A Gen Z Love Story

I’ve had the Tinder dating app on my iPhone tease me for a while now. Although I thought I’d given up swiping left and right all together, one boring evening I tapped it open to see who I’d find. I was casually browsing when I’d stumbled upon a familiar face. The curly golden hair, the sculpted jaw, and the soft smile– it was none other than the stunning boy from my first semester psychology class, Charles E. Stetson. His blue eyes gazed into mine through my cellphone screen. What was I to do: swipe left and avoid the possibility of rejection all together, or swipe right and take my slim chances of being liked back? Nervously, I pull his picture to the right. My heart thumps as I let go. Finally, a breath of relief. We matched.

Charlie and I have had a slow start. We were partners on our final psychology project and we got to know each other better from that. A few months later we began texting via the only means young adult men know how to reach out to a girl they’re interested in: Instagram DMs. We talked for weeks on end through there, and when he eventually gave me his number, I knew I was more than just a meaningless flirt to boost his ego.

About a week after that, he insisted we went out for coffee, and I nearly lost my sh*t. I finally felt like a true adult in the dating world. It was my first time having “coffee” with a boy man, and I felt super grown up for it. I’d dressed up appropriately, and rehearsed some talking points in my bathroom mirror.

Oh, this book that I’m holding? How embarrassing– I meant to leave it in my room. What’s it about? Why, Aristotle of course.

Did you read the article that was just published in the Times? Wall Street Journal had much better coverage of it, IMO. 

You’re into modern art? What a coincidence, Banksy actually tagged the side of my high school building. 

I needed to seem cultured. After all, Charlie was an attractive, intelligent, sophomore, pre-med student who was majoring in philosophy with a concentration in neuroscience, and I felt like Bozo the Clown compared to that.

The last step was waiting for him to send a text to me that read “I’m here.” My breaths were short and I couldn’t stop checking my phone every three seconds. On my way to the cafe, I bumped into my friend James who caught onto my high strung demeanor. He took my hands and attempted to ease my nerves, but for the next 10 minutes all I did was gush about Charlie. His humor, his kindness, his–

I’m here.

I took a deep breath and headed upstairs to the cafe. Curious, James followed so he could sneak a peak at the man who stole my heart.

The both of us spotted Charlie on his laptop at a table. James’ jaw dropped.

“That is him?” I nodded to James. “Oh my god. He’s so cute.” I nodded in agreement once again.

With one push, my friend sent me off. Each step I took towards Charlie, I became increasingly more nervous. I needed to play my cards right for this to work: self-aware but not cynical, intelligent but not uptight, confident but not arrogant.

With a deep breath, I sat down. He smiled warmly, and I cracked a joke to break the ice.

3 hours later, we were still chatting. Hobbies, politics, life philosophies, all mixed in with light humor and a genuine interest to get to know the other. My nerves had all disappeared. We’d connected so well and so quickly.

My stomach, however, had gotten unbearably hungry. I knew it was time for our date to come to an end. I waited for him to finish his sentence before I interjected with a goodbye. It’s not that I wanted to leave, but I was sure he would reject a proposal to head to dinner.

“I’m super hungry, so I think I’m going to grab dinner.”

“Let’s go do that!”

I smiled. The next two hours were spent over tater tots and sandwiches as we continued on about family, high school, and my favorite subject of all: movies. How refreshing it was to speak to someone I had so much in common with.

Once we parted ways we continued texting for about a week after that. I waited and waited, but he never asked for a second date. Finals week rolled around and we stopped talking all together. However cool I tried to play it, I was undeniably upset and confused. Maybe I had misinterpreted everything and he wasn’t interested at all. He was perhaps too gentlemanly on our date. He didn’t flirt at all and made no moves whatsoever that would imply romantic interest. The only thing that held any merit towards courtship was the implications of “going out for coffee” and maybe during out coffee date he realized I wasn’t actually worth it at all.

A month of silence went by and that brings us to my fragile ego hovering over my phone waiting for Tinder to let me know if Charlie and I matched. As I said, we did.

We started talking again now that I’m back home, and upon rekindling our relationship (whatever that means), one of our first conversations went like this:

Eloise: either way, it’s nice to hear from you again! I’ve been needing some summer book recommendations

Charlie: I’m happy to hear from you too! We never got that second date…

Eloise: Hmm… we should do something about that

Charlie: Hmmmmm you’re right

I lost my f*cking sh*t. Since then, my goal has been to make sure he doesn’t lose interest. There’s a whole summer and 1,000 miles in between us, after all.

Cool. Be cool. I know part of being cool is genuine aloofness, but it’s so difficult to relax when I feel so unworthy of his attention. Around him, I’ve tried my best to be as genuine as I can be– which is to say I’ve stayed true to my own interests, likes, and dislikes which has been easy especially since we’re pretty similar in that regard– but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll inevitably scare him off.

Although I understand that this is all in my head, each text feels like a life or death chess move.

Charlie values his independence and seems like someone who would respect mine as well, we have plenty in common but also our own unique interests, and he genuinely cares about making the world a better place. There’s so much I appreciate and admire about that. However, I’m trying not to cross a thin line. In the past, I’ve gotten too emotionally attached to a boy to the point where I lose my sense of self. To combat that, I’ve tried to detach myself emotionally from that boy by falling for someone else. I want to do neither. I want to be able to have interest in one person but also accept an unrequited crush.

It’s hard, because I know Charlie is everything I want in a relationship and everything my parents would want for me. I want to make my parents proud. I want to make myself proud. But finally being able to get a happy ending means finding someone I can be genuinely, unapologetically myself with. I’m on my way towards accepting that that person may be Charlie, but that person doesn’t have to be.

I’d sent him a text a few hours back, and he still hasn’t replied. I’m learning to not read into it. I’ve moved my chess piece and I could either make myself miserable waiting, or keep myself busy with my own hobbies while he ponders his next move. So, for now I’ll try and focus on myself.


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