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Valentine's Day Special: A Letter to My Ex

February 14, 2018 10:20 IST

All of a sudden Tinder is real.

Nikita Singh Letters to my Ex

Nikita Singh, the author.
Photographs: Courtesy Harper Collins India.


I thought that was the last letter I would write to you, but here we are again.

To be fair though, these are not letters that I'm actually going to send you, which makes me sound crazy for writing them, but I like to think of it more like a therapy session. Writing therapy. That's a thing, right?

... I am an old soul, don't necessarily want to do fun, carefree things in life, but I would like some kind of mental peace. I need to balance these lessons from the past with openness for new experiences. This is my attempt at that.

So, you know how everyone's on Tinder nowadays? (I know, cliché again, but hear me out.)

Praveen and Deepika insisted that I go on some dates. Apparently, I had nothing to lose.

The way I saw it, coming out of such a long-term serious relationship, not to mention my only relationship, going out on Tinder dates was hardly going to help anything, especially since I don't know what I want.

I don't want random hook-ups, I don't want a serious relationship, I don't want to just hang out and waste my own and the other person's time and risk one person getting hurt eventually, so by that logic, Tinder did not make sense at all.

Except that, when we made a profile for me and started swiping, it became a source of entertainment. The internet has always been a place filled with weirdos, but now, there's a platform where these weirdos can actually talk to you. It's interesting.

I'm not saying all people on Tinder were like that though. I did end up finding a few I liked and had fun conversations with. Granted, half of the time it was Praveen or Deepika texting them for me.


We didn't take it seriously at all. Until someone I liked asked me out, and then all of a sudden, it was real.

He was a real person. I could actually, physically go meet him. And once that door opens, it's kind of a slippery slope from there. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't excited about this date. He seemed like such a sweet guy. He was five years older than me, and had such a genuine, sweet smile in his Tinder photos.

On the night of my first ever Tinder date (or first date at all, because you and I, we just fell into a relationship, without ever dating first) I was nervous and excited. I was supposed to show the right amount of skin, so as to not be seen as a slut or a nun. I wore my navy dress with long sleeves and boat neck, ending right above my knee, with a pair of sneakers. Carefully put together to give off a cool, but also pretty kind of vibe.

Don't know if it worked.

When I saw him waiting outside the restaurant, I knew instantly that it wasn't going to work. He was much smaller than he seemed in his pictures. A couple inches taller than me, but pretty much the same build. I know, I'm being shallow. I knew that then too, and I made a deal with myself that I would get one drink with him, to give us a chance to have a conversation and then see how we felt. I wasn't going to bail on someone based solely on their physical appearance.

So, I greeted him with a smile, and we went inside to get a drink.

Sitting across from me at the table, he didn't look too small. The pleasant smile I liked was there, the corners of his eyes were crinkling. In the flickering of the tiny tealight, he didn't seem so bad at all.

What he did seem was tired. Not even kidding.

It was a Sunday evening, and he had driven back from visiting a friend outside of town, so I get that he must've been exhausted. I had thought initially that it was sweet that he wanted to see me that night, as opposed to waiting till the next weekend, but when your date yawns not once, not twice, but five times in the first 45 minutes of meeting each other, you kinda know he's not your soulmate.

I didn't want to be rude though, so I tried my best. You have to give someone at least an hour, I've been told.

Also, I'm talking as if I was the prize here and was doing him a favour by hanging out with him. That's totally not true. Maybe he didn't like me at all and was giving me an hour as a courtesy too.

To fill the awkwardness, I started talking about my job. I told him what I did, and what I wanted to be doing, small details about my day -- all those impersonal facts to make conversation while still keeping a distance.

What really bothered me, and it shouldn't have, was his condescending demeanour in his responses. I mean I get that I'm younger than him, and I've just started my first real job a couple months ago, but that doesn't mean he can give me unwarranted/un-asked-for advice.

I was talking about not wanting to hang out with people from work after work, and how I think it's sometimes a waste of time, and I want there to be boundaries between personal and professional lives, and he gave me a lecture about how I should be more open to change and accepting of the rules of society.

Apparently, my co-workers will think I'm antisocial if I don't go to every single happy hour with them.

