The Romantic Idiot: My year in dating
Editor’s Note: Self-confessed nerd and writer Samarth Bansal traces his emotional journey over a year of dating. A deeply personal essay on the perils of being vulnerable as a millennial man in India’s dating zeitgeist, Bansal takes us through five stages of his dating persona over 365 days of yearning, self-reflection and mind-boggling tech interactions.
Written by: Samarth Bansal. Samarth possesses a rare combination of an IIT degree and extensive journalistic experience. In his words, he is deeply invested in “rigorous, fact-based, data-informed and thoughtful reporting” that helps us “understand the impossibly complex world we live in.” His work has appeared in the Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Mint, HuffPost India, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and Quartz. He is @PySamarth on Twitter, and you can learn more about him and his work here.
I. The Reluctant
At the start of 2022, as a 28-year-old single man, I found myself in a peculiar position: the world wanted to solve a problem for me—a problem that did not exist.
Friends wanted to find me a girlfriend. Family wanted to find me a wife. I wanted neither.
“I don’t feel the need,” I told them. “It’s not like oxygen or water. You can live without a partner. Why have one? What’s the point?”
Some dismissed my questions; some called me naive; few speculated the status of my sex life. But I was dead serious. I really didn’t get it: what’s the point?
I didn’t voice this thought aloud, but I couldn’t help pitying couples who found themselves constrained, who couldn’t chase their wants: dream jobs, travel plans, solitude, undivided attention to personal goals.
It seemed foolish. Why do humans easily give up freedom? Isn’t it the ultimate human quest?
Just one factor weakened my internal stance: lack of experience. In my 28 years of existence, I had gone on exactly zero dates.
It’s not like my hormones forgot their job. I eagerly streamed cheesy romcoms and fantasised a celebrity star telling me she was just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. (Will I ever stop swooning over Julia Roberts? Highly doubt it.)
So, you see, I am not aromantic. It’s just that my romantic pursuits didn’t move beyond unrequited crushes.
Five were serious: one in high school, two in college, and two I met abroad. The last was in 2018 during a journalism fellowship in the USA—the only time I told a woman I liked her in person, which ended in a cringe-worthy mess.
Visualise it: I was 25, finishing a three-week training at the Missouri School of Journalism. I’d soon leave for New York to work at the Wall Street Journal while my Ukrainian crush would move elsewhere. I thought I should reveal how I feel.
We were walking back home after the last class. My nerves jangled as we started. I struggled to find the right words. I stumbled through a tedious and monotonous build-up that dragged on forever. I just couldn’t say it.
She tolerated my ramblings for twenty minutes until cutting me off mid-sentence with a piercingly blunt inquiry: “You want to say you like me, don’t you?”
When I mustered the courage to say yes, she said no.
“You’re a great friend, Samarth, but...”
That’s me—a hopeless romantic with the dating experience of a novice teenager.
As I progressed into my late twenties and learned more about myself, as I repeatedly inquired what I wanted, as I made decisions to direct life in the direction I desired, the space for a partner faded.
When people around me were building relationships with others, I was busy building a relationship with myself.
I quit my full-time newspaper job, built a new life in the hills and pursued my journalistic ambitions. I left my parent’s house to live on my own. I learned to cook, manage household chores, handle money, and stay healthy—and mastered the art of crafting overnight oats with berries, walnuts, and seeds, to feel I have cracked adulting.
If I felt anything for anyone, I’d explain it away as wacky chemical locha, some weird cocktail of pheromones, oxytocin, and dopamine casting its spell on my senses. Just manage brain chemistry. And all’d be well.
So why disrupt what’s working? Why add a chaotic human while working hard for chaos reduction?
I littered my diary with all plausible scenarios and singledom was always the answer. I was intellectually sorted. Peace.
And then, life happened.
I found myself unwittingly drawn into the dating world. Don’t ask how because I don’t know. It just happened. Intellectual control was delusional.
I met someone. I dated. And I was terrible.
