Photo: Nolwen Cifuentes
By all standards, my last Tinder date was an all-around, standard-issue “good person”. They had a steady job and were polite, funny, and smart. But after our date, I couldn’t help but think that if they ghosted me, I wouldn’t really care. I could always go back to the metaphorical drawing board — also known as the Internet.
I call this the “Next Best Thing” syndrome.
Dating apps offer a never ending stream of options, especially in a big city like New York. I can spend hours swiping, scrolling, and clicking through potential suitors and hardly make a dent in the city’s population of bachelors. The preponderance of choices — or at least the digital illusion of them — makes dating a confusingly low and high stakes affair. Even if I’ve met someone great, there’s always the possibility of someone better, smarter, funnier, or cuter out there, just waiting to be swiped on. Beyond that, my phone’s got a digital graveyard of old prospects I’ve put on the back-burner, all waiting to be dug up. Rejection isn’t so bad when you’ve got the brimming little black books of Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and Hinge (just to name a few) at your fingertips.
Despite — and perhaps because of — the options these dating apps provide, I’ve become a raging perfectionist when it comes to dating. Any shortcoming in a potential date, no matter how silly, instantly brings to mind my trove of untapped matches. My next date might be someone who’s even funnier and dresses a little better and lives a few subway stops closer to me. The whole affair is a maddening tightrope walk of high standards and inevitable dissatisfaction.
Because of the options apps provide, I’ve become a raging perfectionist when it comes to dating.
So, what to do? I could stop using online dating apps altogether and hope for the best, but — come on — that seems unrealistic. After all, everyone uses them. Online dating hasn’t ruined the love game, but it has certainly turned the concept of romantic connection on its head. How are we supposed to genuinely enjoy someone’s company when a virtually endless array of alternative options lurk in the depths of our phones? This dizzying number of options causes a special kind of anxiety — one that makes you wonder whether you’ll ever meet the perfect someone.
How are we supposed to genuinely enjoy someone’s company when a virtually endless array of alternative options lurk in the depths of our phones?
But maybe that’s where we’ve got it all wrong. Perfection doesn’t exist when it comes to humans, though that’s easy to forget when we’re bombarded with enviable Instagram stories. These dating apps provide us not only with too many options, but also the illusion that the perfect person exists.
To triumph over the temptation of the Next Best Thing, we simply need to remember that a Tinder profile isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the person behind it. Behind each matches’ selection of photos and short bio exists a complex and flawed — basically, HUMAN — person.
We can find people we care deeply about, with whom we share the same values and have great sex — but no one is perfect, and no relationship is perfect.
Love that transcends an initial right swipe is about accepting someone wholly, flaws and all. It’s about growing and changing with a person, and seeing their vulnerabilities and imperfections. It’s about loving someone even when they mess up. It’s also about being real when it comes to your own weaknesses. Despite what the ultra-glossy veneer of the Internet may suggest, perfection doesn’t (and never will) exist in the real world, and that’s okay!
The truth is, if you embrace imperfection, you may just find love in the process.
Alexandra Pauly is a New York City-based culture and fashion journalist. Her work has been published by StyleCaster, Galore, WestwoodWestwood, The Untitled Magazine and of course, Salty. When she’s not writing, you can find her unearthing hidden gems at Goodwill, papering her apartment with magazine tear sheets and debating the most iconic moments of RuPaul’s Drag Race. You can find her on Instagram at @paulybyalexforalexandrapauly.