Swiping for love: Online dating as a woman
The Month of Love: Part 1/4
Coffee meets Bagel.
If you thought a cat just ran across my keyboard, you are not alone. It was only in the last 10 days that I heard many of these ‘words’ for the first time myself.
And I am here to testify that these actually are real words. Important ones at that.
Welcome to the brand new world of finding love in India, fellow oldie!
February is the month of love.
Or so the Archies-Hallmark nexus would have us believe.
And with that Archies reference, I am now officially eligible for a senior pass.
So, here is the short story of why I didn’t write on a new issue last week.
You see, two weeks ago, I decided to write a post on online dating.
A rather educational fortnight followed. I spoke to dozens of young women and added scores of new words to my vocabulary (one could say these women were my FWBs, but one would be quite wrong because my life is not nearly that happening).
After all this education, I realized that I could not possibly cover the many elaichis in the biryani of online dating in just one post.
I would need at least a month’s worth.
Which brings us to this:
Welcome to Part 1/4 of Womaning’s mois d'amour (Month of Love) ❤️
There are many glorious pitfalls to being a woman in the labyrinth of online dating.
So strap yourselves in, young readers.
And keep your dentures safely aside, my dinosaur peers, because this one will leave your jaw hanging open.
Parental Guidance: I have heard from some parents that their children love reading Womaning. As much as that makes my heart somersault with joy, I should warn parents that the posts of February 2022 will deal with the subjects of love and sex and have strong language. So parents, please pre-scan these posts, and do your thing. ❤️
(See parents? I wasn’t joking.)
When Anshika first installed a dating app on her phone, she was surprised to see that so many women with “not here for hookups” written on their profiles.
“I mean, no judgment towards anyone for wanting or not wanting hookups. But I wondered what is the need to brand your profile page with this message – in bold letters, sometimes!”
But, Anshika says, she discovered the reason as soon as she started getting matched with men on the app.
“Most men start off a conversation with a bold pickup line or sexual innuendo right off the bat. I am not looking for a hookup, but even if it was, I might have been turned off by their sheer inability to have a normal human conversation. And this is not counting the men who just send a dick pic as their first greeting! Ugh!”
Pia first heard about Tinder when she was a college student.
“I installed the app and literally the first three guys I spoke to began the conversation with, ‘Your place or mine?’ That really freaked me out, and I uninstalled the app.”
A few years later, Pia heard about Bumble where women had a bit more control of the conversation.
“I use the app on and off, but I have had weird experiences there as well. I remember this one guy who randomly started sending me shirtless pictures in the middle of a normal conversation. I had never asked for such pictures. There wasn’t anything remotely sexual about our conversation so far.”
Unfortunately, Pia discovered that there are far too many men like this, who try to force a sexual conversation with zero sense of context or timing.
“One time, I told a man I was chatting with that I was buried under work at the office. His response: ‘Why don’t you lay your burdens on me, babe? Come and sit on my face.’
What a sexed-up monkey. Disgusting and puke-worthy.
When men openly harass women like this in the virtual world, I shudder to imagine what they would do if I met them in person! Having had such experiences, I am petrified to go on a date with anyone I meet through an online app!”
Itika had been chatting with a guy for a while on an app. One night, he texted her at 11 pm. She had had a long day and felt too tired to type. She asked if they could talk on the phone instead.
“I suggested a voice call, but when my phone rang, I noticed it was a video call. I thought he was confused and answered just to ask him to switch to a voice call instead.”
“The first thing I saw when I answered the call was his penis. And when he moved the camera around, I saw him sitting there stark naked. For a second, my brain could not process what was happening.
As soon as I found my voice, I shouted, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’
He said, ‘Come on, you are talking to me at 11 in the night. What did you think would happen?’
I had no clue when a legislation was passed declaring 11pm as the approved time for unsolicited dick videos, but I was definitely not onboard.
I said again, ‘Can you just put your clothes back on?’
He was a 45-year-old man who seemed new to the concept of consent, because he said, ‘If I don't mind, why do you mind?’
He even demanded that I join him in his birthday suit display. I told him that that was never going to happen.
His tone changed to anger. He said, ‘Oh God, you're behaving like a child now, getting all worked up over nothing. I thought you were mature enough, but I am very disappointed’.
Can you believe this? This man was sexually harassing me, and had the gall to say that HE was disappointed with ME!”
Itika cut the call and immediately unmatched him on the app.
But he had my Instagram ID, and texted a few days later, ‘Hey, what happened? Are you angry with me?’ I still laugh every time I think about the naked man, trying to act like that call never happened.
I know I could have cut the call sooner, but I am now at a point where I feel like letting these idiots make fools of themselves.
In my mind, I went, ‘Go ahead, show me how stupid you can be. Show me how foolish you are’.
I know that doesn’t make me sound very likable, but I am way past caring at this point.”
Sheesh. Can you blame her?
