Love in the Time of iPhones
The Bravest People On Your Dating App
Think you’ve got it hard on Hinge? Try being a cancer survivor.
Online dating has become the standard for modern romance—but while it may be the obvious route for the average dater, certain circumstances can make it more challenging. Here, three people who found themselves in difficult dating situations recount their experiences.
Dating online when…
You’re a cancer survivor
Dating online “isn’t something I do consistently because I find it exhausting,” says Susan, a 44-year-old director of human resources from Denver. She has been on a string of dates with around 15 men she met online, one of whom she was in a six-month relationship with.
While Susan’s encounters have mostly been “pretty benign—men who look nothing like their pictures, men with aggressive personalities, one guy brought a gun on a first date (this is Colorado, but it was unnerving that he made a point to tell me about it),” overcoming ovarian cancer has changed the way she interacts with potential suitors.
“I tend to tell people about being a cancer survivor fairly quickly—unfortunately, it has been a big part of my life and there is a fairly high chance of recurrence. I am only creating potential problems if I downplay it too much,” she says.
It also affects her decision-making process, too. “If I am looking at online profiles, and I see that someone is widowed, I never contact them. I feel that if they already lost a partner, I am too big of a risk. My friends think that I’m being ridiculous, but with ovarian cancer, I know the statistics for my long-term survival, and the chance of recurrence is very high. If I do have a recurrence, my five-year survival rate is in the low single digits. It isn't somewhat that I dwell on, but it is in the back of my mind.”
Being thrust into the online dating world is “tough,” admits Susan, who was previously married for five years. “After cancer, I really feel like damaged goods. I know that I am a nice, smart, and fairly adventurous person, but the cancer and the scars and the long-term side effects that I live with are a lot for someone to take on.”
“Online dating was definitely easier when I was still calling myself a lesbian,” explains Jens, a 22-year-old writer from Minneapolis. “As soon as I started acknowledging that I'm actually male, my online dating experience worsened dramatically. The sad part is, I'm cuter, happier and cleverer at my responses than I was three years ago, so I definitely owe my lack of positive online dating experiences to my gender change, and not somehow becoming worse at wooing people.”
Jens, who has dated online for the past five years, always mentions being trans on his profiles: something that elicits mixed—if any—responses. “I message people, and I never hear from them,” he says. “I pay close attention when my femme friends post screenshots of assholes saying really rude, entitled or aggressive things—I want to make sure I'm not like those people. Yet, I think because I make it very clear on my profile that I'm transgender, potential dates just don't reply to my messages.
“Honestly, for trans people, I'd recommend just avoiding online dating if possible,” Jens advises. He has encountered fetishization wherein “people … will worship your transgender body but never actually have any respect for you as a human being,” and casual encounters in which he “felt like I was kink to try, and not so much a person to sleep with. I think it's because they don't have to invest in me but still get to experiment.”
Another problematic trope of dating while trans is coming across people who are “trying too hard to be accepting, over-emphasizing how supportive they are of trans people or boasting about trans activist activity,” Jens says. “Sometimes you just get the sense you're something to cross off someone's list, because it's somehow the hard thing to do to date a trans person; it's a burden and somebody’s got to do it. They are looking for some kind of reward for their hard work of dating someone who's trans.
“It's totally fucked up.”
You’ve just come out of a looooong relationship
Coming out of a six-year relationship was a wake-up call to the realities of the modern dating world for Corine, a 24-year-old graduate from London. Having settled down long before swiping right became the universally accepted sign for sexual interest, joining dating websites seemed like the only way to integrate herself back into the game. “My experiences dating online have been a bit disappointing—the guys I met are after just one thing. I was hounded by quite a lot of horny men, which got intense at times,” she says.
Corine went with the honest tack when talking to new people online, explaining that she had just come out of a long-term relationship and was thus approaching things with caution. “Some reactions were supportive and patient and willing to wait for me—others became distant,” she recalls. Several months on from signing up, she found someone— “a very good looking guy who I can only describe as a needle in a haystack. Dating again was scary at first—but I just allowed him to buy me drink after drink, and soon my inhibitions left me and everything became wonderful again. By the third and fourth date I went on, things were less scary, and so there was less of a need for the dates to be alcohol-filled.”
Finding a relationship so quickly has made Corine consider herself “one of the lucky ones. I have many friends who have been Internet dating for two or three years, and they still haven't found anyone,” she explains. “It really is a lot about luck.”