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The only place to start talking about my experience with online dating is to remember when I was crying on a sidewalk in front of my university’s library on a warm September evening.
In one earbud Taylor Swift’s “This Love” was blasting. In my right hand was a bacon cheeseburger. And on my phone were actual tears of joy as I texted a close friend about a date I’d just been on.
Before this, I’d given up. Given up on love, relationships, and basically the male species as a whole. 2018 did begin with tears, but not ones of overwhelming happiness. Instead, I spent many nights denying that I was in a toxic relationship—and we weren’t even dating. I’d put my heart on the line during the winter and believed he truly felt something for me. But as the seasons changed, so did he. The skies opened, the snow melted, and I was reduced to nothing but a puddle of pitiful humiliation. In April, I had asked him the fated question, “Do you like me?”
To which he replied, “To be honest, I only ever saw you as a friend. I knew that you liked me, but not like that.” Then he hung up.
I think in all of my many years of failed pursuits, this one hurt the most.
The nights we’d spent chatting up a storm over the phone, the spontaneous make out sessions, and the long silent drives where I looked up through the sunroof and felt infinite meant nothing to him. After we kissed for first time we kissed in his car, he said he’d been “waiting for a long time” to swap saliva. But I guess that was an emotionless occurrence for him. Nothing we’d done was reciprocated in the ways I thought they would be. He’d only ever viewed everything as platonic. To know this and move on from it was a challenge I wasn’t ready to take on. How could I be vulnerable again and let someone in? How could I not assume that every testosterone-driven being was not out to slay my heart and smash it into the ground?
The answer to this was Bumble, though I wasn’t too keen on using dating apps. I couldn’t quite seem to wrap my head around assuming that the profile matched an actual person, and the person on the other side of my phone screen wasn’t planning to kidnap me. After hearing countless stories about disaster first-time meet ups from dating apps, I was beyond hesitant. How could you possibly find love online? Could you really build something out of text messages? Once I convinced myself that everything would be OK, I signed up for Bumble and I kept my options open.
Unlike other dating apps, like Tinder where girls could be easily harassed by the creepiest guys just looking for a hookup, Bumble gives women the power. Women can swipe right, and if there’s a match, women have the choice to start a conversation with their match. (Whereas with Tinder, a man can easily slide in the DMs with all of the wrong intentions.) In the age of women finally being able to take back their bodies, raise their voices, and refuse to be rag dolls at the hands of male domination, I found the app to be less intimidating than the others. I’d tried Tinder, but never really could strike up a conversation with substance. Bumble, on the other hand, brought forth guys with the same interests as I. Therefore, the chances of me coming across another culprit to banish me to the friend zone were very slim.
Within a week, I matched with guys I was genuinely attracted to and felt as if they weren’t trying to strike gold in a dorm room somewhere. One stuck out to me, more than the rest. We texted frequently, never seeming to run out of things to say. He was kind. He asked a lot of questions. He was safe and careful. We would then go on to cross paths multiple times throughout the semester, though too shy to say anything until I saw him walking down the street when I finally seized my moment. We hit it off immediately, and I was relieved that he was real. We then moved from the Bumble chat to Instagram DMs after realizing that the Bumble chat was poorly designed and didn’t show notifications quickly. (When you like someone, you have to know exactly when they text you.)
Skip ahead a few months, and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve distanced and regrouped, but not so much that we’ve lost touch. I will admit that I’m still in the dark with how he feels about me, as I know it is not easy for you to digest when someone confesses their love for you after only two weeks of texting—but I did, reminding myself of what had happened earlier in the year. If I didn’t confess, I’d end up in the same trap again. I figured if I let him know early on, I’d be able to heal faster if my confession was followed with rejection. Luckily, he hasn't ran away screaming. There’s no pressure with him. We talk about any and everything. We’ve shared deep secrets and I know his fears, as he knows mine. I don’t feel like I have to hide with him, as I had to do with the person before him.
But, this time around, it feels different. It feels like a rebirth. I never would have imagined that a dating app would help me find myself, and believe in love again. When something as traumatic as unrequited love happens to you, it feels as if all you’ve ever known about love has been stripped from you. I felt weak at the time. But I was able to pick myself back up again thanks to Bumble. In September, we went on our second date, and afterward, I cried on the street to my friends, with a burger in my hand... because I was in love.