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The Heads Or Tails Of Digital Dating

I switched dating apps. No, this time it wasn’t because awful people drove me away. It’s because Tinder kept demanding my phone number and wouldn’t let me login without it. I’ve never indulged corporations that think they can hold me to ransom, especially when I have a choice. So my reasons are purely business/ethics based, not personal.

I think there’s something about a newer interface that makes it possible for me to carry in a new approach. It’s like being in a new room so even if the people in it are likely to be no different from the ones in the room you were last in, you can approach them with a fresh outlook. And perhaps people do use the other apps a little differently – a little more effort in building bios, a little less of entitlement in their first messages.

I received the following opening message from one person:

“You were my boss at so-and-so company.”

At first, I couldn’t place him. He was referring to my first time as a manager, where I inherited a large team of rapidly moving people. Then I deducted a decade, added some gawkiness, removed experience-based confidence and tacked on an eager-to-please smile onto his pictures. And there he was. It’s a lovely thing to be able to remember people’s origins and then realise how far they’ve come. Then I remembered that this was on a dating app and it got weird.

I connected with someone else, deciding to meet for a coffee a little later. I suppose I was wondering if it would be like my one 8-hour-look-where-did-the-time-fly date. It wasn’t. For starters, I mistook someone else standing outside the restaurant for this person. Is it just my generation that finds that “Hi, ABC?”, “No, sorry” interaction awkward? The mistaken person didn’t appear ruffled or even judgemental. He just went back to staring at his phone and I briefly debated asking if he’d like to be said person instead. Then I pulled my manners and age together and walked in. It wasn’t a bad conversation, though a tad reserved. It made me think of how much harder this whole thing must be for people who aren’t naturally extroverted or vivacious. We chatted for about an hour after which he had a work thing. And no, that probably wasn’t an excuse to get away since he messaged a few times after that.

There have been a few irritants. I’m rapidly realising that the kind of men who demand ‘interesting conversations, not if u typ lyk dis’ are also the likeliest to be inadequate conversationalists themselves, with the extent of their loquaciousness being “LOL, gimme your number I wanna Whatsapp”. True story. We demand from the world what we do not posses or do not feel like trying for and where is this truer than in how most men treat women?

I am liking that there’s been nary a ripple in my emotional balance from these last couple of months of dating experiences. There is the occasional ‘Sigh, it would be nice to have somebody’ but I get over that pretty quickly. I’m working on the idea that not every relationship will turn into the damaged nightmare I was in last time and it’s taking. But I’m afraid it will stop being fun. I know now that making an effort with dressing up my body and my mind will always help in keeping my life exciting and fun. But I doubt most men (or people for that matter) have the inclination or capacity to do that. And when other people aren’t as committed to a life of joy, it doesn’t take long for your own to sink. This kind of casual dating lets me get away before other people’s lack of alignment with my own way of life sabotages mine.

I saw this thread on Twitter this morning…

…talking about how a lot of people who don’t enjoy dating apps are just choosing to just not date. I guess I’m headed in the same direction.

Eventually I’m realising love, joy, sparkle, romance, chemistry whatchamacallit are matters of complete chance. You can’t predict who, when or what. The laws of probability tell me that there’s some value in maximising my encounters with other people but there’s no real guarantee. Too long of the left-right swipe business and it can really dampen one’s good humour. People manage to find what they want without doing any of these things. And others don’t, even if they’ve done all the maximising they can think of. And I suppose that’s okay.

Heads or Tails, it’s just a coin flip anyway.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Arre: My Tinder Bio – Not Here To Mother 20-Somethings

Arre ran one of my stories this week and I’m thrilled. It’s about my experiences as an ‘older’ woman on the dating apps, primarily Tinder. A very young friend told me how nice it was to see older humans not dissing the idea of online dating. I couldn’t stop laughing when I told him that my generation was the one that invented the concept of falling in love online. These were actually lines in my original draft of the article, that got dropped during edits:

“Speaking of dickpics, these didn’t shock me as much as my millennial friends thought they would. After all, the internet is basically my younger sibling (being that I was 16 the year VSNL made internet connection, an ‘it’ accessory). My generation had its first romantic exchange through a glass screen, hallelujah chatrooms! We invented (discovered?) so this was the inevitable future.”

