Fiction, Storytelling, Tomfoolery & Shenanigans

Digital Getdown: Part I

Danica wasn’t so keen on the idea of online dating. She swore to herself that she would never download THAT app just to find a date. She wanted to meet someone without having to rely on the instant gratification of swiping through faces on an online catalogue of people who may or may not actually exist. She wanted to meet someone “organically” in real life, maybe through a friend of a friend, or at a party, or at a bookstore while perusing the shelves of art books and the poetry stacks.

You don’t always know if the next person you meet might end up being that someone. After all, it was Coco Chanel who said “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little—if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”

Not that she wanted to think that the entirety of her future depended on the outcome of one date. Her time was valuable. She had dreams. She had projects to work on, and these were key to making those dreams happen. She had to be her own fairy godmother. To live the lifestyle that you want, you have to craft your own wand, learn the spells, and make the magic yourself.

Her friends shrugged and laughed it off when she told them about her reservations at the thought of online dating. They told her that it would be fun, that it would bring some excitement into her day-to-day life, especially since she kept complaining that she felt bored and wanted a change in her routine. First there was Coffee Meets Bagel—but she only got it because Amelia had told her that she’d gone on so many dates that she had managed to fill up her social calendar each week. Each date was yet another introduction to a new guy.

Danica raised an eyebrow and laughed. “Seriously?” she said. “You’re able to get that many dates? How do you find the time?”

“Sure,” Amelia said between sips of her sangria. “You don’t have to take it seriously.” They had met up with the rest of the girls for tapas at Barraca in the West Village about a month ago to enjoy dinner and drinks on a Saturday night and catch up with everyone. “Dating is supposed to be fun,” Amelia said. “You get to meet new people, hang out, and see where things go. You never know where things might lead. It’s kind of like an adventure.”

An adventure… I suppose that’s one way of putting it. Danica had always loved going on adventures. This usually meant picking out a restaurant or cafe on Yelp and staking out the surrounding neighborhood on a rambling walk (thank goodness for Google maps) to find hidden gems and pretty landscape views for her amateur photography. And okay, it was also a great chance for her to take the occasional selfie—to prove to everyone via social media that she’s a cool and cultured self-sufficient lady who enjoys exploring and doesn’t need an Aladdin to show her the world. Though admittedly it would be nice to have one, even if it’s like having whipped cream added on top of your coffee. Nice, but totally not necessary. The extra sugar may or may not be good for your health.

People don’t always realize that they dance on a fine line between necessity and desire. Danica knew what she needed: a new job with a higher salary that offers a 401k or a 403(b) with health and dental benefits, which would also allow her to afford a reasonably priced apartment somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens. She also knew what she wanted: a new career path that brings her the creativity and job satisfaction she’s been craving, and a boyfriend who’s emotionally mature and strong enough not to flake on her each time they encounter road bumps in the relationship.

This new adventure better be good. Was there a difference between getting to know a place and getting to know a person? Danica pursed her lips and inhaled deeply, mulling over the pros and cons of each. Ah, screw it, she thought. Getting to know a person and getting to know a place meant the same thing: once introductions were made, you either keep on walking in search of more interesting sights, or you stay and continue studying the intricacies of this new territory. You learn their secrets; you come to understand their crevices and their patterns. You map out where their pulse lives, where their heart lies, where their scars hide, where their hopes thrive. When dusk falls, there is nothing left but to explore and discover the intimacy of who they are, where they’ve been, and how far they have yet to go.

Paris-intimacy-city-quote

So Danica downloaded Coffee Meets Bagel, deciding that maybe it might be worth the investment to have this app handy on her phone, in case she ever felt compelled to battle her boredom by amusing herself in a pseudo-search for a potential prince charming. It felt safe enough. After all, the whole point was to get you to meet a friend of a friend via Facebook. She set up her profile and anticipated the moment she would get a notification that someone would “like” her enough to want to talk to her and maybe (if she decided that she liked him enough) go on a date together.

