Let’s be honest: dating kind of sucks. You get all gussied up to meet a stranger and hope to whatever god you believe in (or lack thereof) that they don’t end up being a creep. It’s a complete dice roll, and I personally don’t like leaving things to chance. When I entered the dating scene, I strutted in wholly unprepared for it. I didn’t start dating until college, partially my fault due to my weirdly high standards despite being a dork in the middle of Arizona. I was a very awkward acting and looking teen; my glow up didn’t arrive until right before I started college. I finally got to taste the fruits of romance after years of swooning over romantic stories and dreams of finding “the one.”
I ended up getting disappointed. Although I did eventually find “the one,” I swam through some foolishness to get there.
The Shallow End
The first guy I ever dated also didn’t start dating until college. Let’s call him “John.” Despite everything, I need to thank John for not only being the first guy that I dated but also the first person that let me know that people noticed me.
He first approached me while I sulked on a bench outside. I started sulking because one of my friends managed to catch a popular senior’s attention within the first couple of weeks of school. While mentally pouting, John came up to me and introduced himself. He called me pretty and told me that he started noticing me the first day of class, but I always looked busy to him. He asked for my number, and I happily gave it to him. Before he could strike up a conversation, I ran over to my friends like a giddy school girl. While I always made fun of girls who got excited about romance, I started to get it.
It feels nice when someone’s into you.
The first couple of dates went by painlessly; he showered me with compliments about how I wasn’t like other girls—a comment that made past-me swoon, but makes present-me vomit. However, around the third date, his inexperience started showing. Not that there’s anything wrong with being inexperienced, but it’s important to remember how to talk to people. For example, when he joked about a meme about eating a–, I played along. He then, legitimately, asked me if I ate a–. It was the third date.
Needless to say, cracks started to show.
After a couple more dates, mostly just sitting around and talking, I started to realize that I didn’t want to date this guy. Especially after one date when I told him that I’m a private person; he responded with, “So, we’re gonna have secrets in our relationship?” Sir, what relationship? I didn’t even know his middle name. At the end of this date, I made my escape route by saying that I needed to meet some friends (technically not a lie). However, before I slipped away, John proclaimed something to me: “I’m going to kiss you.”
At the time, I was a virgin in all respects; unless practicing kissing on my pillow counted, I never kissed anyone before. I wanted to share my kiss with someone who swept me off my feet, so, unfortunately, John wasn’t exactly my first choice. I told him that I felt a little sick and promised that we’ll kiss on our next date. There wasn’t a next date.
Don’t feel bad for John; a couple months later, I saw him walking around campus with his arm around another girl. Good for him. He moved on and found someone new while I continued to submerge myself deeper into the dating pool.
The Deep End
Tinder sucked. Like a fool, I went there looking for the beginning of a new connection, but most of the people I talked to wanted a one-night stand. Hook ups aren’t my style, so I started to lose hope. However, after relentless waves of “wyd,” I got a message from someone that I knew.
A guy in my building named “Charlie” (not his real name) messaged me after we matched. This embarrassed me because I just saw him that night. A few hours prior, my roommate got tired of me playing video games in my bed on my days off, so she forced me to go see a student production of Cabaret with some other people in our dorm. Charlie just so happened to be there. Obviously, I didn’t pay much attention to anything that night because I didn’t recognize him when I swiped right. It turned out that we shared a lot of interests, and we migrated to our actual phone numbers.
I fell hard. We texted all day every day, and we even got the golden heart on Snapchat; that’s basically a promise ring. He was my first real crush, but my lack of experience and low self-esteem kept me from pursuing anything. Despite all the signs telling me that he liked me, I convinced myself that he didn’t. He was a popular extrovert while I preferred to stay in my room all day.
I ended up acting a fool and hid from him whenever I saw him in person.
I prayed that he would just tell me that he liked me, but he didn’t exactly do that. My experience with Charlie exposed me to the psychological warfare of dating. For the first time, I concerned myself with how long I should wait until responding and what emojis I needed to use. I didn’t like it at all.
After a few months of texting and psychoanalysis, we went home for winter break. I spent time with one of my best friends and went to house shows; after a particularly fun one, I sent Charlie a silly Snapchat. However, instead of the usual “aww cute,” he sent a confession. “I really like you but only as a friend.”
I sent him a picture of the moon with a funny face, and he sent me a rejection. That night, I did the one thing that I promised that I would never do: cry over a boy. I got over Charlie, eventually. It took a couple of months of denial and making even more of a fool out of myself, but I accepted that we weren’t going to be a thing.
I did end up going on a few more dates here and there, but I decided to swim back to land.
I didn’t want a relationship anymore. Don’t feel too sorry for me; I ended up getting that friends-to-lovers romance after doggy paddling through Tinder and dodging guys following me to class. Despite my less than stellar experiences with dating, they made me realize what I wanted in a relationship: no games and no overstepping boundaries. John and Charlie taught me that some of us, namely me, need to learn how to swim before attempting a few laps around the dating pool.