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A little while ago I went on a dating app tear, rocking from Tinder to Bumble and even JSwipe. The dates themselves were pretty fun and weird, but what I found perhaps even more rewarding was the opportunity to retell the experience to all caring parties later on. We probably won’t get in the knitty-gritty of those nights, because I need to stay somewhat employed, but they were interesting.

Although the people I met up with were all very different — some young, some old, some hot, some not, some single, some “in an open relationship” — there were consistencies amongst them. And so below are, in my estimation, the ten quintessential phases of an online dating app meet-up:

Phase 1: “Is this the end?”
It’s a little sad that something that’s supposed to be fun begins with the idea of dying. But you just wonder, due to the amount of spam emails and other weird things that exist in the world, if this is all a set-up. Granted you’re a little anxious in general, but even the Buddha would have to trip out just a little in this scenario. You’re walking back and forth across the street in front of the bar where you’re meeting. All you have to show for yourself is a ‘Sorry, will be there in 2!’ text. Very few times in your life are you as vulnerable as you are here, aimlessly freaking out as the slow minutes pass until this mysterious person shows up.

Phase 2: “I should have watched The Walking Dead”
She shows up and there’s a stumble over whether to hug or shake hands. First you both go for the shake, but one of you — generally the member more invested in the meet-up — makes motion for a hug. You both giggle, say,“ha — okay,” and then hug. Pretty early on you wonder why you ever thought it would be a good idea to do this, and the idea of leaving now so you can go back to your couch and watch the second to last episode of The Walking Dead — a show you don’t even like — sounds way doper than actually seeing this play out. Why did you look at all that alone time as if it was something that needed to be changed?

Phase 3: “How can I tell her I have to go home?”
The conversations are honestly really stupid, her beauty mag idea isn’t going to work, and this could end up being a disturbing night. You think you should call it early. Find that innocent lying voice. That lying voice you used when you told your teacher you had a doctor appointment the day of the midterm. It’s only been eleven minutes and, by definition, you are still technically a stranger and if her feelings get hurt, that’s probably her own issue. Your mind scatters with courteous ways to exit the situation that won’t make you a total asshole. You’re let down to discover that there isn’t one, and you’re stuck. Then again, maybe you should just relax and try to enjoy it.

Phase 4: “She’s actually not so bad”
By coincidence or not, the fourth phase also most frequently coincides with the exact moment that a little bit of beer, gin or wine hits your lips. What were you so tense about? Look at this! Look at you being all cultured and social! You cross your legs and start to chit-chat and get in the groove of things.

Phase 5: “She’s actually kind of hot”
The booze is definitely doing the job in getting you to be more attracted to somebody you’re not actually attracted to, which is fantastic. She tells you a cute story about her dad and the weird family tradition and she’s smiling a lot. You have a sense she might revisit this story, so you make sure to remember and you don’t just nod and smile like with her other stories. Your date suddenly goes from tolerable to kind of attractive. This is on.

Phase 6: “Wait, am I getting laid?”
You guys keep drinking and you start to feel like you two have known each other for a long time. You giggle and wow, what a fabulous person! You’ve established some rapport with the bartender by now — whose from Montana and came out here “bout, oh, seven years ago” — and the inside joke you and your date have been using is really creating some touchy feely vibes. The inside joke generally comes from something very miniscule, like if they have an emoji of a pizza in their Tinder page. You leave the bar and she exaggerates the cold weather and rests her head into your shoulder and you tell yourself: aight boy, time to lace ’em up.

Phase 7: “Everything is cool.”
You exit the bar and walk the dark streets, making her laugh with corny jokes. Some would say this is probably the moment where the man can do no wrong. The balance is slightly in your favor. If she didn’t want to be there, she would have left by now. Right here, half-drunk, walking together, most things you say will elicit either laughter or more feely vibes. Both are good. You keep walking for a little but then, I think, at that moment, the girl goes on this train of thought which I won’t try to put into fancy language so much as to say: ‘this walk thing sounds nice in theory but it is really cold and I do have work tomorrow so are we hooking up’? If executed half decently, it leads to the following phase:

Phase 8: “Our make-out is on cue”
The make-out. There’s one truth amongst them: if you’re making out is “on cue,” as in, lips hitting in the right places, tongues on the same page, you’re going to have some fun together. Kissing is expressive. If your style is divergent, though — your lips opening at the wrong times, weird biting of the tongues — that’s a sign that you’re definitely not the right fit.

Phase 9. “Where you are going?
Here, you just play it out, mention how close your apartment is, bring up some “night is young” type of stuff and pontificate about how life rewards you when you go with the flow of things. You get in the uber and this poor uber guy has no idea what the F he’s getting in for. In your first few kisses with somebody you’re the most excited, and the same goes for them, so when that’s all going on and you’re in the back seat of a Prius with an Indian driver named Saed, you’re not going to restrain yourself. She pulls your shirt in and you feel her skin through the holes in her torn jeans. And here is where the what have you. You’ve got a hit, you’re there, but you’re running the bases. It always varies – sometimes you have someone who’s immediately down and other times you have girls who start telling you about their problem with how their dad always criticized them growing up before she’ll let you fondle her leg. In other words, sometimes you can get straight to it, but other times you have to listen to stories about their pet cat.

Phase 10: “Let’s do this again?”
When you’re going home or she’s going home, someone eventually asks the follow up. It’s supposed to be a big deal, but it’s actually not, because either way, nobody knows how to say no to someone’s face. You split. During the exitlude, you think many things. Was she nice? Did you like the way her tongue felt against yours? Were the awkward silences not too bad? Should you get sushi? Was your last Instagram a dumb idea?

The actual answer to that question of whether she wants to see you again comes later, when you ask her to dinner instead of just drinks. If she’s ‘super busy this week with work 🙁 ’ she meant no, but if you get a ‘sounds good 🙂’ things are on point. If you make plans, and then the day of, something with a work holiday came up at the last second and got postponed to conflict with the time you were getting dinner, and ‘I’ll let you know when I can go again :)’ the escapade is over. However, all doubts aside – If she is there on time, dressed nicely, waiting for you to pick her up, and she gets into your front seat looking just how you remember her from that night of blur, you will realise this whole modern dating thing isn’t so bad.