Did We All Kill Dating?
Guest post by Stella Guan
“It’s them. Not me.”
What a lovely antithesis to the oh-so-familar “It’s not you. It’s me”. We often hear frustrated daters whine about how modern dating has become a mind-numbing chore. I used to be that person. After all, the dating scene in major cities like NYC is nothing short of brutal. Most of us here can relate to the sentiment of Sex and the City — so many fabulous women, so few datable men (or substitute the gender pronoun to whatever that makes sense).
Compared to my professional resume, my dating resume is abysmal. At the “ripe old age” of 28, I have not yet slept with half of Manhattan like Samantha Jones nor have I snatched myself a husband like most of my college and high school classmates. At a certain point, after swiping through all eligible men in the 25 mile radius of Manhattan, I start to wonder — is it possible that it’s not them? Could it be us or all of us?
I decided to reflect on some of the most memorable dates I’ve had in the past few years to find the answer.
Top Date #1: The Booty Call Hotelier
When I first started online dating, I met Guy #1 through eHarmony. Yes, you read it right. Rather than going with the free websites, I, fresh out of college, decided to go straight to a paid website that claimed to be full of marriage-minded singles. Talk about shooting for the goals! He looked handsome in his photos and even better in person. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Despite the rom-com perfect start, several red flags quickly emerged. He told me that he had “tweaked” his age (up 2 years) so that he appears more datable to older women (i.e. casting wider nets). All right, no biggie. Minor lies, who cares? Then he went on to tell me how he mostly dated Asian women and that he does have a fetish for us. Yes, he really said that. I started to feel a little uncomfortable but decided to let it slide.
The following week, he got majorly drunk at a club on Friday night and called me at 4 a.m. demanding to hang out (a.k.a. sex). I was not thrilled and told him that I wouldn’t go out at four in the morning and that I will see him in the afternoon. When I saw him later that day, he was extremely hung over and told me that he couldn’t believe I still came out. At that point, it was already clear that it was pointless. I never wanted to date a guy who has alcohol issues and booty-calls women in the middle of the night. He went on to tell me how he would frequently go into fights with his boss at the hotel where he works. That was the last strike. A guy with alcohol issues, Asian fetish and violent disposition? No, thank you.
Was it him? Absolutely. But it was also me because a much older and wiser version of myself would never have gone out on a second date with him after learning all the red flags. I should also have called him out on his booty call where he pushed strongly for sex. At the time, I thought doing so was unsexy. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to redefine sexiness — it is knowing what I want and unapologetically push back on things I don’t want.
Top Date #2: The “Child-Obsessed” Ex-Musician
I definitely have a thing for musicians. Guy #2 from Coffee Meets Bagel was handsome and our conversation flowed seamlessly. We seemed to have a lot in common — both of us were the only child and love the same genres of music. Apart from the fact that he was a smoker, I thought he was promising. From hindsight, he was the kind of guy who said all the right things but did none of them in action. He kept telling me that he wanted children and a family, much to my naive delight. At the end of the first date, he leaned in for a kiss — or to be exact, a make out session. I was fine giving a quick peck-on-the-lips kiss, but his tongue action caught me off guard. Ten minutes after we parted ways, he texted me “I must say, I’m VERY VERY attracted to you.”
Despite the fact that he came on way too strong after meeting me for only two hours, I decided to go on a second date because I didn’t want to write him off so quickly. As we began to schedule our second date, his true intention started to reveal. He suggested that we meet up at my apartment for the second date, which I thought was way too soon. Instead, I suggested that we meet at a restaurant to get to know each other more. Then he started making up all kinds of excuses why he can’t be there. After several rounds of back and forth, he texted me again that his friend’s mother suddenly passed away and he had to attend the funeral and therefore cannot meet — and of course, suggested no alternative plans.
From hindsight, he had made several attempts at letting me down easy with all the excuses but I wouldn’t let go until much later. I realized that I like to hold on to all the possible signs that something could work while ignoring all the obvious red flags that it won’t. It is not easy to face the truth and we often make things 1,000 times more complicated by not being honest with ourselves and each other. How about we start with “I’m really just looking to get laid and since you’re not up for it, I don’t see a point having another dinner with you” or something like that? I’m sure we can all find a way to word that message just a tad bit nicer but still get the point across rather than resorting to lies and excuses.
Top Date #3: The “Dreamy in the Dark” Film Producer
I was volunteering as a videographer at a film festival when Guy #3 magically appeared in the theatre where I was filming. He saw that I had the reserved seat in the center of the front row and asked if he could sit next to me. After we sat down, he started telling me about all the movies he had watched and produced — conveniently revealing his job. In the typical dim lighting of a movie theatre, he appeared very handsome. I was excited when he asked for my contact information. The next week, we met at a bar for drinks. I had not been on a date with men I met in real life for so long I thought they never exist anymore! Apparently, they still do — just not who we thought we had signed up for. He looked significantly different in broad day light and I was so ashamed by my superficiality because I didn’t find him attractive anymore. We still had a nice conversation but I could not picture myself doing anything with him more than sharing a meal. He was a perfect gentleman and very knowledgeable about films and the arts in general, which is right up my alley. I was so conflicted and ashamed that I had spent the majority of our conversation wishing he looked like somebody else rather than really listening to what he was saying.
He followed up with a text after our dinner but I did not reply back — or using our latest dating vernacular — I ghosted him. Like most people, I’ve always hated being ghosted or flaked on (who doesn’t?). Yet here I was, committing the same crime I had once despised.
Did I totally blow the chance of potentially dating a great guy who didn’t look quite like I’d imagined? Probably. I should have given him another chance or at least politely declined with a reply back rather than ghosting him. However, at the time, I thought it was more important to not lead him on if I wasn’t all that into him. It took me a long time to learn that not all love happened at first sight. As for “love at first sight” that somehow regressed in a quasi-comical way like my experience with this guy, it certainly deserved a second look.
So now what?
Fast forward to this summer, I met a nice gentleman who was introduced to me by a friend here on Medium! We’ve been seeing each other for two months and never have I thought this would happen in a million years. I had spent the good part of this year in workaholic mode and letting go of dating. After ending a painful relationship last year that landed me in rounds of therapy, I had next-to-zero optimism about dating. While I was in the process of healing, a friend convinced me that by truly letting go of trying so hard to find someone, I would be in a better position to actually meet someone.
My future remains unknown but for the first time in my life, I have never been so happy living in the present. I no longer care that everybody else my age is married with kids. I no longer envy couples holding hands on the streets. I no longer feel the need to explain my relationship status to nosy family members, acquaintances and strangers. I no longer lament that everyone seems to be so happily coupled on Instagram. And I no longer fear the ticking biological clock and that I may or may not have children.
In fact, I wanted to treat dating as a work in progress that we should always reflect on. I even designed a website called “The Modern Dating Ventroom” that ridicules the absurdity and frustrations of modern dating. And you’ve probably guessed the answer to my question — yes, we are all guilty of killing dating, but we will reborn with more wisdom and confidence to embrace the seemingly hopeless goal of meeting someone. Not everything will be okay in the end, but that itself, has to be okay.
Stella Guan is an award winning visual designer and style influencer. Instagram, Website, Email.
*This post originally appeared on Medium. It’s owned by Stella Guan and may not be republished or copied without consent from the writer.