The definitive definition of dating

relationship (n.)
from re- (Latin: to return, again), lations- (Middle French: rapport report, bareback bear back), and hip (Shakira: don’t lie).

“Looking for something real,” people say on dating sites. Yeah, I mean, holograms are fun, but they always leave me feeling hollow.

“I’m just interested in something fun,” other people say. Well, yeah, me too. If it isn’t fun—to see you, to talk to you, to kiss you—then I’m definitely not in.

There are committed relationships and their legal embodiments, marriages. And then there’s everything else, which—can we please just call it dating?


Within both of those there are an infinity of options, poorly defined, including but not limited to: casual dating, casual dating while seeing other people, casual dating while sexually exclusive, serious dating, committed dating, polyamory, dating to see where it goes, having fun and being open to where it goes, having fun and going nowhere fast, torturing each other slowly, open relationships, primary partners, secondary partners, tertiary partners, dating to forget, dating to remember,  friends with benefits, fuck buddies, hate fuck buddies, lovers, sexting friends, surrogate boyfriends / girlfriends, dating to get over, dating to get under, boyfriend / girlfriend, side girl / boy, frenemies, heterosexual life partner, that relationship Winston has with his cat on New Girl, platonic soulmates, sexual soulmates who are fundamentally incompatible, secret dating.

Note that I didn’t say which of those are committed relationships and their legal embodiments, marriages, and which of those fall under this new, great, all-inclusive term of “dating” that I’ve just invented.

I know, I know—it’s overwhelming. So here’s a guide:

Does it feel good? Are you comfortable? If you’re uncomfortable, is it in a healthy way that feels like growth or maybe in a thrilling way that feels like a roller coaster if you’re a person who likes roller coasters?

That’s it. Have fun. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: be safe, be persistent, and I hope you get lucky.

Tinder is a hook-up app

There’s this thing people do when they’re on Tinder dates—they talk about being on Tinder. I think at some point on every single Tinder date I’ve been on, the guy has been like, “So….what’s your experience with Tinder?”

I wait for it, and then I take the opportunity to grill them about what women on Tinder are like. Responses vary from, “Every woman has a picture of herself doing a handstand on top of a mountain” to “Lots of pictures of tigers” (et tu, women?!) to “Tons of drunk Seahawks selfies” (gender parity for the win, Seattle) to “Lots of duckfaces.”

My general answer to “What’s your experience with Tinder?” is generally positive, generic, and vague. “I’ve met some really nice people!” “People are interesting.”

Men: “But they’ve all been nice?”

Men are worried about other men’s behavior online. This is good.

Me: “All polite, nice, gentlemenly types.”

A couple of guys have essentially congratulated me on screening out the creeps. This is not good. I’m wary of this, and always go to the trouble to explain why: it’s a slippery slope from “I have a good filter” to “other women don’t filter as well as I do” to “other women don’t prevent the abuse they get online” to “other women ask for the abuse they get online.”

Welcome to rape culture, where women get congratulated for not getting raped. Fuck that.

I think I’m careful, sure, and predators are generally lazy, but I also think I’ve been lucky and it’s just a matter of time before I’m on the receiving end of nastiness online. I tend to try to think of myself as the rule, not the exception to the rule (you hear that, New York Times writers ranting about millennials?). I don’t think anyone “deserves” the abuse they get. I think women should be able to be online, asking for whatever they want or don’t want and looking however they want or don’t want, without being made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Maybe if women were actually safe in the world we would be having a different conversation, but women are not physically or emotionally safe in the world. Until they are, that’s not the conversation. Get in this conversation.

Do you guys follow @instagranniepants on instagram? Heartbreaking, hilarious, brave, important.

So let’s talk about the hook-up culture of Tinder. Everyone thinks it’s a hook-up app. It started as a hook-up app. Some people still use it as a hook-up app. This is great! We’re all allowed to ask for what we want, including sex. Sometimes we want different things. This is ok too!

My friend swiped on a guy and he asked her about hooking up, and she said, “Whyyyyy?” I took her phone and looked at his profile and it said, “Just looking for casual fun.” So her bad on that one. But also—she wasn’t actually upset. Because asking if you’re interested in hooking up isn’t abuse. It isn’t a threat. It isn’t telling her what filthy thing he’s going to do to her without her consent. It actually was a question, genuinely phrased, that revealed his interest while asking her about hers. She said no. He moved on. Consent!

