One year of dating apps
I had always been the kind of person who liked the idea of being in a relationship, however I had never quite been able to make it work.
An enormous part of this was down to my inability to ask people out. I would typically suffer a brief infatuation with someone, then decide that they would think it weird if I asked them out.
I was quite happy in my little bubble, doing my thing until a friend of mine pointed out that it was arguably more weird to like people and do nothing about it.
Thus I took the plunge at the start of last year to follow in the footsteps of my millenial brothers and sisters and download a dating app.
I set myself the challenge of going on at least one date a month, just to get used to the idea of asking people out and (hopefully) meet that special someone.
This came with the condition that I had to be completely ok with whatever happened - I had to learn that it’s not weird to like someone and ask them out.
Astonishingly, I saw quite quickly that people don’t stop and laugh as if you were some hideous monster if you admit that you’re interested in them.
And whilst it can be disheartening to hear that the other person just doesn’t see you that way, being ‘rejected’ is not nearly as terrifying as I had previously assumed.
I think a large part of my fear of rejection came from the thought that everyone I fancied was ‘the one’ and my life would be much happier if I could be with them.
But in meeting a lot of people over the course of the year, I realised that people are just people and possess no special properties to make my problems disappear.
As a result, the dating world became a much more fun and playful place, since I was no longer obsessed with trying to find the ‘perfect’ person.
Instead, dating opened up London in a new and exciting way, allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people in interesting places, with much less anxiety about where things would go.
However, I soon discovered that dating can also be quite taxing, especially when balanced with a busy work life and other social commitments.
Typically, the people I would be seeing weren’t in my circle of friends, meaning we were both making sacrifices to see one another.
It sometimes felt like I was spreading myself too thin between work and other people, losing time I could spend with myself.
But I started to realise that’s what it is to be young - to frantically try to do as many things at once and slowly start to figure out the rhythms of your life.
It feels a bit like spinning a load of plates on sticks, exhausting at the start as you try to keep everything up in the air, but given enough time, the momentum of the plates means they start to take care of themselves.
Still, to keep the plate of my dating life spinning, I found it helped to plan fun and interesting activities.
Meeting for drinks in a trendy pub or bar is great, and a nice way to get to know one another, but after meeting several times for mid-week drinks I began to crave a bit of variety.
As such, I did what most twenty something creative types do, and planned trips to museums, art galleries, the cinema, music concerts - all sorts of cultured things to make me seem more sophisticated and intelligent.
And it has been lovely to try new things and do stuff with interesting people outside of my friendship circle.
Dating has given me a great opportunity to find out about myself and what I am interested in. It is because I was looking for something to do that I discovered my love of Fellini, for instance.
More importantly than this, though, I have been able to learn just what a neurotic and ridiculous person I can be.
Despite becoming more comfortable with the idea of rejection, there is still a huge desire to impress the people I meet on dates.
And in being attracted to the people I have met, it has exposed a whole host of insecurities and anxieties like no amount of meditation has ever been able to.
In the dating world, I have learnt that
I crave structure and regularity (I mean, who else sets themselves the specific target of one date a month for Christ’s sake?)
I stress way too much about the future and will imagine literally every single possible worst case scenario (and some not so possible ones as well)
I’m terrible at day to day communication
I struggle to know what I want
I’m terrified of being exposed as a fraud
I heap affection on people but pull away the moment it is returned because I feel ‘smothered’
(This list is in no way exhaustive, and the neuroses that I’ve discovered whilst dating go on and on - I thought it best to stick with my greatest hits).
Whilst it could be disheartening to see just how much of a mess I am, I figured I would rather know these things about myself than pretend that I was perfect.
And there’s the possibility that by the time the ‘right’ person comes along, I will at least have an understanding of what I need to do to make things work.
In the meantime, every date offers an opportunity to work through some of my baggage whilst doing something new and exciting.
Ultimately, that’s what I’ve learnt to love about dating; it has been a great way to learn about myself and have fun in the process.
And despite the fact that I have failed in finding ‘the one’, I’ve succeeded in meeting some really kind and amazing people, learnt some new things and gained a better understanding of myself which I would argue is all that really matters.