He was teaching me about work-life balance, as if I couldn't figure it out myself. He hasn't met any of my coworkers, so it was surprising that he spoke about how I should behave around them with such unbridled confidence. As if regardless of what the reality is, he knows the situation and is qualified to give advice. The way he told me these things… it wasn't a conversation. It wasn't his opinion, it was fact. His perspective was my reality, even though he knew nothing about me.

After all the yawning and talking about work, when we finally walked out, he wanted to walk me to the metro, while buried into his phone screen, admiring how cheap and convenient Uber Pool is. I told him that I was okay walking by myself, and it wasn't super late at night, so he shouldn't worry. I just wanted to leave. He hugged me goodbye, and said it was a pleasure to meet me.

I thought it was nice of him to lie.

All through our date, he treated me as if I was a child. He was bored, tired, even a little annoyed… but these are the things I sensed. Maybe he didn't actually feel that way. And he didn't (or maybe he did but was lying) because he texted me later that night, reiterating that it had been nice to meet me and that he had fun (what?).

I responded to that text, saying same. I honestly expected that to be the end of it, because we were both clearly lying. But then he texted me again the following morning, as I was getting dressed for work. I decided to respond when I got to work, because I was rushed that morning. By the time I reached work, he had sent me three more texts. I responded briefly, with a few words, but that unleashed another seven texts from him. That's when I was done.

Later that night, he texted again, but I didn't respond.

Now, let's talk about this for a second.

I don't like the concept of ghosting, but I also think that it's okay to make a decision not to engage with someone after it becomes clear that there's nothing there after meeting them for the first time. So that was it, I didn't respond, not because I'm a bad person, but because I didn't want to lead him on.

Also, maybe I am a bad person. I don't even know anymore. But he got the hint; I wasn't feeling it, and that was the end of it.

Nikita Singh

After that date, I was much more careful.

The idea of going out, meeting someone new, having a conversation, getting to know someone, felt nice, but at the same time, I didn't want to accept any dates unless I was absolutely sure I liked him. I was very keen on not wasting anyone's time, which meant raising my standards and giving it some time, a few conversations, before agreeing to meet.

That's how I met Deepanshu.

I'm going to give the ending away -- at the end of the date, I was wondering if I actually liked him, or if I just wanted his job. Let me explain. Deepanshu is a creative director at a multinational ad agency. He works on these huge campaigns around the world, in collaboration with big NGOs working for women and children in developing countries, including our own.

He travels the world, shooting videos, creating world-class dynamic content to engage with people on digital platforms, mainly social media. Being the creative director of the digital team … that's a job I'd love to have. I'm at least a decade away from that. He started shooting videos when he was 16, and in the 11 years since, he's done amazing work on mind-blowing campaigns.

We talked for hours, but in all the time we spent together, I realized later that he talked about himself a lot. He was very proud of his achievements (there's nothing wrong with that) and I was asking him all these questions about his work, so it made sense that we were talking about him so much.

But clearly, I was just attracted to his job and wanted to be where he was...

At the end of the date, I realized that we both didn't feel anything for each other. We could hang out more, and could maybe end up liking each other, but we definitely didn't feel anything that night.

He texted me the following week about something we talked about, and I responded nonchalantly, but that was the end of it. Neither of us tried to see each other again.

And that brings us to Dhruv.

Him, I really liked. I remember actually feeling excited when I first matched with him.

Our conversations were happy. He was funny and I could tell that he was trying to make me laugh.

Dhruv did everything right. He texted first, remembered what we had talked about before, tried to find things we had in common and include them in conversations… little things like that. He took an actual interest in me, and seemed to really like me.

The first time we met, I liked him instantly. He was so calm and collected, happy with where he was in life. He worked in finance, and I tried not to judge him for that, because I have close friends who work for banks and they're wonderful people. Except that my friends who work in finance have a personality outside of work.

Dhruv worked long hours, but when he wasn't working, he had chunks of time where he didn't know what to do with himself. He didn't read books, or have any kind of artistic inclinations or hobbies. He seemed to fill his free time with people and food and alcohol. Which is okay. If that's what makes him happy, I'm no one to judge. It's enough for most people.

Because I've just started working, and there's so much more that I want to learn and do, this whole drinking-eating-socializing thing feels like a waste of time to me. When I come home from work, in the few hours that I have to myself after having dinner and relaxing a little, I want to watch YouTube tutorials about camera tricks and tips, read books about design and content creation, explore online courses I can take, look at what companies that are doing it right are doing with their social media.