Plus—isn’t all of this dependent on meeting a person anyway? Even if you’re someone who’s out for random sex, and you’re someone who is attracted to a lot of people, don’t you still have to meet someone and see? Don’t you have to see if they look clean, or if they have a random tic you just can’t get past, like, say, bursting into song during conversation, or calling you “sweetheart”? Aren’t there enough other people in the world that you can sleep with that there is something that could make you go, “eh, not for me”?

Maybe not. In which case, happy swiping and happy schtupping.

But for the rest of us—there’s a lot of grey area that remains to be covered in meeting someone and seeing where things go. Some people you want to be friends with. Some people you want to meet and talk to and never see again. Some people you want to see again and find out more. Some people you want to be close to.

I guess I just don’t think social cues are that hard to read, even online. If a profile says, “hedonist who lives every day to the fullest, fun-seeker, just passing through town for one night only,” then maybe that person isn’t seeking a quiet, non-sexual first interaction. But maybe they are. If you can’t tell from their profile, why not see what you can tell from a conversation? If you can’t tell there, why not ask once you’re having an interaction?

I’m not against direct communication, I just think that most people are going to have to find out in person anyway—and what we want might vary from interaction to interaction, so why not go for the “meet and see”? (I almost spelled that “meat and sea” which is much more entertaining now that I think of it…)

You really can’t waste the 4 text messages back and forth? Your Netflix queue must be really long and urgent.

A real conversation I had:

Him: I was going to say we should hook up but if you can’t do handstands…

Me: Wow! An offer for a hook-up AND a preemptive rejection. Must be my lucky day.

Him: Haha. It’s a crazy world out there, maggie

Grade: A+ 

If he’d continued the conversation past that, I would have written him back. I was much more interested in how well he handled the push-back than anything else.

This sort of easy, low stakes interaction is part of what I like about Tinder. In fact, I get annoyed when guys plaster “not here to hook up” all over their Tinder profiles.

First of all, I have one foot in the world of marketing, where a basic maxim is to always phrase things in the positive. Saying that you’re “looking for something with real potential” or “hoping to meet someone for a serious relationship” accomplishes the same goal as “not here for hook-ups so don’t bother” without the a) ego b) judgment c) dismissive tone.

Sure, you can tell me what you want, but can you do it in a way that doesn’t also attempt to establish what’s ok for me to want or not want? Quit swinging your dick around while claiming you’re keeping it in your pants as an incentive.

I’ve asked for male perspective on “not here for hook-ups” and to the letter, all of the guys I’ve asked have said, “Oh, that’s a move to try to get even more play.”

It’s nice to know men think so highly of each other.

My basic response can be boiled down to: “What’s with the slut-shaming, guys?!?”

It’s really awkward when we can’t all be humans safely

This culture of violence against women that the world has been rocking for the last couple of millennia has a lot of downsides.

One of the downsides is the awkwardly imbalanced conversations that happen when online dating.

Me: So what do you do for work?

Him: I’m a Project Manager in the Video Games Division at Amazon. I work on the fourth floor, office C. Here’s my email and mother’s maiden name. What do you do?

Me: I’m a writer.

Him: Cool. So have you lived in Seattle long?

Me: A while. You?

Him: Moved here last December 13. Live in a nice apartment in the Central District on 19th and Union. Third window from the left. Lock doesn’t work very well. Do you like your neighborhood?

Me: Yes. (*frantically googles to make sure every neighborhood in Seattle has pizza*) It has good pizza.

Him: Do you want to go out for pizza sometime?

Me: Sure! Does Capitol Hill work for you? Not saying I live there, just saying it’s a busy public neighborhood that’s conveniently located to most places so I could live basically anywhere, but I can meet you there.

I actually had a guy—on a first date—say, “So you’re a writer—what does that mean? I mean, you don’t have to tell me where or anything.”

I really appreciate that the men I’ve interacted with on Tinder have avoided asking me identifying questions—or at least been chill about my vague answers.

To some extent, I think nice men who date online go out of their way to appear un-creepy. Re-read that sentence with me and really let it sink in.

My friend Nicole says her guy friend who dates online always avoids asking his dates anything personal.

No one’s suggested picking me up at my house or walking me home. One date who I was otherwise having a really sweet, easy time with wouldn’t return the gesture after I’d touched his arm several times. I think one dude avoided looking at me for the hour and a half we spent together. Sometimes I get confused and sort of feel rejected, then I re-orient to what’s going on and I really appreciate it.

This is the new gentlemanly code of conduct. Welcome to the world we’ve created, folks.

When I first joined Tinder, I was explaining how it works to a friend. His first question was, “But wait—what if I match with some girl and she messages me and she says, u r cute—??”

