I matched with a dude on Hinge (he was my first match). It was my first time using the app, and I decided I would “put myself out there.” I hadn’t come out yet, but I eventually would about a month later. The match didn’t really mean all that much to me. I mean, he was cute, and I thought he was funny, but I never really used dating apps to meet people for dates anyways. It was always one of those “wild things” I did to (again) “put myself out there” before ultimately not pursuing anything and letting my profile close on its own. So, I wasn’t expecting much.
All I was expecting was a short conversation, maybe an exchange of social media, and then we’d eventually stop talking. Our interactions would limit themselves to likes on each other’s posts (or none at all) and occasional laugh emojis at each other’s Instagram stories. But as you might be able to tell, it didn’t quite end there.
He was from New York City, and it was Thanksgiving Break, so we both decided that we’d like to meet up once. We’d known each other for around two months and texted almost every day. I know! Big moves: getting on a train ride and traveling for hours just to meet a guy you matched with on Hinge. But, I was going to NYC for a day trip anyways. All we did was have lunch together.
It became increasingly apparent that I didn’t know how to interact with a human being in a situation like this. Was this a date? Was this a friendly platonic meeting between two bros? Just dudes being dudes? I didn’t know, and I felt kind of dumb.
We said goodbyes, and I ate dinner alone, got on the train, and came back home. And then beat myself up for not being more “charismatic” or more “compelling.”
I don’t think I necessarily wanted to date him. I think I just wanted to experience what a date was like. You know, one of those dates you see in the movies, with the hearts and the stars, the flashy lights. I’m really shy when it comes to romance (or showing feelings in general?), so that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
I never met anyone from a dating app since.
(Sometime in the Winter)
I was thinking about that pseudo-date that I had in NYC, and I think I realized that it was more about confirmation than anything else. I was out of the closet (at least among friends), and I think I wanted to explore my newfound confidence in my identity. I think I just wanted to meet with a guy to know if my feelings were real, that I could, in fact, feel the “fluttering heart” that people talk about all the time. If that was my goal, then, yes, it was a successful encounter, but in terms of actually knowing how I felt about this dude? No, still clueless. But do I want to pursue anything? No, I don’t have that confidence.
But, in the end, we still continued to text with each other every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk with someone who’s outside of all of your social circles. I grew up with lots of online friends from Tumblr and Twitter, and when times were rough, it was often these people who ended up lifting me up, even when I thought I didn’t know them all that well. So I guess that’s why I kept talking with him.
Sometime between November and January, sometime in winter, I deleted all my dating apps. I mentioned before, right? This was the cycle: match with people, strike up some conversations, let the conversations die, and then delete. Rinse, repeat.
(Sometime after Spring Break)
While the world was burning down, I think we all wanted some sort of social connection. After months of being “clean,” I redownloaded Hinge and Tinder, searching for that sweet, sweet social interaction. I wasn’t looking for dates/relationships because… I mean the world was burning down, and I had bigger priorities — like finding someone to talk to other than my parents.
It was largely unsuccessful. Turns out, Idaho doesn’t have a very large population in the first place, let alone people seeking friends on dating apps during a global crisis.
You may know that Tinder has made Tinder Passport free for everyone until today (so get on there if you haven’t already). Tinder Passport allows users to “swipe” in locations outside of their own, so you can match with people from all across the world, not just your small suburban town in Idaho. I bravely decided to start swiping in Seoul, South Korea. Why? Because (1) my parents told me we might be moving there in the fall and (2) I wanted the social connection that I mentioned earlier — the kind far-removed from any of my circles. There’s something strangely comforting about knowing that another person on the other side of the world is going through the same crisis as you (albeit with easier access to healthcare).
Not only am I not interested in pursuing a relationship in the era of COVID-19, but I’m also not interested in pursuing a long-distance relationship with someone ~6000 miles away from me in the era of COVID-19. So, in Korean, I put on my profile, “I live in America, and I’m really bored. Just looking for people to talk to and have conversations with. My parents said we might move to Korea in the fall, so might as well start making friends now, right?”
I matched with this one guy who had a similar bio. He was also “just looking for friends” (which usually means friends with benefits, but I think he and I both sincerely just mean platonic friends). We talked for a bit, exchanging small talk like, “what time is it over there?”
“What are you eating for dinner?” — “I’m having soft tofu stew.” — “Oh, that sounds really good!”
“Any plans today?” — “No, just staying at home.” — “Oh, I’m meeting up with a friend today for lunch!” — “Nice! Have fun.”
“Sorry, I didn’t text you yesterday. I was going through a tough time.”
I blinked and read the text again and then decided to respond, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I was pretty busy too. I hope you were able to get by without much trouble.”
He quickly responded, “No! It was fine. I just came out to my roommate is all.”
I replied, “Oh, that’s tough. Did he take it well?”
“Yeah, he did. I’m really thankful, but it was still a lot.”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“형, do you think you’ll ever come out to your parents?”
“No… or at least I wouldn’t come out to my parents until it becomes incredibly relevant to their lives. Like, I’m going to marry a guy or something.”
“Me either, I think that’s a good plan. They don’t need to know until they have to know, right?”
“One time I was dating a guy in high school, and we got really cheap couple rings for each other. We never wore them, of course, but we kept them around. Anyways, my mom found it one day in my room and asked me where I got it from… I said that it was just something I bought because I wanted to look cool, that I wasn’t dating anyone. But she gave me this look as if she knew something and asked me why I was spending so much time with him. I’ve been really careful ever since.”
“Oh, I had a similar experience with a guy asking me out in high school. I told him that I ‘wasn’t interested in him like that,’ and my mom asked me why I didn’t just say that I wasn’t gay. I didn’t really know how to respond because I was questioning myself at the time. It created this whole situation in my house, so I dropped it by just saying I was straight. I know that if I ever came out, it would be even worse.”
“Do your parents not like gay people?”
“They don’t discriminate against gay people, but they don’t want me to be gay.”
“My parents too… Anyways, it’s really late over here! I’m going to head to bed.”
“Okay! Good night!”
I thought he had gone to sleep so I didn’t check my phone for a while. I came back to find some more messages and read them:
“Hey, thanks for listening. It’s been really tough for me. I really think you’re a kind person, and I’m so glad to have met someone like you and to talk to someone like you during this time. You’ve been a really good friend to me… Anyways, I’m really going to sleep now, bye!”
I replied, “I’m thankful too, I’m glad that I could be a friend, even through this app and from so far away! In our most difficult times, we need to hold onto each other and be there to support each other. You’ve supported me too by being here to talk with, I’m just returning the favor.”
I’m convinced that I’m using dating apps wrong, but if this is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
(( I might continue this, but we’ll see how things go. Stay safe out there y’all.))