Staring at my half eaten plate of moderately priced American Asian fusion chain restaurant fare, I glanced up at my date to notice he had never stopped talking. It was our first outing together, and he was going through the regular first date particulars. All the while my mind wandered, thinking about if my new liquid lipsticks had been shipped yet, wondering what sheet mask I should apply tonight, when and if someone is gonna finally kill Ramsay Bolton’s ole sadistic ass. It wasn’t that my date was particularly boring. No, we had rather nice and lengthy conversations over the phone before we met face-to-face. Standard for me, as I hate going on a first date completely foreign to the person I’d be spending the next few hours with. He had passed the initial conversational tests; decent sense of humor, didn’t say anything transphobic, homophobic, misogynist, or self loathing. All seemingly low standards, but as a 31-year-old Black woman in the field, all standards a lot of men frequently fail to meet.
He was a generally attractive guy, in good shape, great job, all the good on paper qualities that should count for at least something. He made me laugh, and seemed very interested in me. And still, even though I was generally fond of him, and even toyed with the idea of fucking him, I still couldn’t get my mind off how much I would’ve rather been home. Soon, I began to feel guilty. Here I was wasting this guy’s time, I had no business being on a date, and I didn’t realize it until I was sitting across from him.
Typically, I actually enjoy going on dates. I don’t get out the house much if it isn’t with my son, and any excuse to gussy up and let the world know this old gal still got it is met with some enthusiasm. I usually obsess over the visual details, nail color, makeup (Evening glam? A natural beat? Winged liner? Vamp?) hair, ensemble, accessories, scent. Not so much that I think the guy even notices that shit, just all the bells and whistles that make me happy and feel at my most confident. I enjoy the ritual of femme performance and adornment. But this time? I threw on a coat of clear polish, tied my hair up in a bun, put on medium coverage foundation, a nude lip, a maxi dress, and called it one. I didn’t feel like beguiling anyone, I didn’t feel like pretending to be charming, or effervescent, I just didn’t feel like playing. I had checked out, not just on him, but on dating period.
In retrospect, I suppose the writing was on the wall. I had recently came off a break up from a 1 ½ year relationship. I wasn’t reeling with pain, but I was bored and desired companionship. My best friend, also coming off a breakup, suggested I throw my hat back in the ring and download Tinder. I resisted for weeks, until finally, I gave in. As he had warned me, my selection of bachelors was rife with dudebros, a sea of mayo, it looked as if I was picking men from a Cubs game, or a Kanye concert. Eventually I was able to match up with some colored folk, and began the underwhelming dance of Tinder messaging: Banal two-three day intervals of smiley faced emojis and the following small talk/icebreakers:
“How was your weekend?”
“I loved your pictures”
“What do you do?”
I frequently stared at these messages, internally groaning, tasked with the job of turning this shit into something engaging. Even then I forced myself to respond with the tepid, “lol I’m good how are you?”
I realize that these initial steps are always awkward, but I didn’t remember it being this painful. Horrified by the monotony of Tinder communication, I signed up for another site to see for myself if this was just par for the course with the app, or my fate in online dating. Fear confirmed; dozens of “Hey miss lady” and profiles of “God Fearing men who aren’t here to play games” later, I resigned myself to my reality. But still, I was haunted by the questions, “Was it always this boring? Are people just not interesting or witty anymore? Have things changed that much, or is it me?” Even with the guys I had managed to progress from message purgatory with, my interaction felt forced. It didn’t help that I had the misfortune of speaking with a Morehouse grad who earnestly referred to himself as a “sapiosexual,” and a short film producer who wanted to argue the possibility of the world being flat. Every fiber in my being responded with a resounding "meh" with every man I had contact with. I didn’t respond to text messages for hours or even days later; any attempts to facetime me, any request for a picture, all met with disdain.
So, what the hell was I doing and why was I subjecting myself and these poor schmucks to this painful exercise in futility? I suppose I figured it was time to move on, and this was how I typically moved on. But, so far my dating experience felt like I was at a house gathering, trying to figure out which partially drunk can of room temperature Pepsi on the table belonged to me. I kept picking up random cans nearby and shaking em to see if I could tell if it was the right one, had the right amount of contents, if it was mine. None of them were, it was just a bunch of partially empty God damn cans. It was time for me to be honest with myself and realize I had nothing to offer anyone but general apathy and the occasional desire for sex and companionship. I know you’re thinking that most men would be more than happy to oblige such an arrangement, but you’d be mistaken. Even men want to know that you are somewhat interested in who they are, what they like, what they think, etc, even in casual arrangements. I soon found I couldn’t even muster up the desire to do that. I’d rather watch Sephora haul videos on YouTube.
Ultimately, I made the decision that Jay Z should have made when someone asked him to do a verse on the "All The Way Up" remix, I decided to sit my ass down and leave people alone. I cancelled all my accounts, and began the process of fading to black. Soon realizing, it wasn’t just dating I had divested in, after my last breakup I had also decided I was done with the emotional labor involved with romantic relationships in general. I don’t want to learn, I don’t want to teach, I don’t want to compromise, meet people halfway, to hurt, to forgive, to make space, to give space, to love, to lose, to reclaim, growing, regressing, progressing, decaying, wash, rinse repeat until the wheel lands on ‘free spin’ or one of us dies. I just…don’t wanna do it again. That cycle is fulfilling and completely worth it, for millions of people, I’m just not included in that population.
I am comfortable with accepting this about myself because it's not coming from a place of scorn, or hurt (even though those are totally valid reasons), but an honest self assessment. I’m warming up to the idea of living the rest of my life sans the pursuit of a committed partner, and enjoying continuing to invest in myself, and the friends and family that I love. I’m opting out, and I don’t think it’s a phase, I think this is it, and it’s actually kind of a freeing to say it out loud. I know I hit all the markers for people to dismiss this proclamation as the swan song of a bitter Black bitty. Hell, I’m a feminist, a Black woman, single mother divorced by the age of 25, etc. Lots of folks will mutter "yeah right bitch, like you had a choice lol." That’s expected, and I’m ok with it, because the alternative is participating in a farce, to save face, in an effort to prove to the world that I’m desired and that I am not bitter.
However, the older I’ve gotten, the more aware I am of the few facets of life in which we are really able to exercise choice. Long term partnership or relationships is just one facet where I am exercising mine. This doesn’t mean that my decision doesn’t come with its drawbacks. Of course I’ll have bouts with loneliness, and ever since I hit 30 my libido is that of a jack rabbit drinking a maca root smoothie during mating season. But long as God sees fit to keep Xvideos's server lifted in favor, and I still have the names and numbers of old work stored in my phone, I think I’ll be fine. I have great friends, dope family, an amazing kid, fantastic eyebrows, and my best friends' Netflix password. Things not lookin' too shabby for ya girl. I already own one cat, now the rest of my destiny is mine for the conquering.