He said and r with so much disgust in his voice that I knew how he was spelling them.

“Let’s just take a second,” I said, “and recognize that your greatest fear about online dating is that someone will compliment you using letters in place of words. My greatest fear about online dating is that I could be raped and murdered.”

We sat there, eating french fries and nodding for a little while. Then I acknowledged that you could always unmatch someone if they messaged u and u didn’t like it—whether cuz of the way she spells qt pie 4 lyfe or a threat against your physical safety and life.

Then we talked about whether or not his girlfriend was likely to understand that he just wanted to go on Tinder for the entertainment of swiping, no really, and wasn’t trying to meet someone. I think Tinder would make for a great couple’s activity.

But you should hear the rage that fills my single girlfriends when they see people on Tinder who aren’t on there to actually meet people. YOU’RE CLOGGING UP THE SYSTEM, they yell. GET THE F*** OUT.

Because they have hope. Because we’re humans, and humans like humans on an individual-level. I hope you’re being safe. I hope you’re being persistent. I hope you get lucky.

Why I will never (again) date a 25-year-old

Because they look like babies. Literal infants.

Because they wear tank tops in every picture.

Because they list their college majors as their defining characteristic.

Because they post pictures of themselves wearing a cap and gown.

Because they post pictures of themselves with beer bongs.

Because they haven’t lost the baby fat off their faces.

Because they remind me of being in college. Or maybe high school.

Because when they write profiles they include the words holla, hella, or tight, which might be why they remind me of being in college (or maybe high school), and how are there not new terrible slang words yet?

Because just looking at them makes me feel like eating pizza and macaroni and cheese.

Because this one wrote, “3 things I like in a girl: boobs / someone who pushes themselves / butt.” He also classified himself as “not that big of a douche I think.”

Because they call themselves enigmas.

Because they quote Thomas Pynchon and Quentin Tarantino. And Ron Swanson. As if.

Because while I may think I’d be down to find a hot 25-year-old and see what happens, I’m not actually interested in their idea of “what happens” on Tinder.

I really need to up my age range, but it’s just way too fun to look at their baby faces and manly arms and terrible tattoos.

Plus, I never run out of people to look at. I don’t know the exact stats of ages on Tinder, but my friends who have their age ranges set to 30 and above often get the message that “there is no one new in your area.” I have never once seen that. The supply of 20something boys on Tinder is endless.

It’s not just that “there’s always another fish in the sea.” It’s that Tinder isn’t the sea. It’s a fish hatchery.

A guide to translating things men say on tinder

There are lots of phrases that appear over and over on Tinder that make me wonder if we really are all speaking the English language. Because while you’re saying one thing, I’m hearing something…else.

“Positive vibes only, please.”
No emotions, please.

“Work hard, play harder.”
Pi Kappa Phi

“I know how to treat a woman right.”
I don’t know how to treat a woman like a human being.

“Boyfriend material.”
All women want the same thing, and that thing is me.

“Willing to lie about where we met.”
I’m ashamed women won’t date me IRL.

“Looking for casual fun.”
Sex. Not mini-golf.

“I have traditional values.”
Women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

“I like girls who wear skirts and dresses.”
Women shouldn’t be allowed to wear pants.

“Your dad will love me.”
Men should make decisions for women.

“Can anyone keep up with me?”
I suck.

“SEAHAWKS! Fitness. Beer.”
Me caveman. You meat.

“Marriage material.”
My girl friends tell me this when I cry about how lonely I am.

“Don’t take things so serious.”
Plz don’t burden me with your “thoughts.”

“Take a risk once in a while.”
I don’t look like my pictures / might murder you.

“Life’s too short.”
I will shorten your life by murdering you.

“I only date smart women.”
I think most women are dumb. I believe most women can’t carry on a conversation and don’t operate at the same intellectual level as me. They’re also bad at driving and math and shouldn’t be allowed to be president because they might have their period and press that red button. I’m a misogynist.

I could do ok with water wings

When I was in Los Angeles in November, I watched Gattaca with my friend and her husband, which I’d never seen and is one of their favorite movies.

And in one of the last scenes, Ethan Hawke is swimming out into the ocean with his brother in a distance contest, and Ethan Hawke beats him, which shouldn’t happen given that he’s supposed to be weaker and inferior, etc, whatever, watch the movie if you want to know, the point is that his brother asks him how he does it and he shouts:


And my friend paused the movie and turned to me and said, “Whenever anyone asks how I do so much, I tell them that: I never save anything for the swim back.”

All of which is a much nicer way of saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

Which I agree with, in theory. In reality I am so fond of my bed.

