Bumble: the Sitcom

I can explain how this all started.

Me: “Ugh. I used to be fun, lighthearted…now I’m so serious all of the time.”

Todd the Therapist: “I want you to practice levity. Loosen up more. Pretend that your life is a sitcom.”

A sitcom?

I didn’t know how to pursue this until the next day when, under the influence of a Chrissy Teigen-inspired brunch, my girlfriends told me to create a Bumble account. Frankly, dating has always been a source of stress for me so I haven’t done much of it lately. At the ladies’ brunch I realized that a dating app could normalize the process for me and, hopefully, help me move past my fears.

I consider my decision to mingle in the beehive an act of bravery, and courage always pays off: two months of Bumble dates have proven more fun and interesting than I had ever imagined.

I love first impressions so, in my opinion, first dates are fun. They are a social experiment, a challenge to win someone over. How well can I put my best foot forward? How will he react when I say this ridiculous joke? How long will it take for him to realize I am out of his league? (That’s something a person on a sitcom would say, right?)

Some dates have been good. Others have been…different.

My first date and I made it to round two, but the second date was a 180-degree turn from the first. His ratio of talking about himself to asking me questions was 4:1. Not good. Stories of “getting hammered” during undergrad were neither interesting nor redeeming. The night was a flop. I’m not sure he knew that, though, because he sent me snapchats of his dog for the next two weeks.

One date and I discussed our favorite sources of news. I prefer the BBC and he prefers the Atlantic. We playfully debated on whether or not Trump could be impeached and the benefits of New Zealand’s gun control system. I rather enjoyed myself, but he was out with me because his dad is in the ICU and his sisters told him he needs a distraction. If you know me at all, you know that I am incapable of making small talk if there is a meaningful subject to discuss.

I assessed his dad’s cardiac health history and his experience at the Meijer Heart Center. How are the nurses? How is your family dealing with this? What’s your relationship with your dad like? I may have crossed a line. It is safe to conclude that if this man needs a distraction, I am the worst person for him to date.

The most recent date was genuine and kind. We grabbed coffee from Madcap and meandered around the city. I was looking forward to this date because he is a former Peace Corps volunteer. I thought, finally! We can connect on similar passions and experiences. Unfortunately, despite my attempts to steer the conversation toward foreign affairs, our evening was sprinkled with polite laughter and talk of work schedules.

My diverse experiences make me want to write “date reviews” with ratings from one to five stars. I could provide and receive helpful insights that wouldn’t be too personal:

well-meaning but he drops the F-bomb all the f***in time, er–oops! He rubbed off on me!

✩✩✩✩ he planned a great date!

✩✩ uses snapchat as primary means of communication

✩✩ laughs at her own jokes but she’s not actually funny

✩✩✩✩ his profile was an accurate representation of himself–no unwanted surprises

✩✩✩✩✩ OMG LET’S GET MARRIED, LIKE, NOW

I think reviews would be helpful for everyone. They could tell us where we went wrong and how to improve in the future. But that could complicate things, too, and at the end of the day some people just want to move onto the next profile.

Overall, my review of Bumble is positive. I am now comfortable telling people I’m not interested and, conversely, I don’t succumb to insecurity when a guy doesn’t want to go out with me again. This is a huge change from a few years ago. Cheers to you, dating apps! However, my dating insights don’t come from Bumble alone.

I recently watched Howards End (2017), a television series based on the book by E.M. Forster. Margaret, the likeable protagonist in her late twenties, accepts a marriage proposal from a man who is much older and recently widowed. Her younger sister, with whom she has a close relationship, abhors her decision. The scene is tense. But Margaret, instead of acting defensively, provides compelling reasons to justify her decision:

“I don’t intend to correct him or to reform him. Only connect. That is the whole of my sermon. I have not undertaken to fashion a husband to suit myself using Henry’s soul as raw materials.”

Margaret’s wisdom reminds me to focus on the big picture and the most important aspects of a potential relationship. I shouldn’t ponder how to change him from day one. Does any man want to be a woman’s project? I certainly hope not.

Connection is what Margaret seeks. And that’s what I seek too, although I am guilty of being overly picky. Prioritize the essential matters: can we connect on topics that are important to us both? Could we share a future trajectory? Is there natural dialogue about beliefs, lifestyle, vulnerability? When I find the person with whom conversation is not a chore, I will gladly schedule our next outing. So far that hasn’t happened on dates one or two.

At this point if I make it to date number three, I’m lovestruck.


 

Bumble Measures of Success:

Attractive + Connection = WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN

Attractive + No Connection = Win

Unattractive + Connection = Win

Unattractive + No Connection = Lose

According to this chart you have a 75% chance of success!

xx Kayla

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The Fear of Vanilla

“Why don’t you go out with him?” My mom asked me over breakfast.

I replied without hesitation. “He’s way too vanilla.”

“What exactly does that mean?” She looked confused.

I straightened, confident. “It means he’s too boring, settled, and plain. You know, like vanilla.”

My mom tried to suppress a chuckle. “So it has absolutely nothing to do with his ice cream flavor preferences? It’s a judgment about who he is?”

