Girl Talk: I Think I’ve Figured The Allure Of Online Dating Out

Last night, I did something I thought I’d never do again, especially not on a random Monday evening: I reactivated my online dating profile.

I looked at the description of myself I wrote the last time I was single. I looked at the photos that I had thought best represented myself.  I checked my months-old messages. I read the new messages that came in as my account had been re-activiated again. And all the while I thought, Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, what are you doing?

This morning, I deactivated it again. You see, I think I had just wanted instant gratification.

When I broke up with O’Boyfriend, a huge impetus to do so was my ambivalence about being in a relationship. I wasn’t feeling passionate about being in a relationship with him because I wasn’t feeling passionate about being in a relationship with anyone. I looked at my life — the job I love at The Frisky, the job I love at BlackBook, my awesome friends, my supportive and loving family, my good health, my roommate’s cat who has stopped biting me all the time like the assole THAT HE IS — and it felt complete. I feel happy right now with just me, with just what I bring to the table for myself. Adding a man to the mix felt like placing the one card on top of the whole house of cards that made it topple over.

Breakups are always crappy but I felt good about being by myself. I told my friends, my family, my coworkers and my therapist some version of “I just want to enjoy being single for awhile.”

And I do. Ambivalent Single Lobster forever! But as days and weeks wore on, I started becoming more conscious of my self-esteem: my desirability to other people. One thing about not being in a relationship is that there’s 100 percent less affirmation that someone wants you. Despite all the reasons we didn’t work out, O’Boyfriend always made me feel wanted and desired; he told me all the time that he thought I was gorgeous. There was never any doubt in my mind that he was being sincere.

That’s gone now and it’s bittersweet; I am grateful to have been loved that thoroughly by someone, but I also can live without the charming self-esteem boost on tap. It doesn’t mean I don’t still want a self-esteem boost, though. Figuring out where to find it (outside of a relationship) is tricky. That part of my brain that switches off when I’m in a relationship that doesn’t pick up on other people flirting with me got turned on again … and promptly got confused. Did the guy who said he wished he wasn’t in a relationship so he could have sex with other partners mean he might want to have sex with me? Does the woman who wants to hang out and is really looking forward to it have a little crush on me? I’m so confused!

That’s where online dating comes in. Whether guys are just looking at my profiles or send me messages and flirting, it’s confirmation of something. Sure, the only thing it confirms is someone was intrigued enough by a tiny little pixelated image, or a few sentences, to click my profile and read the whole thing. That really doesn’t mean anything. That’s like a random dude turning his head to check your ass out as you pass him on the sidewalk. But even if it doesn’t mean anything, it’s something.

I realized I had turned my online dating profile back on because I had been reading about a celebrity couple online. I felt schmoopy and nostalgic and wondered if I would ever find what she has. How will I find that? I switched my profile back on. I looked at guys who had sent me messages right around the time I deactivated my profile to date O’Boyfriend. I looked at guys who were checking my profile out now. I felt instantly gratified that, yes, some might want to be with me.

I felt chopped up with anxiety all last night and all this morning about being “on the market again.” Because no, no, no. I’m not on the market. I’m very not on the market. I don’t want a boyfriend, let alone to respond to the inevitable series of going-nowhere online dating messages. What were you thinking, Jessica?

So I switched it off this morning and then bought myself a coffee that I love, in an outfit that I love, on my way to the job that I love. And I felt once again complete.

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