In honor of Valentine’s Day, all week ELIXHER will be celebrating our love — our love of self and our love of other women of color who are trans, queer, and cis

By Kristen McCallum

To think that initially it was something I laughed about, you know? I would see all the commercials for finding your true love online, blah blah…I just wasn’t that girl. I had subscribed to the idea that I’d be single until the right person came along only after I’d gotten bored with my #foreveralone phase. You didn’t go looking for love; if it was real, it was supposed to just find you…or at least that’s what I’d heard. And, of course, you couldn’t pay to find it. Nope, that was just desperate. Matchmakers were predators, on the hearts and pockets, so that idea was dead. I was absolutely not that girl.

So I maintained that online dating was a way for “the awkward” to shield themselves from the rejections of the real world. Me, awkward? Not a thing. Absolutely never. When I walked into a room full of people, I smiled and they smiled back. To me, being awkward was synonymous with invisibility, and I was definitely visible. I could approach and speak to anyone. I just chose not to…like ever. No cause for alarm, I was always just really selective. A young, educated, attractive, and independent woman living in New York City…how hard could dating have really been?

Clearly impossible.

Fast-forward two years, I was still single, sitting at my desk compulsively refreshing my online profile. Before you go judging me, to my defense this site was absolutely free except for the extra effort to remain invisible in case I wanted to look a few times. I considered it an investment. [Shrugs.] Technically the site was like another Instagram. Only you didn’t have to creep. You liked someone…there was a button for that. You only wanted sex, there was an option for that too. All of the choices from the comfort of your smartphone.

Who probably had too much confidence behind that screen? [Raises hand.] I mean, honestly, two years before I was naïve, Yea, I’ll say it. Dating in this city is tedious. Everyone is too busy, too straight, too full of themselves or too married. It’s a chore. So to my own dismay, I went ahead and created my biggest crutch of all time…the online profile.

IF-WE-MEET-OFFLINE-AND-YOU-LOOK-NOTHING-LIKE-YOURIt had probably been about an hour (or five minutes…but who’s judging?) since my last refresh and I had gotten one new visitor. Naturally, I blamed the Wi-Fi in my office for that because well…there was that hyper confidence again. I guess having a big butt, a smile, a degree and a job just wasn’t in. Those weren’t really things I had any room to compromise with either so…the Internet just wasn’t working properly was the reason. I mean it also could have been the fact that putting “bisexual” to avoid completely embracing my sexuality wasn’t really helping. Especially with the nonsensical stigma that bisexuals are somehow incapable of being faithful.

I became so enthralled in the concept that my entire existence in the world of 20-somethings in NYC was based on a 5-star scale of online attractiveness. I was tipping the scale in my mind, so why was it so dry out here? Why was I feeling unworthy? I had even considered the karma of leaving that non-POC message lingering unanswered in my inbox? I honestly just didn’t know how to appropriately respond to being called “hot chocolate”…ehh. You could be my marshmallows on top? Ha…that actually would have been an epic response. Damn. But I was honestly trying to keep an open mind. I was sold on the idea of test-driving personalities, but at what cost?

As I’m putting the finishing touches on Valentine’s Day plans for this year with my very significant other…I can’t help but chuckle at those experiences. In retrospect, it was only last year that I was still shamelessly enveloped in the melodrama of being single on a daily basis. Let’s just say that by then, I had officially mastered the swipe left on Tinder, set up recurring payments for the A-list on OkCupid, and had officially been offered sex ten too many times on Plenty of Fish. Seriously, at one point I was so convinced that logging into these sites was my way of being proactive in romance. But, of course that was never really the case. Crutches are for healing. Something deeper needed to be fixed.

I deleted my accounts and slowly my compulsion to find validation from others was replaced by intentional self-love. I was enough then. I am enough now. I got proactive at just becoming the best version of myself. Ultimately, love found me in the form of an old friend with whom I’d often shared my online dating disasters. Lucky for me, OkCupid failed her, too.

Whether you’re looking for long-term commitment or a fling, before your next refresh, remember love (or lust) doesn’t happen at first swipe, it starts within.

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Kristen McCallum is a writer living in Washington Heights, NYC. Growing up in a Jamaican family has made coming out quite the journey. Determined to finally find her place in the QWOC community, Kristen feels new to all of this but it still feels like home. To see more of her work, including her original poetry, visit her website at www.kristen-mccallum.com

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Your go-to resource for all things empowering, thought-provoking, and pertinent to Black queer and trans women and non-binary people.

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