In horse racing, a superfecta is achieved when one picks the first four horses to cross the finish line in a given race: win, place, show, and whatever the hell fourth place is called. It’s a pretty rare feat to pick four winners, and it takes both skill and more than a touch of luck.
Replace the words “luck” and “skill” with any nouns that signal failure, and you have my summer. I hit the dating failure superfecta. Between the months of May and September, I wound up making four of the worst picks possible, and that’s saying a lot considering the current dating culture.
It all started in late May when I logged on to Bumble. Like many others, I've had mixed results with the app in the past. Previous experiences yielded a relationship that is probably one of my biggest regrets (but that’s a story for another time), a few good first dates, and a ton of conversations that didn’t lead anywhere but were enjoyable nonetheless, along with the typical garbage we have all come to expect from modern dating: ghosting and unsolicited dick pics. Even with the mixed bag, I was hopeful as I reopened the app. I mean there had to be at least one more guy out there who hated the word “foodie” as much as I do.
In late May, I started chatting with a guy whose profile said he was 37. Mr. May seemed intelligent, interesting, and terribly forthright — a quality I admire in people as I tend to be shockingly forthright myself. We had a few great conversations about the intersection of art and science, and I was thrilled when he suggested that we meet for drinks.
While waiting for him at the agreed upon bar, I struck up a conversation with friendly couple in their late 20s. We talked for a while before a man who sort of resembled the guy with whom I had been chatting came bounding through the door, sweating and visibly frenzied. When I realized the guy clutching his satchel and whipping his head back and forth was indeed my date, I said, “He’s here,” to the couple, who in turn both gave me a look that said, Are you sure? All I could do was sheepishly respond, “He’s really smart,” before getting up to join him.
Now, I am willing to admit that I am no expert on determining age, but as I approached him, I noticed that he looked much older than he claimed in his profile. Give the guy a chance, I thought. Famous last words, right?
After we ordered a drink and sat down to talk, his behavior quickly went from jumpy to disturbing. Within 10 minutes, his hand had made its way to my thigh and he was telling me that he wanted to take me to bed in a very crude manner. As I was extricating his hand from body, I noticed that his pupils were the size of saucers, and all of a sudden his behavior made sense: the guy was on something.
Clearly, the chance I’d given him was backfiring. Realizing I had nothing to lose, I asked him how old he really was, to which he replied, “Forties-ish,” which I think was code for 50.
At that point, I got up, pushed the drink he had just ordered for me towards the bartender, told him it was nice to meet him (why did I feel the need to still be polite?!) and walked out of the bar. Not one to give up so easily — I’m pretty sure he was fueled by whatever drug was pumping through his system — he follow me outside, first insisting that he give me a ride home, then asking me if he was getting a second date. When I told him “no,” he made his last stand by asking if I would come to his summer “kick-off” party.
I’ll give him this, he wasn’t easily dissuaded.
As the horses approach the first turn, horse 1, Cocaine Joe, takes an easy lead!
On my next go round, I met a guy on the app who seemed like a great match for me. He was a writer and impressed me with his pithy messages and flirtatious banter. I was also impressed by the fact that right after I gave him my number, he called, and we had an honest-to-god conversation. We made a date for the Fourth of July, deciding to meet up for a drink after we each went to respective parties.
I was looking forward our meeting — that was until I decided to be a diligent dater and Googled him and discovered that he was a registered sex offender.
Horse number 2, Poor Decisions, leads the pack after the first turn!
Despite my two previous debacles, I was still hopeful as the summer wore on, and that hope turned to excitement when I matched with a guy who seemed both intelligent and gentle. I was swooning over a better-than-average vocabulary and the ability to hold a decent conversation, so I happily agreed to meet the new guy for drinks.
Our initial greeting was a tad awkward. The band T-shirt he was wearing made my silky top, skinny jeans, and heels feel a little like overkill, but we pressed on and, as is usually the case, alcohol eased both of our nerves and our tongues. We spoke easily about politics, art, and books. Our tastes and opinions seemed to mesh very well, and he seemed particularly impressed when I referenced Phillip K. Dick.
