The Alphabet

O is for Online Dating

online dating

In January last year, Sarah Hagi released the following words into the Twittersphere: God give me the strength of a mediocre white dude. Unsurprisingly, this resonated with a wide range of women from all around the world. We have all, at one stage or another, received attention from a mediocre white male (solicited or otherwise) that has seemed, to us, extraordinarily brash and overconfident. Such attention, depending on the way in which it is framed, may be met with disgust, contempt, or a combination of the two. Lately, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to communicate such emotions in a polite but firm manner.

I’ve been single for the past year and a half, and actively ‘dating’ for the past twelve months. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I wasn’t anticipating it to be this difficult. I wasn’t actively looking for anything in particular – like a customer beleaguered by salespeople, I was just browsing. And with this, I stepped into the quagmire that is dating in Australia in the twenty-first century, armed with the must-have dating app of the moment: Tinder.

Tinder is a grotesque and marvellous creation, all at the same time. It has now become unsettlingly easy to accept or dismiss potential suitors based on a series of arbitrary criteria, the most common of which is perceived attractiveness. For those who manage to get past the photographs, there is a space for a few sentences. You get to introduce yourself- or, as most people prefer to do, write a funny joke, or promote their other social media accounts. If you manage to get through the mutual swiping barrier, there is then the issue of “who should speak to whom first?” It’s a minefield of social mores, perceived politeness, and cases of exceptional overconfidence.

Before I delve into my blistering critique of Australian men on dating apps, let me just set out the boundaries I have set for myself on Tinder. I see both men and women, from the ages of 22 onwards. I read almost every bio before I swipe right, and it is very rare that I instigate conversation.

And in my forays with Tinder, I have noticed the following:

  • There are many photographs of guys holding fish. I know this is Australia, but I don’t know that many women would be sufficiently impressed by a guy who had captured a particularly large fish.
  • There are many photographs of vehicles. Some of them include the guy in question, and some don’t.
  • Most boys have a photograph that they have taken in a mirror. (Spoiler alert: there are ways to take photographs of yourself without the assistance of a mirror)
  • Gym photographs are everywhere. Most gym photographs are also taken in mirrors.
  • Boys hardly ever read bios, and as a result, they often ask stupid questions.
  • Boys make assumptions, and these assumptions are extremely difficult to budge.

But most importantly, their attitudes towards women seem eerily similar – and this is not just restricted to men who seek dates online. It is manifest in the way in which we are treated, in which conversation is conducted, and in the expectations that are foisted upon us.

It seems like there is a list of attributes we are expected to possess. This woman should be intelligent, but not too intelligent. Too much intelligence means we are intimidating. This woman should be attractive, but not too attractive. Being too attractive means she might be led astray by other men. She might be distracted. This woman should be able to speak her mind, but she should know not to overstep an unsaid, unagreed upon boundary. Every woman is supposed to be the perfect woman. And yet, men seem to very literally get away with murder.

There are some who may say I’m being overly dramatic. Not all men, they may cry. Sure –but rest assured that most, if not all women feel or have felt the crushing pressure of such expectations. These expectations are enforced by society, by men and women of all ages and cultures. I would even go as far to say that they are internalised by the time we reach young adulthood, a rulebook of sorts that becomes increasingly difficult to rewrite.

And so it borders on amusing when they meet someone who does not necessarily follow such rules. This is me, in a nutshell. I follow the cricket, I play video games. I have studied genetics and English literature. I watch trashy television programs like The Bachelor, but my favourite show is The West Wing and I follow world news almost religiously. I love tea, and I barely drink coffee (but will accept free coffee). I know what I am good at, and I know what I am bad at. I have a nice figure. I am hot, with or without makeup. I am honest, and I can be brutally sarcastic. I have a steely resolve, and I am not afraid to use it.

I am not special in my hobbies and my interests. I know plenty of other women like me – yet the stereotypes and the expectations persist. And so it is primarily for this reason that I choose to be me, whether it be on an online dating platform or on an actual date. And as strange as it sounds – simply “being me” is harder than it sounds. Self-confidence is very often seen as aggression, and ironically, attempts to temper such confidence are usually met with hints of passive aggression. In my experience, there seems to be an unconscious need to establish dominance, and this usually takes the form of skirting around several conversational topics until they are able to “beat” me in an argument, or catch me saying something that is untrue.

This is where sarcasm does wonders. Because I am tired of this stupid dance in which we are supposed to be willing participants. But this comes with its own issues, too. I am aware my name is rather unique, meaning that it would be quite easy for anyone to follow me through Facebook, Twitter, or my website. So there’s always a dull roar in the back of my head, telling me that I could be putting myself in physical danger if I push too hard, or if I nudge the wrong pressure point.

I shouldn’t have to be wary of physical or online retribution for speaking my mind, but I know I would be foolish not to. Nothing as such has happened yet, but I’m not letting my guard down. And yes, again, I am tired of having to watch my own back, just because I am snarky and blunt.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had plenty of success thanks to Twitter. I’ve gone on dates, I’ve had some rather good sex. I’m still using it, which means I’m still sifting through photographs of topless guys and guys holding fish of various sizes. Just today, I’ve had a guy call me “baby” and ask me why I didn’t want to have sex with him. I told him that “it’d be kind of awkward to have sex with a baby, wouldn’t it?” and he attempted to continue the conversation anyway. The overconfidence of mediocre white men persists.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Yen-Rong Wong

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