When I was just shy of my 19th birthday, my much older boyfriend of over a year dumped me for a more mature woman. While I can’t say I was surprised, I was still heartbroken nonetheless. I spent weeks sulking in my small dorm bedroom and missed most of my classes that week. However, by that next weekend, I was ready to get back out there. I wasn’t ready to date anyone seriously but I was ready to have fun and go on dates. There was just one problem; I was horribly shy and awkward. How the hell do you meet someone?
As I was expressing my concerns to my roommate, she brought up online dating. “Isn’t that for old people?” I asked her laughing. “No!” she exclaimed seeming a little offended. It was clear she had tried online dating. She showed me her phone which had a guy’s picture on it, “Look. You just swipe right if you think they are cute and left if you don’t. It’s that easy.” And this was how I was introduced to Tinder.
Tinder was brand new back then (about 5 years ago). But there were plenty of people on it by that point. I was amazed. Not only that it was that easy to find someone to date, but that so many people my age were on it. By the end of the day, I had over 100 matches. There were over 100 people who swiped right to my photo. My confidence shot through the roof. The day before, I was convinced I would die alone. Now I was overwhelmed by my options. I was trying to juggle taking to 20 guys at once. I was trying to get to know each of them. I barely put my phone down that weekend.
Dating apps give a boost to the confidence
It was clear that many of them were just looking for sex. Many of them just plain creeped me out. But there were a few that seemed like genuinely decent guys. By the following Monday, about a week after my breakup, I had 3 dates set up for that week. Not only that, but they were all way cuter than my ex. I was on cloud nine, wondering why I even dated my ex in the first place. I could get any guy I wanted!
I had my first date that Thursday with a guy named Cody. The date went so well I cancelled my other 2 dates I had for that weekend. Cody asked me to be his girlfriend on the first date! Looking back, I cringe at that. We dated for about 2 weeks and then I got ghosted.
For those who don’t know what ghosting is, its when someone completely cuts off all contact with you without saying a word.
One minute everything is fine, the next they are gone. I was blocked from everything; Tinder, Facebook, Snapchat, and even my phone number was blocked. This was my first experience being ghosted. Long story short, I did not take it well and Cody was out of my life.
Red flag- Being reckless in online dating
This was the first of many experiences with Tinder. After Cody, there was Kyle who talked about nothing but his cats. After Kyle was Bryan, who didn’t have a job or a driver’s license. I clearly was not being picky, and I didn’t care. I was broke, alone, and in need of company and free food.
I was being reckless when I thought I was being free. I was being stupid when I thought I was just having fun.
I drove far and wide to see these guys I had never met before. I drove to random small towns I didn’t know and corners of the city I had never seen before. Looking back now, I’m surprised I didn’t get raped or murdered.
I was out of control and I didn’t realize it. It was all because of an app I was introduced to weeks earlier. I wasn’t used to all of this attention and I wasn’t handling it well. One night, I was forced to realize the consequences of my actions. I was forced to realize how stupid and out of control I was. I was forced to face reality.
Being careless in online dating can result in serious trouble
I had matched with Quinn on Tinder earlier that day. I didn’t know much about him other than he was some kind of accountant person at Walmart. He looked decent in his picture and a Walmart employee was much better than what I was used to at the time. I was sold. He told me we were going to a car show in town. I wasn’t much into cars but it seemed interesting enough. I really didn’t care at that point.
He came by my dorm around 8. I realize now I really shouldn’t have had these guys pick me up where I live. But at the time, it saved me time and gas. That was all I was worried about. Right when he showed up, I should have been worried. But I was dressed and ready to go out and I wasn’t turning back now.
He didn’t look like his picture. It was clearly a very old picture. He looked at least 5 if not 10 years older than his Tinder picture. Quinn also had a friend with him in the back seat. There was no mention of someone joining us before. “I made him sit in the back so you could have a shotgun,” Quinn said as I sat down. He smiled and his teeth were yellow and crooked. I thanked him. It wasn’t until we got off campus that I began to get a little anxious. This didn’t feel right.
Smoke began to fill up the car. I looked in the side mirror and say the guy in the back was smoking. It was not cigarettes. It smelled like skunk. Even though I was halfway through my first year at college, I still didn’t know what marijuana smelled like but I had a good guess that’s what he was smoking. No matter how out of control I was getting, I never smoked or did drugs. I barely even drank.
