, Rebecca dates. And dates. And dates.
But dating, to her, is more than just finding a side piece, a friend with benefits, or any other archaic, out-dated definition of the term.
She’s used every dating app imaginable: Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid (yes, it's still around), Yo!LetzMeeeet (I may have made that one up). If there’s a dating app out there, she’s used it — or is using it.
She’s probably still active on at least six apps right now, which is ironic considering her feelings on putting herself back out there after her divorce. She says,
I was nervous to date because I never really dated before. I hung out with people who were in my social circle, but never really dated. I had no clue what I was doing or what to expect. I was nervous, but I was excited.
She’s begun to build this sort of relationship/dating cache of information about the men she’s met, too. It’s like she’s suddenly become BIG GUBMINT and has this giant data storage center on men and what they like, how they act, or if men with brown hair are more romantic than those with blonde (ah, yes, duh).
And the information she has isn’t limited to just the guys. She could answer any question on the apps themselves, like which one is good for what.
It's like I'm talking to the dating equivalent of Watson. What’s the best app for random hookups and sex? "Tinder."
What’s the best app to find an unhappy married man whose wife "doesn’t let him do anything?” "Match.com"
What about if I want to find that special guy or gal in jail? Innocent until guilty, right? What’s the best app for matching with someone currently swiping from a cell? "OKCupid."
Yes, she showed me the photo; he was actually in prison. And if he wasn’t, then he got lazy and continued to use his booking photo (can’t slack, bro). If I recall, I think his bio read something like, “I can cook grilled cheese on a radiator.”
“Must-haves” checklist: (1) steady job, (2) volunteers with the homeless, (3) experience cooking on a radiator.
Maybe I missed something -- and I’ve seen every episode of "OITNB" -- but cell phones, as far as I understand, are forbidden behind bars. That's why the whole thing in the bathroom between Mr. Healey and Caputo was — [REDACTED SPOILER].
For her, Tinder is “hands down [her] favorite.” Because the majority of the guys on Tinder are just visiting Vegas, so it’s easy to meet people who want to go out and have a good time. She adds,
It works in Vegas, where it’s hard to meet new people in general. I can find a date almost every night of the week using Tinder and that quantity would be impossible otherwise.
If you want a conversation to go absolutely nowhere, according to her, OKCupid is your best bet.
“Texting tends to drag on forever and never really goes anywhere,” Rebecca shares, which she thinks could be a byproduct of most people on OKCupid not being from Vegas and perhaps living their own lives and having less time to date.
And while it’s tougher to actually get someone to go out on OKCupid, the app’s benefit is it gives you a lot more personal information about the person. Rebecca says,
It makes it easier to start conversations and figure out if you actually have something in common with the person.
Most people tend to use more than one dating app (cough, me, cough). Using dating-app ingenuity, Rebecca finds it helpful to cross-reference her Tinder matches with her OKCupid matches, saying,
My best experiences have been with guys that I matched with on Tinder first who have a very high OKCupid match with me as well. ... But Bumble sucks.
Yeah, I think I’m with you on that one.
But matching and meeting with so many men means she’s bound to find one or two she really likes, and apparently, that’s a horrible thing, as she notes,
It really sucks when I meet someone that I like. I have a couple of guys that I really, really like and I hate that I never get to see them. If someone is here regularly for work (or to see a friend or family), I’ll be more interested in meeting up with them, because if it goes well, I know there’s a chance we’ll get to hang out again the next time they’re in town.
Though she would “kill for a friend with benefits situation" like I have with the guy I met up with this weekend, dating for her has transformed, somewhat, into a grander idea of hopefully meeting people from all over the country — having a “new friend in XX city.”
In fact, right now, she’s conveniently on a plane, flying across the country and back to spend the weekend in a hotel while she sees “Pennsylvania BF,” someone she met while he was visiting Vegas last month.
Meeting someone you like and who likes you, is like finding a blue needle in a stack of needles. Rebecca laments,
I think that I probably make things difficult on myself. I’m not looking for a serious relationship, which automatically eliminates half of the guys I could potentially date. But ask me again in six months.
I ask her if she's tiring of the whole thing: the apps, the going out every night, the meeting somebody new, having to learn a new person every time. I have to imagine it’s tiring; it would be for me.
Before she answers, I picture her somewhere out in the Nevada desert. Maybe where she goes on weekends to take the amazingly beautiful photographs I steal from her Twitter and use as my wallpapers; where the sun casts a shadow on the red brick dirt from her iPhone, warm to the touch from the dating app notifications coming in one by one.
“Not yet,” she says. “But I’m getting there.”
*Name has been changed.