I don’t know how to date. No one taught me unless you count watching the entire Sex and the City. My parents are from a culture where you don’t really get to know your future spouse until the deposit for the wedding has been paid.
Early last year I was talking with a friend, she was telling me about this dating app for celebrities only. She couldn’t remember the name. “Raya?” I suggested. How do you know about it she countered. I’ve been on it a while.
How did YOU get on it?
Rude, but the subtext that I’m nobody, which I am. So is she, and maybe you are too. Unfortunately for her, I am a very well-connected nobody. The same nobody who was going to give her my “Friend Pass.” It was hers until she wounded my delicate ego. I got my Friend Pass from a navel-gazing actress acquaintance. She swore the app off, after having a fling fizzle out spectacularly. He took her on an island vacation after love-bombing her for weeks. Only to ghost her and elope with another woman less than 2 months later.
I’ve tried several dating apps in the last five years. I was on Tinder early, as a friend in the startup world briefly worked there. Bumble came onto the scene when I was in a long-term live-in relationship that would end with me dismantling and hiding a gun.
With some internet friends, I joined The League. They had us on a waiting list of ten thousand plus. The app’s waiting chat room housed the hollow cries people who were told their Ivy League degrees were enough.
Raya expects you to have a well-curated Instagram account, creative or moneyed life, and career. There are two options for being on Raya – you can be open to a relationship or marked “only here for friends.” An alternative for those in a romantic relationship but interested in collaborating creatively, whatever that means. I guess it’s plausible deniability for being on the app as a married man. Although to be fair, there were a fair number of people looking for someone to platonically give them their big break.
An important feature is Raya is that you can’t screenshot. I had heard about it but didn’t confirm until I came across a talk show host that my mom adores. I took a screenshot without thinking like I was on Tinder, and I saw a guy posing with a tiger.
As I went through the “friends” section, I would see some of my 90s crushes on the app. Some washed up, some still thriving. I swipe right for all of them. Most of the men I saw on the app that were notable were married. I’m sure we could give a bunch of them the benefit of the doubt that they were signed up by one of the app’s celebrity investors to provide it cache. Some might not even know how to use it. But some of them definitely know what they’re doing.
Unlike old Tinder, you can’t swipe on everyone until you find your future ex. You’re served anywhere from 8-15 people each time you open the app. If you’re not in a city with a large population of users like Los Angeles or New York, then you’ll cycle through all the potential people in your area within a few weeks.
The women I saw on the app seemed to be 21-32 years old. The men looked to be older overall, but that may be because I’m 37 and were getting served with other olds. Although once in a while, there was a glitch, and I would get served the same 21 DJ brah from Amsterdam. Careers varied from Instagram influencers to startup founders. A good helping of the hottest people in their hometown and reality show cast members. Then there were the bonafide A-listers. It took me a while to find them, but they were there. It was like a game you had to level up in. You have to talk to one YouTuber, three “founders,” and 2 Instagram models before you get to speak to that sitcom star from the 90s. You have to have a foreign sports star tell you you’re cute over and over without furthering the conversation. You google him, find out he’s married, and already embroiled in a cheating scandal in the tabloids. Block. I don’t want to get murdered by a WAG, I want them on my social media accusing each other of sabotage.
I talk to another international sports star, this one is unmarried and long retired. He seemed like a sweetie. I wasn’t sure if he knew how to use the app. He mostly writes, “hi,” tells me I’m pretty and asks about my day. Repeat a few times over a week.
If you’re a nobody like me, with low self-esteem but stoned delusions of grandeur, the app is a perfect ego boost. When I was twenty, I was an assistant at a financial magazine in London. I worked with a few other people from the States, including a Dana, girl a few years older than me, who recently graduated college on the East Coast. She had a boyfriend who had graduated from law school and bought a home for them to live in. She wasn’t ready, she came to London to sow her wild oats before getting engaged. Her boyfriend was ok with it as long as she didn’t get into a serious relationship and came back home to the US. She was enjoying London, dating men, and women. Exploring her sexuality in a pre-social media world where anything couldn’t get back to her real life.
I was recounting the trouble I was having with two men. One of whom I was interested in and the other who was involved in me. Play with both of them, Dana ordered me. Use them as ego boosts.
The guy I was interested in ended up breaking up with me after 3 dates because he said if we went any further, it would turn into a serious relationship. He didn’t have time for one of those. The other guy, Chris, I would go out with twice after he begged me to give him a chance. At the end of our first date, he told me casually that everyone in his family does drugs on the regular. His mom does speed to lose weight; his dad, uncle, and gran did a few lines each weekend.
Imagine blowing lines with your grandmother. No one in my family even drinks alcohol and RIP my beloved Nana never had a cup of coffee.
He told me that a lot of people I worked with “partied” too. Like my boss and some of my colleagues. They would come over to party and once they had a giant table full of coke like Scarface. Imagining these anemic nerds cosplaying Pacino in Topshop jeans on a Sunday morning, was almost too much for me to bear. You don’t believe me, he goaded me. Next time your boss, Katie, walks to the bathroom – go at the same time as her. She doing a bump!
Our second date, Chris, left me alone in his North London flat to run an errand. I assume racking up lines on his grandfather’s headstone? Before he left, he told me to make myself at home – but under no circumstances should I open this closet in his living room. I said, sure. He looked paranoid enough that I could get a contact high. As soon as he left, and I could see his motorcycle in the distance. I headed right to that closet.
I opened the closet pensively. What is Chris paranoid about? Should I leave? Why is he always sweating? Does coke make you sweat?
I opened the door to find three giant blocks wrapped in plastic. They were stacked like those alphabet blocks kids have. If those blocks were two cubic feet made of blow. Like nesting dolls of plastic and powder bound with tape.
