Unrealistic media expectations shouldn’t control my dating life

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Ryan+Painter+poses+beside+an+apartment+window+on+Feb.+15+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.

Ryan Painter poses beside an apartment window on Feb. 15 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Ryan Painter, Staff Writer

From right, Nicole Painter with her daughter, Ryan Painter on Halloween night, 2008. Ryan was 5 at the time of this photo.
From right, Nicole Painter with her daughter, Ryan Painter on Halloween night, 2008. Ryan was 5 at the time of this photo.

I remember rummaging through the old box of VHS tapes, my mind debating which Disney princess movie to play first.

I’d snag the tape and rush to the front of the television waiting to hear Ariel sing “Part of Your World” for the tenth time that week.

As I grew up, I transitioned from princesses to shows like “The Bachelor.” I found that watching those types of shows only added to my unrealistic perception of romance — where I continued to wait patiently for my prince to arrive on a white horse. 

This hope of finding the love portrayed in the endless amount of rom-coms people consume one too many times started to fade once I left high school and was coming of age.

Watching my friends get ready to go on date after date started to weigh on my self-confidence. I began to question whether or not I would still be waiting for Mr. Right.

Meeting anyone these days is extremely difficult, but the most popular method is through the internet. Though I wish this were different, the Coronavirus really made this a solid reality.

With a little social pressure and some girl talk, I was swayed into downloading a dating app.

I would supposedly meet new people and find connections based on my own judgment of someone’s profile with a mindless left or right swipe.

I remember setting up my profile — it took hours.

“This photo shows me smiling, but is that too inviting? What about the one with my dog? Is that too cute?”

Before even allowing others to judge me I was judging myself. I had the confidence, but something about putting myself on the internet made me feel vulnerable.

I went out with a match I received during the second year of a pandemic, around the time when we were all still unsure if a handshake or hug was appropriate. 

The first date wasn’t easy nor was the second. I felt a little behind and unaware of how to properly act on a date after quarantine. I only questioned myself more inside my head. 

I wonder now if those questions were because I was afraid of losing my independence. Maybe if I didn’t push for a second date, I would feel free for just a bit longer. 

Nonetheless, I do owe a lot of my growth to these dates who have made many experiences unforgettable. 

Like the one who lived 1,000 miles away but swore we were meant to be. Or the guy who had to end the date early because he had a bedtime of 6 p.m. The one that looked completely different from their photos, or even the guy who just happened to be neighbors with John Mayer. 

After what felt like months of online small talk, I came to the conclusion that it was time to retire the old dating profile and move on. 

It was more important to spend that time working on myself rather than a conversation that never went far. 

By focusing my time on more important things like the present, I have gained hope that the individual for me is out there bettering themselves too so that when we align our spirits are in the right place at the right time.

One day, maybe a hello will turn into coffee and coffee into something greater than I can imagine.

 

Updated: March 1, 2022 

This story has been updated to correct editing that altered the original intent of the writer.