(Relationships)

The Raya Dating App Led Me To My First F*ck Boy

What a ride.

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We matched on an unsuspecting Saturday. A year after ending an 8 ½ year relationship, my friends convinced me to try a dating app called Raya. Known as the "celebrity dating app," it typically requires referrals to be accepted, removing a veil of anonymity that makes it seem less suspect to a fearful newcomer like me. Two of my friends met their significant others on the app, so it seemed legitimate. For me, this was a whole new world of algorithm-based, social media-wrought coital conduct that I had yet to consider.

After creating my profile (and some back and forth with friends on which photo selections were dating-app-appropriate), I got to “date shopping” — which is all fun and games until they start talking to you. Dating app-incited conversations often feel contrived because the prerequisite social cues and body language that draw you to a person do not exist with a text box.

While my initial matches were fine, it felt weird to me. I also had no idea what I was looking for — I am not the personality type to do "casual," but it takes a rare connection for me to want a relationship. I thought maybe you just couldn't teach this old dog the new trick of online dating, and was about to delete the app altogether. Then, on this particular Saturday, two interesting options popped up — both dreamy animal-lovers — so I reconsidered aborting my mission.

One, we'll call him “Garth,” was exactly my younger self's type — a 36-year-old actor that had formerly lived in Italy for two years while modeling. Two friends (one of which is an intuitive reader) dismissed him as a player; they much preferred my other option. They called Garth "cheesy" and "soap opera good-looking." Plus, he lived two hours away— but I kind of preferred this due to my ambivalence. Alas, the cheesy player reached out first. (Many seasoned online daters juggle multiple matches at a time, but I am not interested in juggling anything — more to come on that later — so I go one at a time.)

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He was, as it turned out, an app connoisseur. He called me unexpectedly after a week of laid-back texting during which I probably came across as short with him at times because my schedule was busy. Yet my interest piqued when we learned that we had a mutual friend, reassuring me that he was not simply a murderer in search of his next victim. (This made him laugh, but I wasn't joking.) He called me again the next day, and we started talking regularly.

My appreciation for Garth grew as my friends relayed personal tales of horrific sexts, screenshots of unsolicited penis pics, and a gag-inducing nude involving Christmas lights. My guy mostly sent animal trivia. He loved them all — aside from Komodo dragons — and taught me of the breath-holding abilities of jaguars, the hunting practices of coyotes, and of the possibly extinct Thylacine. It seemed innocent enough, but to a f*ckboy (which I now realize is what he was), this is all part of the plan: Rather than being upfront and honest, they develop emotional closeness without readiness for a relationship.

He wasn't always consistent with communication — another commonly cited trait of the f*ckboy — but when we talked on the phone, it would be for hours, on topics that went beyond the animal kingdom. I once called him from the car and we ended up staying on the phone for five hours. (I had to mute the phone to pee more than once.) He seemed like a bit of a partier, but I was keeping an open mind because he was cute and made me laugh.

We actually had a lot in common. His father and brother were in the Marines; my first long-term relationship was with a Marine. His parents are divorced and he has an estranged brother; same. He speaks multiple languages and has lived abroad — moi aussi. He is also obsessed with his dog — the ultimate form of compatibility. Sometimes it felt like similar features of men from my past had amalgamated into this individual that was, as a friend put it, "built like a Ken doll." He felt familiar from his dark hair and dimples to, as I later discovered, his extreme emotional immaturity.

I learned from my friends that there comes a time in every algorithm-based relationship when you must meet in person or else become the dreaded "penpal." After hours of phone conversation, we met up unplanned one night after drinking at separate events. I was on the fence about whether this was a good idea, but my friend pulled the most sexual oracle card I have ever seen, which seemed like a green light.

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Our time together was fun; the chemistry was real and our in-person flow was effortless. Our dalliance even resulted in a custom nail polish shade cheekily named "Girthy Love," sent to me as a joke by a hilarious friend. I met his dog (who I loved). Garth juggled for me — an inside joke of ours, but to be honest, I was not keen on the juggling. By some miracle, my feelings were not limited to the friend-zone, as is typical for me re: the male variables in my life.

