When people tell me they hate dating, they’re tired of the slog, don’t feel like they’d be attractive to a potential partner, or are still hurting from a breakup, I don’t tell them “Be more positive!” or “Oh, you’re being silly. You’re great!” or “It’s time to move on!” Instead, I tell them, “Take a break.”
You know why? Apps are always going to be there. Pussy’s always going to be there. Dick’s always going to be there. There is no rush.
But everyone feels the pressure to be partnered, and it makes sense, right? If you’re partnered, you’re seen as “successful,” like you’ve unlocked some sort of achievement. If you’re single, there must be something wrong or you’re not trying hard enough. If you’re partnered, you’re better than your single friends. If you’re single, your goal should be to ultimately become partnered. It’s just like how we view bodies: if you’re attractive by society’s standards, you’re “good.” If you’re not, you “should” be working on achieving it. And the harder you work, the better you are. The more you’re worth.
“Work harder, be better” is what we’re told constantly.
I recently had to tell a fellow overachieving lady a hard truth: successful women often get frustrated by dating because in any other situation, we know that if we put a ton of effort into something, it will yield results. If you work hard in school or your career, you get a payoff. Dating doesn’t work like that. You can put in a ton of effort and nothing is guaranteed to you.
[Side tangent: One of the reasons we’ve been taught to worry about our attractiveness is because it’s associated with attracting the male gaze. One of the reasons we’ve been taught to worry about being partnered is because it’s associated with holding the male gaze. Annually, the beauty industry is worth $445 billion, the weight loss industry = $66 billion, and the wedding industry = $72 billion. Internalized misogyny and capitalism are a real bitch, y’all.]
The truth is there's no shame in being single and there's no shame in being celibate. I actually respect you a helluva lot more for focusing on yourself until you feel better (and feel better about dating) before you return to it than I do for continuing to date and have sex and being miserable. Plus, when you’re not feeling great, both the date and the sex is going to be bad anyway.
It’s okay to take a break from dating.
I will say, though, that I have a hard time following my own advice because I have the sex drive of a 15yo girl. (I know the conventional saying is “a 15yo boy,” but guess what? Teenage girls are just as horny as boys. It’s just that no one talks about it.)
The problem with having no stability as you travel from place to place is that… you have no stability. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll see that I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs. And when there’s no stability and you’re working 4 jobs, it can be very taxing on the mind.
Shortly after I arrived in Chicago, I started working straight through from 7am to 11pm. I didn’t get more than 4 ½ hours of sleep per night for a solid week and a half. I was falling into perfectionist tendencies and black-and-white thinking. I must date and talk to people on apps. I must be on social media for my job. I must follow through on all projects I promised myself I’d do outside of my day job (freelance, blogging for other companies, writing my book). I don’t have time to eat actual meals. My basic sex and food needs? Booty calls and takeout will have to suffice.
And then I crashed. Hard.
Last week, I crashed so badly, I only left my townhouse to shuffle down the street to the drugstore, buy some diet iced tea, and drink it in bed while looking at my phone for hours. I couldn’t relax. I was exhausted but wired. Eventually, I put my phone down and laid on my side, one arm over my pillow and the other under it so I could hug something while I half-slept, my cheek pressed to the cool fabric. My body was going into Bad Brain mode, something I only experience during extreme periods of stress. This is what was going through my head:
That's when the Universe was like "oh fuck OFF, Dana" and threw me a bone.
Before going to bed, I picked up my phone to set my alarm and saw a text from one of my closest friends in New York, Dave.
When I lived in NYC, I was at Dave’s apartment pretty much every other week. Dave’s heard every dating story I’ve ever had; many a tale has been told while we’ve eaten pepperoni and mushroom pizza with his dogs on our laps. I have the key to Dave’s apartment, which I offered to return to him before my year-long journey.
“Keep it,” he told me. “That way you know you always have a home here.”
Dave’s text was a request for my address in Chicago because, completely unprompted, he wanted to send me a gift. I smiled, the knot in my stomach loosening slightly, and went to bed. I slept eight hours for the first time in ten days.
When I woke up, I snapped out of it. My usual way of thinking came back to me: any “desire” to be thinner and partnered because I will be “better” because of it—complete bullshit. I’ve been miserable as a thinner person and miserable while in a relationship. My worth isn’t determined by my body being considered attractive to a man or the fact that a man has chosen me as his partner.
That afternoon, I FaceTimed Cecilia, my therapist extraordinaire. I told her about my friend Sophie’s suggestion—one that was given to me after I confessed I had noticed my hair falling out in clumps—to not do any work besides my 7am – 4pm day job for a full week. No freelance work, no research for my book, no work for the two companies I decided to partner with.