I nodded my head as she gave me a look. You know, one of those looks that screams, I’m-your-mom-so-I-love-you-but-sometimes-you-drive-me-crazy. “You’re ridiculous,” she said, and turned back to her breakfast.

Our brief conversation alluded to a deep flaw that I have: I tend to view matters black or white or, in this case, chocolate or vanilla. Analogies aside, I’m learning something new. Each of us has a Choose Your Own Adventure book of life, which contains vanilla fragments on different pages, in various settings and disguises. What is vanilla for me might be a flashy flavor for someone else or vice versa. Life is not black or white. There is beauty in the mundane and disappointment in the seemingly perfect. It’s all mixed up and in, and I cannot categorize everything.

Unfortunately, my categorizing has affected my friendships. A few weeks ago I attended church with my friend, Bekah. She’s my shopping cohort, neighborhood walking partner, bantering buddy, and happy hour comrade. It also helps (or *doesn’t* help) that we both enjoy binge-watching “Jane the Virgin”–you just don’t let friendships like that fade. As we exited the church service together, I posed a question:

“Can we talk about something?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Of course,” Bekah replied.

I kicked an unruly pebble, wishing that I could punt it across the parking lot. “I feel like you’re frustrated with me. True or false?”

“What? I thought you were frustrated with me!”

We stopped, looked at each other momentarily, and then laughed. A few minutes later we had unraveled misunderstandings, poor communication, and harmful assumptions. She confessed that she thought that I was disappointed in her “because she’s getting married” and “buying a house in Grand Rapids.” Essentially, she assumed that I thought she’s settling, boring, life over, i.e. too vanilla.

Aghast, I had to convince her that this isn’t true. I am giddy for her wedding and proud of her commitment to her awesome fiancé. “You’re starting a new adventure that no one has embarked on before,” I pointed out. “No one has married Matt–at least, not that we know of.” I winked, and the conversation ended. But my thoughts didn’t.

I felt uneasy that one of my best friends believed I am disappointed in her. Just because I am choosing differently from her (I am returning to Mercy Ships) doesn’t mean that her journey is less valuable.

The thing is, we feel strengthened and supported when people choose the same as us (this is how peer pressure works, yea?). So how do we go about our own business confidently and boldly without feeling insecure when no one strives for the same?

I wish for a simple, easy answer but at least for me, it’s not. When I embark on a unique path I suddenly think that no one can relate to me or no one is bold enough to try. This mentality manifested itself recently.

Memorial Day is one of my favorite holidays of the year. My extended family spends the weekend at my family’s cottage, which entails 25-30 humans living in a small house for four days, sharing meals and jokes, playing volleyball game after card game after board game. This year, though, I dedicated nearly eight solitary hours to a 1,000 piece puzzle. EIGHT. HOURS. Am I an introvert now? I wondered. God, help me. I played one or two games but mostly I kept to my puzzle and Sudoku book.

While it’s true living on the Africa Mercy has influenced my personality, it is more true that I felt (and still feel) dissociated from people in my hometown. I can’t relate to how the emergency department is functioning because I haven’t been there in eight months. I can’t understand the significance of which paint color to choose for the living room or which school to send my children to because (surprise!) I don’t have children to educate or a living room to decorate. I don’t even have a dog to care for. My heart is stretched and divided across the world; between blood and non-blood families; among African, mariner, Catholic and Protestant communities. My heart and brain are worldwide, so I feel exhausted if I try to share my thoughts and feelings.

But it’s important to keep trying. When I feel I can’t relate to others, I withdraw from social interaction. Instead of investing energy into conversations, I seek isolation. But guess what isolation does: it makes you feel isolated, which is not helpful. I am about to leave for ten months. Isn’t this the time to laugh, build experiences and memories with my loved ones?

I’m sorry if you tried to spend time with me and I withdrew. I hope I didn’t make you feel uninteresting or unimportant. I’m sorry if I made you feel like your life choices are less significant. They’re not. Raising a child appears overwhelming. Marrying your significant other is  courageous. Buying a house is bold. Applying to a new job is ambitious. Enrolling in graduate school is admirable. And just being yourself is enough.

You are enough. I am enough. Vanilla ice cream is delicious, especially with sprinkles.

Cheers!

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Maybe my disconnect is a blessing to society. I have weird friends. Sometimes I wear a turban.
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Ice cream with fellow Mercy Ships volunteers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I ordered “donut” and they ordered “vegan peanut butter.” Vanilla was allowed, though.
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Once, my friend Lauren attempted to eat an ice cream cone. Lest we forget.

 

I Would Never Do That

“Alright, it’s time!”

No. I close my eyes, pretending to sleep.

“Come on, Kayla, you have to come.” My co-worker, Kim, bounces eagerly, her shoes spitting sand on my face. She knows I’m awake.

I sit up, arms crossed with tension. “If you pressure me then I definitely won’t go. I have to decide on my own terms.”

“Ok, then, just come along and we’ll just…look.”

