Author’s note: This is a fairly intimate essay that I wrote in a notebook for my own attempt at self-awareness. I did not plan on ever posting this publicly. But the girl in this piece sent me a text not too long ago: When are you going to write about me? So I typed up my scribbles, sent her this essay (half as a joke), and asked her permission to post it. To my surprise, she said yes:
On October 1st, in the year of our lord 2016, I swiped right and had a match, a blinking heart, a glimpse of possibility. She was pretty, pale, and had a dog filter. Our initial conversation went something like this:
JW: Are you a dog or a human being? We have to get that question out of the way if this is going to go anywhere.
Tina: Last time I checked, human. Hahah I definitely need to stop using that stupid filter.
JW: It’s just confusing. I’m not trying to pick up somebody else’s shit on a date.
Tina: Hopefully you won’t need to.
JW: I’ll bring doggy bags just in case. You know how people put on a show on tinder.
Tina: I feel like I need a first aid kit and a can of pepper spray when it comes to tinder.
JW: Don’t forget your taser, blow horn, and portable lie detector.
Tina: Ahhhhh, the lie detector, that one I’d like to use.
Additional witty banter, subtle flirtation, innocuous questions, etc.
We exchanged numbers. Before we met a week later, we must have sent 10,000 text messages back and forth. They became quite raunchy and explicit (See James Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacles). In my search for a serious relationship I deluded myself with this girl and wasted A TON of time. But through it all, I came to 3 realizations:
1.) I need to get the fuck off tinder (which I eventually did). And if you’re also hoping for a serious relationship, you should too. It’s an addicting, silly game. I’ve met married couples who met on tinder, but this outcome is extremely rare. The pool of people on this app has become too large, especially in NYC, and it’s infested with lust-hungry men who don’t have the balls to meet women in other ways, so they harass them out of weakness, and most decent women refrain from taking it seriously. Was I one of these men? Perhaps, in some sense. But I stupidly had the hope of meeting someone promising through this app. My excuse to myself was that I was too busy with working and writing that I didn’t have time to meet women in other, more organic ways. Tinder was so convenient, so easy. I could develop a fast, superficial relationship via texts while taking dumps in my apartment, or whenever I felt like it, then on my 1 day off a week meet up. On top of this, I’ve always been arrogantly proud of my texting skills. I can play with words and ideas all day. I’m better with words than I am at life. But all in all, it’s a waste of time.
2.) BEWARE: If you are above the age of 27, you are probably like me and have very little idea just how good the next generation is at texting. This is especially applicable for people with babies or young children. BE PREPARED. Tina has had a cell phone her entire life. She grew up playing this message game. I’ve never seen anything like it. Her speed and wit were incredible, seemingly beyond her years. A couple times I wondered, am I being cat-fished?
Because texting is its own language. How much you say, your ability to read and respond to sarcasm, how much to say, timing, balancing edge and lightheartedness, insult and compliment. This girl was on another level. My bias aside, the girl wielded her phone like a god.
3.) So why did I waste so much time texting this girl when I understood the superficiality of tinder? She wasn’t THAT special looking. Perhaps it was her nerdy-glasses look contrasting with her seductive, pant-less, mirror selfie? Perhaps it was her Midwest childhood combining with new girl in the big city persona? Perhaps it was her silly, youthful energy? I thought and thought and thought…then it hit me:
No, it wasn’t all that…
I’m just an egomaniac.
When Tina first started texting me she did something which I thought was natural at the time, but now I understand the insinuation in which she gripped and throttled my being:
She was J.W. Kash’s first, #1 fan. She read my blog posts and ASKED me about them in detail. She liked my writing. She wanted me to sign a book and send it to her. Right in the beginning of our conversation she stroked my ego like I was a cute, little kitten and it felt so…damn…good. In my arrogant, oblivious mind I unconsciously thought this was natural, DESPITE her being the first person in the past 6 years to give serious attention to my writing. I’ve received a compliment here and there, but nothing like this. Oh no, this flattery was unprecedented. And not only was she my first fan, she was an attractive young woman who liked to read novels! My Achilles heel! Days after texting, she was referencing my posts. So of course we must be compatible. Of course we want the same things. Of course she must be genuine and intelligent, because only genuine and intelligent people will ever enjoy my genuine and intelligent writing. Very sick and sad, but the bitter truth.
