Romance is in the air, but not for everyone. This next guest writer addresses prevalent issues of ghosting and dating in Nashville. This guest writer goes by the pseudonym The Moth. I hope you enjoy The Moth's account of Nashville's dating life. Welcome to Urban Threads, The Moth!
"Cupid, You Missed Me!" by The Moth
It’s already 4:30 in the afternoon. I’m at an East Nashville coffee shop on a gray day, sitting in front of a gray wall. Hung above my head are two 3’ x 4’ paintings, “Joy” and “Transition.” The “Love” painting, gray lines filled with almost legible cursive, chills next to the arrow indicating the restroom. I’m pleased. Such surroundings facilitate my contemplation of the romantic atmosphere in this town.
Where to begin? Should it be the crap Tinder and Bumble apps for drive-thru chicken nugget relationships? Should it be the South, the country of child marriages? Thanks to the “true love waits” movement, the dating pool gets drained for singles over 25. That’s too long to “wait” when you’re burning with lust. Should it be ghosting? Should it be how lame so many dates are? Over this past summer alone I had a date fall asleep and then cancel just before our first meeting. Dating in Nashville is terrible.
Arguably it sucks in all major cities, but I can only speak for myself and close friends’ testimonies in a town that shouldn’t be so disappointing. Nevertheless, all of my single friends living here complain.
One of my friends, who moved to Nashville from New York a few years ago, admitted to me that she thought most of the men here were gay for the first year or so. I wonder if this has less to do with mustaches and art house tattoos and more to do with a generation addicted to video games. I can attest that most of my male acquaintances-gay, straight, 20, middle age, minimum wage, six figure income, homegrown, travelled, cultured, and more-indulge in this escape. I’ll admit I feel a twinge of nostalgia when I hear the theme music from Donkey Kong but as an adult with limited free time, I appreciate the opportunity costs of gaming.
For a town of poets, the young men could sure use some practice charming the ladies. The two pervading species you’ll encounter in Nashville are the Spoon Feeders and the Narcissists, who shine brightest when pontificating about inner spiritual-artistic wars. I feel the burden of responsibility 70% of the time among Spoon Feeders to keep things interesting, cursing feminism as I feed little bits of tinder (now you know the inspiration for the app) to keep the fire burning through the night. It makes me feel like a mother, a butler and a girlfriend rolled into one. It’s one thing for a guy to take things slowly but another to discard his libido because he’s lazy.
Now the Narcissists, equally as inept, have only mastered talking about themselves. A couple of Sundays ago I got off an eight-hour shift and was looking forward to 3 Crowing with a gang of friends. Two had to scurry off and the other couple had a function down the road. “Don’t move,” Josh instructed, gesturing to me two companions who would keep me company until they returned. For the next two hours I wearily listened to one of them blathering and despising the other for checking out and disengaging from his friend whose monologues he knew all too well. Over beers and later cigars a few blocks away, he mused about privileged dilemmas, albeit rather innocently like Pooh Bear ambling about the Hundred Acre Forest with a paw in his honey jar. I cannot remember all he talked about, mainly it was just one long consideration about tour gigs that pay the bills and ones that pay the soul its satisfaction. Half way through his cigar the other fellow, eyes turned to slits from stupor, got up and plopped down on another sofa. There’s a difference between a man who leans back scheming his next move and a man who sidelines himself, crippled by impotence. I once asked my brother in law why guys are so lame. He pondered for a moment and shrugged. “I guess they just don’t know what they want.”
Nashville is deceiving because in may ways it’s an ideal town. It has the amenities of a big city but the community of a small town people crave. There are hundreds of restaurants, a rainbow spectrum of coffee shops and a smattering of novelty shops. Despite of people pouring in from the East and West coasts, it still possesses southern hospitality and gentility. I find Centennial Park has more romance than Central Park, and the number of songwriters and poets living here can thrill a girl. Sooner or later she’ll likely have her own song, even if it never plays outside of a house party.