Yet there were also some red flags, like his deflective use of humor; a flicker of emotional unavailability. There was also inconsistency: he had once told me to "hit him up" on a Sunday, but when I called him, I didn't hear back for four days. Many of his stories involved blacking out and morning runs for Pedialyte — and he used the word “lit,” which was perhaps the biggest red flag of them all. (The slang word is banned from my editorial vocabulary.)

As I got to know him more, I genuinely really liked him, but I was uncomfortable becoming emotionally invested. I didn't even know what his day-to-day life entailed. We were establishing closeness without actually becoming a part of each other’s lives, and it made alarm bells go off in my head. Direct communication remained elusive; our intentions only hinted at. He had told me he liked me once, and asked probing questions that hinted at this fact, but it felt weird without the usual affections that make this type of proclamation feel natural. Was this the new normal in 2022?

The last time we spoke was a four-hour conversation on Valentine's Day, about six weeks after meeting. His friends had gone out drinking, and one of their girlfriends made out with some random at a bar — another red flag. He asked me if I had told our mutual friend or my ex about him. (I had told her, but not him.) These were reasonable questions except that his exact verbiage included the word "weiner." "Did you tell your ex that you played with my weiner a week ago?" he had joked. Funny… ish.

Considering what I knew of his friend choices, his past relationships, and his partying ways, it made me wonder why he liked me — a writer and dedicated non-partier. I poorly articulated this insecurity but he misunderstood the point, saying, "Who cares about other girls? I don't." Then I didn't hear from him for a week and I came to the conclusion that this safari known as online dating had led me to the prolific man-imal known as the f*ckboy.

That said, I believe all relationships are opportunities for growth. The situation started stirring up residual trauma from a past relationship in my early 20's that had, in turn, aggravated abandonment issues from my childhood. Anxious, I spoke to my therapist and decided to reach out to an energy healer (I draw from many modalities to nip anxiety in the bud) that has worked wonders for me in the past. It set the process in motion that helped me get back to myself in a day or two, but the stress reminded me of toxic relationships from my early twenties — a phase I am not interested in revisiting, like ever. As my friend put it, it was time to "let that c*ck fly."

Our final interaction occurred via DM a week or so later. I knew that I would tell him it wasn't working out, which I was genuinely sad about. Coincidently, that day, I was also dealing with another equally frustrating (yet unrelated) scenario: a broken washing machine that had been delivered to me by satanic home appliance-seller AJ Madison, which had put me through months of hell replacing it. Frustrated from the sum of the parts of the day, my concluding proclamation to Garth came out more like: "I'm done dealing with this immature bullish*t. Bye."

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He did not take it well. He called me entitled (of his time), said I should have asked him before telling my ex I was talking to him, and accused me of forcing him to "decipher his emotions" according to my schedule. And who did I think I was, swearing at him? That was that. I later unfollowed him, he unfollowed me, and he ultimately lived up to the definition my friend uses to describe a f*ckboy: as "someone there is no need to keep in your life long-term."

Could there be a deeper spiritual purpose behind the f*ckboy, I now wonder? Maybe to clear my past baggage, I had to master the karmic lesson of walking away when I was not feeling valued. Or maybe the lesson was to cope with the insecurity that arose when I began to catch feelings. The experience allowed me to confront baggage from a tumultuous past relationship with this eerily familiar man. Involvement with the hot/cold type once left me questioning my instincts; a decade later, I walked away healthily.

To be fair, I later learned that he went MIA as he was being cast as the male lead in a movie — one that I, for the record, would like to note that I had correctly predicted he would land. He could have let me know and I would have understood. I even reached out to give him the opportunity to clear the air before publishing this — that’s right, journalistic due diligence with a f*ckboy — to no response.

So what is the plight of the f*ckboy? I imagine that like the rest of us they truly do want connection. But I would define him as a full-fledged, male-identifying individual with some severe deficits in maturity that gets in the way of this ambition. This misunderstanding could have been easily resolved in most cases, but for our undefined dalliance, it proved terminal. Now initiated into the world of app-dictated dating in 2022, would I recommend it? TBD — my app is on hiatus. But for what it's worth, I can now speak firsthand of the modern day dating phenom known as the f*ckboy.