I closed the door. Made a cup of tea. Sat on the sofa and read my book. Chris arrived back in an hour as he said. He was even more sweaty than before. He kept looking me in the eye. Is everything good? Yep. Was this some sort of test? We made out, and I felt less than nothing. I wasn’t attracted THAT attracted to him. He had persuaded me to date him, and I was a big dummy that was susceptible to marketing.
I took the tube home, I didn’t want to be around him. I wasn’t into him. He was chaotic and not in the proper way. I was on a working holiday visa, I wanted to have fun – not get stuck with this weirdo.
I would then use the excuse that many men would use on men in the future – is that I wasn’t looking for anything serious. He was annoyed. He cried. He mean-mugged me at work. I followed my boss into the bathroom soon after he advised me to. Sure enough, many of my coworker’s bathroom trips were to take in some mid-day bumps after tea. All supplied by Chris.
Chris got over me soon enough. One day, after I had gone to lunch with Dana. I get an instant message from Chris asking me to meet him at the second local pub after work. That’s the pub you go to when you don’t want your coworkers to see you at the true local we went to every Thursday and Friday.
I heard you went to lunch with Dana, Chris approached me confrontationally.
Yeah, we’re friends at work. We sit near each other.
I’m interested in her. Don’t tell her there was anything between us, or I’ll get rid of you.
Rid of me? Like get me fired or really get rid of me?
Chris looked like he was going to hiss at me.
For some stupid reason, I called this nuts bluff.
I’ll put your whole family in jail.
Yeah, I wasn’t going to call the bobbies on anyone. I just really wanted to be out of his eye-line forever.
The rest of my time in London, I learned how to drink. Took a train the North to watch a regatta. I went to Spain and Portugal on bank holidays. Dated a Kiwi who was like a broke Patrick Bateman. I left my short life in London a few months later to backpack around Europe for three months. I heard a few years later that Dana and Chris got together. She got hooked on blow and broke up with her fiancé. She broke their open relationship deal within 3 months of arriving in London. He wanted to forgive her and move on. She declined, she loved Chris and cocaine.
After the MeToo movement, there was a sharp decrease in the celebs in the app. I assume some were trying to lay low instead of messaging a 21-year-old model from Instagram.
I heard an anecdote a year or two ago, about a formerly A-list now-classic eighties actor who was active on many dating apps, including Raya. He’s one of those guys that it becomes apparent he has a type. He moved his dating app chats to a standalone chatting app. While trying to send a message to the women to tell them he was taking a break from being online – he accidentally sends a giant group chat. Then all the women began chatting. He exited the conversation as soon as he realized what he had done, so about 1 minute later. As the women found out they had a lot in common, they all lived in different cities: London, New York, Los Angeles. Some of the women ended up getting together for drinks, and legend has it; they still have a group chat going and have become good friends. I love that for them.
Due to the low volume of people on the app and the fact that I’m a Capricorn. I cycled through everyone pretty quickly.
I would end up talking to a comedian I admired and a director whose work I was familiar with. They were both single. I checked independently and did a quick skim of their Instagram tagged photos.
It was never a good time for the comedian and I. We talked on and off for a few months, but both were in chaotic depressive times in our lives and never could meet up. I felt like the fact that I wasn’t in “the biz,” I wasn’t attractive to him. I was just a nobody on the fringes.
After caretaking for my mom while she had her jaw wired shut for two months, I moved to the most eastern part of Los Angeles County to get away from myself. I loved my loft. It had central air and heating. I had to buy a microwave for the first time in a decade. Much like Sonja Morgan, I am a wizard with a toaster oven.
I got back on Raya, I matched with a director that wasn’t well known, but his work was in a particular niche I enjoyed. We exchanged a few intro questions, and then he asked for my phone number. After playing phone tag for a few days, we finally got on the phone together. I googled him to make sure he was divorced like he said he was. He had two kids. He complimented me on my art and then asked me where I lived. I told him my temporary living situation, but that I owned a home in a sleepy beach suburb in LA County.
Him: Oh, that’s so cool. I love the beach, I’ve always wanted to live there.
Me: Yeah, it’s beautiful. I miss it.
Him: What’s your place like? Is it close to the water? Ocean views? I’ve wanted to live at the beach my whole life.
Me: Yeah, it’s a block from the water. No ocean views, there’s a lot of multi-story buildings along the shoreline. Where do you live?
Him: I live in Hollywood now, I have a small house I rent, so I’m close to my kids. There’s a lot of condos in your area?
Me: Yeah, my place in a condo.
Him: Oh, wow. Condos are so small. I could never live in one. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t think I could move in with someone who didn’t live in a house.
Me: Uhh, it works for me.
Him: Well, you live really far away right now. I never even heard of the city you live in now. Maybe when you move back to the beach, we could hang out. My kids love to hang out there. Are you thinking of buying a house instead of a condo?
Me: Have you ever owned a home?
Me: Ok, well, I guess I live too far away! Take care.
We hadn’t even scheduled a first date, and this supposedly successful guy a decade older than me was casing my home. Disappointed that a woman he hadn’t yet met didn’t have a suitable dream home for him.
I downloaded Bumble. I was not an ingenue who was living in a bungalow in Santa Monica paid for by my stage mother. I set an intention to become the second wife of a French man who lives in NELA (North-East Los Angeles). This was a stupid intention because most of the French ex-pats live on the Westside, where they work for startups and shop at Erewhon.
I went on two first dates in the same week. One with a never-married schoolteacher from France and a recently separated painter from NELA. I got engaged to the painter 15 months later. I stayed on Raya until just before I got to wear my ring because “when I have no ring, I am free” and to keep being that well-connected nobody.