But I couldn’t turn back. I analysed potential partners, decoded DMs, and made failed attempts to tame my unruly hair. Dating apps, relationship dynamics, and romantic experiences featured in daily chats.
That was my last year. One hell of a year. I felt like an alien exploring a new dimension of adulting, doing things at 28 most boys did at 18.
Objectively speaking, my dating (mis)adventures were driven by immaturity and overthinking. They were marked by significant failures.
But they made me pause, think and reevaluate the meaning and significance of human relationships. And life in general.
I’m not exaggerating.
Sometimes, seemingly banal events hold the greatest power to change us—moments where nothing really happens, yet everything happens. You are not materially changed, you are fundamentally changed. Something happens within us. Hidden truths are revealed, hidden fears become visible. Invisible to the worldly gaze, incomprehensible to our limited consciousness. But we know. We do.
That is the genesis of this essay. I am writing to find out what changed. Something definitely did.
II. The Clueless
My advisory council had a tough gig.
Their friend was more clueless than most people his age about the dating game, as if he had missed the memo everyone else received detailing how to flirt, ask someone out, and hold hands.
The council had to explain it all, and I wanted to know it all. I aspired to be a “nice guy”—not a “fuckboi”. I entered the scene to find something meaningful. No interest in casual encounters or playing the field.
My inexperience shamelessly induced paralysis when I started seeing someone. Like, I found this person attractive and interesting, which is why I asked her out, and I wanted to explore something, but I didn’t know what to do.
What was the process? What were the steps? How did you progress to the next stages? What were those stages? Could I be interested in someone else or not? What’s right and what’s wrong?
“Just get to know her more. Talk. Do things together,” the advisory council said. “You will figure out.”
So I did. Initially it was thrilling. We chatted daily, enquired about our days, shared music, and watched movies. Despite the long distance, we found a way to meet. We spent time together. It was great.
But it didn’t last long. I’m a terrible liar, and actions revealed the truth. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice a day in my charming hill town, my reading time, an extra hour of sleep, or skip a workout to make time to date.
Phone calls started feeling like a chore. The excitement of sharing stuff vanished. I did the obligatory things because I was dating. I was trying, though—that’s what it takes, no? But it was aimlessly trying. I had no idea what I was doing and why.
“You don’t feel like checking up once in a while?” she asked me, a few days before it was all over.
More questions followed.
“What do you want dude?”
“Can you picture yourself entwined with someone else?”
“Can you think of it in the next three years? Sharing your life with me, given everything works out?”
It took me weeks after calling it quits to realise what was happening. After spending years building a relationship with myself, I was used to being alone. I had no clue how to make room for someone else. I didn’t know how to share a life.
The concept of having a partner—coexisting and navigating life together—was terrifying. I was afraid of relationships, and incredibly immature when it came to being in one.
This realisation was not comforting. It sucked. I wondered how others figured it out. It did reveal the work ahead if I wanted a partner: releasing the fear—the fear partly rooted in my childhood.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family where things fell apart at any moment for no apparent reason, which shaped my outlook on people and life. I feared letting people close because people equaled burdens; letting them in meant letting their problems in. The emotional baggage made it hard to imagine a partnership could bring joy and meaning.
I had known this for many years, but it visibly surfaced in the dating context. The more I reflected, the more I learnt how the baggage was limiting my potential.
Because dating demands intentionality, the advisory council explained. When two people start exploring, they should figure how their everyday lives look like with a partner, and how they fit into each other’s lives.
Beyond the initial euphoria and the fleeting butterflies, dating requires an iterative process of trial and error: actively explore shared values, interests, and goals; make efforts to craft something meaningful. That’s bare minimum.
While attraction makes the effort feel effortless, loving someone is not a passive occurrence in the long run. It is a choice that requires choosing to care for that person.
It hits you when it hits you—a lot has happened since. I now know better, thanks to extensive journaling, supportive friends and couples who have crafted envy-worthy relationships.
I feel better, although I can’t help but ponder the gross injustice of one person’s education costing another person’s heart.
