BY JENNIFER CHUKWU
For every twenty-something girl who has had to shoo away stray cats as they purred for a new home, dating apps are a familiar territory. We have the catch phrases locked and loaded. The cute pics that escalate from adorable to "WHOA who’s that hottie." We all know crafting the perfect profile is the real life "Game of Thrones"—either you win or you die. Of course, dying here is missing out on the one, and suddenly adopting 10 hairless cats while watching a Lifetime movie marathon. Why hairless? Well you tried the regular, but, honey, your allergies.
OK, maybe this isn’t every twenty-something and I may have exaggerated just a little bit—only six cats I swear. The fact is still there. If you’re a twenty-something looking for love in our "double tap for a like" world, you’ve tried a dating app. You’ve learned what descriptions of yourself to include. You’ve painstakingly learned not to open with "Hey" because that’s for horses. You’ve tried truth or dare with moderate success. You’ve asked the screening questions about the baby in his profile pic that is then followed by the next screening question of where he works. Simply, you’ve trained in the ancient art of dating apps. Congratulations, you’ve made your grandma and future dating app children proud.
For every pro who has graduated from Dating App Academy, there are those who sadly did not pass "What Not To Say." Like the majority of my Snapchats, I have no filter. Normally, what you see is what you get. You see a Black girl in all black with a lopsided beanie on her head. You’re gonna get a girl who thinks that life is a cosmos of entities and that she is the only special snowflake in the room. Sorry. To be fair, my New Year’s Resolution was to be less of a twitter philosopher, and check back in April to see whether or not I withdrew from "The Fresh Prince of Derrida" taught by Professor Jaden Smith.
With intensive Tinder training, I’ve learned to limit how much of myself that I tell my future bitties. I don’t tell them that I just came back from an appointment with my therapist who reminds me of the Genie. No, he’s not blue. I don’t tell them that I’m a virgin who loves taking free condoms. I don’t tell them that like all people with dark humor, it comes from a nastier place than the floor of Donald Trump’s favorite frat. I don’t tell them x, y, and z that leads up to me because no one wants to know that. They want to know where you’ve traveled, what’s the best place to get pizza in Chicago (Lou Malnatis of course), what’s my favorite drink (Tequila or Guinness), and whether or not I want Boom Boom Sexy Time. The conversations are fun, fleeting, and you both know just enough about each other that a coffee date seems like the next best thing—or if you’re feeling a bit adventurous maybe a drink or…six.
But what if for the weekend, I told my matches all the things about me I would rather keep secret. I’ve never been the person who dreams and thinks of pink poppies and lollies. I have shitty thoughts that constipate me even when I’m trying to go number two. Before every date, I wonder when will the questions and truth roll in and how will I lie? So for a weekend, I changed my route to the Holy Bae Grail. I started with the good, the bad, and the ugly because it’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World especially when you’re on an app.
The method was simple. Match with a guy and message him a secret and wait for the response. Keep the conversation going with more secrets until it gets too weird, wonky, uncomfortable, or they start asking for naked pics or my number.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want a mock therapy session where the copay was a winky face. Before, I liked to think that I was the center of the world while messaging. I wanted to tell my matches a secret and they would drop everything and drool for more details about my life. Dramatic—of course. I couldn’t live my life any other way.
By the end of the messages did I find my knight in Nicholas Sparks armor that loved me for me? No, not even close. Telling them intimate details about me didn’t matter. They didn’t know me. They probably would never know me. The pain that I had wasn’t theirs. My messaging and flirting was all that mattered. For me all the secrets and confessions led back to the girl I try to hide. For them, it was another twisted path that could possibly lead to the Boom Boom Sexy Time.
The guys on the app weren’t even learning about the true me—only the me that kept kicking her grandmother’s deathbed, sprayed Windex all over her sister until she was sick, and desperately needs to figure out why the fuck she was such a monster to her family?
The opening credits of "Pretty Little Liars" taught me that two can keep a secret if one of them is dead. I don’t think my matches will remember the chamber of secrets that resided in my Slytherin heart. Once I was done with my Bumble fumble, I weighed myself, and I don’t think a weight was completely lifted off of my shoulders or even my thighs. But hey, there’s only so much that an app can accomplish. At the end of the day, it felt great to tell someone even a stranger. Even if they don’t know, even if they don’t remember, even if they don’t care, for a moment they had a fragment of the thoughts that ran through my mind. For a moment, I felt relief. When it’s all said and done, aren’t we all just looking for a cheesy early 2000s romcom moment together? My gooey moment just happens to be filled with secrets while Drew Barrymore dances to reggae music.
Jennifer Chukwu is a writer based in Chicago. She does not like Piña Coladas or getting caught in the rain.