Dating in your twenties

I have been the biggest flirt since I was 5. I would like to also think I am a diehard romantic. Watching all the Bollywood movies and taking notes of how two people in love sacrifice everything for that love. When I entered my twenties, I envisioned dating and some all-fulfilling love that would sweep me off my feet. However, that did not exactly happen.

While some guys have just simply ghosted and been the usual heartbreaker, others really gave assholes a run for their money.

I like to believe all these experiences have led to some strong character development and maybe finetuned my critical thinking skills. However, that is also to be determined!

Let’s go into a quick breakdown! If I learned one thing from political science, it is that history usually repeats itself. Thus, let’s really see if my dating history is a series of repeated mistakes or different ones!

I have to say, I love men. I have nothing against men. (Cue Cher saying men are like dessert!) I just have learned that fairytale endings may not always happen! I am not perfect, and I am sure the guys who have dated me have their own issues with me!

A tiny bit about me!

I am a 22-year-old university student who loves romance. From movies to songs, I love how romance can seep into every aspect of our lives. The idea of falling in love seems blissful, and while I think I have been close, I do not believe I have ever been in love. My dating experience has been limited due to being focused on my academic career. My mom may say my academic career has been limited due to my dating experience (Potato, patata).

I’ve had great crushes, flirted a lot, but kept dating to a limited few. While this outlines some of the guys I dated, there is one amazing guy I saw that was not included. Mostly because he and I are still friends, and discussing our dating is somewhat strange. We both got closure and have been able to remain the best of friends since ending things. I wish I could say that about all the guys I’ve dated!

Also, I want to thank my mom for pushing me to write this for realizing that my dating life is funnier than it should be!

I think dating is so much fun, and I still flirt like crazy! Trust me, I will never give up on having my fairy tale romance, but I will hopefully pay attention to certain red flags!

Mr. R

I met R when I was 18, I was impressionable, young and dying to be in love. He was 22, unbothered and focused on way too many things. While the relationship in itself was not terrible, I now wonder why he pursued me in the first place. While he was not boyfriend of the year, I was not girlfriend of the year either. I conveniently pretended to bake for him once and act as if I had been whipping up the meanest batch of chocolate chip cookies… In reality, I got Pillsbury cookie dough and called it a day. In my defence, I was not the best of bakers at the time! We did the usual couple things and it was fun for a bit. You just cannot fake having feelings for long, sooner or later, they surface.

We simply had nothing in common. He was not the love of my life, and when it ended, I remember thinking dating is overrated.

I knew he was not the one when I was at a party, and someone asked me if I was seeing someone, and I said, “who knows?” Not the ideal reply, but I told him I said that. Between the lack of communication and the lack of interest, I do not understand why we were in it, to begin with. It was fun, and I could tell my friends I had a boyfriend! So, it was not the worst of relationships; it was not the best. It’s the quintessential young adult relationship.  

I treated R like a test-run. Figuring out the dating world, understanding how things work, what I like, and don’t like. I am sure that he feels the same. We still are in contact! We send memes, talk about the shows he loves, and I hate. While I do not consider us friends, I am glad that I can message him to send me photos of his puppy when school gets overwhelming!

Mr. V

The ultimate heartbreak. I met him at 19. After realizing that I wanted to get to know the next guy fully, I met V.

We were introduced at a friend’s home, and it felt like fate. We exchanged Snapchats and numbers, and the rest is history! Just kidding, it gets better!

V was interesting. He was older but just by a year. He wanted to get to know my friends, and he felt involved. We spoke constantly. He was the first person I spoke to in the morning and the last person I spoke to at night. I truly felt that he and I knew everything about each other.

Here’s the catch: I never met any of his friends, and I never questioned it. I was excited about him. I finally just wanted to get to know someone fully before committing to a relationship.

We binged the same TV shows together and shared music with each other constantly. We spoke about the future as if we had a clue. Little did I know, these were the loftiest goals ever.

I thought this was the guy. So, I took the time, I was careful. I did not let myself get carried away, and I spent the time getting to know him. I got to know that he truly believed women had to behave a certain way. He often spoke of girls in a derogatory way, and at that time, I did not know better. I was still figuring out what feminism was, and I wanted him to like me. I molded myself to be the girl he would be proud of.

This meant becoming a vegetarian, not clubbing with my friends, and learning everything he loved. Also, I studied for my exams and learned all about basketball. Then, I took the time to make sure I knew his likes and dislikes and chose to ignore my own. I wanted him to see me as his dream girl because I convinced myself he was my dream guy.

Here’s the thing, this whole “getting to know someone” does not come with a rule book, and apparently, I am colorblind to red flags.

The first time we hung out, V told me that he had a psychotic ex. He did not divulge more details, and I just did not question it (I should have).

