COLUMN: Tinder dates need to learn that casual is not disposable

My housemate Amanda came home from her first date with Austin, a physician’s assistant she met on Tinder, with a crazy story to tell. He’d been weird the whole night, she said. Dinner was awkward. He was goofy — and not in the way she was looking for. He would chuckle like a cartoon character.

But Amanda continued to give the date a shot and went up to Griffith Observatory with him. Soon, the magic bloomed as they swirled into the sky under the planetarium dome. Just kidding. He stood next to her in line at the telescope awkwardly half-turned away from her. They didn’t even brush arms. The conversation lulled. Austin drove her home.

That’s when the craziest thing happened. Austin gave Amanda the best kiss of her life. Soon, she and Austin were seeing each other once a week. They had fantastic sex. He cooked her dinner. Amanda blushed as she told me, “I really like him.”

It’s everything I wanted for my friend. She told me about their conversations and how she no longer felt the weird energy he put off on their first date. “I think he was just nervous,” she said, giggling to me about it as we sat on her bed.

\Amanda is about to graduate, and because she’s at such a transitional point in her life, she doesn’t know if she wants to pursue a relationship. But she wanted to see where things went with Austin, who treated her kindly and made her laugh.

This is the first time I’ve written about a friend for this column. Unfortunately, I’m not writing this as a case study of what it’s like to fall in love, nor is this going to be a Tinder nightmare that I want to regale you with.

Amanda’s story is gruesomely typical. It’s completely honest. It happened to her this weekend, and I felt it as it unfolded because it’s something I feel has happened to me countless times.

Austin disappeared after he cooked Amanda dinner. Whatever they had ended over text the following Saturday. His work hours were crazy, he said. He left it at that. What I think often gets missed is that although this isn’t technically ghosting, a half-excuse shouldn’t get someone off the hook. We want and deserve answers.

Amanda, like a lot of girls I know, is smart enough to understand what a vague text means. But Amanda, like a lot of other girls I know, would also be strong enough to handle it if a boy had just said to her that he didn’t want to see her any more. It’s as if men think they’re breaking our hearts after three dates if they explicitly state that they don’t want to see us anymore. Instead, they’re hurting amazing women like Amanda by letting things slide away.

Luckily, Amanda wouldn’t let things slide. So she reached out to Austin. After a short conversation, she said this: “If you’d like to see me again, tell me. If you don’t, tell me.” Also — props to Amanda — she admitted that he’d hurt her. There’s no reason not to tell someone they behaved badly if it affected you. Unfortunately, however, Austin only read what he wanted to read.

It’s as if this gangly Hollywood physician’s assistant with the cartoon laugh read the word “hurt” and automatically assumed she was in love with him. His response was a paragraph explaining how he didn’t want to be in a relationship (although Amanda had mentioned this nowhere in her text). Austin used work as an excuse again, and then said “I’m sorry if you felt differently about this.” A well-crafted apology generally doesn’t lay the blame on the other party.

Amanda didn’t, but a lot of my friends end text conversations like these with “next time” as if to teach the boys they’re seeing some dating etiquette, or inside tips on how not to hurt a girl’s feelings. In this column, I’d like to have a different approach. I’d like to provide some tips for “this time” for those who wish to date casually, particularly online.

First, do not disappear on someone who you’ve spent more than one date with. Casual does not mean disposable. When you meet someone on Tinder, they do not stay in Internet limbo forever. If you stop texting her, she will not disappear.

Second, you know what they say about assumptions. You do not know what someone is looking for in a relationship unless you have an open conversation about it. This is preferably done in person.

Third, give honest answers. You — I hope — would do this in almost any other aspect of your life. No matter how casual the sex is, or how many or few people you are seeing, each individual deserves at least that much of your energy.

Emma Andrews is a senior majoring in international relations. Her column, “Before & After,” runs Fridays.