III. The Player
In the following months, I did everything possible to crack the code of the dating world. I start questioning my existence if I don’t understand, so I had to.
My greatest challenge was finding new people. I couldn’t figure how others were.
I must admit most of my struggles were self-inflicted. In April 2021, I moved from Delhi to Landour, the sister town of Mussoorie I now call home, which unwittingly sabotaged my dating life: I turned down party invites, skipped book club meetups, missed random encounters at coffee shops or meet-cute at dance workshops. I didn’t even have an office job that could introduce new faces.
It was a conscious trade-off. I couldn’t complain about my life in Landour—still feels like a dream—but it did make dating an uphill task.
“The point is, you don’t stay here, which makes it tough,” a Delhi woman I was interested in told me via text. “I mean, I would have said, yeah, cool, let’s go on a date if you would have stayed here.”
I mulled over those sentences for what felt like an eternity. The we-will-never-leave-you “what if” scenarios forced me to confront the consequences of my choices. So there was that.
Alongside, a series of revelations surfaced about the dating world in general.
The first revelation: I quickly discovered I was needlessly harsh on myself because I wasn’t the only clueless soul in town. Turned out many singles around were as clueless—a bunch of amateurs just winging it.
Even those seemingly smug couples dispensing endless advice were no wiser. Many of them had never experienced the dating scene.
I mean…does India even have a dating culture?
Think about it. 95% of Indian marriages are arranged, so those couples are automatically excluded from the dating pool.
Many of the remaining lovebirds who choose their partners bypass the dating process. Some dive headfirst into relationships, some transition seamlessly from friends to lovers. The remaining—people like me—are crying on the internet.
Let’s make the distinction between dating and relationships clear: while dating involves exploration, getting to know people, assessing compatibility, and discovering shared interests, relationships elevate things to another level, with more commitment, greater expectations, and a higher place on the priority list.
They are not the same: you can be a fantastic partner but a lousy dater.
And approaching thirty brings its own set of challenges to the late-twenties dating scene. People my age have relatively more firm beliefs about love and life, making finding common ground trickier. It’s not as simple as growing together from early twenties.
So for sanity’s sake, I told myself: it’s okay to suck at dating. It’s okay to feel perpetually confused. It’s not like breathing that comes to us naturally. If anything, I deserve a pat on the back for resisting conformity, defying marriage pressure, and daring to seek love.
The second revelation: Dating requires a whole bunch of skills. You heard me right—skills. Just like you can’t manage finances without knowing how to budget, save for emergencies, and invest for the future, stellar dating demands serious know-how.
Basic stuff: How to generate interest? How to express interest? How to handle rejection? How to communicate your needs and desires? How to open up?
The advisory council was there to help. Over a two-hour-long chat at a central Delhi cafe, over bruschetta and coffee, unspoken rules were listed. (Long list.)
Take the DM game, for example. The women in the council revealed that women have some men on Insta just as “story friends”—guys with an interesting feed, or interesting thoughts, for the occasional interesting chat. But that’s about it. Don’t overanalyse that fleeting connection.
If you’re interested and want to go beyond, learn how to talk. Avoid complimenting on looks. Opt for teasing playful banter. Create an air of mystery. Keep her intrigued. Don’t come across as needy. That’s a major turn-off.
Gosh. This felt so manipulative. But many are following a version of this playbook, so one needs to know.
But knowing doesn’t help. It’s like knowing Hrithik Roshan’s moves are out of my reach, yet daydreaming to nail the Dhoom 2 choreo someday. I inhaled YouTube videos, scoured Reddit forums, and swiped Instagram reels, but dating skills remained largely unchanged.
I found only one way: take the plunge, fuck up, learn, fuck up a little less, learn a little more, and hope you get things right.
Like I repeatedly made the impatient mistake of crafting epically long messages to express interest—a real masterclass in silliness. It took me quite some time to grasp a simple truth: asking someone out is merely a proposition for getting to know them better, not a marriage proposal. (And who doesn’t like to know they are wanted?)