It was me who first crossed the bridge from texting to sexting. She was telling me about all the Netflix shows she liked. I replied,
“If you’re trying to Netflix and chill, just tell me.” Then I made some stupid joke about wrestling during breaks between shows. She asked about the nature of this wrestling. Etc.
I even downloaded Snapchat for the first time so we could send each other saucy snaps. Could my degradation have sunk any lower?
We picked a day to have lunch. I organized my schedule to make this happen. The night before our expected rendezvous she got drunk (I wish you were here right now so we could, etc.) and was hung-over the next day. For 8 hours she kept postponing out meet up, until she eventually canceled. This unreliability is a deal breaker for me, but the claws of fandom were already in. I willfully ignored it.
Tina even openly discussed how she wasn’t right for me, that she didn’t want anything serious while I seemed like a serious guy. “I just got out of a long term relationship a month ago, I just want to have fun. I just want to get high, party, and do stupid things. Why do you even like me? I’m such a mess. You’re gonna hate me.” This frivolous outlook on life has always struck me as foreign and odd. But I respected her honesty and, again, I couldn’t get over that she was my first, #1 fan. I even had silly visions of me rolling blunts and us going on a picnic in Central Park. I don’t even smoke weed anymore.
On a Wednesday night she was high in a bar in Midtown (she gets high every day.)
“Can I come over?” she asked
“Well, I don’t know, I don’t feel like it anymore.”
“Do you really want me to come over?”
“I’m so high. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“You’re not going to like me in person.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“I’m so nervous. I shouldn’t come.”
“Alright, don’t come. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.
“No, I want to come.”
“What’s going to happen when we meet? I’m on my period, so we can’t fuck yet.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”
Eventually, I screen-shotted bus routes, texted the directions, and she took a bus at 2am to Staten Island. No surprise she got lost and ended up in the middle of the island, miles away from my apartment, at 3am. Her 360 rotating snaps had the captions: “I’m living in a horror film. Help.” I paid for a cab to pick her up.
When she arrived I went downstairs in my bathrobe, glasses, and flip flops to make a good first impression. No doubt I resembled a nerdy version of “The Dude,” from The Big Lebowski:
It was a strange experience. There had been so much build up for the past week that we both knew (and discussed) the inevitable let down of meeting in person. Both of our expectations had been wildly out of control.
In the elevator I looked more closely at her face. Her nose seemed restructured and the edge of her eyes were peculiar. Ah, yes, that would explain the frequent use of the dog filter. She did tell me that she was born with deformities and had experienced many surgeries (+25) growing up. I still thought she was pretty. In fact, I liked her MORE now that I saw her facial scars in person. I tend to be attracted to girls with scars, both inside and out.
In my apartment we sat on my bed and talked. I felt relaxed, but as usual spoke too much. I could tell she was disappointed in the dull reality of JW Kash. In person, I’m scatterbrained and boring. My writing and texting conveys a much more direct, confident, and interesting person. “Who’s this guy?” she seemed to be thinking. Despite her obvious disinterest, after 30 minutes I felt the urge to kiss her. The old mental battle: “You never know if you don’t try,” bombarded my thoughts. I made a move and she turned her head to the side.
“No, not yet.”
“Alright.” I sat back and we talked some more.
Then it hit me: what did I just I do? What am I doing? We can’t date. She’s told me already that she doesn’t even want to date! And if hooking up isn’t my main priority, why am I wasting so much time?