The attraction I was feeling seemed mutual; as the evening wore on, several times he mentioned how sexy he thought I was. At one point he picked me up around the waist, kissed me and said, “Where have you been my whole life?!”
So things were going well — that is until we decided to go for a late-night bite to eat, which he was determined to make prelude to going back to his place. We were making out a little bit when, just as the car we ordered arrived, he pulled back and said, “And to think, if we had just met at a bar, this wouldn’t be happening…”
I leaned away from him — the knot of doom in my stomach — and said, “And why is that?”
He replied “Ya know, because of your body type.”
I am perfectly aware that, at somewhere between a size 12 and 14, I am not every man’s type (who is?), and that’s OK. I certainly am not attracted to everyone I see. Attraction is a very personal thing, and I would never criticize anyone for having a preference. That being said, that he felt the need to highlight his disapproval with my body — as he was making out with me, no less — was both rude and unnecessary. So, as calmly and succinctly as I could, I told him as much.
As I stomped away, fueled by righteous indignation, I heard him rush up behind me, begging me to stop. He caught up to me, winded, because apparently my “body type” was quicker than his, and I am ashamed to admit I let him spend more than 20 minutes pleading his case. First, he tried reminding me that he had just spent the entire evening telling me how sexy (despite my body) he found me, then he begged me not to let him sabotage the night. When that failed, he told me that he might already be in love with me.
Yes, that actually happened.
Realizing that allowing this shit show to go on any longer wasn’t doing either of us any favors, I ended the scene.
Horse number 3, Valis, stumbles around the turn!
As for my final pick of the summer, I have three words: I was catfished. Do I really need to say anymore?
I'm sure many of you are thinking, Is this woman completely naïve? Does she have any experience with dating? And that’s a fair question (albeit a little judge-y). I am neither an inexperienced dater nor completely clueless when it comes to men. I had an eight-year partnership, and several other long(ish)-term relationships. I admit that I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to dating — I’ve fallen in love with the wrong person, broke my own heart — but haven’t we all? In hindsight, I can’t recall any glaring issues with these men that made me want to run before making dates with them.
All that aside, I think the bigger question is how I managed to come across so many completely, terrifyingly undatable men in such a short period of time. And while I don’t have the time or resources here to get into a detailed analysis of this, I have come up with a few thoughts for us all to ponder.
First, I think, in general, the dating app revolution, while fantastic in the sense that it fits perfectly with our busy, tech-filled lives, has completely depersonalized dating. Didn’t work out with one date? Swipe right for another! We aren’t treating each other as people but instead like objects to covet and obtain. Beyond that aspect, depersonalization breeds a creepy consequence: predatory people who are able to hide behind the glossy veneer of a profile picture. So this form of technology is a breeding ground for people misrepresenting who they are. When we meet people the organic way, while people can still hide who they are to a certain degree, just being in proximity allows us to read body language, facial cues, and other social signals that allow us to catch some red flags. You know, like the fact that they're coked out of their skull.
Second, we may be seeing an escalation in the amount of “undatables” on apps because the sites themselves are getting close to collapse. Bear with me here. I would argue as time has gone on and people have used the app with increasing frequency, they have started to tire of the endless swiping. Treating each other as commodities is both tiresome and troubling. People with a fairly healthy sense of self have either started to retreat from the sites or partnered up, leaving those that may not have as much luck — e.g. people who catfish others or come to dates on drugs — in a higher proportion. (I shudder at what this argument says about me, but I digress.)
Furthermore, the eminent collapse of a society (even a digital one) is often signaled by an escalation in excess. This is the very definition of the “hook up” culture. A large portion of people on these apps aren’t seeking love — just love for tonight, which is easily obtainable with a swipe.
It’s the wild, wild west out there, and I, for one, am riding the next pony out. After this past summer, I have gone back to meeting people the old-fashioned and organic way: in a bar.