Sometimes dating feels like a competition of who can give less of a shit. What happens when you suck at that game? Basically, what is the secret to chilling the fuck out? By Misha Scott.
When I start talking to a guy I always tell myself: this time I’m not going to make it “a thing.” It never pans out that way. I get that it’s attractive to be ~chill~, but somehow I missed the life lesson on how not to care. Every time I try to start an ostensibly “casual thing,” it ends in an emotional implosion. Is it me??
A while ago I started chatting with this guy from Tinder who’s 1000%-swipe-right my type – a skinny, self-described feminist hipster brogrammer with daddy issues and stubble (TBH, my type could probably be distilled to stubble and self-deprecation). Things started out promisingly: we had a witty repartee, he made some noncommittal Netflix-and-chill type overtures, I gave a noncommittal but decidedly DTF response.
When I told my friends about him, however, I could sense the effort it took them to appear interested. I can’t really blame them. Before Netflix And Chill guy it was Lumbersexual Man, then Booth Jonathan Guy (so named because I had hoped he would be a confident and assertive 30-something like Booth Jonathan of Girls, but who turned out to be more Early Season 1 Adam with his weird apartment and fondness for jacking off on my tits), then Disappointing Onion Rings Guy (who bought me onion rings and then drunkenly insisted we leave the diner before I could eat them; hands down the worst sex I’ve ever had), Borderline Racist Firefighter Guy. You get the idea.
These guys quickly become unwitting players in the game of “who can care less first.” If he texts me, I try to blow him off before he has the chance to disappear. If he doesn’t text me, I fantasize about slitting my wrists and using my last breath to text him pics of a sink full of blood and an iMessage that reads, “I JUST WANTED 2 B LOVED.”
Unfortunately, I can’t remember how one actually win this game of competitive chillness, but the nicknames are a useful barometer, because I know that as soon as I start using their actual names it will no longer be fun.
Things were going almost suspiciously well with Netflix And Chill. We had a flirty exchange conducted mostly in emojis. He said ridiculous, adorable things like, “I’d move to Albuquerque for the thrifting,” without a hint of irony. I was successfully calculating the proper amount of time to leave between texts to appear stable. To seal the deal, I suggested we watch Silicon Valley at my place. Immediate radio silence. Within 8 hours I’d gone full crazy girl, obsessively looking for where I’d overplayed my hand. (You idiot, never use the winky tongue out face when trying to get laid. This is why no one loves you!)
I’m historically terrible at not giving a shit. The last time I tried to have a casual rebound I mistook myself for a desperate barnacle and became attached for three years to the first boy who was nice to me. This time, I’d been counting on Netflix And Chill to help me keep my feelings at bay after having convinced myself that drunk sex with a close friend wouldn’t complicate our relationship..
I dream of someday having one single nice thing that I don’t care enough about to hate myself for losing.
After Netflix and Chill ghosted me, I angrily deleted his number and started implementing my strategy for rebuilding the illusion of self-esteem: Without giving away the secret sauce, step 1 is heavy drinking and step 5 is a very expensive Uber of shame back from a neighborhood that felt much farther in the morning than it did when I was leaving the bar with this guy.
For the next couple of weeks, I remained in the midst of that hazy rush of power and nausea that comes from fucking a stranger and then aggressively ignoring his texts (a role reversal), when I got a text from Netflix And Chill.
HIM: So, full disclosure, I’m in an open relationship. But if you’re still down I’ll bring over this Brahms record I got at Goodwill and we can totally not listen to it and say we did.
MY BRAIN: So, to recap: I’m an emotional cripple and you’re a cute hipster who wants to have sex and listen to classical records, and afterward I send you home to your girlfriend?
ME: Yeah, that sounds fine.
I thought, What’s the worst thing that can happen here? A boy you’ve never met and possibly don’t even like might continue not sending you emojis? For maybe the first time in my entire adult life, that thought didn’t utterly terrify me.
As it turns out, he’s a great lover, the kind of guy who goes down on you for 30 minutes and then offers to change that lightbulb that’s been out for three months, but who also wants to pin you down and make you beg a little bit.
He’s also an emotional disaster. He’ll disappear for weeks at a time and resurface with the latest chapter in his relationship’s slow decline into bitterness and resentment. I text him back a gif of a dog falling down some stairs or selections from my excellently curated playlist for lonely day drinking.
Sleeping with someone who might actually be more messed up than I am is a new thing for me and I gotta say I don’t hate it. Normally, when a guy doesn’t text me back, I assume it’s because I still haven’t lost three pounds or because I routinely lie about enjoying the French New Wave. With him I assume it’s because he’s somewhere in a cloud of whiskey scented smoke trying to make sense of life’s unending disappointments. And at some point it occurred to me, what if that’s what everyone is doing when they’re not texting each other back? What if rejection is mostly just what happens when our brief lapses in misanthropic ennui don’t align?
I genuinely like Netflix And Chill. I like eating pizza by the pool and contemplating existential angst with him. I like the tender way he rubs my back and holds my hand not five minutes after calling me names I won’t even repeat to my closest friends. But I also like knowing I probably won’t hear from him again for two weeks and it has nothing to do with me. Weirdly, the emotional boundary set by his relationship has allowed me to create my own emotional boundaries. For once, I’m actually sort of chill.
The other day I texted him, “So like, Broad City and chill or nah?”
Out of habit, I waited to neurotically flash through scenarios in which he doesn’t respond and I die alone, but nothing happened. I went and made myself a PB&J, and afterward I found text had been waiting on my phone for almost 20 minutes. I answered it with a nonchalance that impressed even me, and afterward I went into my contacts and put his real name in my phone.
Image by Tyrone Lebon.
Misha is a 25-year-old filmmaker in LA. She loves feminism, avocados, and reading one-star reviews. She hate war and polyester, in that order. Read her previous article for Slutever, “That Moment When Your Mom Finds Your Dildo,” HERE :)