All that’s needed is clear communication of intentions. Some version of: “I’m not desperate, I’m not needy; I’m interested in you, and I’d like to go out with you!” (Easier said than done, though.)
What often held me back was the fear of being perceived as creepy, intrusive, or inappropriate. Maybe upbringing conditioned me to think that way, or perhaps Bollywood influenced my perceptions. I’m obviously not a stalker, but movies often blur the lines in portraying romantic pursuits, so one doubts.
It’s a weird loop of confusion about the right and acceptable social norms, complicated by the fact that everyone has different comfort zones, making it impossible to establish a definitive rule.
It’s only when I took these risks—and got rejected, haha—that I realised expressing my interest respectfully turned out just fine. Perhaps my taste is great, because the women who said no did so with grace and a touch of class, sparing me the “why did I even tell them” moments.
Of course, if they weren’t interested, things did get a little awkward, but the fact that they didn’t block me and continued talking was reassuring. Maybe I had been overthinking it all along.
Getting there. But it’s a roller coaster.
The third revelation: Everyone knows this. Any social media app with a messaging feature effectively becomes a dating app. I know people who started dating through Twitter and Facebook. And I have heard it’s also happening on LinkedIn. (I can’t even.)
For me, that app was Instagram—and it sucked the life out of me.
When I fully embraced the identity of a dater, the advisory council urged me to put myself out there: “Use Instagram as a dating app. Show your holistic personality!”
Fair enough. How hard could it be? I just needed to adjust my online behaviour. Maybe I’m a four or a five—who knows!—but in the eyes of my crush(es), I had to project the image of a perfect ten.
So it began.
I posted stories to capture their attention, analysed their stories for the slightest hint of reciprocation, and if I found one, I lost all sense of composure, just like North Indian baratis on a dance floor when the DJ plays Sukhbir’s ’Oh Ho Ho Ho’.
Trust me, this covert communication is happening all around. I’m not the only fool.
But all this drove me absolutely insane. Although I wasn’t lying or pretending to be someone I was not, I was putting on a show, and I despised myself for stooping so low. This wasn’t the real me.
On one of those dreadful days, I vented my frustration in my diary:
“I wasted twenty minutes after waking up at 4:30am in the morning to think about what to post on Instagram and how to sound smart and cool. And did not read the book I was planning to read in the morning. Fuck you, Samarth!”
Instagram just makes things complicated.
Just look at the never-ending array of signals that might mean something or might mean absolutely nothing: liking a post, commenting on a post, adding to close friends list, viewing a story, instantly viewing a story, not viewing a story, liking a story, replying to a story, replying with an emoji, replying with a comment, or the worse of the lot—leaving one on “seen”.
It’s as if the entire human experience is flattened to a limited number of digital actions and reactions, leading to new levels of awkwardness and manipulation. It’s pure hell.
I have now closed the Instagram dating chapter. No more story games. It’s not worth it. I am still an active user, and it’s more fun when I simply do what I feel like doing there. (Posting photos, what else?)
The fourth revelation: Men often find themselves portrayed as the culprits of the toxic millennial dating culture. There’s some truth there—I’m not excusing myself here.
Traditional gender roles impose rigid expectations on both men and women, perpetuating stereotypes. You don’t need expertise in feminist literature to know women endure the brunt of this burden.
The problem lies in the polarisation of this much-needed discussion. It fails to acknowledge the struggles many men face. Sometimes, we feel lost, unsure of the right moves to make, and sometimes, we are downright terrified.
Yes, patriarchy has taught us to suppress our vulnerable sides, but I can assure you we still have them.
Talk about looks. Being attractive is one of the biggest privileges someone can have in the dating world, and it’s just plain weird to pretend otherwise. (Some do.)
I’ve always known this, but it firmly registered after losing twenty kilos in the lockdown. The first time I left home in the new shape, I found myself on the receiving end of stranger flirtation—for the first time ever.
