The Overthinker's Guide to Slipping Into Someone’s DMs

Painting with abstract depictions of two people each looking at their phones in separate rooms, separated by a giant phone screen. A wavy chain of bright red lips floating in between them, connecting them.
Painting by Yemisi Aribisala

by Yemisi Aribisala

The things left unsaid are a minefield. From the heedless barking up wrong trees growing from the fantasist’s substratum, to the presumption that refuseniks like me, horrified at being mistaken for someone I am not online, are decrepit. I’ll explain fulsomely.

A friend asked me on a Friday night what I was doing at the weekend.

I said I was going to church for a vigil and had nothing else lined up.

“What the hell are you doing that for!” he said.

Not that it was any of his business. I laughed and told him I needed to pray. He couldn’t mask his disgust and I wondered why he was so invested in whether I prayed or partied. Who didn’t need to pray, in the present climate of asphyxiating bad news at every turn. The friend was sure that my choice of prayers on a Friday night had nothing to do with living in a burning world that needed spiritual intervention. Saner, swankier people were hitting nightclubs and medicating with fun. It was surely due to a lack of options on my part. He believed I was too proud to admit that I couldn’t get a date. The solution was to be both honest and proactive and slip into someone’s DM with lipstick on—his exact words not mine. I had no energy to argue with him. So what if that were the truth and I couldn’t get a date? When and how did that signify second-rateness in this life. Wasn’t the advantage of being middle-aged the tranquillising realisation that one could be at peace with or without this dating nonsense. It was in fact so much nonsense… I had spent many hours detoxing my daughters from the “dating = self-worth” mindset underlining in 6b pencil for them, the possibility that lipstick, the recommended gizmo for slipping into DMs, is metaphor for labia majora, and should therefore be worn, especially by black women, with a great deal of common sense.

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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