By Avery L.

Dating in New York City has always been a contentious topic. From times even before Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw revealed to the entire nation the hyperbolic ills of dating life in New York, New Yorkers struggled. Apps like Bumble and Tinder have arguably made genuine connection even more difficult.

Maybe it’s even made me, a woman halfway through being 20 years-old, and the group of men I’ve been around, cowards. I might very well be the problem-creator and thus must be the problem-solver. Yet how to do this while trying to navigate a busy city and standoffish university community evades me.

My two older siblings have had eventful dating lives since their sophomore years of high school; meanwhile, I didn’t entertain the idea of adding myself to the dating pool before my sophomore year of college. Side note: I had never been asked out before this and never did it occur to me—in all my genius—to put the books down and ask a guy out myself. Needless to say, I wondered how I became romantically stunted when it seems simple enough for everyone else to even get a date. How had I become the problem?

Winter 2022 I downloaded the dating app Hinge while I was at home in the Midwest. I talked to a few guys but connected with one in particular. We went on a date. It went well. One more date later and we decided to stay friends. But during this conversation, I was told I didn’t know how dating works. That I didn’t have enough experience. And, a few months after this, I was still apparently, always an “option,” although the strictly male-female platonic friendship grounds had been well-established. I’m over it now, but it made me quadruple check my perspective on dating, and gave me a general disliking for it, when all I seek is genuine human connection.

Still I ask myself: Am I the anti-hero? Do I really have such a convoluted understanding of how to get asked out on a date (respectfully) and develop a connection with someone that I repel supposed prospects?

Last month I redownloaded the dating apps with a few entertaining conversations, but the usually larger proportions of messages reading “what’s your Snapchat” and “wanna go for a walk?” (which is really a euphemism for— “do you want to hook up,” especially when asked at 11 o’clock at night while I’m putting my retainer in). So, still, I’m on my unlucky streak when it comes to finding someone to love.

I don’t have a solution to the dating battleground that is New York. I don’t have a remedy for feeling lonely in New York City. Others have told me it’s the apps, or looks, or smiling, or eye contact. I don’t think there’s any one answer to connecting with a future partner, and that’s why I struggle. There’s no one formula for love. No magic potion, no algorithm that can really make it happen.

Now I’m looking for human connection elsewhere and everywhere else besides men in their 20s who won’t ask me on real dates. Because, I’ve decided, I don’t need dates to feel whole. The crowded city, its enthralling neighborhoods, and the new people and communities I meet will be my true loves for now.

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