I was at my go-to Delhi café, lost in my writing, metal music thumping in my ears, when she waved and asked: “I hope you didn’t overhear my phone conversation?”
I reassured her, pointing to my headphones. “Ah, great,” she said. “I was just asking her where have all the single men in Delhi gone?”
I knew where this was headed. I was in the middle of writing a data privacy story, thinking through policy arguments, deadline looming, but I couldn’t disregard the unexpected attention, so I played along. She gave herself the permission to rant about her ex and asked if she could join my table, a request I couldn’t refuse.
How could I? She showered me with flattering compliments, guessing my age five years younger than reality. We chatted for a while; she left after leaving her phone number.
Damn. I had never experienced anything like this before, and it made me think, “This is what attractive men go through?”
What changed? Nothing. Except I was now wearing S-sized shirts. It’s as if somehow, overnight, I became visible to the world.
Just to clarify, I am not ranting, nor am I claiming good looks—my embarrassingly wild hair ensures I never even meet the low bar of being passably hot—and neither am I exempting myself from the physical attraction bias. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Any data scientist at Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge could use my swiping patterns and expose my slavery to conventional—and admittedly problematic—beauty standards.
Now, look, I know our desires are influenced by discriminatory societal norms that aren’t equitable for all. But this knowledge has failed to change my romantic preferences. It is what it is: a perplexing internal struggle, involving how I perceive myself and how I perceive others.
Dating apps only amplify this wrestle. They transform us into virtual commodities, stripping away our differences and dignity. Swipe, swipe, swipe, and hope to strike gold.
They don’t really work. For most men, it’s like searching for dust. Zero matches. Nil. Nada. It’s embarrassing and makes us question our self-worth.
In good times, after hours of swiping for two or three days, I might score two or three matches, and even then, it’s unfulfilling. Inhumane tech.
And the questions keep haunting me:
Is the algorithm flawed?
Or my profile?
Is my first photograph off?
Or am I the one who’s off?
Hinge, in particular, creeps me out by showing profiles of people I know: a former crush (who now ‘liked’ me?!?!), an ongoing crush, a cousin, and even the attractive ex of a good friend.
The weirdest thing happened when I sent a ‘rose’ to a woman—you can send one ‘rose’ a week to convey special interest (so cringey). We didn’t match. Which is fine. But then, a few days later, she emailed me with an invitation to speak at a think tank conference panel. Talk about a small world. Nuts. I could only hope she forgot to see the rose.
At this point, I must reveal I did experience a rare stroke of luck when I met someone amazing through Hinge. She had a prompt referencing Fleabag’s horrific “It’ll pass” scene. I have essay-length thoughts on everything in that show, so I responded, and it sparked a long conversation that eventually led us to see each other. (Thank you, Phoebe Waller-Bridge!)
It didn’t work out in the end, but this one match felt like the ultimate reward for bearing the left-swipe right-swipe madness. Just too much to handle.
Consequently, a familiar pattern emerged: I’d uninstall the apps, swearing never to use them again, only to find myself downloading them a month later—a never-ending cycle of digital torture.
So yeah, many of us men find ourselves caught in the middle: not quite the Shahrukhs of the world, but also not the incels or MRAs on the other extreme. We are just normal people trying to find our way through a needlessly complex landscape.
An anonymous user on Reddit summed it up brilliantly:
For men, dating is like dying of thirst in the desert. Not a drop of water in sight. For women, it’s like dying of thirst in the ocean. Water is everywhere, but it’s mostly toxic and full of salt.”
Ask anyone. Dating is undeniably exhausting—provably suboptimal—a relentless cycle of meeting new people, online and offline, trying and failing, oscillating between bouts of confidence and self-doubt, judging others and getting ourselves judged, navigating the inevitable mess all humans carry, often feeling like a mentally-draining unpaid job.
If I know this, why am I willingly subjecting myself to this lunacy? Has the Instagram algorithm not shown me enough self-love self-care reels?
The answer I discovered changed the way I think.
