In a sea of canoodling couples and matches made in arranged marriage heaven, here I am, still single and not quite ready to mingle.
Here I am, a single-as-ever 24-year-old, staring at my screen.
Here I am, about to write that one sentence that’s sure to make many of the so-called sanskari girls like me recoil.
Here it goes:
Last year, two weeks after my 24th birthday, I finally installed Bumble and started talking to guys. From a somewhat romantic lens.
Yep. I entered the big bad world of dating apps.
Is my soul corrupted? Nope. My atma is as judgmental and cynical as it was pre-Bumble.
After using this app extensively for about 7-8 months, though? My normally fragile ego is 0.000000001% inflated. Not too shabby, I’d say.
On the flip side, though? Some of my brain cells (some, not all, mind you) are destroyed by the blatantly cheesy and god awful lines I’ve read.
I mean, how can you expect anyone to be sane after hearing a line like “Twinkle twinkle little star, kabh tak soyegi, uth bhi jaana yaar”?
Or even guys, for that matter, who ask me to rate their Bumble ‘dating’ skills.
(Don’t you dare get me started on that one.)
Anyway. Barring the horrendously cheesy lines I’ve had to endure, it has been… an illuminating journey.
And if you’re like me, awkward about romance and life in general, I think my story can give you some insights too!
Question 1: Does joining a dating app make you ‘Unsanskari’?
Before I officially joined Bumble, I kept hearing stuff from my friends like “Oh, I can’t join a dating app. I am not that kind of a girl.”
The thing about Bumble (or any other dating app) is, that it’s for any kind of girl.
It doesn’t, in any way, make you untouchable. Nor does it involve a deal with selling your soul to the devil.
It’s just like a Gen-Z way of connecting with people in a post-pandemic world.
Here, on a dating app, you’re asked about actual things that you want from a relationship – like if you want kids, want to hook up or basaofy your ghar grihasti. These are some pertinent, deal-breaking points in a relationship that you get to tackle from the get-go.
It’s far more progressive than the matchmaker, Sima aunty or matrimonial sites, which ask you about things that are best left in the 19th century. You know na? Like your caste, your skin colour or how much ‘money’ you can potentially bring into the marriage.
Confession 1: Joining a dating app doesn’t make you unsanskari.
Question 2: Should I hide the fact that I’m on a dating app?
Given the fact that I was prophesized to never stop talking by my family astrologer, I immediately blabbed it to everyone I know that I am on a dating app.
My mom didn’t judge me at all. Instead, telling her resulted in a much more different problem: She now never shuts up about how I never go on dates with the Bumble guys.
It’s a tragic fact that’s bemoaned even by my best friends and my 16-year-old cousin, who, too, have been instrumental in my dating app journey. They’ve seen me judge guys after guys, laughed at the pathetic pick-up lines – and they’ve even wondered, “Chitra, how is it that only you end up finding such weird people?”
(The last question goes beyond the scope of this article. Fursat me we can discuss this)
But on the whole, discussing about my dating “prospects” has been very liberating. Sharing experiences with my girlfriends, and talking to the female members of my family – all of that has given me a better perspective about the guys I finally interacted with. Through their shared experiences (on-and-off dating apps), I’ve understood what I want from a relationship and who is my ‘kind of a guy’. It’s a sisterhood that’s made this isolated journey of ‘online dating’ much less daunting.
More than that, it has made me be a better “right swiper” who thinks before she swipes.
(Or rather, who overthinks less before she swipes right)
Confession 2: Joining a dating app and discussing it with your loved ones makes it for an even more healthier experience.
Question 3: Do you really find your soulmate on a dating app?
Once upon a time, in a concrete jungle, there was a naïve girl, who fell in love and expected fireworks, or even better, a Taylor-Swift’s-song-esque fairytale romance.
Did fireworks happen? Nope.
Did a Taylor Swift’s-song-esque fairytale romance happen? Hell, no. ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘Don’t Blame Me’ were played on repeat. But no romance ever happened.
Turns out, like 99% real life, one-sided love stories, the poor little naïve girl was rejected.
The guy did not like her romantically (to her knowledge). She doesn’t know why, but she feels that it’s because she didn’t align at all with his set of expectations for the perfect Botticelli’s Venus who he expected to end up with.
If you’re not like me (that is, have all your all brain cells intact and not destroyed by disgusting pickup lines), you would have figured out that this naïve girl is me.
And if you’re my family member, who is reading this and getting increasingly scandaliszed, don’t worry. Not even a fuljhadi was lit up in this case. I am still single, still judgmental about the hegemony of a cheesy 21st century romance.
(And the fact that I am the biggest germophobe on this planet, who will only hug her mother, two little cousins and maternal grandparents also is also to be considered. In the post Covid-19 scenario, expecting me to leap into the arms of my ex-crush is not at all likely. Rather, I would keep a 10-foot distance from him, or any other human who isn’t my biological relative, for that matter).
For the longest time, I was very dejected about not being “good enough”. I never had any intentions to date at that point, but the fact that I did not match up to really, deeply hurt me.
It’s very un-feminist of me to say so, I know. But if I don’t acknowledge that, I am not going to be true to my feminist ethos of acknowledging that this was a very problem.
It was so agonizing, especially during the pandemic when you’re accompanied by nothing but your thoughts. In 2020, it got so bad to the point that I would just feel so upset at the slightest of mistakes I made. Even a typo made me feel like I was the human personification of garbage.
Day in and day out, I wouldn’t just judge myself. I would literally almost crucify to myself mentally for not at all living up to some mythical standards that the guy I once liked might have had.
I am not blaming him, in any way, because it is ultimately his life, his choice. He has every right to have a set of expectations. Everyone does.
But I am not going to deny the fact that I felt goddamn awful and not worthy enough either, even as I got the opportunity to do things that I genuinely loved.
That whole experience left me so cut up that I kept having this narrative in my head: If I am not good enough for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, then I am not good enough for any guy oin this planet.
Joining a dating app, for that very reason, was very daunting. I didn’t want to keep having that feeling multiplied. I didn’t want to be judged for not adhering to the Indian standards of a hottie or an ideal Bahu. I was (and very much am so) a flawed tomboy, who yak-yaks away and has no care for conventionality.
And yet, when I finally did use a dating app and put myself out there, out to be judged, I realiszed how wrong I was.
While looking for male validation is vehemently wrong and deeply upsetting, talking to all the guys I right- swiped made me realisze a lot of things. That I wasn’t repulsive as once thought. That I could find someone that I liked, who would accept me for who I was and not judge me for being me. That being a girl in 21st Century India wasn’t picking between the binaries of hotness and sanskaar either.
More than that, being on a dating app made me find someone I never, ever expected: myself.
I realized that being in a relationship was not just about the other person. It was about me too.
I realized what I wanted. What I liked. What I didn’t like (don’t get me started on those bakwaas pick up lines).
More than anything, it helped me accept myself and love myself for the person I was. It finally gave me the autonomy to take charge of my romantic relationships and date someone who I feel would be an equal partner, and not feel like I am inadequate in any way.
Confession 3: Joining a dating app makes you find someone you least expected. Your own self.
All in all, fumbling through Bumble was a very illuminating experience for me.
If you’re searching for yourself, you should try a dating app too. It might not be as bad as you may think.