Navigating the world of online dating feels like entering a realm where others are blissfully ignorant to the chaos, both in the apps and in the world around them. It’s as if some see life as a fluffy marshmallow cloud, while I encounter a parade of broken souls.

Starting to feel very alone. My recent in-person encounter exemplified this struggle – a person so haunted by past traumas, their attempt at kissing resembled a disconnected dance with a numb and lifeless partner. They physically forgot how to do it without realizing and a simple kiss was them with their tongue stuck out of their mouth. Stiff as a board. Lifeless. With me wondering what to do. I even asked “are you here? Where did you go”. I gave them a little pleasure unable to connect to this disconnected human for any pleasure myself and eyes that screamed trauma and I left bewildered, questioning why self-awareness seems elusive in this dating landscape. Why should I have to be the thing that helps someone heal. I don’t want to be the “savior” or stepping stone or hallway to the door that leads to their actual relationship. Trauma isn’t a badge. But it sure as hell seems to be used as one these days, mostly by those who haven’t actually healed. They did some work sure, but they stopped near the point of automated mechanism.

It took me much of the rest of the weekend to recover actually. From what should have been a lovely night out to play pool and get to know another person turned into me growing increasingly more curled up in a metaphorical corner of my mind, unable to escape the trauma they presented me (which I love sharing) but so much so fast, made me unable to digest. Left with a horrible sense of panic as I was unsure how to release it. I finally did in a missed connection and I am grateful for their ear.

I do feel bad for the person I spoke to prior, who A: looked nothing like their profile photos, and B: had to deal with me, who was obviously not in a good spot after this weekend and therefore used my sardonic and sarcastic nature to try to explain my bad day, to which I was given a mouthful of “but this is how you heal anxiety” aka buzz words a therapist would say. I feel bad, but there is a difference between reminding someone in a panic attack of tools they already have to help it, and just spewing random shit you read on the internet. Might as well just have said “just breath”. So needless to say, that added onto the weekend of shit and I felt bad for not being my best self for them even if they were a falsity right off the bat.If someone doesn’t match their photos, it’s an immediate no. It’s not even an aesthetic thing or a weight or height or type thing it’s leading with a lie.” – My friend Emily

In my 40s, offering much more than a mere profile of my bald ass self feels hopeless at times.Sure looks aren’t everything but a profile with x amount of words and a society that doesn’t read doesn’t leave ya with much of a chance. I find myself longing for someone who’s put in the emotional work. The dating app journey feels like being this emotionless entity seeking connection amidst a sea of those fixated on the idea of a relationship rather than its substance.

And then when I meet those who are accepting of dick pics, abusive relationships, believe the world to be flat, take others lives and put them at risk because they are “tired of precaution”, or just plain don’t seem to have substance due to this over abundance of positivity that feels shallow due to it being all they offer, I wonder, will I be alone for the long haul?

I offer so much. I’ve lived so much life. And no I don’t see everything as happy and joyous but I put in the work to allow myself to share my life with another and realistically be a partnership. Technically we are all just navigating each other’s mine fields. If I do step on one(which is inevitable), I want them to let me know what it was and I will learn from it and employ empathy to make sure future steps are softer. I want someone who will tell me what they are thinking as a kindness not a chore.

See the thing about trauma is that when you no longer experience it you still get the hyper awareness of it. And mine was centered around trying to figure out if I would be hit as a child or if I would get mentally mind fucked. Remove that and I end up seeing every goddamn micro expression of the body and face and feel every breath and extra sound, smell every sensory around me intensely 24/7 which is why I appreciate someone’s openness to say what’s on their mind without me even having to ask as it gives my brain a breather. Allowing me more in the moment moments. But, instead I’m seeing this alternate reality to the thing being presented and screaming to get the hell out of there.

I just don’t know how to express it in a dating app that’s entire bottom line is reflected by keeping people using their apps not matching them.