IV. The Dreamer
I am a proud nerd who loves words. While I can’t claim the title of the ultimate nerd (how I wish I could!) I definitely rank somewhere higher in the hierarchy.
In my head, everything around us—including the most mysterious questions about our existence—can be explained through dispassionate observation and rigorous thought. Science first. Life may appear complicated, but when you strip it down to its core, it’s just atoms doing their thing.
That’s my IIT brain at work: reason over emotion, analysis over intuition, logic over magic.
But, oh boy, a year spent immersed in the dating world proved me wrong.
Let me tell you a story.
“You like her, don’t you?” the advisory council asked me on a late evening dinner at a rustic Landour restaurant. “Just listen to how you talk when you talk about her,” they said.
I didn’t want to admit I liked her. Something held me back—perhaps fear. Because guys like me don’t expect attention from girls like her.
Look at her and look at me: she’s smart, funny, quirky, and gorgeous. She sneezes like a baby elephant and somehow looks cute doing it. Her wild curly hair refuses to behave, but it only adds to her charm. And she’s got pretty feet (she said it, not me).
On Instagram, where we met, she effortlessly stands out. Her reels got to me: when she twirls around in a saree wearing her infectious smile, Beethoven symphony playing in the background, it’s like watching a movie star. La la land.
Then there’s me: shabby hair, a fuzzy face, perpetually wrinkled shirts, and the audacity to wear comfy H&M shorts on a date (don’t ask), all squeezed into a majestic 5’5” frame.
But wait. It’s not like I’m crushing on every pretty girl I encounter. Yes, her face caught my attention, but the public reflection of her inner life drew me in.
She’s a nature lover through and through: mountains, skies, stars, flowers—the whole shebang, the type of person who stops in the middle of a busy street to take a picture of a flower growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. She could have been a modern-day Thoreau, except she got stuck in the unfortunate world of management consulting.
She draws and clicks and writes. Her work spoke to me, an unspoken hard-to-describe connection only art can establish. Words come to life when she puts thoughts on paper which she does not often do.
Her raw and revealing outdated blog featured poetry exploring human existence, prose that marveld at nature’s vivid colours, and meditations on love and life—and damn, she did not waste syllables. She daringly shared her struggles with feelings of emptiness, and sometimes, a sense of being lost, expressed through a series of stream-of-consciousness questions, like I find in the pages of my own diary.
Everything I saw collectively revealed she consciously observes the outside and the inside world, a quality which needs a special kind of intelligence, the kind that reveals something beautiful about the way she experiences the world, the kind I find attractive.
This is how I described the “random stranger” to the advisory council, an idealised flawless fictional image fueled by online intel. (Hi there, an investigative journalist here!)
I don’t know how I fell for her. I had never even met her. All I know, I did. Something out of a dream.
If I were to channel my inner Mr. Darcy from a Jane Austen novel, I’d say, “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
How did this even happen? Am I a complete idiot?
Do I not know our online presence is a curated version of ourselves, one that doesn’t fully represent our true selves? That whatever online interaction I had with her didn’t mean much? What if she was a serial killer, or the one who learns “career hacks” from Hitler, or an unabashed fan of Tony Kakkar? What will I do then? Cry at Goa Beach?
I know. I know it very well. Yet, again, none of that knowledge helped. Attraction just defies rules, patterns, and prediction.
Logic failed me.
In a reality-bending coincidence, on the same dinner evening I told the advisory council she exists in my head, we had a brief flirtatious exchange. My dopamine levels soared to new heights. In that moment, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, the attraction might be mutual.
A fortnight later, when I found the courage to tell her how I felt, she sent a long, thoughtful note to my stupidly long confession.
The only problem was the lack of a definitive answer. It took her two hours to say what seemed like “I don’t know”, but it took me two months to know that “I don’t know” is often a polite way to say “no”.
In the intervening hours, days, weeks and months, confusion and anxiety refused to leave me. I kept telling myself it was just a matter of time. She will get it. But no, I didn’t get it.