Not able to follow the lingo?
Here is a helpful...
‘Matching with’ means when two people like each other’s profiles and the dating app connects them.
‘Tinder’ is a dating app where, when two people match with each other, a chat window appears, connecting them to have a conversation.
‘Bumble’ is another dating app like Tinder, except that a man cannot initiate a conversation there - so the woman has more control.
‘Dick pic’ means…. well… don’t Google it.
No means… try harder?
Heena recounts a date with a man of many presumptions.
“I went on a date with a man I met online. We agreed to just go for a drive in a public place. As soon as he picked me up, he said that he had booked an AirBnb for us nearby. I asked him what made him presume that I would want to go there with him. He said ‘Oh, I don’t expect anything to happen. We will just watch a scary movie’.
I told him that I did not like ‘scary movies’.
I made it clear that we could drive around and talk like we agreed, but he must drop me off exactly where he picked me up. The date didn’t last even 45 mins, and thank God for that!”
Jenny says that, while dating is hard for everyone involved, the aspect of safety makes it much harder for women.
“It is a no-brainer, but women have to worry about that extra aspect of physical and online safety which men don’t. And that colours our entire dating experience.”
Over the years of dating, Jenny has had to come up with rules for her dating conduct.
“I never meet a man for a date at his place or invite him to my place until I trust him. My first few dates are always in crowded public places. I also never drink on dates. If the man insists, I just say ‘I want to be fully present for our conversation’. The reality is that I don’t trust whether or not he drugged my drink.
It is unfortunate that women have to censor their own freedom like this - all because of the bad behaviour of some men. But this is the reality I live in.”
Akanksha recounted a particularly harrowing experience she had while on a date with a man she met online.
“We went out on a few dates, and it seemed to be going fine. But one day, he just grabbed and started kissing me against my will. I told him to stop. I tried to push him away. But he kept assaulting me, even when I was clearly begging him to stop.
As soon as I got home that night, I unmatched him, reported him, and uninstalled the app on my phone. The incident scarred me. I was too scared to even be alone with another man for months, let alone go on dates. But my friends would tell me they still see him on the app. So he clearly suffered no consequences for doing something that left me traumatized.”
Akanksha talks about the complete lack of respect for a woman’s consent.
“Most men seem to think that a woman’s ‘no’ means ‘I want you to try harder and I might be convinced’. I don’t know if they learn this toxic nonsense from our movies, or porn, or just the way our society is.
But I want to clarify - once and for all - that a woman’s ‘no’ means nothing other than ‘no’. If you are forcing a woman to be physical with you when she has made her discomfort clear, you are not a loverboy – you are a sexual predator.”
Kritika met someone she actually saw a future with on a dating app.
“We chatted for a bit and then met up in person. We got along really well. After a month or so, we decided to become exclusive. Our relationship continued to progress well for a while. And then, suddenly, after about three months, he ghosted me.
I was crushed.
A few days later, I was still reeling from the shock when a friend of mine told me about this guy she had been chatting with. She said he sounded like my ex, and asked me to see his pic.
It was him.
I was still grieving the loss of what I thought was a loving relationship, and here he was - flirting with my friend without wasting a single day, without even giving me the courtesy of a breakup.
Heartbreak is one thing, but this made me feel cheap and used. I uninstalled all dating apps from my phone that day and haven’t gone back since.”
Fariha had a similar experience on a dating app. She met someone with whom she saw real potential for a relationship. Only to be unceremoniously ghosted.
“Ghosting is a very rude and immature thing for anyone to do. And it is definitely very tough on the person who is at the receiving end - whether they are a man or woman.
I don’t know how men deal with ghosting – I have seen some of them blame all women for what one woman did and find comfort in that generalization.
But when women are ghosted, we have a tendency to blame ourselves.”
Fariha says that anytime she was ghosted, she would go through a long cycle of guilt and self-blame.
“I would go weeks - analysing every little thing I said, everything he said, trying to figure out what made him treat me like that.
It doesn’t help, of course, that other people also tend to hold women accountable for the actions of men. When I told my friends, they said things like ‘You need to lower your standards for men’ or ‘You come across as too strong and confident. Men get intimidated by that’.
I think my mistake was that I listened to them.
But after having observed many women go through similar stuff, I have realized that we need to stop blaming ourselves for someone else’s immaturity.
If someone ghosts you, the fault lies with them. They just proved to you that they don’t deserve you. You don’t need to change yourself. You definitely should not diminish your own strength to coddle someone else’s insecurities. That is not how a healthy relationship begins.”
‘Ghosting’ means cutting off all communication with a person - via phone, WhatsApp, Instagram, dating apps, pigeon mail - giving them no advance notice or hint of an explanation for why you are doing it.
Also known as The Coward’s Breakup (© me).
‘Being exclusive’ means a couple mutually agreeing to stop seeing other people. No, it is not a given anymore - not with more potential partners on your phone than there are pizzas on Zomato.