Still, days turned into months, and when summer rolled around, V was away in Spain. He told me when he’s back, things will change! I thought this meant us taking the next step and making things official.

Before leaving for Spain,  I was told that there was limited wi-fi; thus we’d talk when he’s back. For your information, I have extremely great wi-fi in India, last time I checked, Spain has wi-fi. Love makes you blind because I chose to ignore this and just accepted that he probably was right! When he was back, the vibe was OFF. We met at a restaurant with my friend and her boyfriend at the time, and we all felt weird.

Finally, I told my friends how we barely know what V does in his personal life.

I told them the vague ideas he had told me and that we had inside jokes. However, did he have friends? He had attended a college class with me, but I never knew what he did in university. I knew he studied a lot, but did he study with friends? Who were these friends? All of a sudden, things got fishy! I tried to push those feelings aside, but something was not right.

Vacation me is much more relaxed, but when V returned, he was a totally different person. We no longer spoke as much, and we barely made plans to meet each other… Is this what he meant when he said everything would change when he’s back?

A couple of days later, I decided to snoop. I found out that V did not exactly have a psychotic ex; he had a full-blown girlfriend. This story about a girl that he painted to be obsessed with him was not true. They were dating.

I have to say my best friend, and I don’t know why this happened. V and I spoke about so many things, like our goals and what we wanted from life. How did he forget to mention he was in a committed relationship?

While he may not have cheated on this girl physically, he did emotionally… I also felt cheated on. In a moment, I had lost a friend and someone I had really deep feelings for.

Let’s just say it did not end on the best note. We never really discussed who this girl was and what we were, but we both never spoke to each other again.

I realized that V was a great guy, but certain things he did only made sense to him. Wishing him the best, wherever he is, because we all make foolish mistakes when we’re young!

This did not deter me from finding true love! (It should have, but I am persistent)

Is true love out there?

Well, I decided to take a break. I ate all the ice cream, drank all the coffee, got a haircut, I did everything to move on. While I did move on, I did not find my person. Between studying and ensuring that my future was not negatively affected by being heartbroken, I had unconsciously put dating on the back burner. I no longer knew what I wanted, but I knew I did not want those guys from my past.

Thus, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns—online dating apps. In general, my life motto is “go big or go home” so I got Bumble and Tinder.

I had not really dated white guys, and I was mostly using this platform as a way to see if my friends had a point. Was the love of my life someone I had overlooked? I stuck to dating South Asians for a bit and decided it was time to switch it up.

Mr. N

While I got dating apps during a global pandemic, I was still safe! I found a guy who looked pretty decent! Also, my city had lifted restrictions, and the first date was socially distant!

I matched with a guy on the first day of getting the app, and we planned a date right after. Is this it? Was this going to be the one that changed my mind? While I’m not jaded by guys, I do have my apprehensions. This guy reinforced that red flags exist regardless of how nice someone is.

So, yes, I know. Holding expectations from a guy you meet on a dating app is a bit idealistic, but I’m a dreamer!

He was great. We had a fun first date and went apple picking for our second date. The second date also involved a vineyard, which was super cute! N gets major props for being a cute date!

 I really got excited when I saw a message from him and he was SO cute. I just wanted to live in this crush for a bit!

Picture this: a tall guy who dresses well and is super intelligent! Don’t let looks fool you; dating is fun when things are easy!

While this all transpired when my city had limited activities allowed due to COVID-19, things got interesting when our government decided it was time for strict measures to be put in place. All of a sudden, I knew things may not be as fun and flirty as they began.

A day before the lockdown was imposed, he came to pick up the apple crumble that I had made. So cute! I thought that maybe it was going to be okay, we could sneak around lockdown, that would be so romantic!  

A couple of days after that, I bit the bullet and said it “I am interested and want to see where this goes. How about you?” Then, I had offered to do social distance walks and was gently turned down and knew that asking the harder questions was important. I knew the risk of this question, but I also did not want to just hold my breath waiting. Plus, I had midterms, assignments, and presentations that need my attention!

N told me that while he was interested, we should just put a pin in things due to the pandemic, which made sense. I was hopeful that we would maybe rekindle things once things calmed down, and even if we did not, at least it did not end on the worst of notes.

Well, the joke is on me.

Let’s deconstruct this together, shall we?

One evening, N decided to inform me that he had liked my friend’s pictures to see my reaction. While I did not know how to react given that trying to make me jealous after we said we would wait for the pandemic to “calm” down, I just passively said, “love that picture of her.”

This went on for a bit, him joking he’d message her until he dropped an even bigger revelation. He was glad we stayed friends. I did not know what was happening, and he kept the conversation going for a bit, and all I could say was, “If you knew you weren’t interested in me, trying to make me jealous and telling me to sleep with my friends is childish.”