So today I’m trying to think through how that works out with my personal philosophy of taking as many naps as possible.

The scary thing isn’t starting but finishing but also starting

Have you guys realized that the word start has ART in it?!


I’ve been thinking about why it’s so hard to talk about our pet projects out loud. And by that I mean our favorites, the ones we guard a little carefully– not the pet eggs we’re hoping to raise for the state fair “who has the best hens” competition. Although those could certainly count too. I wouldn’t want to not count my chickens before they hatch.


My second year of grad school, I was teaching for the first time, and had a workshop assignment to write a poem a day for the whole semester, and was taking a full load of classes, and I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), wherein you write 50,000 words in a month (November). I was 42,000 words in at Thanksgiving and had a week left– in other words, I was right on target and would have easily finished. I mentioned the project to my parents, who asked what the word vomit “novel” was about, and as I explained its loose plot line, they asked a few gentle, curious questions, and I realized how many problems there were with it– how many holes left to fill, how many major wrong turns I had taken along the way– all of which I already knew, it just sounded so much worse when said out loud and the whole idea so much more hopelessly silly when said in front of others.

And despite knowing that I had written 42,000 words in three weeks and that no one emerges with a finished draft of a novel, and that I had gone in knowing the point was just to finish, only that— I gave up. Entirely and completely. The project and my own hubris overwhelmed me, and I felt embarrassed that other people knew I was doing this foolish, pointless thing (although thousands of people do it each year and I think it’s great, and always results in something— “but for other people, not for me,” goes the little voice in my head, “wah wah”). I didn’t write the last 8,000 words. I haven’t looked at it since. I can’t bear to. I’m somehow convinced that every single sentence I wrote for it was complete and total shit, and that the whole thing will reveal what a fraud I am to pretend I know how to write even the simplest of emails. House of cards.

Sometimes we don’t talk about our projects because we’re afraid of what they’ll look like when held up to the light. Sometimes we can’t talk about them to specific people because we know those people will chime in, and we know those people’s chimes are valuable but also, maybe, dangerous– a little bit out of tune with our own, or perhaps just so loud we’ll be unable to tune them out, or maybe they’re really lovely tunes in harmony with our own but that’ll make it hard to disentangle when we see what they could bring (and this was my project dammit) or they do play your tune and are eagerly enthusiastic and sweet and lovely about it and overwhelming with their beautiful thoughts and coherent vision and you start to think oh it sounds so good when she does it I should just give it to her she’ll do it so much better than me.

And have you ever given away a project easily– talked about it carelessly, to someone who doesn’t take the time to listen, or lives in a different universe, or dismisses it or you, or who then repeats it loosely? Oh, it’s like when you were a child, and you had a new beloved toy, and you were so eager to show it that you gave it to the first person you saw, and they broke it, and it was your fault for not taking better care of something that deserved to be tended a bit more closely, at least for a time.

Sometimes we don’t talk about our projects because they exist, whole and perfect in our minds, and the minute we try to articulate them, we realize how crumbly or slippery they are, we hear how raspy our own sentences sound, and the project gets scared and skitters off into a dark corner of your mind and can’t be coaxed out again, and instead of emerging a whole if shadowy animal, it throws tufts of mangy fur and bits of toenails in your direction.

Sometimes we can’t talk about our projects because we’re afraid of what we’ll look like when held up to the light.

It’s hard to talk about our projects because talking about them always, in some way, even in a tiny safe contained one, reveals talking about what we want. What we hope for our art, which is what we hope for ourselves.

I don’t have a good ending for this post. Because yes, there’s something to going quiet and letting things solidify in our minds before parading them about. Yes, there’s something wholesome and nurturing about talking about projects with the right people at the right time. Yes, there’s something necessary about the changes that occur when a project begins to exist in the real world rather than the initial fabricated vision. All art is about learning, each time and with each draft and each undertaking, how to move the end result a bit closer to the thing we originally saw in our minds. Yes, there’s something about taking notes, or drawing sketches, or writing lists, or creating graphs or boards to guide us along the way so we don’t stray too far from the path once we start wandering in the fields.

But at some point, it’s just time to start. And let it get messy. And ugly. Like that painting, hanging framed in my parents’ kitchen, right below my sister’s Jackson Pollack rainbow art, that I did that looks like some red blurs and a splotch of green surrounding a huge brown blob of poop.

I think it was supposed to be a social commentary on our narrow definitions of beauty. And poop. And Mr. Potato Head in a teal tutu attempting to ride a terrified rare red sea turtle.