When someone says “You’re too good for me”, believe them.
I asked some women to share how men react when they realize they are dating a strong, confident woman.
Shomita said she wished that gender, politics, and religion were acceptable parts of date conversations.
“I am a voracious reader, and I have strong opinions on these important things. They form an important part of my identity. I would like to have a partner who is on the same page as me on at least the basics – like the understanding that men and women need to be equal partners for a relationship to work.
But I am not able to voice most of this on a first date.”
Shomita says that she has found that the expectation most men come to a date with is for a woman to be completely airheaded.
“There is a pressure to be someone I am not – a very well put-together Barbie doll with not too many thoughts in her head.
I used to talk about gender equality on the first date. But I found that men are intimidated by what they call ‘an opinionated woman’. Some of them take it as a personal attack on them and call me ‘judgmental’.
So now, I feel like I have to cloak my thoughts, disguise them, and ask indirect questions to gauge my date’s take on issues that are really important to me.”
Heena has found that some men grapple with a lot of insecurity. And finding themselves chatting with a strong woman makes such men deeply uncomfortable.
“I work for a well-known IT firm. A few months ago, I matched with a guy who was also from the software sector. But he had recently lost his job in some mass layoffs his company had had. I was sympathetic - it is the pandemic after all. I tried to reassure him that he would soon find a job.
When he found out my job, however, he said ‘Oh, your company just does some random backend work’.
I did not appreciate the patronizing tone but I let it go since I figured he was upset.”
In the following weeks, however, his tone grew worse.
“He would react like a petulant child every time I could not speak to him because I was working. I tried to be patient with him but he grew progressively nastier.
At one point, he even said ‘Your company is just known for hiring pretty women’. In one fell swoop, he insulted both – my job and me. After seeing a few more such proofs of his insecurities, I told him that it wasn’t working out for me.
It ended, however, on a rather amusing note, given his comments about my company. Just a few days after I broke up with him, he texted me to ask if there was an opening in my firm he could apply for.”
Kritika also spoke to me about men who cannot bear to be with a strong independent woman.
“I once dated a lawyer. He would sometime take hours to respond when I texted him because he was busy at work. I understood, and never had an issue with it.
However, there were times when he would directly call me in the middle of a workday, without asking first if I was available to talk. If I was on a work call, and not able to answer, he would blame me for prioritizing my work over him.
This man – who routinely prioritized his own work over me – thought it was quite natural to expect my world to revolve around him and his calls.”
Kritika says that dating such men has taught her a valuable lesson though.
“Often their go-to complaint is ‘you are too career-minded’, or ‘you are too sure of yourself’, or the classic ‘you are too good for me’.
I have learned that when a man says you are too good for him, you should believe him. He is right. You need to move on to someone who deserves being with you.”
“It is not my job to educate you”
Opal has been dating for several years now. She is a woman who is quite sure about what she does and does not want. And what she will and will not tolerate.
“One thing I've noticed with many men is that as long as there is the expectation of sex on the table, they will be at their best behaviour. They will pull chairs for you, they will open doors for you. They will even walk you to the loo if you let them. But their colours change the moment you take away their incentive for playing nice.
These men need to be explained what consent means. Sometimes, I have to actually tell them, ‘Listen, if you take me out, that does not mean I owe you sex. In fact, even if I've had sex with you before, it does not mean that I am contractually bound to do it again’.
It is only when you take sex off the table that you realize who a man truly is.”
Opal says that she often finds that such men react aggressively to being refused.
“They are quite happy as long as you are looking pretty, and laughing at their jokes, and nodding along to their opinions. As soon as you express an opinion of your own that does not match theirs, they get aggressive.
For example, if I say men and women deserve equal respect, they instantly move me from the ‘dating’ box to the ‘debating’ box. They want to take something from the interaction – if it won’t be sex, then they want to take a piece of my dignity.
I have had men demand that I explain and convince them of my views. I block such man-babies instantly. If you are living in the modern world and have not bothered to educate yourself on something so basic, then Google it - don’t try to burden me with the responsibility of educating you.
I am clear that I am on these apps for dating, not to reform toxic men.”
See you next week, lovebirds
It is not that online dating is all bad, of course. Most of the women I interviewed are still on these dating apps – so there has to be something that makes it worth it for them.
Reena told me how she is quite shy and an introvert - so the online platform has allowed her to make connections that she might not have been able to make in physical life.
Fariha says she has met a number of men who have been quite nice and respectful. Even if things did not work out between them romantically, she has met quite a few men worth staying friends with.
Kritika even went on to meet her husband on an online dating app and they have been happily married for years now.
And yet, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the mess that online dating can be for women.
So see you next week for Part 2/4 of the Month of Love series.
Till then, stay strong, singles.
See you on Valentine’s Day, dinos ❤️
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