The 30-Day Dating Cleanse

"App Soup", photo by Jeff Howard, digital by Tucker Cullinan .ig-b- { display: inline-block; } .ig-b- img { visibility: hidden; } .ig-b-:hover { background-position: 0 -60px; } .ig-b-:active { background-position: 0 -120px; } .ig-b-v-24 { width: 137px; height: 24px; background: url(// no-repeat 0 0; } @media only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (-o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2 / 1), only screen and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min-resolution: 192dpi), only screen and (min-resolution: 2dppx) { .ig-b-v-24 { background-image: url(//; background-size: 160px 178px; } }
“App Soup”, photo by Jeff Howard, digital by Tucker Cullinan

Inevitably, the text came a couple of days after the second date, like it seems to a lot lately: “Sorry, just no sparks. Let’s be friends!” This one smarted a bit. Handsome, great tech job that he was good at, seemed a bit old-fashioned, and we didn’t meet on an app. On the one hand, I loved the honesty, but on the other hand, it was maybe just one too many rejections in too short a time, and this was a guy I was crossing my fingers for.

Time to take a break, I thought, so I did what any self-respecting single person would do: I went on a cleanse. A 30-day dating cleanse. Since I was inventing it as I went along, what were the ground rules? Okay, #1: No sex. Duh. #2: Nothing “datey”, no dinners or meals. Not even going to have a drink or beers. #3: Yes, I can use apps to say hello and chat, but no dates goddamnit.

Day 1. Hey, this isn’t too bad. I’m busy with my day job, and I have a writing deadline to make, so I can concentrate on that. Famous last words!

Day 2. Oh. Hey. Holy crap, a hot paramedic on Sruff who’s into sci-fi movies. Dave Eggers is his favorite author and he describes his beard as “post-ironic”. He has really nice legs. Okay, just one date?

Day 3. Oh. Never mind. Hot Paramedic just changed his relationship status to “engaged”. Guess I didn’t move fast enough.

Day 4. I just swiped right so hard on a guy on Tinder’s picture, that I almost cracked the screen on my phone. Oops. Hey Mike, maybe calm down a little. Boy-crazy much?

Day 5. Less dating means more time to write! And eat. Okay, mostly eat. Without single people there would be no elastic waistbands.

Day 6. Dating apps really have changed the culture of dating and sped up social evolution, I muse to myself, as I sext and poop at the same time.

Day 7. “It’s Saturday night!” I yelled to my frightened cat as I jumped off the couch to get another pint of ice cream from the freezer.

Day 8. My day off from the day job. I go for a walk in my neighborhood, spend a sunny-and-crisp Sunday afternoon biking from Northeast Portland up to Kelly Point Park, on the tip of the peninsula. I think about this time I’ve spent single for the last two years. It all started when Joe and I failed to communicate and then everything went to shit. I don’t really know if I ever fully recovered from that. Is this why I’m now super-picky and dead inside, or super-sensitive when rejected by someone when I finally do like them? Ugh. Introspection is gross. Time to go shopping!

Day 9. I make a list of world monuments, and then decide whether they’re tops or bottoms. The Capitol Building: total top. The Sphinx: bottom. The Tower of Pisa: a top, but will flip for the right guy. The Eiffel Tower: surprisingly a bottom!

Day 10. I wake up to a message from someone who texted me at 3 in the morning. “U up?” Sigh. Come on, you don’t have to use the flirty “U”. If you text me any time from 10pm to 6am I’m gonna assume it’s The Dicking Hour.

Day 11. It’s only day 11? Come on, Hot Paramedic is single again, and his pic isn’t even a torso anymore, it’s literally a close up of a patch of swirly chest hair. HE IS READY FOR THE D. Just one date? Okay, damn you. Never mind.

Day 12. I miss weird things about dating. I miss the little courtesies like filling his water glass before your own, or when he remembers your parent’s names. The frantic search for gum or a mint when you’re about to kiss him for the first time, or the awkward moment when you’re making out and his and your teeth clack the fuck together. Okay, maybe not that last one. But why do I miss these, when it inevitably ends after one or two dates? Maybe it’s because I’m always, always hopeful that things will work out after all, and this will be where it started, where we started. I want this to be important, when I open the door for him. I want this to mean something, someday, when I remember his mom’s favorite wine and I have a glass to her good health and text him a picture of my glass. I want this to be The Story Of How We Met, when I notice his haircut and tell him how handsome it was. But inevitably it isn’t, and I have more photos to delete from my phone, and the only time I’ll hear from him in the future is when he texts me by mistake.

Day 13. I’m on OKCupid, and I’m getting weirdly sarcastic. Him: “Wow, your eyes look youthful. You look really young for your age! What’s your secret?” Me: “I cry a lot on the way to work.” Him: …

Day 14. Ugh. Now I’m on Scruff, and I have a new, totally hot neighbor, according to the proximity feature. I am less than 250 feet away from bad decisions, but I resist temptation. To discourage guys from messaging me, I change my profile pic to the one of me on the toilet eating Doritos, and suddenly my messages on there are blowin’ up. “Into: cheesy flavor explosions, cheddar sports”.

Day 15. I decide to pour my, um, energy, into taking some funny pictures. I’m at Fred Meyers buying only a toilet plunger and a pint of chocolate ice cream. It is an exercise in humility.

