Fare Thee Well to All That

Note: You can also listen to me read this essay in the final episode of My Week In Tinder. Bonus musical content included.

Last Christmas, I published the first episode of my podcast, My Week In Tinder. A little bit less than a year later, I’m deciding to end it. This was not an easy decision to make, or rather, admit that I had already made. But, as Joan Didion writes in her essay that serves as half of the title of this one, “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” For those who have been active listeners, you’ll know that my last episode was almost five months ago. I had planned to do a summer recap episode, replete with a parodied version of “Summer Nights” from Grease that I was going to sing with a backup karaoke track, but I obviously never got around to it. And I’m sorry about that, because it was really clever.

While the impetus for my podcast was clear, and remains clear to me almost a year later, its ending is murky. If I’m being honest, with not only you, but also myself, I made the decision to end My Week In Tinder months ago, but have had trouble pulling the proverbial trigger. My difficulty in ending something that I created, something that received far more (and surprisingly positive) attention than I anticipated had a lot to do with why. Why do I want to end this? Why have I lost interest? Why did I even start in the first place?

Here’s the cheat-sheet version of the answers to those first two questions: 1) Because it is no longer, to borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, sparking joy. 2) Because I’ve lost interest in the premise, which is largely rooted in dating men I meet through Tinder or OkCupid or Bumble, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam (emphasis on the nauseam). The third question—Why did I even start in the first place?—is both the easiest and hardest to answer. Ultimately, I know why I started. It’s just difficult to talk about.

I recently wrote an essay called “This Is What I Mean By That,” which, on the surface, is about my current psychotherapeutic experience, coping with damage I’ve both endured and inflicted, and what happens to a creative mind when it is not actively engaging in creative pursuits. I also talk about my identity as a writer and how I have historically approached the writing process. I ultimately ask and answer the question, If a writer doesn’t write, is she still a writer? (Spoiler alert: Yes.) I am lucky to have a relatively stable professional life. I do not believe that I will ever be able to achieve fame or fortune or, more honestly, a semi-decent salary as a writer or creative of any persuasion. That said, if you’re reading this and know someone who wants to offer me a book deal, I’ll quit my job first thing tomorrow. Sadly, though, I’ve become a bit of a realist, which is kind of a bummer. I made a conscious decision when I was eighteen-years-old to not pursue creativity as a career. Part of starting My Week In Tinder was reevaluating that decision I made over a decade earlier as perhaps premature. I’m kind of funny, I thought. I can totally be funny professionally. By April, though, reality caught up with me; I realized, Just because I’m funny-ish doesn’t mean I should try to make a career of it. I can just be funny.

So, I made the decision to end My Week In Tinder months ago, but wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Because it’s not just about the fact that I’m ending my podcast. It’s about the fact that I’m ending online dating. There isn’t some great reveal here. I haven’t been secretly married the whole time. The stories and messages I shared are (sadly, dishearteningly) all true. I have not found True Love or a boyfriend or even a friend with benefits. This is also not the first time I have claimed that I’m done with online dating. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been more or less active, or favored one app over another, or deleted absolutely everything. But I’ve always gone back after a few weeks or months. It’s different this time, though. Or, more accurately: it feels different this time.

I started podcasting almost immediately after a large foundation of my personal life imploded. I’m a pretty transparent person; in fact, I have a tendency to overshare. Often to the extreme. Just ask my best friend who has had to hear, in the goriest of detail, how much worse my period has become since I got a copper IUD. (Sucks for Lauren, but yay for women’s reproductive rights!) I reveal far too much to the general public than I probably should. I say and write and publish things that I should probably keep private. And I am very aware that doing so will probably come back to bite me in the ass one day. So, the fact that all I’m willing to say is “boom went the dynamite” means not only that the emotional wreckage was so devastating, but also that the resulting damage is still so raw, even a year later.

My Week In Tinder served as an escape mechanism. If I focused on how underwhelmed or disgusted I was by the men I interacted with and met through online dating, I didn’t have to focus on the fact that what I thought were the pillars of my reality were rapidly disintegrating while I stood among the debris, absolutely helpless to do anything but bear witness to the destruction. While part of my life was being destroyed, I started to create something that was met with more support than I could have imagined. And for that, I am so grateful.

There are a few elements that I omitted from the therapy session I write about in “This Is What I Mean By That.” When my therapist and I were discussing my podcast, a lot of what we were talking about was my frustration that online dating hasn’t “worked.” In the very first episode of My Week In Tinder, I mention that I used to be overweight, and that I think being overweight affected my choice of men given my history of—I don’t want to use the word “relationships,” because that’s far too generous—men I dated who were absolutely terrible for me. But I was so insecure about what I looked like that I settled for anyone who gave me the time of day. Even if the time of day was only one night. I’m not some dainty little wisp now, by the way. But I like how I look. I’m healthy. I no longer get winded walking up the steps from the subway. I feel more comfortable in my skin and less self-conscious about the way I move through the world.

That said, I’ve realized that I was under the extremely misguided impression that dating would be easier if I didn’t have to wear plus-size clothing. It’s not often that I admit this, but I was wrong. I was so very wrong. I actually find dating harder now. And that might be because I’m no longer willing to settle, no longer feel like I have to settle because I’m—and it truly pains me to use this word, which is not a judgment of anyone else, just how I felt about myself at the time—fat. Ultimately, maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle has improved my self-confidence, which in turn, has exponentially decreased my willingness to suffer fools, misogynists, and dick pics.

Admittedly, I’ll miss the part of my podcast in which I share the gross messages I receive. But suffering through vulgar propositions, poorly veiled innuendo, and inappropriate emoji use just to have something to share via podcast while any remaining hope I have for finding any kind of sustainable partner is simultaneously being snuffed out…well, that’s kind of fucked up, isn’t it? I’m basically forfeiting my own happiness for the purpose of entertainment. And I’m just not willing to make that kind of sacrifice for, and I use this term so very loosely here, “art.” See? I told you I wasn’t cut out to be a professional creative.

I mentioned earlier that the title of this essay is a half-breed. “Goodbye to All That” is the title of one of Joan Didion’s most famous essays, originally published in 1967. The other half of the title of this piece is from the last verse of a song Bob Dylan wrote five years earlier, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” It’s one of my favorite songs, but my favorite version of it is the live one I saw Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls perform at the former’s 75th birthday concert. The last verse goes like this:

I’m walkin’ down that long lonesome road, babe,

Where I’m bound, I can’t tell.

But “goodbye” is too good a word, babe,

So I’ll just say, “fare thee well.”

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind,

You could have done better, but I don’t mind.

You just kinda wasted my precious time.

Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

I am not saying that I think Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, JSwipe, Hater, and Happn wasted my precious time. Nor do I think that all of the men I met and interacted with via these myriad platforms could have done better; rather, I think that I should have done better for myself. Full disclosure: I don’t have a firm grasp of what I want from a prospective date or one-night stand or boyfriend or gentleman caller or fill in the descriptor of your choice here. What I do have, that I can now admit I did not have a year ago when I started My Week In Tinder, is a more complete sense of who I am. I’ve rediscovered my self-worth. More honestly: I finally found my self-worth. I generally like myself, even when I’m having trouble being alone with my thoughts.

So, I’m going to try dating myself, revel in getting to know me better without the internalized societal pressure of Finding A Boyfriend. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to chronicle that experience through a podcast or vlog or one-woman show or series of crude post-modern finger paintings. But my intention is to keep pursuing the creative and sharing the products of those pursuits with you through whatever medium seems appropriate.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for listening. Thank you for reading. This isn’t fare thee well. This isn’t even goodbye. It’s just thank you.