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I sometimes think being single in New York City turns a person into an emotional zombie.  I don’t say that to insult single New Yorkers as I am single myself.  I have noticed though in the past few years that my personality has drastically changed when it comes to dating.  I used to get really worked about it, and now I’m a step away from comatose.  All emotion has basically been beaten out of me.  No one has physically attacked me of course, but any rough edges are now weathered down by a sea of apathy.  It’s as if the harshness of the dating scene washes over us like a thousand pieces of sand paper an smooths us down to smooth dullness.

After the first few dates, I blamed myself for being overly emotional or too screwed up from my recent divorce.  I was a complete emotional wreck and probably should have taken time off before dating, but it wasn’t just my emotional turmoil that was causing the problem.  It was an entire city devoid of authentic emotion. Not everyone, but most men  acted like the walking dead, ruled by their genitalia and nothing else. I was far more judgmental of this quality when I started out, then I realized it wasn’t so much a choice as a method of survival.  Like a nasty pandemic it spread throughout the whole city, neither gender spared.  I heard story after story from my male friends of women who acted the same way.  We were all reduced to little more than our zip code, our sexual preferences and lifestyles.  I was no longer a woman in my late thirties/early forties but Flatbush, straight, non-smoker with cats.  Everything else about me didn’t seem to matter anymore.

What caused this?  What turned an entire metropolis into the land of the emotionally dead?  Technology hasn’t helped.  Even though now we can connect in so many ways,  I can honestly say without irony that I’ve had more solicitations for cyber sex than actual physical contact.  When once a man might call me on the phone to chat, they now text. Communication reduced to broken phrases and emoticons.  Even typing in a complete sentence is too much effort for some.  Misunderstandings are common as tone is next to impossible to convey and sarcasm deadly.   Dating websites have evolved into  hook-up apps that promise little more than one awkward or thrilling evening to cut the boredom.

Eventually I’ve succumbed and became numb myself.  It must have been all the bad dates, the dick pics, the requests for immediate sex, the constant same day cancellations, and the judgmental pricks who think taking a train to Brooklyn is just too much to ask.  I officially gave up a while ago.  I’ve shut down all of my online dating profiles, I can’t even fathom joining tinder.  When I do date, which isn’t often, I find myself trying to smother any spark of emotions that are left.  I tell myself, don’t react, don’t care, show no weakness and maybe you’ll get through it.  Maybe if I’m dead enough, I’ll finally win at this game.

But in some ways my zombie infection is a good thing.  I used to put up with so much bad treatment.  When I would once make excuses for a man who didn’t text back, I now delete them from my phone.  I cut them off and don’t look back.  When a man is rude or snobbish about my type of employment he becomes invisible to me.  When a guy shrugs his shoulders at taking the Q train out to central Brooklyn, I erase him from my brain.  I have in many ways become the person I feared.  It’s not that I don’t have empathy for others, it’s just survival.  In a city where anyone can walk away and return to instant anonymity negative behavior thrives.

I’m less judgmental of people just snapping and hooking up with the next person who offers.  I understand the need for human touch that lies within us all no matter how hard we try to bury it.  We try to control it completely but all the pornography and our sexually heightened culture can’t control the need to just be next to someone if for a moment.  I’ll shuffle back to my own corner of Gotham and try to smother the beast inside who cries out for more.  I let the sea of apathy wash over me again and the numbness is comforting.

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3 comments on “Dating in New York City – The Death of Dating & Emotional Zombies

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