I think of old organic processes, of oceans tempered by rain, of mountains rent by wind and snow, when I think of my creeping disorientation as a wife, of how the self in wedlock can be worn away.Perhaps that’s why, when I first went online, I was so susceptible to fantasy. Juan and I would move to Uruguay and raise his teenage daughters!Meeting someone “IRL” — as, it turns out, they say — seemed unlikely at best. I haven’t met anyone I’ve liked enough, or who liked me enough, to cancel my accounts.
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For weeks I had been holed up in my family’s empty summerhouse, writing, and I worked all that day, caught up in a kind of luxuriant self-consciousness that has since become familiar — that acute sense of self and solitude that binding oneself to an outsider can at times unleash.
Every so often I looked out the window at the river, where strange white tendrils were rising and whipping in sheets across the surface.
Now, over three years and seven dating apps later, I’ve gone out with 86 men and counting; I know because I keep a list that reads like free verse (“David the orphan … Yes, online dating can be deeply demoralizing, a parade of indignities that throws into relief not just our self-absorption and banality, but our nihilism too.
If I stumble upon one more man who seeks a “partner in crime,” one more “sapiosexual” or “entrepreneur,” I fear I will stomp on my phone.
But I would think that who finds herself confronted by such baffling cowardice must suffer from them.
(And I should acknowledge, too, that I have also behaved badly at times, failing to write someone back once real life takes hold or sending squirmy messages in lieu of a clean break.)But for all this, what I’ve gained from online dating far exceeds what I have lost.That spectral ex-spouse of mine used to complain of what he called our “heteronormative” lifestyle, a term that made me roll my eyes though I knew just what he meant: Our lives had lost their capacity to surprise.I remember lying in bed and reading the memoirs of the French writer Blaise Cendrars; I couldn’t stop marveling at the boundlessness of that man’s existence, one that made him a film director, a beekeeper, a watchmaker and connected him to gangsters and whores.As it grew light, he asked me how I took my coffee and I said that I drank tea; he returned some time later with a Styrofoam cup from Dunkin’ Donuts and a dozen red roses he had bought at the gas station. Multiply that evening’s curiosities by 86, and you’ll begin to grasp the potential of these soul-crushing apps.Thanks to Hinge and Bumble, I have dated German poets and Indian bankers, Australian contractors and Brazilian waiters.How narrow was my own existence, I thought then, and how it continued to narrow by the day.