Any millennial-ish-aged person who dates men is familiar with the smorgasbord of terrible ways they behave on dating apps – unsolicited dick pics, invasive questions, 180-degree turns from “nice guy” to slur-spewing monster in the time it takes to say, “Thanks, but I’m good.” But there’s a more insidious red flag on Tinder, Bumble, and the rest that's rarely discussed: that of the fun-loving liar.
"Down to lie about how we met," says the fun-loving liar’s profile. Or, if he’s slightly more detail-oriented, "Let's say we met in a bar."
This secretiveness likely results from the persistent idea that online dating is somehow shameful. Another variation on the theme is responding to OKCupid’s “What’s the most private thing you’re willing to admit?” profile prompt with some version of “That I’m on this site.” Do women do this? Probably, considering the long-standing stigma around online dating, though I suspect at a lower rate because A) none that I’ve ever matched with, and B) women don’t benefit from a cherished tradition of flippantly minimizing our words and actions using tidy explanations like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just locker room talk.”
I, for one, try not to allude to my potential chronic dishonesty as a partner right off the bat; you know, first impressions and all. If a man can’t own up to something as trivial as a Tinder account, what other information will he casually omit or outright falsify? Furthermore, what kind of epically snowballing lie will you be dragged into to keep your actual origins as a couple under wraps? Do you coordinate a backstory as a team, aligning calendar dates and idiosyncratic details in a tangle of tacks and red string, to keep your stories straight for your friends, your parents, your grandkids? If he thinks Hinge is rough, wait until the fable constructed around your union unravels, as it almost definitely will!
But let’s say you can look past the potential of having to explain to your loved ones why you fed them years (decades?) worth of increasingly elaborate lies. Let’s even say that the fun-loving liar is a generally honest guy, and his profile isn’t an indication of a larger propensity to mislead. Let’s go ahead and say all that. Then the question remains: What about the condescension it takes to label dating sites or apps as embarrassing? What does expressing such a sentiment imply he thinks of the women he meets on such sites and apps, and of the modicum of protection online dating offers us?
Not to suggest that dating apps are a perfect system (Catfish is in its sixth season, after all) but as a member of the fairer sex – or, more accurately, the sex with more conditioning not to act “rude” even in clearly unsafe situations – the opportunity that dating apps and sites provide to screen people before coming into their physical proximity is less of a joke to me, and more of a godsend. Which makes men who find apps embarrassing concerningly problematic. Dating apps are immeasurably helpful for sifting past Vonnegut and Bukowski fanboys, self-proclaimed visionaries, and anti-choice activists. And also, when you’re on the receiving end of messages like this:
Let’s say this guy had approached me at a bar. Since we’d be communicating face to face rather than through written messages, chances are he wouldn’t have felt compelled to threaten me in the moment with a historically impossible but still seriously disturbing scenario. And who knows what might have transpired then? While less immediately scary dudes have certainly proven to be predators on more than one occasion, I feel pretty confident in saying “leader of the Holocaust crushing tiny animals underfoot is the first line that comes to mind” guy is not a guy most of us want to unwittingly go home with after last call. And dating apps helped me screen him out.
It’s like a rule of geometry: Not all IRL creeps show their creepiness on dating apps, but it seems safe to assume that all dating app creeps are creeps IRL. There’s a lot of danger out there, and dating sites and apps can be tools for avoiding at least a fraction of it. Which makes Margaret Atwood’s observation that “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, [and] women are afraid that men will kill them” so perfectly fitting here – in the same breath that a man attempts to protect his ego by distancing himself from online dating, he’s effectively laughing at women for attempting to protect ourselves against actual bodily harm. It’s akin to shaming us for closely guarding our drinks, walking home with our keys between our knuckles, or using any of the other defensive tactics we’ve been forced to memorize for any chance at cheating an enormously violentpatriarchal system.
If nothing else, I simply question the point of lying, considering the frequency and zeal with which most of us use tech to improve and streamline our lives in seemingly infinite ways. If I want eight spicy tuna rolls at 1AM, I don’t wander the streets of Brooklyn with the faith that the perfect late night sushi spot will simply appear in front of me; I go on Seamless. If I need driving directions to Salt Lake City, Utah, I don’t hit any random road; I use a GPS app. The internet is bountiful and efficient resource, especially next to our squishy, fallible, super busy human brains. Why do we continue to insist on treating dating differently?
Lying about online dating is absurd and counterproductive at best; actively sexist at worst.
The Hollywood idea of a meet-cute with someone who magically checks all of your boxes is nice, but not terribly likely. The organization and labor necessary to lie about your origin story as a couple is so incredibly not worth it, even if you somehow make it work. And the arrogance displayed by any man who not only doesn’t grasp, but outright sneers at the mechanisms many women employ to elude misogyny and other peril, is not a trait of a worthy partner.
Maybe you will meet The One (or Ones) offline, and in that case, mazel tov to you. But until that day comes, just be honest, and demand the same of your matches. The truth is, the only shame in dating apps is the fragility behind the lies.
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