“It’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s me!”
So there I was, confronting the harsh reality of one-sided attraction, which, putting it mildly, is not the greatest feeling. Ughhh.
I found myself grappling with questions: Was her unavailability due to busyness, or was she simply not interested? Her monosyllabic responses suggested I should fuck off, but I persisted. At times, I worried about being pushy, while also self-cursing for not doing enough. Ughhh.
That’s when I encountered the parasitic side of the strange thing known as hope.
Hope held on tightly when the brain saw no point. Hope amplified the faintest signs of potential interest and ignored the glaring signs of disinterest. Hope blinded reason. Hope killed thinking.
Logic failed me. Again.
So when I lost hope, it felt like a void, like I lost something, even when I never had it. Which is the crazy thing because nothing had really happened. I am sorry, I just had you read hundreds of words to narrate a six-word story: I was interested, she was not. The end.
The hard part wasn’t the rejection. The hard part was acceptance. The painful truth that we couldn’t waltz under a starlit sky or share a popcorn tub at the cinema. I filled the pages of my diary, played James Blunt on repeat, and sought art that made me feel seen. What else could I even do?
As this feeling lingered, I heard banal advice: “move on, there are so many fish in the sea!”
Factually correct, but who will tell them it doesn’t work like that. Was I out shopping for headphones, where I could easily swap one for another? I just couldn’t bring myself to create an account on the apps or show interest in someone else.
I have heard tales of tragic love, but mine doesn’t even qualify as a sob story—it has no epic narrative. And I have to confront it when my story-less story is subjected to worldly opinions: it’s dismissed as infatuation, a reflection of unrealistic expectations and plain immaturity.
Maybe that’s your take too. And maybe you’re right.
But the thing is, I don’t care anymore. I genuinely don’t. I’m done overusing my left brain to intellectualise my feelings. And I refuse to let anyone invalidate their authenticity. They belong to me alone, and while I still don’t know what they were, I know they were as real as death and taxes.
My dating adventures taught me a lesson that books failed to teach: there are limitations to our understanding. Some things are beyond comprehension. They are better experienced than dissected. The nerd in me must tone down the desire for explanations, and allow some things to just be. Logic has its place, but magic does too.
Whatever this mysterious force is, it’s what keeps me hanging on in this comically brutal world of dating.
Right call? Who knows.
V. The Believer
As I began writing this essay, I had an epiphany—the futility of comparing the lives of single and coupled individuals, a predominantly heteronormative narrative.
To see through this sham, I realised it’s crucial to reject the deceptive notion of a single “right” way to structure a fulfilling life. There isn’t one.
I am privileged enough to have the agency to choose what feels right for me. I can embrace the joys of singlehood or share my life with someone I truly connect with. I can’t let societal expectations dictate such an intimate part of my life.
This became crystal clear once I figured those who advocate the “right” way often do so to justify their choices and find psychological comfort.
Which does not matter. Especially for individuals like me—who are financially independent, value personal autonomy, and find societal norms suffocating.
What matters is what I believe in. What stories I envision myself living. And a story is just that—a story. It’s not set in stone; it can change, evolve, and transform.
For now, I am choosing to believe in the story that a romantic relationship might just make life a little more meaningful.
For now, I am choosing to believe that finding love is worth it. I’m still scared as hell of making mistakes and getting hurt. But I guess it’s part of the deal: I can’t get there without accepting the possibility of my inexperienced heart getting hurt again.
For now, I am letting my guard down and letting things happen. We will see.
Because this exhausting year revealed it’s all about taking chances. The leap of faith, the advisory council says. I can’t be fully sure if I’m choosing the right person or if there’s someone better out there. I can’t guarantee eternal love. I can’t predict what the future holds.
The fear is real.
And then, I remember what the Hot Priest wisely said in Fleabag:
“Why would you believe in something awful when you could believe in something wonderful?”
For now, I am choosing to believe in something wonderful. Who knows anything anyway.