Anyway, I’m really happy with the way my story shaped up. Writers tend to shape our own world view with what we write. And it’s put me into a very good frame of mind to have worked on a piece that is about carrying away experience, not cynicism from life.

Show me some love and read the article, people! It’s up here and it’s called:

My Tinder Bio: Not Here To Mother 20-Somethings

 

 

I Think I’ve Outgrown Men

I met someone last week. After years of settling for insipid encounters with sexist 30/40-somethings and incomplete conversations with scared 20-somethings, I connected with someone close to my age. This microgeneration that I’m told I belong to – the Xennials or people born between 1977 to 1985 – we’re a rare species and most of us (barely) fit into one of the adjacent generations or flit between the two. We’re riding the digital wave that characterises millennials but with caution and maps learnt from Gen Xers. These formed the basis of much of our early interactions.

He didn’t press his phone number, his address and close-ups of vital parts of his anatomy onto me. So that was great. But he did seem in awful rush to write The Great Indian Romance liberally laced with phrases like ‘long, romantic drive’. Still, I haven’t gotten to where I am without knowing how to put the brakes on that gently. Slow and casual, I told him and decided on a Sunday afternoon coffee.

It was pleasant not to have to do the exhausting ‘space/hookup/no-strings-attached/polyamory’ bullshit that characterises the speech of most Indian men I’ve met in the past ten years. I call bullshit because in my experience, none of them are able to deal with the reality of these concepts. So it was nice being able to spend a Sunday afternoon not having to jump through those hoops and dodge, well, dodgy games.

We decided on another date. This time there were other people, gently brushing past us in non-intrusive ways, just comfortable enough to keep this one light. It allowed for a deeper conversation. About what? Oh about the play we saw, the food we ate, the experiences we had had in love, in life, at work and more. Small intimacies were shared. The last heartbreak, the big fear, the major milestone just about survived and people we both knew.

The next morning, I received a text. The gist of it was that he was not working at the place that his profile claimed.

I spent a day and half thinking through this. I’ve lived long enough to realise that LYING is my dealbreaker. No white lies, no lying by omission, no delayed facts, no embellishments, no diplomacy, absolutely nothing. It’s non-negotiable. Yet, this was information he volunteered so did it constitute a lie? Moreover at what point can one expect to draw the dealbreaker lines?

I decided to meet and hear what he had to say. He said it had only hit him the previous evening when I introduced him to other people and that he wanted to clarify before it got too late to. He also said he didn’t know why he hadn’t brought it up in our previous conversations at all. I decided not to push on this. People do what they do, after all and what’s the point pushing for reason post mortem, beyond a point? All one is likely to get is defensiveness and excuses. But I stored the facts away as these in my mind:

  • He had broken up 7 months earlier.
  • He had quit said workplace 2 years earlier.
  • He worked in digital media.
  • He didn’t know how to change his workplace details on his profile.

The evening went on pleasantly. Till he asked what I was doing the following weekend. I had a couple of gigs coming up and I told him so. And before I knew it, I was in the middle of a ‘Come parday!’ death noose.

You know the one I mean. The ‘OMG Saturdays are for chillin’ bro, like with cool folks, whatchu saying, just come, have fun, putyerhandsupintheairlikeyoujesdoncare, parday, parday, parday’. Okay, he didn’t actually say it in this exact manner but how different does this speech get anyway? It used to send me into panic ten years ago; it just annoys me now.

Let’s be fair. I am not a wet blanket. I am not a prude. I am not even antisocial. My trouble always seems to have been too many people, too little time and too exciting a life according to other people. But I do know what I want and I do not want to waste even a minute of my life doing something that doesn’t fit this. Saturday nights, parday parday parday included.