I don't want to sit at a bar, talking about things that don't matter.

I feel like an old lady when I say this, but it does feel like a huge waste of time. There's so much to learn and do. I don't blame him if he just wants to kick back and relax in his free time. He's done well for himself, probably makes a lot of money, maybe that's what makes him happy.

I wish I could find that kind of happiness or fulfilment from my job. I want to be better at everything I do, learn more, create better content, make more of a difference. I want to fill my time with doing things that would get me closer to that. I'm on a journey. He's reached his destination. So, while he's relaxed and happy, I am agitated and nervous.

I know it sounds like a crazy reason to stop seeing someone. We could get used to each other's way of life and maybe meet somewhere halfway. Maybe we could've both been happy, but (here's another one of my theories) I think that it's one thing to try to reason with yourself, and compromise to make it work with someone you love and want in your life. However, if you're finding that you're making excuses for someone from the very beginning, maybe they're not right for you.

I'm all for going to great distances to make it work, to save something that's important to you, but first it has to prove itself. It has to earn the right to your sacrifice. It should be easy in the beginning. It should be great, it should be the best thing that ever happened to you. It should be something worth fighting for.

And whatever I had with Dhruv just wasn't. And once again, I didn't feel anything for him.

This time though, unlike Deepanshu, Dhruv did really like me.

I tried to tell myself that this could be good for me. This could be what I needed. Someone who's content, comfortable in own skin, satisfied with where he is in life and where he's going. It could be a balancing act, since I am the opposite of that right now.

But that's the difference between checklist and chemistry…

Here I present to you another one of my theories: I believe that unless there's something broken (irreversibly), you can make it work with anyone, as long as you believe that the other person is a good person. Once you get to know each other, you kind of organically meet halfway on things, learn to coexist, which could've happened with me and Dhruv. And if I had a checklist of things I want in the man I date, he would fare pretty well on it. Centred, sensible, attractive, humorous, driven … he's all of that.

But I'm not looking to check boxes off my list, I'm not interested in an arrangement. I'm looking for chemistry. And there was none.

That instant connection, the desire to be with each other without any logical reasoning behind that desire. I want to lose control. I want it to not make sense. I want to be not be able to control my feelings, to be frustrated because my heart refuses to listen to my head.

With Dhruv, I was completely in control. We could've made this arrangement work, maybe we could've been happy, but as the cliché goes, there was no passion.

And that's the end of my Tinder chapter.

After the first week of knowing Dhruv, when he wanted to hang out more, I already knew by then that we weren't right for each other. I told him the truth, that I thought he was a good human and I enjoyed his company, but I didn't feel a romantic connection, so we shouldn't continue seeing each other.

He was very kind in his response. He told me that he respected my honesty, a lot. And that he thought I was an amazing person, and he hoped I would make a difference in the world one day (I had told him about my struggles at work), and wished me luck.

We walked away from that experience without any hard feelings. No one got hurt, and I consider that a win.

So there. Three Tinder experiences, all fairly normal (I've heard horror stories) and my lesson at the end of it -- I'm not ready to date. I don't have the time or energy to go out and look for a connection. And there's no rush.

Also (I probably shouldn't say this, but oh well) it'll be very hard to find someone as amazing as you. What we had … talk about chemistry and passion.

I try not to think about it, but sometimes my thoughts get away from me.

I remember how we were with each other. It was as if we were custom designed to work together. We were a team. You had everything I needed, and vice versa. Together, we had everything we could ever need. Like they say in cheesy movies, we completed each other.

Some mornings, I wake up and it takes me a second to remember that you're not here anymore. (I know, I know, my fault.) And I wish I could just go back to sleep and things could go back to normal. Before I broke off our engagement, or even before that… But then I remind myself why we are where we are. We could never work. There's a reason why it has to be this way. It's heartbreaking, every time I think of you, but this is the reality we have to live in, and I have come to accept that. Just sometimes…

These checklists and arrangements sound so stupid compared to the intensity of what we shared. I'm in no rush to replace that.

Excerpted from the chapter titled 'May' in Nikita Singh's Letters to My Ex with permission from the publisher Harper Collins India.

Nikita Singh