Dating digitally,and other intimacy mistakes

By Emma Pellegrini

I would not say that I am a master when it comes to love, but I’d like to think that I’m a connoisseur of crazy and crumbling online connections. I am certainly no Carrie Bradshaw. I wear loafers instead of Manolo Blahniks and cardigans instead of Cartier. Nonetheless, Carrie and I do have one thing in common: a plethora of experiences when it comes to the quirky, the freaky, and everything else the dating world has to offer. For me, that has come in the form of online dating. Now wise from years of experience, I can finally recollect my many mistakes and string them together in a romantic comedy show, full of laughter and the many cringes that these men have brought me. Now I present you with some worthwhile advice; a plea to hold out for face to face connections!

Many weird men and conversations have come my way online. I have discussed the expression of healthy masculinity by watching “La La Land” with a University of Michigan computer science undergrad. I learned how furiously filthy the angel emoji could be with a postgraduate, authentic Swiss sweater-wearing Californian. I explored the possibilities of finally visiting Boston with a Cashmere-addicted New Jerseyite.

Online dating is a world sectioned off into the black-and-white territories of excitement and disappointment, one territory holding promise and the possibility of something beautiful, and the other holding nothing but late-night tears for a mere stranger, and biscuit-baking binges. Online dating allows the possibility to connect without the anxiety of face-toface rejection. Virtual mingling allows for a curtain to be drawn that can allow disappointment to feel less personal.

Even given such advantages, however, the online world permits the presence of both metaphorical and literal distances that can prevent people from truly beginning to know each other. It is a tricky world in which each person can control their characteristics and present only what they want the other to see.

While that might provide a momentary sigh of relief, in the long run, it is nothing but treading water in the ocean of affection. If your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and embarrassments are never exposed, what is left to build a relationship upon? Something truly beautiful can’t grow without admitting the parts about yourself that you try to bury six feet under. Online dating gives the autonomy to harmfully erase and redraw, and reshape characteristics and qualities, creating a blockade to truly knowing each other on an intimate level. If you never truly know who the other person is, how can you trust them enough with your last name, let alone your heart? Somehow, as terrifying as it is, unless we are willing to expose the most deeply imperfect parts of ourselves, we can never truly know another.

Because of this lesson, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about love at its simplest. Through all of the awkward Zoom dates and the flirty emojis that I misinterpreted as real affection, I’ve learned not how love works but how the kind of love I want works. I’ve learned that the kind of love I want is not hearts, clicks, or terrible pick-up lines via the chat function. I want inside jokes, compassion, and kindness, someone who makes love not feel contingent on sustaining a pristine appearance or a love of terrible rock music, but rather makes love feel like a dreamy kind of acceptance. Although what I want sometimes feels like a torturous test of patience, I know that I’d choose to wait for a face, rather than a profile. As I sit on this campus, I contemplate finding someone who seeks the same comfort I do; the familiarity found in faces, and whenever I get a dating app promotion in my email, I gladly click delete, knowing I’m one more “delete” closer to finding that someone special.