He Just Wouldn’t Listen. Yes, like that.

We were interrupted by an acquaintance from gym passing by, which allowed me to segue into a conversation about fitness. It let me move into one of my silly-serious stories about annoying people one meets at a gym who will insist on doing everything but exercising (showing off, grunting in front of the mirror, flirting with instructors, asking how they can become as thin as me). His response?

“To kya hua, yaar? People like to talk. Usme kya hain?”

I shifted conversational ground to the swimming pool, a space I’m even more comfortable in given I’m much better at swimming than gymming. I told him this story. His response?

“So what? There’s no need to be so…You can be nice.”

And right back to parday-parday-parday mode except about gymming and swimming. You can see where this was going. Push-push-push from him, pushback-nononono from me, more push-push-push from him and so on. Including one

“You are so STUBBORN.”

(Err, excuse me, saying NO multiple times doesn’t make me stubborn, it makes you deaf)

But wait, it got better. He stopped and went,

“Chill, yaar! Relax. Chill, chill, why you getting so worked up?”

If there are any men reading this wondering what is wrong with this, this is condescension piled atop excessive pushiness. This is gaslighting following badgering (which is really harassment). I’ve learnt to draw my lines firmly.It still took me another day and somewhat apologetic messaging to close this encounter completely. And in the course of this, I had to wade through messages of the ‘But you said you liked me too’ variety.  But in most other cases (and indeed with me too, in the past), this would go right on into situations where the man just rode slipshod over everything the woman wanted and decided he was being macho/romantic/whatever-other-entitled-bullshit.

So lies – check, badgering – check, gaslighting – check.

I am not angry. I have learned economy of emotion and emotional labour. I have had to. I have been meeting men in a romantic context for over 15 years now, in different ways, locations, situations. I’ve connected with older men, younger men, peers of different backgrounds and professions. And this just NEVER changes. It gets called lots of names, most incorrect glorifications. But all it is, is men refusing to treat me as a human being with my decisions, ideas and feelings. You can call it toxic masculinity, you can blame it on their terrible upbringing, you can pin it on Bollywood but you can’t deny it.

I give up. I think I’ve outgrown the men on this planet. Anyone know any nice Martians?

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram

 

Why I Returned To Tinder After Being Burnt

Jab Tinder And I First Met

I first got onto Tinder in early 2014, when it was new to India. So little was known about it then that I didn’t even realise its reputation as a hookup app. You see, I’m one of those few people that keeps up to date on what’s cutting edge in India, not what was fashionable last month in Los Angeles or London.

It was a horrendous experience. Two people I met, acted as if sex was an agreed upon deliverable and like I was a defaulting small business owner. Yes, exactly as businesslike as that. They were both MBAs from top universities and their behaviour was the kind we usually attribute to ‘low education, underdeveloped social conditions, poor exposure, regressive social customs’. There was talk about no strings attached sex and open relationships but no notion of consent or respect. These were the two I met.

Then there were the married men. Men I knew to be in committed relationships, but who had no compulsions hitting on me when they saw me on Tinder. There were rabid messages. The guy who asked, “What kind of a woman is on Tinder anyway?” The ‘wanna sex’, ‘send nudes’ messages that are practically memes now but were new to me then. Shaken, I added one line to my bio that I wasn’t looking for hookups. The matches dried up instantly. Then a friend found my profile and demanded to know what ‘use’ I was to the platform if I wasn’t offering up sex. He poured an onslaught of hate messages at me till I blocked him. And then I deleted the app and swore off.

This is the Indian man I’ve encountered and learnt to be wary of.

digital-dating2

Enter a caption

*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Life Since TinderBurn

I’ve given Tinder a wide berth since then. But I’ve dabbled with some of the other upcoming dating and match apps. Most of them see very little activity. I struggle to connect with the few people I do see there. And it’s frankly depressing to think that men my age are so devoid of looks, language, social skills, hobbies or literally ANYTHING that could hold my interest. The

Then it occurred to me that I was looking in the wrong places. Any kind of matching activity is a game of statistics – the greater the base size, the higher the chance of finding something of interest, if not value.

