Snippets of Personhood: The Small Joys of Online Dating

Dating isn’t easy. It isn’t easy when there’s no pandemic raging outside your frost-fogged windows and you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you when the world as you know it is slowly disappearing behind cloth masks and face shields. As I worked my way through the several dating apps that offer neatly cut and dried bios with funny captions and beautifully filtered pictures, I found myself both fascinated and fatigued, often all at once.

I’m fascinated because, despite knowing full well that grabbing a pint at the local bar or slurping on a coffee at a cute cafe is out of the question, we still harvest the hope that virtual meetings or texting can maybe, somehow, someway – lead to a relationship. What is it about love that makes us forget all the gory heartaches that left us battered for weeks and months on end, and ignite in us a pull of longing when we see a new text notification? It’s cool, isn’t it, that the joy of companionship hasn’t been snuffed out by the pain of withdrawal and heartache?

Just as I closed one app with disappointment and strike up a conversation with a 29-year-old fitness instructor on yet another one, I found that fatigue had slipped in between my fingers and the screen. It tells me that I have had just this exact conversation with many others who I could only picture through their DPs. I felt the tired need to compose a whole block of already-written texts that would explain who I was, what I was doing, do I like the city I live in etc., so that I wouldn’t have to type all that much.

Since that was some industrial-strength cynicism my still-hopeful soul couldn’t take, I refrained. But the fatigue remained.

There’s usually a vast tract of polite nothings and stock get-to-know-you questions that must be swapped before you proceed to the next level of the mating dance. Those are the rules. And even though my inner rebel bucks at the idea of rules and structure in matters that are ruled by passion and a glut of emotions, I get it. Because essentially what we’re doing when we set out to online date is creating our own profile of the man or woman we find ourselves seated in a virtual room with.

Also read: Observations Around My Date’s Online and Offline Persona

These questions – do you like pets, what was the last book you read, wasn’t Season 4 of The Crown the only good thing to come out of 2020 – act as the scaffolding for the more nuanced details you are privileged to glean. I always plough through these initial sticky parts, because I know that blissful, cheerful, incredibly gut-wrenching and delightfully weird bits are coming my way.

Here are a few odd conversation pieces that tell me that the human experience is endlessly, gloriously magical:

“I have a rabid fear of something slimy and prickly touching my feet when I’m walking into the sea.”

“My grandmother, who lived in Chennai, always liked to line up the pickle and spice jars in a perfect triangle formation. To this day, cinnamon and paprika sit on the outer edges of my own spice triangle here in Sydney.”

“Can you believe people pay more than Rs 5,000 to sit in seaweed baths. I find that hilarious!”

Moonrise Kingdom is one of Wes Anderson’s most underrated movies, I think. No one can more colourfully show the adult-ness of children better than him. Kids always understand more than you think you know.”

“When I was a kid, I used to write short stories about cows. It was mad fun and probably the last time I ever wrote something just for me, just for fun.”

“I meditate for five hours a day and sleep only once every two days.”

“I love music that has a haunting quality to it. Like when I hear some songs, I KNOW that I’m part of a massive universe and that it’s part of me too.”

Sometimes, just for a moment, you get to share in the very particular personhood parts of someone who, just like you, is out to try and find companionship and good memes and just a bit of attention and love. In these mini quasi-relationships – which often pan out to nothing more than a pile of text messages, a smattering of video calls and a wealth of personal information shared with someone you hope will turn out to be the love of your life – I feel that sometimes we offer part of ourselves to the people we meet and click with only for a flash of time and fleetingly meld our lives. And that can only be a special kind of miracle.

Mehar Luthra is a 28-year-old coffeeholic currently living in the always-rainy town of Galway, Ireland. Not nearly as anxious anymore. Survives on pancakes and will work for Nutella.