How Can I Convince Myself That the Guy I Met Online and I Will Survive the Pandemic?
In this column submission, Ayundari Gunansyach writes about online romance and the dilemma of finding love and companionship during the pandemic.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
Major dating apps have been reporting major surges in activity since the earliest days of the pandemic, it’s proof that online dating is thriving during the pandemic. It’s either the boredom or the lonesome, but meeting people through a dating app has been all the talk and trend the last year.
I, myself, installed Tinder a couple of months ago when I was going through a pandemic-induced separation. We had been together for six years and the separation was messy. I moved back to my hometown, live with my parents, and had to start a new job. Each of them wasn’t easy to do on its own, so imagine doing it all at the very same time. Separation, moving city, living with your parents as an adult, and starting a new job. One night, during a mental breakdown I took a trip down memory lane and remembered that I had such a fun time using dating apps seven years ago before I met my ex. So I thought I’ll go back on Tinder and see how are the dating app’s scene these days.
Upon signing up to Tinder, it offered me additional perks that I could get by paying for a subscription, something that didn’t exist back then. One of them is Tinder Passport, where you can change your locations and swiping right and left in whatever city around the world. That night, I thought, if I couldn’t travel to my favorite cities at least I could ‘window shop’ in those cities. That night alone I ‘travelled’ to London and Barcelona, swiping right and left until almost dawn, and for the first time since the separation, I went to sleep without feeling depressed. Fast forward to the following week and countless matches in cities like Tel Aviv, Madrid, Seoul, New York, Tokyo, Lisbon, Paris, and Bangkok, I ended up in Singapore.
Before I continue to the part about what happened when I set my location to Singapore, let me tell you what was my initial intention when I installed Tinder. I was looking for distractions, to look at beautiful foreign men and silently judging them, and of all the messages I received, I only reply to very few of them. I wasn’t ready to connect with someone again, to put an effort into texting back and forth, to talk about things, and most importantly to have feelings again. I know myself and I know that I am prone to be easily infatuated.
I swiped right on this guy in Singapore without thinking of anything. Just another Melayu guy, brown skin, but he has a witty bio and I chuckled a bit when reading it. That might be the only reason why I swiped right. Not long after he messaged me, calling me an intrepid traveller, and guessed where I’m from correctly. Most guys who messaged me couldn’t tell where I’m from, either they are too lazy to find out or simply didn’t pay attention. But this guy guessed my location based on the KMs and the traditional dress I wear in one of my photos. He instantaneously got my attention and I was willing to start a conversation.
After few days we moved the conversation to WhatsApp. We talk about everything, we share interests, we laugh at the same things, we know the same people, and I can say that we can connect on so many levels. Since the day he messaged me on Tinder for the first time, we never missed a day of talking to each other. Plus, we’ve gone on video and phone calls. The only problem we’re facing is the pandemic, oh, and the distance too! And maybe the fact that I’m not emotionally available right now? But it’s something I will think about later when we can finally meet in real life.
In a no pandemic universe, we would already arrange a date one week into the WhatsApp conversation. We would find out our real compatibility and decide whether this is something worth pursuing or not. Or we might have sex on the first date and ruin everything. So many what-ifs had we didn’t meet online during the pandemic. The fact that we live almost 1000 KMs away from each other also plays a pivotal role in making this ‘text-ship’ even more complicated. Had we live in the same city, eventually, we would brace ourselves to meet in an outdoor coffee shop with health protocol in place and get this all over with. As every single human being in this world knows, borders are closed and travelling is restricted, if not impossible. Making our chance to see each other even smaller.
All the “wish you were here” texts we’ve exchanged have been making me confused. I can feel that it makes my heart grow fonder toward him, but it also makes me furious. Why would I feel this way about a guy I never met? I have so many things on my plate right now and he shouldn’t be one of those things. Should I go and continue this without knowing what is the possible outcome? Invest my time and emotion? Should I overthink this? Should I just enjoy these moments of confusion, of feeling the lights up every time I see my phone screen lights up with his text, of those sentimental could, should, and would?
I know I always have the power to end all of this, to tell him that everything has been pointless and stop texting each other. I can do that, but that’s not what I want to do right now. I don’t want to let the pandemic win again after it has destroyed my previous relationship and put me in a depression. This time, I want to win and survive. I want to convince myself and not give up. But how can I convince myself that he and I can survive the pandemic and eventually be in each other’s embrace?