Day 16. Another day off, and I go for a walk in Tryon Creek park, that insanely lush and uncultivated park by Lewis And Clark in Southwest. It’s green and ferny as fuck, and it’s so good for my soul, but come on, nature, you don’t have to try that hard. You don’t have to put on a show for everyone to like you. Twerk, nature, twerk.

Day 17. I go out with friends and the night ends messily and beautifully. There are a surprising number of public places one can be in without pants. Sometimes 40 feels closer to being 25 than anyone will ever admit.

Day 18. in a dream

you found a way

to eat your weight in Nutella

and you were full of joy

and Nutella

Day 19. Asked out on a date, and I declined politely. So now I’m home and surfing Facebook because I’m bored, but it’s even worse than being bored. No, I don’t want to take the “What Famous Kidnapped Baby Are You?” quiz on Buzzfeed, and I’m upset because a lot of my queer friends are being forced to change their names (which has been peacefully resolved since then). I glance at the “People You May Know”. Drag queens, bearded guys who have friended and then unfriended me, fierce queer women, and…hey! There’s “Rick” the bartender who I wrote about before. I click on his profile out of curiosity. Oh. He was engaged at the time we dated. Alright.

Day 20. And suddenly it happens. It’s fine. I’m fine. I could see myself doing this for a really long time, this dating hiatus. It doesn’t have to be 30 days, or 60. It can be when it happens. Ever since Joe, there had been this low-level anxiety, this urgency to date brought on because of my age, or the dopamine fix that is the video game of dating apps. This is what life is when you’re not living it looking for someone else to “complete” you. I take a deep breath, finally happy that I did this.

Day 21. Hatewoofing.

Day 22.

from l. to r., mysterious stranger, Michael James Schneider
from l. to r., mysterious stranger, Michael James Schneider

Day 23. I’m writing a lot. I finish a first draft of an episode for the webseries. I write some thoughts on monogamy and make my deadline in time. I even feel like painting. This dating cleanse is having the unintended side effect of freeing up some time to be more creative. Yes, I’m still talking to guys on apps, but I’m a bit clearer headed about it, and don’t feel urgent pressure to meet. If it happens and the timing’s right, then great. In the meantime, I like not having to worry if he’s read the text, not stressing if he is gonna say yes when I say let’s get drinks, not caring if his texts are blue or green (please be blue, please be blue). IS THIS WHAT NORMAL PEOPLE FEEL LIKE?

Day 27. The Great Pyramids? Angry top. Niagara falls, a sloppy bottom. Taj Mahal? Bottom. Stonehenge is a creepy top that smiles too much during sex. The Great Wall of China? Says he’s a top. Bossy bottom.

Day 29. I look at OKCupid as the 30-day-cleanse winds down and I get ready to jump back into the deep end of dating. All of these faces scrolling by. Some familiar from the past two years, some new. The familiar ones occasionally post new photos, where maybe they have a little more grey, or they’ve lost or gained weight. Maybe they look a little more tired from the search, a little more cynical. Maybe they’re almost ready to press “delete” and just leave meeting people to fate and natural circumstances. Their faces say they’re ready to just trash every app and get on with living life, spending more time with their friends, creating more art. Maybe their faces say they’re a little scared that they’ve already experienced all the love they’re ever going to.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I roll my office chair away from the screen of my desktop (hahaha yes I still have a desktop computer stop making fun of me you shithead I’m like 90 years old), I go outside. It’s a dramatic day in the Pacific Northwest: sunny and windy, and the low white clouds clip by at a fast pace. I walk along Broadway to the closest bridge to my house, the one with an unimpeded view of the skyline of Portland, the one with the view of the Steel Bridge. For the first time in a long time, I know I’ll be okay with or without someone.

I go back to my place. There’s a message from a new face, one I haven’t seen before. Holy crap, he’s gorgeous and beardy and has pleasant forearm hair. Okay, I think, mentally rolling up my sleeves, let’s give this one a try. I type out “Good morning! Wow, really great profile…” and some other dumb stuff. Maybe this is how it all starts.

Day 30.

from l. to r., generous stranger, Michael James Schneider
from l. to r., generous stranger, Michael James Schneider


If you liked this, then you’re a horrible person! Be even more awful and read my dumb thoughts on finding “The One”, tolerate my incoherent ramblings about decorating for fall, and roll your eyes at my unfunny recap of Pride 2014. Let’s be horrible people together!

16 thoughts on “The 30-Day Dating Cleanse”

  1. Day 6: Yesss! OMG Day 12! “Where WE started.” Yessss! I’m dedicating my next play of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” to both of us. Press on soldier. See you in the trenches. xoxo

  2. I didn’t think it was possible, but I believe you might’ve done it: you’ve achieved peak redundancy. A pure, undiluted epitome of Portland, held captive in a single man. You’ve somehow managed to appear thoughtful without thinking, and engaged while achingly facile. It’s stunning. Like staring at a panda up close.

    Seriously though, I’m not trying to troll you. I write because I happened upon a few of your posts and I think you’re so tragically close to being interesting, which I SO want you to be, that maybe this friendly kick in the bum will get you over the threshold.

    Good luck!

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