Keeping an open mind, however, was easier said than done. You can order a date the same way you can order a meal! Brick-and-mortar restaurant, ambiance, romance, and stand-in boyfriend included! Danica smirked at her own joke and shook her head. She was still trying to wrap her head around the idea that there are real people out there who instantly connected after meeting each other online and then got hitched because of these apps. It’s like having a “male” order groom, almost made-to-order! You can choose from the catalogue of men and filter out the creeps! Somehow that made her feel empowered, even though it also felt a little weird that she now has this digital brochure of potential suitors that she can mindlessly thumb through while waiting for the database to finally load all of her case notes on her work computer. Destiny itself lay in the palm of her hands — or rather, at the touch of her fingertips. Heck, within her thumbprint. The convenience was all at once captivating and anticlimactic. The prospect of defining her destiny felt both deluded and diluted.

Eventually, after several unsuccessful matches, Danica grew tired of the crappy quality of the coffee beans. The coffee beans weren’t hot enough (she’s never denied being a little vain), not strong enough (too weak), not flavorful enough (too bland), or as was often the case, they simply were not bold enough (too boring). But what did she expect? She was always a coffee snob, anyway.

Again, she tried to keep an open mind, at least enough to let these guys reach out and talk to her, even if she didn’t feel like being the one to initiate conversation. One of them sent her a direct message right away, going on and on about his love for dancing (he was a professional dancer in theatre, how exciting) and bantering about his late-night stints as a stand-up comic at The Knitting Factory. Unfortunately, the jokes already died mid-way through the dialogue. She only ended up knitting her brows again and shaking her head.

Well, that was short-lived. Moving forward…

Then there was Happn. The premise was the same: you agree to let the app collect data on your location and some basic personal demographics, and in exchange you get your pick of eligible bachelors in your area who might strike your fancy, enough for you to want to give them at least an hour or two of your time over coffee or dinner (assuming that all things being equal, they’re not serial killers or harboring some deep, dark secret). Danica struck a match again, this time with someone whom she thought she had a lot in common with, and with whom she could share a meaningful conversation beyond the convention of small talk. This guy was attractive, athletic, had great hair and a breathtaking smile, and more importantly, he seemed like a down-to-earth person. He even had photos to prove that he consistently gave back to the community. He volunteers in a soup kitchen! I’ve done that, too! Cue the angelic harp music.

It took Mr. Do Right a while to respond to her message. Took him days, actually. Not that it was a big deal. He was probably out saving the world, for all she knew with his volunteering and charity work. At least, that’s what Danica kept telling herself. She just wanted a “yes” or a “no” — a simple, quick response so that she knew whether or not to pencil him into her Kate Spade planner because she had a shit ton of errands to run during the week. An entire day went by, and she decided that she no longer cared about penciling him into her planner.

Anyway, she was busy; she had a full-time job, internships to apply for, and she had creative projects of her own that she planned to expand into a thriving business in the near future. It was the best she could do to distract herself from feeling foolish for making the first move. At times she found herself wondering why, if she was so busy with her own life goals, he couldn’t find the time to send her a quick response. It’s not like she was asking for an entire life commitment.

After four days, he finally messaged her back: Aww, you sound like a really sweet girl. I love it!

At this point, Danica grew bored. She wondered if this was a generic response to every girl he’s ever exchanged messages with. She shrugged. Even if it was, did it really matter? “Keep an open mind,” Danica muttered under her breath. Fortune always favored the bold, anyway. She messaged him back, typing, “Do you want to meet up for coffee and hang out?”

Sure enough, Mr. Do Right sent her his reply the following day. He gave her his phone number and told her to text him so that they can make plans and figure out their schedules. Well, Danica thought, this should be interesting. After she sent him that first text, he wrote back immediately that he would be free after 6pm on Saturday. Cool, she thought. She could meet with her friend for brunch in the city and help her edit her graduate school statement of purpose, then meet up with this guy later and find out whether he was interesting enough for her to want to continue seeing him afterwards.

Now or never, she thought to herself. Maybe something will happen. Maybe they’ll hit it off, maybe not. There’s only one way to find out. 

 

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