I used to treat my dating apps the same way I’d treat trips to the gym — as a means to an end. I wanted my ass to be an inch higher than it is, so I’d drag it to the gym and squat it into submission until I wanted to die. (I’ve thankfully since given into my love of yoga — and stopped obsessing over my ass.) When it came to the apps, I wanted a boyfriend, so I considered swiping a second career. I’d pore over the profiles of men, attempting to figure out whether or not they wanted a relationship. Men who I found attractive and who were up front about their desire to couple up almost always got a swipe right. The guys who listed things like, “just looking to have fun,” or, “not interested in anything serious right now,” got a swipe left. Mama didn’t have any time to fuck around. In the words of every contestant on America’s Next Top Model, I’m not here to make friends.
That was until I came across Julio* on Bumble. Julio was up front from the beginning: He’d just gotten out of a long relationship, and he was taking the year to just have a good time. In the past, I’d toss him into the digital “reject” bin and move on with my day. But, for whatever reason, that day I decided to swipe right. Julio and I matched, and we starting talking on the app, where he once again reiterated that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. But I soldiered on, and we eventually moved on to text.
Julio and I got in the habit of texting each other just to check in and say hi. A friendship began to form, and our banter was so easy that I didn’t have any of the “what should I text him?!” dilemmas I’d had with men in the past. Around this same time, I started seeing a guy named Jude*, and then referenced him ever-so-subtly in this column. Julio read it, I came clean, and we decided to continue talking and being friends — even though I’d effectively taken romance off the table.
And Julio actually turned out to be a great confidant when it came to my love life. I’d ask for his insight, and he’d give me advice through the lens of the types of people I was actually dating — namely, straight men. In the past, I’d bounce cryptic text messages and shady behavior off of my younger brothers, which was just as awkward as it sounds. But Julio gave me unfiltered responses from a dude’s perspective, sans the awkwardness. There was a point when Jude and I were going through some shit involving his ex-girlfriend, and Julio told me the thing none of my friends or either of my brothers would say to my face: You’re his second choice. When Jude and I finally ended things, those words were part of my breakup monologue — and then I repeated them back to all of my friends.
The strangest part about this entire situation was that my friendship with Julio grew completely over text messages for the first two months. We didn’t officially meet until the night after I ended things with Jude. I was sad, and Julio offered to take me out to dinner. We instead wound up at a bar, drinking margaritas, and then moved onto a pig roast my friends were hosting, where we proceeded to get completely drunk off of rum cocktails and red wine. That night, I knew I’d made a good friend.
I (and so many other people, I’m sure) have started taking this online dating thing way too seriously.
Now, the story of how we met has become our little hat trick that we like to pull out whenever we meet people in the other’s circle. “We met on Bumble,” one of us will say. “Yeah, but we have never hooked up,” the other will clarify. And when this conversation inevitably comes up, I think back to the hard-and-fast rules I used to have when it came to online dating. Had I stuck to my rigid outlook on the apps, I would have never swiped right on Julio, he would have never given me advice on navigating the Jude situation, and we would have never become friends.
It makes me realize that I (and so many other people, I’m sure) have started taking this online dating thing way too seriously. When I first started using apps and websites, I’d see dates as opportunities to meet interesting people who I’d never come across otherwise. But the older I got, and the more societal pressure had me considering marriage, the more I started skipping over people I thought were interesting, but whom I didn’t see a future with.
So now, along with mindfully swiping, I’m attempting to look at the men on my apps as actual people with interests, instead of humans who could potentially fill the role of “boyfriend.” You never know who you might meet on these apps, so you might as well have a little fun with it while you’re also looking for love. As for Julio, he and I are still just friends — and I’m happy to keep it that way. I successfully met a boy friend on Bumble, and I consider that as fortuitous an outcome as any.
* Name has been changed.
After being raised on a steady diet of Disney movies, I expected to meet someone and fall passionately in love — but wound up collapsing under the pressures of modern dating. Luckily, I eventually realized that there's no "right" way to date, and that I need to find happiness within myself, no partner needed. It’s Not You is where I write to calm the voices in my head — and hear from all of you. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, or email me at maria.delrusso@refinery29.