In the 26 years, 1 month, and 7 days that I’ve been alive, the universe has afforded me one Tinder date. Just one. And that’s probably due to the amount of mental energy it takes to give yourself the sort of pep talk before a first date that looks like this: “Okay, he has sent me a selfie. I’ve heard his voice. There is a person who exists beyond the screen. I will not be Catfished. I will not be murdered. We will meet in a public place. And we can just lie to people and say we met in Aisle 7 if this all works out. Okay… we’re doing this. We’re really doing this.”
Alas, after that one date, the Gods of Tinder never showed their faces to me again. And I’ve retired from the game. And then un-retired. And then re-retired again.
As a sidenote to those who don’t know the mystery that is Tinder, it’s a dating application. It’s like Pandora for people— you get to swipe through a collection of faces and accept the people you are attracted to and decline the ones who don’t suit your fancy. And if you and the other person are in agreement with swiping “YES,” you’re brought into an exclusive conversation. Your own little chatroom. The world is your oyster after that, baby.
So this all sounds really shallow when I type it out. I’m seeing that now. And while I used to think it was an ankle-deep app for people who only want to hook up at 3a.m. and need a mile radius to know how feasible the chances of that happening really is, it seems to have shifted into a more legitimate avenue to meet people. A lot of my friends are going on Tinder dates. We’ve had girls’ nights where Tinder stories seem to steer the conversation. Someone in my office is actually engaged because of the glorious power of swiping right (and she’s too awesome to sum up into words already and now she has a pretty awesome love story, all thanks to Tinder).
And this is all really a bunch of breaking-the-ice word vomit just so I can reach a point where I am comfortable enough to just say it: I’m single. Yup. That’s me. I’m solo. I eat alone. And I’ve wondered why it’s so hard to talk about that. I wonder why I’m met with glares and uneven faces when the word “Tinder” gets said in a group. I wonder why I often feel lame, as if admitting defeat, when I tell someone I am single— as if I am genuinely sorry to announce that I haven’t met someone yet. And I’m trying to be okay with admitting that I sometimes feel like I’m floundering in a culture that seems to associate “singleness” with missing pieces.
I want to seem like a cool single girl.
If there is even such a thing, if people even find themselves saying things like, “She’s a cool single girl,” then I want to be that.
And that’s just because I spent a long time doing this whole “single” thing wrong. Trust me, I used to have my days of acting like the President of the Single Girl Gauntlet. I’ve whined with the bunches of them. I’ve asked the same questions: Do guys even call anymore? Is chivalry dead? What happened to running into someone in an airport? Do I really have to go online?
The questions— they got me nowhere. The whining— it got me ten steps in the opposite direction of the person I knew I was capable of being. I was just choosing daily to stay mad at a world that made me feel like I was missing pieces when I was the one saying it the loudest, “You are missing pieces. You aren’t enough.”
The problem wasn’t guys. The problem wasn’t the digital age. The problem wasn’t the rose ceremonies being denied to me. It was me. I was the problem. I was the one hunting down completion through another person. I wanted someone to give me a world I could go only go out there and grab on my own.
That seems to be the wicked spell I’ve seen get cast upon the ones of us who have fallen in love before: it becomes really hard to convince yourself that another person didn’t complete you. You get comfortable with the phone calls. You get comfortable with the silly messages that only you get to read. You get comfortable with the passenger seat being full. And your hand being held. And your darker parts being known. And your thirst being quenched, even if only for a little while. And when it is gone— you think you need it all over again. And it’s easy to get bitter when you treat your want like a need.
But what I really needed? I needed to see all the ways I was standing in my own way before I ever welcomed someone else into that equation, thinking they could solve it for me.
The story of how I got to that exact point is for another day but I know I packed a full suitcase for the girl I used to be and I sent her off with a one-way ticket in her hand. But I can still imagine what it would be like to sit across the table from that girl I used to be— both of us pursing lattes, cradled by fingers baring too much chipped polish— and tell her what I know now: Time gets wasted when you’re not content. And you not seeing the blessings for this moment is a disservice to all the people who don’t get a free life like yours. And if you ever hope to convince someone else they are complete and whole and good as they are— if a shred of you has ever wanted to tell someone that— then you should really stop acting like you’re the puzzle with too many pieces of the sky gone missing. You should stop thinking anyone but yourself can change that insecure part of you. A guy won’t change it. A Tinder swipe won’t cure the wound. You looking for something to plug the hole won’t do it. Humans are just humans, they aren’t lifeboats. They aren’t bandaids. They aren’t completion.
A mentor of mine who worked at my college met someone unexpectedly during the summer of my junior year and decided not to return to our small campus come the fall. She’d always been there everyday. And then she suddenly wasn’t.
She sent an email. She gave up her job. She deserved the world, really. I emailed her back and told her that.
She wrote back to tell me this: you’ll find that the most astounding love will meet you when you are complete. When you can stand before yourself— in a mirror, in the car, or wherever you do all that internal talking— and say, “I am okay alone. I am cool on my own. I am legitimate. They should write rap anthems about me. Or at least play “Ridin’ Solo” when I walk into a room. I’m single and that doesn’t mean I’m not complete.”
And she told me it would be an even better love when the person who chooses you is complete too. And sees your completeness. And you can both sit there with your hands in the spaces of one another and recognize: there is no completing this time around. There is adding on. There is complimenting one another. But there is no completing because you’re not any missing pieces.
When I read those words of hers, it made me think back to a childhood packed full with Puzzle Nights. That was a thing (that’s why I capitalized it). A legitimate thing. And just to further complicate the lives of anyone who sat down at our kitchen table for the traditional night of puzzles and hot cocoa, my brothers and I would pour out the contents of two puzzles– similar in theme– onto the table. We were still babies with something to prove. Instead of 500 pieces, there’d suddenly be 1,000. And if you’ve ever tried to assemble two puzzles at once, you draw a lot of conclusions quickly: there’s a lot of sky. There’s a lot of clouds. There’s a lot of random inanimate objects that seem to stretch in to the abyss of infinity.
But I think that’s what happens when you share a life with someone— you realize it’s two puzzles. No matter how “one” you become, there are still two puzzles scattered on the table. Two skies. Two sets of clouds. Two very different landscapes.
If you’re single, I think it’s probably better to resolve and say: Okay, I have my own pieces right now. Only mine. And one day I’d like another sky. So I will do my best to figure out the pieces I am holding while there is still just one puzzle to solve.
The post should have ended right with that last line.
It would have been really poetic and cool. But I can suspect several emails coming my way after I click publish on this piece, asking me the question I haven’t answered for you yet:
How did that one Tinder date go?
Well, in the history of dates I’ve gone on, it was a pretty good one. It scores pretty high.
We met halfway in as small, unheard-of town at the only restaurant we could find in the hour of distance between us that didn’t look like KFC and the Olive Garden had a baby together. It was a small pizza joint. The conversation was good. We both admitted to being fearful that Nev from Catfish might show up for the date in the place of one another. He wore Vans. We drove around the other small towns that encased that one small town. We blasted “White Houses” by Vanessa Carlton. I used his glove compartment as a drum set.
He was moving away, and I was restless with my own location on a map, so we only had one date. But I was complete that night. And I like to think he was complete. And we asked for nothing more of one another than summer air and a conversation that left us saying, as we went in our separate directions: keep getting out there in the world and giving it everything you have. I don’t know you all that well but I have a hunch you’ll do just fine.