Cecilia agreed that it was an excellent first step. “What else can you do this week that you know will make you feel better?”
I blurted out the answer immediately. "Not date."
The truth was clear: I had become the exact type of person I encourage to take a break from dating. I hated it, though, because, like I said earlier, I am hornier than a rabbit... in a chatroom in 1995 with their mom’s credit card. I told her I really wanted to date, but knew it wasn’t a good idea right now.
Get yourself a therapist who, when you say, “If I don’t have sex in over a month, I start to go insane,” replies, “I get that.”
But taking a week off wasn’t going to kill me.
Cecilia's homework for me was to make a list of things I’d do this week to prioritize sleep, nutrition, and physical activity—three things I know improve my mental health.
I started to set two alarms: one at 9:30pm telling me to get ready for bed and one at 10pm telling me to go to bed. I ordered food with actual vegetables in it. I went to Pilates and aerial classes 4 days a week. I got out of the fucking house.
I hung out with my two friends in Chicago (an amazing couple I knew for a while on the internet who turned into real-life friends). They’re both incredibly kind, hilarious, and generous, and introduce me to the coolest, hippest restaurants in Chicago. Many of the most exclusive restaurants here are hidden and you have to be in the know to even be aware they exist. There have been plenty of times where I’ve shown up to where I *think* the restaurant is, only to text one of the pair, “I think I’m here? WHY IS EVERYTHING IN THIS CITY A SECRET”
The three of us went to High Five Ramen, a 12-seat ramen establishment not even open yet that somehow has an hours-long wait (we were at the front of the line, however, cuz my pal has connections). That same night, we got drunk and ordered McDonald’s (something I’ve never done in my life, believe it or not) from the corporate headquarters on Randolph Street, where you order from a touchscreen and can sample items from various international menus. I read an incredible book on my rooftop overlooking the Chicago skyline (video below), I got a pedicure, I put together a care package for my friend in New Zealand, I bought a card for my dad, I wrote this blog post (the only writing I do for me and not for money).
I also had a soul-nourishing hangout with my friend VP, who has visited me a few times while I've been on this trip. I always love seeing him. We’re both writers and we’re both comedians, so what the fuck do you think happened when we walked by a wig store with a “going out of business” sign in the window?
I also went to Bad Hunter on my own and did my favorite thing: sit at the bar, order a full 3-course meal, and sip a fancy mocktail while writing on my laptop. The next time you see someone eating alone and feel bad, I promise you they are enjoying every second of no one fucking talking to them while savoring their meal.
I took a day off from my day job, woke up when it felt good, got a latte at Sawada coffee (seriously, the best espresso I’ve ever had), shopped at the brand new Glossier pop-up shop around the corner, visited Warm Belly Bakery, and then went to… my favorite place on earth. I’m not exaggerating. Because there’s one in my home city.
My favorite place in New York City—even ahead of Veselka (Ukranian diner), Levain (the best fucking cookies you’ve ever had), and Van Leeuwen (I dream about their honeycomb ice cream)—is a place called Aire Ancient Baths. In the middle of nowhere, right next to Chinatown, is an underground spa the size of half a city block filled with hot pools, cold plunges, a salt float pool, and an aromatherapy steam room. Only six exist in the world: New York, Barcelona, Sevilla, Almeria, Vallromanes… and Chicago. How Aire Chicago existed before Aire London, Aire Copenhagen, or Aire Paris (all slated to open within the next two years) is beyond fuckin’ me, and I was floored when I found out there's one within walking distance of my Airbnb. If someone on Tinder hadn't told me, I never would have known.
Being at Aire Ancient Baths is one of the most relaxing experiences of your life. It’s even more relaxing after taking two edibles before you walk in.
When the 24yo I mentioned in my last post texted me asking if we could meet up on the Friday night of the week I promised to devote to myself, I suggested another day when all I truly wanted to do was bang him again.
You don’t have to wait until you’re perfect in order to date (because then you’ll never date!), but you do have to wait until you feel better.
I wanted to write this post to show that the self-love, sex-positive chick sometimes has bad body days. She also has to constantly create boundaries with herself and others. She gets dating fatigue, too. She gets tired as hell, too. She sometimes gets sad about cultural ideas surrounding relationships and dating and even falls victim to them sometimes. And that’s okay. She, like everyone else, just needs to hit the reset button sometimes.
Passionate about everything having to do with the body, Dana Hamilton writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a regular contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in VICE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and SELF, among other publications.