IT'S JUST A DATE
That’s what we say to calm our nerves when we’re worrying a night might go wrong. It’s what we say to ease our disappointment when it does. It’s meant to convince us that a single date isn’t that important, isn’t a meaningful parcel of time in one’s life.
It’s easy. It’s ephemeral. It’s just a date.
So that’s what these stories are. Just dates. Not the dates that are horror stories, where you feel threatened or abused or humiliated—though like most people, I have had those dates.
Not the dates that led to relationships, serious or short-lived. Not anyone I slept with or, minus a couple exceptions, even kissed.
Almost all of these are just stories of men that I spent roughly three hours with in person, some nearly 10 years ago, and yet think of often, for reasons I don’t fully understand. They made a mark on me and are a part of my life. They are clearly more than just dates. Which, of course they are—they’re human beings.
They don’t have to hurt me or help me in order to matter and be worthy of my remembering. And yet, that’s the feeling of online dating. I want to fight the pressure or perceived norm to not care, to treat these interactions as meaningless or simple or frivolous. They’re anything but.
Matters of the heart are some of the highest stakes we have, no matter if it’s an hour at a coffee shop with a stranger on a random Wednesday night.
By saying it matters we are saying that we matter—our time matters, our emotions matter, our bodies matter. Because to the algorithms behind each meeting, we really don’t matter.
To them, we are just data, and our hope for connection is just a product to be sold to the highest bidding ad and turned into profit for the select few gaining control over our economy, our politics, and our environment— and now, our hearts.
So I want us to treat online dates with care, because I have no illusion that apps will ever treat us with such. I want us to treat the act of meeting a total stranger for a drink, with your heart in your hand, as a sacred act.
It’s a terrifying act of faith, every time, and even if it doesn’t lead to a relationship, it is a connection, a moment shared in this one life that we have.
We are people, not products.
Some of these are stories that happened outside of apps, and it worries me that dating apps have changed culture so much that we can’t localize the degradation onto them anymore. That we have come to expect so little from ourselves in how we treat others. That we have come to expect so little for ourselves in how we allow others to treat us.
All names and personal details have been changed. To that end, all men have been drawn as cats because I really love cats, and I really love men. Everything else is true to the events as I remember experiencing them.
BLIND DATA is written and illustrated by Paula Rogers.
Edited by Sarah Youree.