Tina talked about her crazy friends, getting high, her mean boss, her desire to become a groupie, the fact that her ex-boyfriend looked just like a famous rapper. She was a nice girl, but fairly self-absorbed. I refuse to ever judge someone quickly or harshly because of their age: people develop in different ways at different rates, progressing and regressing in turns. But I realized with Tina that we were on two, different planes. These planes were exasperated by the inherent inadequacy of conversation and the inability to express 1/100 of what we feel (opposed to brooding, reflecting texting). So much of real conversation is what you DON’T say. It struck me that she perhaps hadn’t lived enough “life” or had enough “experience” to really judge the superfluous vs. essential in a conversation. And I don’t mean “life-changing,” wild experiences, I don’t mean traveling the world, meeting the Dalai Lama, or seeing a family member die. I mean years of taking out the trash, years of mean bosses, years of being late and feeling anxious, years of waking up hung-over, years of washing dishes, years of paying bills, years of forgetting things, years of mundane, dreary shit. You can’t teach those years to anyone, they just happen. They shove your ego into a little corner and say, “Shhhh, quiet little one, the world is a lot bigger than you and your feelings.” Many people, like myself, resist this humbling, this deflation. Many people never experience it.
Tina and I hugged and she left around 5am. We would never see each other again, although she would text me sporadically over the next couple of months.
After the encounter I sat on my bed for another hour wondering what the hell just happened. I realized that the only way I could date Tina is if I reconciled myself to mundane conversations about how messy her room was and Chance the Rapper. Perhaps if we were high all the time it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps if we had tons of great sex it wouldn’t matter. I wondered: how many relationships exist out there where one person can barely tolerate the chattering of the opposite sex? Yet through other factors (physical appearance, wealth, comfortable social status, previous obligation, etc.) the person endures an incompatible personality. Tina WAS nice. Tina WAS physically attractive. Tina WAS adventuresome. Maybe I could deal with her self-absorbed, rapper-worshiping, partying-obsessed personality because of her other, positive traits? No, that wouldn’t be fair to her. All relationships involve compromise, but in the beginning there shouldn’t be such cold and ruthless calculation.
It was then I felt a wave of horror. Tina was almost the same number of years YOUNGER than me than my ex-girlfriend was OLDER. I began flipping through my memories, like an investigator scanning old files for an unsolved case, with the questions: “Was I MY ex-girlfriend’s Tina? Did my ex endure my self-absorbed, superfluous babbling for other things (well, he is nice, he is adventuresome, etc.)? Did my ex condescendingly look down on me and my youth like I was doing to Tina? I pictured moments of my ex sighing and rolling her eyes at particular things I said, getting annoyed and frustrated at my hopes and eccentricities. I pictured the end of our relationship and all my mistakes. Meanwhile, there I was in the middle of it all, a selfish waiter with literary dreams of grandeur. Someone who was barely paying his rent. Someone who struggled with restaurant work. Someone who was frequently late, severely sleep-deprived, and an idiot. Why did my ex tolerate such boyish traits and antics? Why did she stay with me for so long? She was a respected, hardworking professional in her field and had a group of loving, caring friends. Her apartment was clean and organized. She had a job that was 100x harder than mine, but rarely complained. And despite her belief to the contrary, she had her shit together. I did not.
I thought about my recent, juvenile criticisms of Tina, about my belief that she was self-absorbed and hadn’t experienced enough “life,” to be conscious of the superfluous. Then I remembered it was ME who was sending 10,000 text messages and saucy snapchats. It was ME who was waiting for a tinder girl at 3am in his bathrobe. It was ME who didn’t know what he wanted. The mirrors of life, with such bitter reflections, were being cruelly thrust in front of my contorted visage.
My god, I thought, as a glimpse of dawn appeared outside of my faded window, Was I once…a useless boy toy? Am I still a boy toy? Fuck. I need to get my shit together, fast, before it’s too late…*
*Author’s Note: It’s a work in progress.