I wasn’t one to complain or make anyone inconvenienced by my presence, but I couldn’t handle the smoke or the smell anymore. Plus, I was super paranoid about being randomly drug tested at my job. I wasn’t sure if inhaling someone else’s smoke would give me a high but I wasn’t willing to take the chance. “Would you mind at least cracking a window. I’m getting a headache,” I said nervously.
“Sure thing, Sweet Cheeks,” they both laughed as they cracked the window. Sweet Cheeks? I already had made the decisions I wasn’t going on a second date with this guy. But I wasn’t going to be rude and ask him to take me back. I also didn’t want to get him upset. He didn’t seem like a guy you would want to make mad.
Twenty minutes after he picked me up, we were still driving. We weren’t in the city any more. There were rolling hills and cornfields around us. “Where are we going exactly?” I asked, looking around. “The car show,” he replied, “It’s just outside of town.” He had told me before it was in town. This didn’t feel right. He kept giving me funny looks. He kept glancing back at his friend. He had awkwardly placed his hand on my knee at this point and started rubbing it. I was frozen with fear. I was finally starting to come to my senses, but I felt like it was too late.
A narrow escape from the dangerous situation
By the grace of God, he realized soon that he needed to stop for gas. While the car was still moving I jumped out and yelled I had to pee. I ran inside the gas station and went straight for the ladies room. I quickly locked the door behind me. I was breathing hard and didn’t know what to do. They would come looking for me soon. I had no one to call. No one knew where I was at. I didn’t want to call my parents. They lived about 2 hours away from where I was at. Plus I didn’t want them to know the situation I had gotten myself into.
I knew I at least had to get rid of them. I went back outside and stayed close to the gas station door. I yelled, “I have a family emergency! I need to get going! You go ahead! I’ll get a ride.” They looked at each other confused. My heart was racing. I wanted them to leave.
After some protest, I finally got them to leave the gas station. That’s when I came to the realization I was stuck at a gas station in the middle of nowhere at about 10:00 PM. There was no one else there except the gas station attendant who did not look like he wanted to be there. I had no money and no way to get home. This is when I finally realized how stupid I had been. I also realized the night could be much worse. I remembered I went on a date with someone in that area. I cringed as I grabbed my phone and called him. While he wasn’t the greatest, he was my only option at this point.
He luckily answered and drove me home without incident. While waiting for him, I realized the gas station attendant wasn’t as bad as he originally seemed. He even gave me some free food after I explained my night to him. When I got home, I cried my eyes out. I fell asleep and spent the next few days home alone. I took a much needed month long break from online dating. I evaluated the decisions I had been making.
I heard from Quinn a few times after that night. I explained to him how uncomfortable he made me feel. I told him I didn’t want to see him again. He didn’t let me go easily and I eventually had to block his number. I realize now how lucky I was that he didn’t show up at my dorm apartment.
I didn’t go on many more dates after the Quinn incident.
When I met someone on Tinder, I made sure to talk to him for at least a week, if not 2, before I met him in person.
I usually even made sure to talk with them on the phone first. When I finally felt I knew them well enough to know I wouldn’t end up stranded in a creepy gas station, I insisted on meeting them somewhere very public.
Giving up on an online dating is not the solution
The few people that I have told about the Quinn incident thought I was crazy for continuing online dating. They thought I should have given it up completely. What they don’t realize is how amazing online dating is if it is done correctly. I went about it all wrong. I didn’t choose my dates wisely. I went on dates with most of the halfway decent guys I matched with. I didn’t look much into the guy’s background or ask him too many personal questions. They were strangers and I was letting them pick me up and take me out. I trusted them blindly.
Exercising caution while picking dates is important
I am very lucky I did not give up on online dating. About 6 months after that horrible night, I matched with a guy. We messaged for a week before I gave him my phone number. We texted and talked on the phone for 2 weeks after that. I finally agreed, after 3 weeks of talking, to let him take me on a date. I insisted on meeting him at the restaurant. Our first date lasted 5 hours. We talked, we ate, we laughed. We both shared horror stories about online dating and what we learned from them. He actually respected the fact I insisted on meeting at the restaurant. He told me it showed I was smart.
Online dating doesn’t need to be filled with horror stories.
There doesn’t need to be a night like mine in a creepy gas station. Online dating is a great way for awkward introverts like me to meet people I have a lot in common with. It is now 4 years after my first date, my 5-hour long first date. He is the love of my life. He is my other half, my soul mate, my partner. I am beyond grateful for online dating. I am grateful for learning how to do it the right way. I am grateful I learned to respect myself enough to demand standards from the men I dated.