Kim, my roommate Christina, and I ascend the jagged rock behind my little brother, Jaron, who is leading the way. My skin has already transformed into a bizarre looking layer of bumpy raw chicken. “Guys,” I try one last time. “I’m already freezing cold and I’m DRY right now. I don’t want to jump in the water…” They ignore my dramatic monologue and we continue climbing.

The sun’s warmth is the day’s only redeeming factor. Unfortunately, the trek to the designated point is completely shaded, and the physical discomfort I feel intensifies the emotional dread I’m battling. My eyes widen in awe as we approach the cliff. I can’t move my gaze from the majestic beauty of Michigan’s Pictured Rocks lakeshore. The water is aquamarine and as clear as a glass of water. Powerful swells of Lake Superior assault the rocky peninsula beneath our feet. I shiver.

Jaron stands near the edge, pauses momentarily, and then jumps. I count at least three full seconds before I hear a splash. A moment later he emerges over 40 feet below, grinning at us from icy waters. He sports a stupid grin across his face, waving frantically for a follower. “Come on! IT’S AWESOME!”

Kim and Christina look at Jaron, glance at the shore, and then at each other. It’s clear they’re less concerned about the jump itself and more worried about the hazardous swim to safety. All I can think is that my little brother currently has one up on me.

I walk briskly to the edge, realizing that I don’t actually have a choice. My competitive nature and thirst for adventure win out. Behind me the girls are talking to each other, shocked that I’m even considering the plunge.

I blink. My mind and feet betray me. I jump. Behind me Kim is yelling, “STAY STRAIGHT,” but there’s only one thought on my mind that I can actually vocalize: “Shhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt!!!!!”

Three seconds later someone punches me in the face. Or did I just transform into a sock inside of a washing machine? Hard to say. I try to swim as waves argue with each other, pushing and pulling me in opposite directions. I sputter toward the surface.

Little relief comes after I inhale fresh air. I’m certain an old, fat woman is churning these waters around me, cackling, while I (a small particle of cream) fight desperately to remain afloat. I’m mostly upset that my boobs, which represent 90% of my body fat, aren’t helping me AT ALL. Good for nothin’. I guess I’ll have to use my arms and legs. 

The journey back to shore is both treacherous and tiring. Thankfully, my brother is a strong enough swimmer to support himself and act as my personal lifeguard. I love him for it–but let’s be real: I would’ve loved (even more) to receive first aid and mouth-to-mouth from a shirtless and muscled Coast Guard rescuer. Maybe next time. Right now all I want is food, warmth, and bed.

Several hours later, thanks to northern pasties and subpar coffee, I am thawed from the inside out. The four of us depart the flannel-filled establishment in search of a nearby campsite. No luck. Instead, we decide to make use of our time and drive to St. Ignace, which is over two hours away.

Jaron is navigating us through the darkened world. I peek at the stars, thankful to retreat to reflection. I can’t help but relish the delight of my cliff jump. Yes, it sucked, but I’m so glad I did it. I laugh, thinking of how I initially resisted the idea. Why was I so opposed? More importantly, what inside of me changed at the cliff’s edge? Why did I do it?

I suppose I was opposed because I didn’t consider that other factors (such as competition and adrenaline) would outweigh my fears. I realized at the moment, watching my brother below, that I could handle twenty minutes of bone chilling cold to achieve the satisfaction of a new experience. But those are influences I never considered until I was at the point of decision.

I’m starting to think that this happens more often than I realize. I ponder an opportunity or path and conclude, I would never do that. Or more often, I could never do that. When I finally come to the moment of decision, BAM. I’ve decided to do exactly what I had previously deemed improbable. 

I remember feeling deeply discouraged when I received my midterm grade during my first year of nursing school. Just before that term had started I told my parents that I was going to quit nursing school and move abroad to work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). They laughed and responded, “no” (I wasn’t laughing). I began my pediatric rotation and suffered through the courses, receiving my worst grade in all of nursing school that term. What did I tell myself, looking at my scores? It doesn’t matter. I would never work with kids anyway.

Three years later I applied for a job at a children’s hospital. When the HR representative called me and offered the position, I still had hesitations even though I had sought them out. I was confused because I had always told myself I would never… But guess what: I did, and I’m so glad I did. 

A few years ago I considered (for a hot second) making a commitment to being single, but the thought actually made me nauseous. Several friends did this during college and all reported good things, saying they pursued healthy friendships, learned about themselves, and invested time in their faith. I, however, abhorred the idea of relinquishing control. I could never do that. What if I meet an awesome guy? Woof. So I said no and concluded I never would. 

Late this summer I sat at Reeds Lake, feeling an unusual craving, almost a burden, to pursue romance. I’ve been single for the last year and a half so this newfound pressure felt unnecessary. Deep down I knew that I didn’t want to start anything before moving to Africa in November. I also don’t want to pour my energy into a relationship while I’m working with Mercy Ships. Frankly, the timing just seemed right and I felt peaceful about it. So I’ve decided that I’ll stay single until I return from my worldwide endeavors–and this time around I haven’t felt nauseous.

Cheers to saying you’ll never do something and then doing it!

   

  


[yes, I did wear the same outfit for four days. You can see the photos were taken on different days by subtle changes in headband positioning.]