Nobody chose me this year.
At every turn, I was left behind, ghosted, replaced, or something equally gut-wrenching. It’s nothing short of an overreaction whenever I catch my 22-year-old self declaring, “I’m going to die alone!” after every terrible Tinder encounter (not exactly the optimal platform for marriage-material partners, is it?) or embarrassingly bad kiss. But what made 2017 a particularly scenic trainwreck to witness was that I was left in the dirt more times this year than any other year of my dating life. That messed with my head a little. Okay. A lot.
I began the new year sending drunk texts to Seb, this man I was hopelessly in love with—“Happy birthday” instead of “Happy New Year”—but with whom I knew things had come to a bitter end. In New York City, he became cultured and worldly, and I, a fleeting romantic interest, was frivolous and small-town in comparison. “I’m just not attracted to white girls,” he used to say. Five months later, he’s dead-set on marrying one. “She’s all I want for the rest of my life.” Huge leap from his self-proclaimed fear of inertia, there. But that old love is a box I’ve put away.
'There’s something about that nightclub complex in Taguig, that enclave dripping with entitlement and overpriced whiskey, that makes you want to become unrecognizable'
In the interim, I was inhabited by a completely different person. Somebody who slid into four-inch suede heels and tight black dresses. I would fidget in the backseat of an Uber, my mind a complete blank, as I set out to lock lips with yet another stranger. There’s something about that nightclub complex in Taguig, that enclave dripping with entitlement and overpriced whiskey, that makes you want to become unrecognizable. Future doctors and lawyers and masters of the universe hunching over toilets, throwing their red-eared heads back in laughter, roaring, revelling. With every kiss came the half-hearted hope that this new man, whoever he was, would take me out to a boring lunch the next day. Amidst the deafening, I craved the quiet. But strangers always remained strangers, retreating back into the safety of the darkness. To be with you in the morning is to know your truth, they seemed to whisper. And ignorance is bliss.
When I met tall, tattooed Mike, I went from high heat to a slow burn. He would apologize profusely for his sweaty hands and place a thumb underneath my chin to kiss me, as if to assemble a mechanism in just the right position. “I can’t handle anything serious right now,” he began, “but if we meet another person we wanna be with, let’s just say so.” I was oddly comforted by the transactionality of it all; it was a defense mechanism both parties needed.
But you know how this goes. One day I stopped hearing from him. Later on, when I had accidentally opened his Instagram story (how is the world not crumbling around my idiocy), he was cuddled up with this eerily uncanny girl version of himself. The tattoos, the alma mater, the messy hair. I observed the linework of roses on her thigh, resigned to the bitter truth. The very mechanism we had put in place to keep ourselves from further pain had only served to hurt me more deeply. How hard could it be to give somebody a heads up? Is being upfront about having found someone else such a Herculean task?
When I woke up from that drunken New Year’s Eve, plagued with the same heartbreak that plagues me now, I had initially resolved to be reckless with my heart. But what did I want, really? To be loved, or to have a hand to hold? To be loved, or to convince myself I was, so that I could finally love myself?
I thought about the women Seb and Mike ended up with, genuinely lovely women, women I think could have been my friends had I known them under different circumstances. I thought about my irrational need for mutual affection. And when I was done overthinking, there was no energy left to care.
It took some time to admit that I was in it for the wrong reasons. I was deeply insecure and had it in my head that having a man would set everything straight. I started going to the gym, mostly to put off the crippling loneliness I felt when I got home from work. But there was a vindictiveness to this lifestyle change, this dogged determination to rid myself of the notion that I needed somebody else to be fine.
The saddest part isn’t that nobody chose me, but that even I didn’t choose me. So I gave myself time to lick my wounds. Before I knew it, I had gone three months without dating.
“Hey, girl,” Mike texted a month later. “I just want to apologize for going missing bigla. As far as casual dating goes, I ended up exclusively dating this girl—”
Yeah, no shit, Sherlock—
“—but I don’t wanna be a dick and not talk to you ever again. Legit people like you are hard to come by. I don’t know if you still wanna talk to me. But hi.”
I’ve since deleted Tinder on my phone, but should I decide to come back, I really have to adjust that age limit.