One of my best friends moved here from Florida to be with someone she met on Match. He was a real catch- an Ivy-league graduate, wholesome and handsome as Paul Newman, totally smitten. He paid for her flights, greeted her at the airport with banners and gave her a necklace from a far away land. He knew a good thing when he saw it and had enough sense not to let a mermaid slip by. Or kind of. It really would’ve made more sense if she, a nurse with flexibility, would’ve swam up to Tennessee because the long distance thing was too hard. As soon as she unpacked he began to distance himself from her. He would black out emotionally, leaving her to fret over a cold fish she thought weeks earlier she would marry. They broke it off. He pleaded to try again. They got together again and over the next few months, I listened to my friend go to battle with herself. Leaning on the doorway, stoic on the living room couch, or sitting back against the wall, she reviewed all possible explanations for poor communication, why he couldn’t kiss her anymore and why he drifted away every time they attended their couples counseling. A man who PMSed. A man who didn’t know what he wanted.
I asked her if she had a five-year-old son what would she do to break this cycle of men leaning into something they’re not ready for.
“I would teach him it’s ok to feel […] that he doesn’t have to ‘be a man’ all the time. Overall,” she continued, “I think the key is to teach them to explore and know themselves before trying to do the same with women. How can they truly enjoy someone when they don’t know themselves? How can they treat someone with respect if they aren’t aware of what makes them upset or how to express themselves when they are upset?”
Take my other good friend, an adventurous girl with the sweetest southern accent you’ve ever heard,“If I had to sum up dating in Nashville with one word, it would be immature. Dating here is just a phase for curing loneliness.”
One of the first things she noticed when she moved here four years ago was how Christian the scene was. Girls felt they had to throw themselves at hot young men who were all too aware of their own appeal. These worship leaders were as impressed with their sense of style as their insights into culture and their heart for God’s kingdom as they humbly ate up the abundance of attention they received from admiring girls hot for substance. Although a person of faith herself, my friend found that most social gatherings outside of church ended up looking “a lot like high school… a crowd of very attractive and popular young people doing swing dance on Fridays, trivia on Tuesdays and 90’s themed parties at someone’s house.” She observed that the cool hipster indie vibe was a mask because people are afraid to be vulnerable here. They’re afraid to be discovered as ordinary underneath the pretense. Back in Atlanta she felt like she was a priority and taken more seriously by the men she dated. Men who weren’t homebodies that preferred to have wine nights at home.
Nashville’s approach to dating is unsustainable. Most people are not interested in dating to meet a partner. Most people are on apps to goof around or explore the city for a few weeks with a fresh face. When she first moved to Nashville she got on Tinder and went out on dates three nights a week so that she wouldn’t have to play the tourist alone.
“Those first weeks were actually the most fun I had in Nashville. I later realized that’s because dating in Nashville isn’t supposed to be taken seriously,” she said.
When your city teems with people in transition, who have laser-focused goals not yet accomplished, you get a lot of insecure individuals compelled to validate themselves. Girlfriends end up being an accessory only as long as they fit in with their boyfriend’s agenda. When presented with a choice between a potential life partner or musical aspirations, the music typically wins.
The other day I was idling through Thomas Friedman’s book Thank You For Being Late. In the last chapter (cause that’s the first thing I do with big books) Friedman asked Surgeon General Vivek Murthy what’s the biggest disease in America. I’ll add Nashville to the mix.
“Without hesitation he answered, ‘It’s not cancer. It’s not heart disease. It’s isolation. It is the pronounced isolation that so many people are experiencing that is the great pathology of our lives today,” (Friedman 450).
Isolation is a very curable disease, but one that requires effort. You have to get off the comfy couch and engage with personalities that you can’t swipe left or right. You have to dare to be seen as a talented, but ordinary, person with limited genius and a handful of personal disappointments. Most importantly, you have to drop the terrible myth that you are obligated to manifest your best destiny, even if that means you’ll only be worthy after you’ve accomplished your dreams. Otherwise five or 20 years down the line, you will wake up one day with a pounding sense of waste and regret for missing out on real connections.
--Written by The Moth--
*The Moth is a pseudonym for an opinionated ghostwriter that wants to bring underground issues in Nashville to the forefront. Topics may vary with each post but will surely strike a cord with many Nashvillians who share similar experiences. Keep a watch for the next time The Moth decides to make an appearance on Urban Threads.*
What are your thoughts about Nashville's dating life? Have you had bizarre dates? Did someone "ghost" on you? Share your experiences in the comments below or on Urban Threads' social media pages! Be sure to share this post with others as they may have an opinion or two! As always follow Urban Threads on social media for more. Links below!
Friedman, Thomas L. (2016). Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. New York, NY. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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