A recent revelation was that Shaadi.com (and similar matrimonial sites) were no different. I say revelation, because back in the early 2000s, I was on those sites as well, a combination of a ‘marriageble age’ and a very techno-savvy family. I met quite a few people. No one really clicked but we either stayed friends or just moved on in not unpleasant ways. It’s a strange feeling to discover that a space that you were an early entrant into, has turned into a cesspool. Well, I can’t complain, that’s true of Twitter as well.

Getting With The Hookup Generation

Maybe the problem is not Tinder or any one platform. Maybe it is a behavioural trend across our generation. I guess ‘the hookup culture’ is a real thing, not just what decripit old people say about the younger generation. But I don’t think our generation necessarily enjoys it either.

I’m coming to believe that most of us have very simple needs. We all want to find someone that feels comfortable and comforting. We want to be with someone that likes us and who we like too. While many of us are distracted by the glitzy allure of variety, anyone who has actually lived this life will attest to how tiring it is. Human beings are exhausting. Who has the energy to keep drawing boundaries? This is the channel-surfing of relationships and it’s just as unsatisfactory with people as it is with TV programs.

Yet, we do it because we can’t remember how not to. We’ve bought into the belief that somehow this keeps us safe from the (admittedly horrible) danger of heartbreak. When the problem is a generational one, shutting it out means shutting out the whole world.

Strike A Match, Swipe Right

I’ve been hearing slightly better things about Tinder, from both male and female friends. I figured that this where the numbers were going. And Tinder’s mutual match access might be some sort of protective measure. So over two years and much dithering later, I signed up again.

I had forgotten how good Tinder is for a woman’s ego. Everyone I swiped right on, matched with me almost instantly. 😊 Some of them were even Super Like (which in all fairne2016-09-13-17-43-29ss may just mean there are still way fewer women than men here). I also saw more than one man’s profile that categorically stated ‘not looking for hookups’. The cynic in me thinks that’s just a lot of men’s way to get women to swipe right. Even if that’s so, it indicates an acknowledgement of what a woman may want and that’s the start of consent.

And finally, Tinder is the first and only place so far where it’s possible to reject a man. In real life, say NO and men get defensive, nasty and frankly scary. Everywhere else on the internet, displeasing a man (even by saying ‘No thank you’) means a woman can expect a disproportionate amount of hate. But on Tinder it’s as easy as swiping left and hopefully one never has to think about it again because the men don’t know.

Twenty-four hours in, I will say that it feels a lot like Turbo Speed Dating. Swipe left, right, chat up, unmatch, juggle – these require a degree of concentrated energy that I may not be able to sustain for long. But that’s okay. Socialising is high octane energy and I’m fine as long as there’s a protective shield.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Why Digital Dating Means Nothing New For Indian Women

Tinder. OkCupid. Secret. Anonyfish. Even Couchsurfing. India is on the digital map and we of the brown-skinned, spicy-food-eating ilk are exploring digital dating too. Here’s what I found though.

On one end of the spectrum, we find the matrimonial sites. They were the original Indian dating sites, pre-dating the recent apps by a good ten years at least. What, you don’t count those? Matrimonial sites are parentally-sanctioned ways to meet members of the opposite sex, with a view to forming a sexual/romantic relationship with them. Aside from the parental sanction, how do these differ from the average dating service?

All services

At the other end of the spectrum are these dating services that have everyone commenting on the new India. Here is what is actually happening. There aren’t that many women on them, which won’t surprise anybody. There are fewer women in the country and less of us are connected/digitally savvy. Most women don’t enjoy the kind of independence/freedom that dating requires. Women are also less open to these services. I found they have good reason to be.

