Last Tuesday night, I went on a very belated second date with this guy I had some sparks with. Or so I thought. Tal (not his real name) is 25 years old and was born in America to two Israeli now-divorced parents, with one living in the United States and one in New Zealand. He’s living here in Melbourne for the time being and working as a bartender. He studied Audio Engineering and is (like most of us 20-somethings) still figuring out exactly what he wants to do with his life.

On our first date I thought he was simply gorgeous. Everything I thought I’d been looking for. He’d spent a year in Colombia and was fluent in Spanish (I went on exchange there and am very much into Latino culture). He’s also lived in Israel (I did my gap year there and have heaps of Israeli family). Plus, he is JEWISH. It’s so rare in my too small Jewish community of Melbourne to meet someone a) that I’m interested in b) that hasn’t dated one of my friends and c) is on the same Jewish-ish page as I am.

The night we met, after a few messages on Tinder, turned into one of those unexpected brilliant first dates. The ones where you sit and chat over a single coffee for hours, completely unaware of time passing by. When you have a grin fixed upon your face and conversation which flows effortlessly. Where you both stare into each other’s faces while you bask in the other’s magical aura. You know, when you’re genuinely eager to learn more about another person—where they come from, their hopes and dreams. You’re so interested in every word that rolls off their tongue that they could be talking about their preferred cereal and your synapses would be firing away.

This was such a refreshing feeling. After my last exhausting relationship ended just over a year ago, as soon as I felt ready to move on, I got back in the game that is Tinder, OKCupid, JSwipe, Bumble, Happen, etc. These are essentially online shopping catalogues with infinite possibilities of love, sex, and everything in between. Ironically, people use them as the antidote to loneliness, yet instead, we become like overly-excited crack addicts craving attention and validation through a bank of “likes.” And then, due to the volume of these matches and short conversations, we develop a somewhat ADHD-like behaviour where we are unable to focus our attention on one person at a time. We’re constantly weighing the costs and benefits of others—what they look like, their profession, their height (stupid), dog ownership status (important), brunch habits, the list goes on and on. We ask ourselves, should I engage in conversation with this person or even spend my time meeting them IRL when there could be someone more attractive, more accomplished, taller, skinnier, or more cultured? Then we end up exactly where we started: facing our screens, alone, paralyzed by the number of choices.

But some of us (myself included) hope that we’re on this journey to developing meaningful connections which could lead to something serious with someone. At the very least, I’m looking for comfort and something that will last more than Season 4 of Broad City.

There was about a month’s gap between my first and second date with Tal. He responded very sporadically to my Whatsapps with very short and ambiguous messages, and I was certain that he was ghosting me. I thought that I really built up my expectations of him prematurely and was a bit upset. I can’t help it, I’m really one of those annoying eternal optimists. Damn it.

Between both of us having the flu, both of us moving, him starting a new job, me a new course, it seemed life was happening for both of us. Finally, as it happened, we planned a date where I’d see his new place and we’d watch a Spanish movie (I know what you’re thinking).

When I laid eyes on him again, I’d almost forgotten what he looked like; he looked even more handsome. He was wearing a charcoal grey pullover and dark blue jeans. He wasn’t wearing glasses and he had that hipster facial hair thing going on. We had a really lovely conversation, and he introduced me to his housemates.

Yes, we did make it up to his room. We watched part of this old Spanish film until I forced him to stop it as it was so awful. And then we did what you do on those Netflix and chill dates. It was a LONG time since I’d done anything romantically with a Jewish guy (the last one I was regularly hooking up with turned out to be an egotistical jerk), that it felt both strange and also right, as though I was ticking off boxes. It was like my ovaries were sitting up and paying attention when our bodies came into contact. And yes, he was pretty lovely to be with.

Then, as we were lying there, I completely let my guard down. I started gushing.

I made myself vulnerable.

For the first time in a long time, I exposed myself in the most explicit way—not by being naked, as I’ve grown to be quite comfortable with my body, but with my innermost honest feelings. I turned to him and asked when I was going to see him next because I liked him and was keen to continue.

That’s when the romantic, sexy background music which was playing in my mind came to an abrupt stop.

He turned to me and said he was pretty much working every night for the next two weeks in his new job and was just really busy. He said he wasn’t sure how long he wanted to stay in Melbourne, what he wanted to do, or where he wanted to be. He said how he had come straight from Colombia where he had stayed to be with his girlfriend. He said he was not looking for anything serious. My heart absolutely sank to my stomach. I was caught off guard. I was shocked and hurt. I had so much anticipation of seeing him and us having the potential to at least date to see how things went between us. I didn’t, couldn’t stay over at his place. I dressed and left immediately.

I went to bed late and slept restlessly. Before my alarm went off I saw that he had messaged me, saying it was my call as to whether that would be the last time (don’t you hate that, when this ball’s in your court?). I had to message him.

6:17 a.m.: “Look, I want to be someone’s person. I’m tired of having to conceal my emotions. I know if I continue to see you they’ll just develop and I’d be consciously self-harming since you said you are NOT looking for something serious. I heard you loud and clear. So, it would be a waste of my energy pursuing anything.”

Two blue ticks. Message received. No response.

I can’t even remember the last time I shared my honest feelings with another man. I certainly hadn’t had them in a while.

And while this experience hurt me quite a bit, I still feel like it left me with a refreshed sense of optimism: Even though it’s been a bloody long time since I felt that good about someone, I realized that I am still capable of being that excited.

A week later and thinking I had been brave, assertive and decisive, my inner thoughts of doubt crept up on me as they sometimes do when I finally find myself feeling good about something. I found myself in a state of self-pity for being rejected, considering its been a year of job rejections (they tell you not to take personally, but you do) and then to be 100% personally rejected, well it hurts.

On the other hand, I’ve become exceptionally good at mastering the art of rationalising decisions and not everything you want in life will magically happen that way. While I wonder if I had kept my mouth shut what might have happened. Would he have come to realise that he does really like me back and would reveal his feelings to me in his own time? I think probably that would only play out in my romantic fantasy.

I feel that if there was any chance that he liked me, he could’ve responded with “Look I’ve just gotten out of a relationship, so I’m not looking for something serious right away, but I’d like to see where this might go.” Instead of “we can still see each other casually and you can look for something serious at the same time with someone else too”. Are you swooning yet? Me neither.

I’ve grown to be impatient of men who can’t vocalise what they want or how they feel, so sometimes you’ve just gotta put em on the spot and rip the bandaid off. I’m also sick of giving them the benefit of the doubt. I feel unhappy because I was rejected, but rejection is a fact of life, and it’s not supposed to feel good. It makes the times we are accepted and appreciated feel special.

Finally, I feel relieved knowing how he feels, or doesn’t and that I won’t continue to see him with a false sense of hope that I’ll become his girlfriend. This doesn’t happen with someone you hook up with, trust me. And I know myself that I would’ve for sure messaged him explaining how I felt and that the conversation would’ve just played out there. Instead, I actually got it off my chest in person. And I feel proud that I did open up like that. It would be nice if you could change someone’s opinion but you can’t. And that’s that.

I really do believe in fate and karma. I’m just waiting it out and having fun while the universe aligns itself to give me my turn.

I’ll be ready when it does.

Image via Flickr/Daniel Mendoza

Gabby Oh

Gabby Oh is learning one step at a time how to adult. She is a loud and proud Jewish woman who has been told once at a bar that she looks like Ilana from Broad City. She loves experiencing different cultures and will never pass a dog without patting it.