Six years after the end of the dating scene, you can finally have fun with a stranger.

If fear is greater than want, then action almost always results. These were the tipping points. It had become necessary to go further than I had in so long; it was time to put my mouth on someone else’s mouth. In the previous six years of mostly nothing, there’d been one thing: a single hook-up with a guy I knew from my theatre. He’d been the one to show me what Tinder was, and I’d downloaded it in the hope I’d see him there. He did and they matched. That’s what I’d thought the app was for – to check if people you already knew were into you. We were able to help our friends, but then the robots came in and took control.

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After he and I matched and spent the night together, I’d hoped we might have a bit more than that one night, but he wasn’t interested. Perhaps if I’d kept swiping, that rejection wouldn’t have sent me back into another three years of no sexual contact or dating. Instead, I’d quit the app.

My profile hadn’t been deleted, so when I opened it I saw pictures of myself that were three years old. It was as if I were looking at distant relatives. My style, my body, my hair had changed. These changes were difficult to measure. These photos showed someone who seemed unsure of their appeal. This was exactly the feeling that I felt, no matter how large my pants.

As such, when creating a new dating profile, I attempted to present the kind of person that I wanted. One of my highlights in the gym and another one me standing on stage. I tried to project confidence, optimism and sexiness, even though I wasn’t feeling it.

I wasn’t exactly sure who I wanted to respond to this self-advertisement. Learning to picture better things hadn’t extended as far as imagining love, so there was no type of person in mind. Mostly, I wanted to see if I could break through my trepidation and into someone’s arms.

After several weeks of swiping, I found a man willing to do lots of work via Tinder messaging. I was able to let go of all my concerns about meeting someone in person.

His looks were great and he was a handsome man. I was invited to visit his apartment because he lived alone in an expensive neighbourhood. I declined to respond. I didn’t unmatch. A week later, he tried to unmatch me again. While he wasn’t creepy, his intentions were quite clear. In all the talk about me being single forever, I meant to suggest that I may never have sex again.

I tried something completely different to the man who was so resigned to being single for over 30 years. After so many years of not being able to connect, I found myself as useless as ever again.

And I was thinking: “What if I could just flip the switch and be a sexual person again? That would be … something.”But it was unlikely. However, I met someone who wanted to get to know me. This was something I wanted to do. Finally, we met.

I lost my nerves and decided to cancel. A few days later, he asked me to rescind.

That was the coldest night of April, and I ended up in the nail salon. I was only a short walk from his home. That morning, I’d told my Tinder beau that I would be in his neighbourhood – maybe we could meet up? He accepted. As the day turned to night, I hadn’t cancelled. The definition of “a” was not quite clear to me. “canceled” “plan”.

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Again, his tolerance was remarkable for all my wantsy-washy requirements. Please let me know. He left me a message. Up until about a half hour before we met, I didn’t let him know. To the salon, I wore my Cole Haans Cole Haans high-heeled Cole Haans dress and my Cole Haans high heeled Cole Haans. There was a birthday party for a friend just a short ride away, which gave me a reasonable excuse for being there, besides a date: I’d come to the East Village on a Friday night for a manicure on my way to a party, not to hook up with a random Internet man. Duh. Stable behavior.

I had become so subtituted about my feelings that I was now huddling in the salon’s bathroom like a ferret, with my nails now a bright cotton candy pink. I was on the phone and opened Tinder to help me make the decision. I also checked out his profile for the last time. I saw his torso right in front of him.

My fingers felt like tiny buffed-icicles. My fingers twitched as I typed. Hey. I’m near your place. Could you?
Would you like to have a glass of wine with me?

I told myself that if he hadn’t messaged me back by the time I settled my bill, I’d head to the party. I received his reply almost immediately. He wanted to meet with us.

Extract edited from The Lonely Hunter (Scribe) by Aimée Lutkin, on sale March 1.

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Six years after the end of the dating scene, you can finally have fun with a stranger.

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