Tinder, the hot app of the season, picks up from your Facebook profile and lets you see who you have in common with the other person. You can’t imagine the number of married men I found there. A male friend tells me he is equally astounded by the number of married women he finds too (wedding photos as profile pictures!). I can’t tell whether it’s dumbness (“Maybe they thought it’s a chat service,” he thinks) or sheer arrogance (“People will hit on me anyway.”) that makes married people sign up for a dating service. Not all of them are that easy to catch though. I imagine knowing how to navigate the net and mine information from the social media is a skill that helps. At least four conversations proceeded with interesting men before a stalking session revealed their marital status – a Facebook picture tagged here, a forgotten social network profile with their status as married, a photograph carrying a baby followed by comments like ‘Congratulations on becoming a father!’. Really, why are these people here?

We come up against a different issue on OkCupid. This service has been around for ages and it shows, in the dated design and early millennial interface, even on the app. You’re required to fill in an entire profile and there are no privacy settings, no filters on who gets to approach you. The minute I began the lengthy sign up process, my inbox was flooded with messages. This before I had written a single word or even uploaded a photograph. All these people had to go by, was the fact that I was female. I decided to brave it and weed through the crowds for an interesting connection. It has proved to be an arduous exercise. Indian men do not like hearing no. They believe persistence to the point of stalking, is a virtue. Rape culture is alive and well as long as the Indian man exists. Yes, I said that. I was stalked from different profiles (same photograph) and abused for saying no or even for not responding.

Now let’s come to Secret, the uber-hot-hot app that only us digital hipsters have caught on to. Secret lets you post messages anonymously. You can see secrets posted by Friends (anyone on your contacts lists – phone and email) and Friends of Friends but no one can tell who has posted what. I actually uninstalled it in three days because I couldn’t bear how depressed it made me feel. The conversations and a lot of threads about known women. The secrets were usually about one person ‘having the hots for’ or ‘being really turned on by’ such a woman, while the comments would include various versions of catcall responses such as tearing the woman down (“Are you crazy? Total thunder thighs, man. Everyone gets to see them.”) or lascivious jeers of agreement.

I signed into Secret again two weeks later and I find there is a little more variety. Now people also confess to cheating and being proud of it. Comments calling them out result in abuses and versions of ‘You must be such an ugly bitch, nobody wants to fuck you’. There’s also an occasional secret that may be posted by a woman. All of these, plus comments get others begging for a contact with them. This, even to comments that are outright nasty towards men. I know Indian men in large numbers may be like this, but it’s disheartening to see so many people that I know, behave this way too.

Digital Dating2*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Now, let’s step back from the obvious problems. There must be some worthwhile men, right? Right. There are men who are articulate, intelligent and educated. They quote pop culture, read good literature and work for respectable MNCs. These are the same men who refer to the dating apps as pick-up services. One of them asked me what kind of a woman clicked on such apps. Another told me he respected me because I said no to his booty call (after one conversation). Welcome to the modern Indian man. He believes that women’s liberation means booty calls and dutch dates with women who wear short dresses.

Now, for the hookup culture, that scary thing that’s got everyone above the average digital citizen age in a flutter. Where does that fit into India? I’ll tell you. It’s married people using the fact that they were forced to marry, as an excuse to explain cheating. It’s people who are too ‘respectable’ to buy sex, seeing an easy unpaid option. It’s ‘modern men’ who treat the woman in a hookup as a hooker who won’t charge them. I thought hookups were just about having sex with a person you barely knew and both parties not thinking too much about it later. When did gender-biased judgment and bad behavior come into it?

All in all, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the dating/mating services. The trouble is the people and the attitudes that populate these services. Dating in India is only highlighting the fallacies in the Indian culture. As an Indian woman, my options are to be packaged like a doll, on a matrimonial service or objectified and discarded on a dating service. We haven’t changed in decades. The only difference is it’s all digital now. No wonder women don’t seem that interested.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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