There were other replies to my stories that warranted him getting blocked, given that he implied I should sleep with a friend of mine.

However, I decided to overlook that. I let myself believe that these inane actions were due to him trying to make sure I was interested. Maybe I was hopeful that things would change once our lockdown was lifted. I got a sarcastic reply, but it ended on an okay note, I guess.

A couple of days later, my friends and I decided to create a safe bubble to maintain our mental health during this pandemic. I got picked up by a friend that shares the same name as N. The running joke when my friends pick me up is usually, “Can I drive?” I am 22 and do not have my permit as of yet (I will work on that!). So, I always make this joke with everyone, and I decided to share it on my Instagram story. I made it a poll, it was funny to me, and it was harmless. So, I asked my followers if my friend should let me drive, to which the lovely N who knew that these jokes did not fly with me, decided to reply “from one N to another lol.”

But I had no real answer to this; what would I say to that? Is this what a “friend” would message another friend?

I have successfully been friends with guys I was casually seeing, and the reason it worked was boundaries. While not every date will turn to love, it does not have to be this toxic. His behavior made me question whether he and I were friends or if I could become something he could toy with.

What if I told him that I had liked his friend’s pictures? Or replied to stories with his friends who were girls and said, “fuck her.” Would it be just as funny?

Liking my friend’s pictures, telling me to sleep with someone who shares the same name as you (as a joke), telling me that I am going from one guy to another is not normal.

I sat on it for a couple of days, cried a bit, and made a difficult decision. N had to be out. I decided that unfollowing him from social media, and removing him from mine was the best course of action.

My small crush on him was still there, but my dignity was much more important. I was not about to let a guy who clearly did not respect my boundaries get away with this.

It sucked. This was the first time I ever made this decision. I’m usually pretty passive. My friends were happy; they found all his behavior weird. Once every screenshot was analyzed, every action scrutinized, this was the best decision. I could not be roasted by the group chat one more time. My girls are savages, and they made sure I knew I was a boss when I made the decision to take a step back.

Why did it hurt then?

Why did a guy that I met twice make me feel so bad about myself, and why did he think this was ok? Was this online dating? An opening to let men belittle you? To play with your feelings?

I don’t know what made him lose interest, but I know what made me lose interest. While I do wish him the best and I wished we had stayed friends, given that he had some great qualities, my friend circle is well chosen. It includes people who understand mutual respect.

Have I given up? Dating cannot be a recipe for disaster (always)

Definitely not! I am a hopeless romantic. I think my special someone is out there. I’m just kissing a couple of frogs hoping for a prince charming!

While all these guys have not been the best of experiences, I am grateful for these experiences. Dating is not easy. Figuring things out takes time. I am sure that I have my own faults, and I by no means perfect, but I am glad that I discovered my likes and dislikes so early on.

I guess history does repeat itself because I tend to bake in order to get guys. First cookies and then apple crumble! Maybe, next time I have a crush, I’ll just bake myself some cake and call it a day!

I am still perfecting the dating recipe and I hope to figure it out soon!

Now, I have a better idea of what I want in a man, but there are still aspects I am unsure about! And I also want to be the person I always imagined I would be, so I am taking it much slower now.

I am a perfectionist, and my academic career has always been a priority. This fact has led me to realize that when I lose control in a relationship, it brings me a certain amount of anxiety. I am so used to controlling every aspect of my life that I get very confused when someone sweeps me off my feet. I try to rationalize everything. From what I know now, love cannot be rationalized. It can be understood, but my overanalyzing self should only apply to my academic work!

My dating tips

If you are in the same boat as me, here are my tips on navigating dating!

Take your time, ask all the questions and if someone makes you feel bad, walk away. While a compromise or two is important in any relationship, a person that makes you question your self-worth is not worth it!

You cannot change someone. No one will become the ideal partner because you wish them to be. If you feel that there are some things you cannot overlook, don’t ignore that gut feeling!

I sometimes forget I am in my early twenties, and while I want to be in love and find that one person, I have so much to discover in life. So many things to do, so many experiences to be had! It gets daunting but navigating these situations has taught me a lot about myself. While it has taught me what I do not want in a relationship, it has always taught me self-love.

I am thankful for each experience, for each heartbreak, each crush, each 11:11 wish that me and this person end up together.

It has made me the person I am today. It has led to some great stories. Girl’s nights are filled with giggles thinking of the insane stories men have led me to believe!

I am taking a break from dating, thanks to the pandemic, and because I think I lost myself in these guys without realizing it.

My recipe for love has yet to stick, but my recipe for self-love is getting there.

Live your best life, set your boundaries and fall in love.  

Read also:
To My Mom, Thank You For Your Strength
The Value Of Girl Friendships
I Am Not Your Fantasy