I Still Think About That First Bumble Date
He was a good one. The kind of first blind date you’d want to go on, even when forced by your best friend who swiftly swiped right and started the conversation. His photos were average—no douchey selfies, some unstaged candids of him partaking in physical activity, and a humble smile that indicated his genuine nature. I can’t say I was immediately attracted by the photos alone but the bio did give him extra brownie points,
“I know way too many Mean Girls quotes than I should admit.”
I mean, it was short and simple, witty enough to invite innocent flirtation, and a good conversation starting point.
“I bet I can out-quote you”
And off it went, a lighthearted exchange of teasing tète à tète all thanks to Mean Girls. It felt good to exercise my flirtatious side. It was like finally dusting off an old book from the shelf or removing cobwebs from an antique piece. I missed being coy and cute, saying just enough to evoke curiosity but not revealing much to save it for the in-person dates. It helped that he was easy to talk to, saying more than two dead-end words, and that was already a sure sign. So we continued like that for a couple of days before he finally asked me out. At first, I was shocked. No Bumble conversation before this had even gotten to that point. I mean, I was lucky if the guy continued the conversation at all; I had had an embarrassingly long list of ghosted conversations on the app. But he was ready to meet and as scared as I was to take this conversation in person, I respected his forwardness in making this an actual date, and not treating me as some easy online company. Another good sign, I thought. “I’m free Tuesday?”
He took the initiative in picking a spot near my office with great reviews and happy hour. Good sign.
He kept me updated on his travel time there given the rainy weather that day. Good sign.
He made sure I’d know how to look for him in the restaurant by describing his attire (“Look for the nervous bearded guy sitting by himself at a table for two”). Good, and funny, sign.
This all felt so nice and it was relieving to finally do this for myself. Before this, it had been almost a year of dealing with heartbreak and depression. It was my last long-term relationship after a string of back-to-back ones, and the aftermath got me pretty badly. I thought it’d be the normal routine: cry myself to sleep so I could get through another day, wake up and cry some more until I had to go about my day—emotionless and distant from everyone—repeat this everyday for a month until I slowly felt okay enough to go out and socialize and be a person again. But the last one had crumbs left here and there that just trailed behind me as I tried to follow my usual breakup routine. And those crumbs left aching reminders that emotionally hurt so badly that it became physically dulling. My entire body—from the intangible to the physical—became lifeless. I was a walking hollowed being with a carved out soul.
It took the past year or so to piece back together what I thought was me, only to learn I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was defined as someone else’s for nearly the past decade that I had to start afresh, learning myself new each and every day. And bit by bit, I began to realize who I wanted to be, and who I didn’t want to be with.
Bumble seemed like a reasonable test to see if I was ready for the real world again. If I had to share just enough of who I am on this dating app, then it was the start to being open and putting myself out there. And it was the start to trying out this new realized life of mine because I was ready to date a complete stranger…from an app. I never thought my love life would be this much of a millennial cliché, but then again, my life wasn’t one to mercilessly surpass irony.
The Bumble date was unexpectedly amazing. He turned out to be a lot cuter than his okay photos (good sign). And he was tall, like a whole head taller than me (really good, and new, sign). The conversation between us couldn’t have gone smoother and more natural for two complete strangers who met via a rectangular box. Every word and move didn’t feel awkward or overthought. My body felt relaxed and at ease, which was the complete opposite of what it felt like hours before the date. We searched for more things to do just so we didn’t have to end the date so early on a weeknight, despite the rain. I found myself laughing and smiling so much that I realized it had been a while since I did either of those things so effortlessly.
And he made me feel pretty again.
I forgot what that felt like because all I knew up to that point was how to feel at all every single day. It used to be such a struggle to even make myself up because it felt painfully wrong when I was struggling so much inside—like my outer self was betraying my inner self. And now, for my first date after an entire year, I truly tried for this guy (as in I did the whole “try on five different outfits the night before to get the right balance of cute but casual”), and he made sure that intention didn’t go unnoticed that night.
So why was it that with all these good signs, all the picture-perfect scenes from my romantic guilty pleasures, I still found reasons for it not to work? Why was it that any time someone told me he seemed like the perfect nice guy I needed after dealing with some pretty terrible guys in the past, I just couldn’t shake the hesitance in pursuing this any further? Why couldn’t I just give him, and myself, this chance? Guiltily enough, I disappeared on him, and the worst part is he was still nice about it, too. My irony of a life caught up to my cliché of a love life: the girl who wanted a nice guy couldn’t even accept the first nice guy.
I still think about that first Bumble date. The first real date I went on after my break-up and the first guy to make me feel perfectly pretty again after my year-long depression. He had unknowingly helped me break out of my black hole of self-wallowing and reunite with my happier self. Our date had made me realize that I could do this, despite being in the dark for so long, I finally found a way out and I could be myself again. I could fill this cavernous body with new life again. And even more victoriously so, I was pretty amazing at it because that perfect date proved that if this guy can reciprocate my genuine energy that night, then I was doing something right. It had marked my first real step into the outside world again, completely free from my old life with all its drama and interwoven friends and too many unwarranted opinions. He was an escape I didn’t know existed for me, and I still think about him to this day because I never got to properly thank him for it all. He doesn’t know it, but I wouldn’t be as brave (mostly about dating) as I am today if my fears hadn’t surrendered themselves to the weightless comfortability of that fate of a date.
I think about my love life a lot—my exes, the relationships, the one-night stands, the guys I briefly dated, the ones that got away, the ones that could’ve been, the ones that would only work in another universe, the ones I fantasize about, the ones I tried to give a chance but just couldn’t see anything else, the ones I’ve turned down, the ones I’ve ghosted…
They’ve all had their own narrative in my intricate lifelong story and they’ve all imprinted a significant implication to what I think love looks like. Not to say I’ve had a love with each one of them, but I wouldn’t love the way I do now or know the kind of love I want if it weren’t for each of their bypasses into my life. Some left harder bruises than others, some still make me warm at the sound of their names or thought of their faces, and some have given me the greatest stories to pitch to sitcom TV shows. But, nevertheless, they’ve all given me brighter insight into myself and a wonderful collection of clichés to color my unashamed ironic life.
To my first Bumble date, the guy who inspired this extremely honest piece, thank you for something you probably didn’t ask for but I got anyways. And for introducing me to Sigur Rós. I know you’ll be great for someone else, just not for me.