I had a conversation with friends a few nights ago (over real apps) about dating apps, and can I be honest? I hate them. I’m not built for them. Do I respect some people’s affinity for them? Yes. Have I tried them? Yes. Are they amusing? Yes. Mostly because when you come across someone who is hopefully a doctor (but presumably Dexter) literally performing open heart surgery in their main picture, you have to laugh at the idea of swiping left or right based on your initial reaction.
Which, by the way is, “What in the actual living hell is this?”
But I finally realized what’s missing from the swiping and double tapping garbage that we’ve allowed present day dating standards to convince us we depend on.
At a yoga festival recently (sup Wildvibes!), in the closing ceremony, they asked us to hold hands with a stranger and look them in the eyes for a few minutes. No words. No laughing. Just two softened sets of eyes showing up for each other without interruption, in complete silence. I can say for certain that it was utterly dismantling, letting someone see me that way, without my body armor.
Eye contact is alarming.
You know why it’s alarming? Because we’re used to seeing people behind a screen and judging them based on six curated photos, a well-punctuated bio, and the perfect entry line. Unless their entry line sucks. In which case we dismiss them entirely. Imagine if we let that fly in the flesh. Imagine saying, “Hi, how’s it going?” or some other “wrong” opener over drinks. Now, imagine your friend/acquaintance/person-you-want-to-date-but-you’re-too-afraid-to-say-it-out-loud just got up and walked away mid-convo? Imagine being written off that quickly in real time. It would be ABSURD. That’s what we’re doing to each other, and it’s a real bummer.
We’d like to think we’re swipe-able, wouldn’t we? But in real life we are not always right swipe worthy. We are not perfect tens. Not even close. On good days when we’ve hit snooze sixteen times and skipped breakfast we are barely 6’s. On bad days we are 4’s pretending to be 6’s, expecting everyone we come across to be 11’s.
We have these platforms where we’re constantly sharing our highlight reels. We’re asking people to fall in love with our sunsets, and our concerts, and our cocktails without the context of whom these experiences belong to and what we’ve gone through to get here. It’s low risk to show people the parts of life we already know they like. But with low risk comes low reward. That gritty “how we got here” stuff? That’s the stuff that matters, especially if I’m dealing with another human that I want to be around for longer than 5 minutes.
So we don’t look people in the eyes because we’re afraid of seeing too much of ourselves inside of them. When we’re in front of somebody, we’re somewhere else. When we’re somewhere else, we’re mindlessly tapping and swiping through an endless array of faces and bodies like we’re trying to upgrade our seats to “even more space” on an upcoming flight.
When we finally round up enough courage to let someone in, we mistake moments of silence for dissonance. It’s called listening. But hey, when it’s not artificially injected with watered down beer and equally watered down dialogue it’s harder to digest. Our systems aren’t used to doing that much work, so they’re shutting down entirely. We’re casually meh-ing way through life instead of giving authentic, powerful, and meaningful interactions a chance to unfold. What’s worse? We’re using this whole “Carpe diem! Life is short!” bullshit as our excuse for not getting to know anybody.
We’re being cowards. Every. Single. One of us.
Why has it become cause for consternation when someone enters our chasm of unloveable qualities and squares off with the beast we think we have become? Is it because we know very well they could devour us whole? They know deep down, we are not these calloused creatures. We are raw. We are soft. We are products of every amazing, and terrible, and shameful experience we have been through. We are tired, and poor, and starving, and filthy, and lonely. We are all missing parts. We are all misfit toys. We are brilliantly flawed. We are chaotically arranged. And we are enough, just so.
When was the last time you really looked somebody in the eyes and let yourself feel them looking back at you? When was the last time you came to the table alone, present, and bare? Your battle scars are your body armor; but armor is heavy, Darling. All that weight? Know where to hang it up at the end of the day.
Let them see you and all your gory details.