Oddities in Online Dating #001: The Status of My Biological Clock

If you know me or even just follow me on social media, you know that I have an online dating cycle. About twice a year I will get on a dating app, sometimes for shits and giggles and sometimes because I am oddly hopeful that I’ll find something real in the digital world. I have also come to realize that part of my cycle is that I am a storyteller and sometimes I have slow news days and my time on dating apps gives me content (not to be confused with makes me content because it does not do that). Given all of this, I decided to actually document my experience in a lasting way. I am also doing this because I need to write and as a PhD student edging toward writing her dissertation, I need to write something low stakes that keeps my pen sharp in another way. So this is it, my low stakes writing environment about my experience in online dating. And now time for log #001:

The Status of my Biological Clock

I’ve discovered that there are several perfunctory questions asked during the first few text exchanges in dating apps:

How are you?

What do you do?

How long have you been on here?

How long have you lived in (enter city here)?

What are you doing right now?

Do you want kids?

That last question is the focus of today’s post. It’s a question that, for a woman who waffles about her desire to have children, is the last question that I want to answer. It strikes fear in my heart and I didn’t know it until recently when I was chatting with a young man on Tinder.

In a line of similar questions he asked me if I wanted children. I paused–obviously he doesn’t know this because we are separated by the space and time continuum. How am I going to answer this? Admittedly there have been times, if the guy is particularly attractive, that I might fudge this question a bit and err on the side of wanting children because I don’t want my waffling to preclude me from getting invited to still be in the running to be America’s Next Top Potential Date. But after I took a beat I decided to be honest and share where I am on the matter. 

Aside from the fact that his response left much to be desired–and the fact that it took an hour for him to respond which felt like an eternity because I thought I had just disqualified myself for having ambivalent desires–I started to think deeply about this question.

All of a sudden this question felt loaded because it felt like it implies that I have to choose between the potential for partnership and nothing at all. (I mean, isn’t that what undergirds this question? If I say no to a man who wants children it’s, “Well it was nice meet you. Goodbye.” If I say yes I can pass go and collect my $200 date–just kidding, I don’t think dates should cost that much.) Nevertheless, though there are more fish in the sea–Plenty of Fish–and there are men out there who probably share my ambivalence on the matter, it struck me that this question puts me in a corner I’d rather not be in. The corner where the women who are ambivalent, don’t want children, or are barren are placed and sometimes judged for not wanting children. These same women are sometimes–and maybe even often–discounted as potential  partners because their partner’s desire for a child outweighs their love–or possibility of–for the person who doesn’t want a child. And don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that anyone should stay with a person who doesn’t want a child out of love–although I may want to problematize that. I am also aware that at 37, there is a little more urgency in asking that question as people’s knowledge of the biological clock and disinterest in geriatric pregnancy is at hand. Yet I couldn’t help but feel cornered about my position and wonder how many times I will end up not being disqualified because I don’t have a clear answer about wanting children. Hell, even as I write this I wonder about how many opportunities are now being foreclosed because I showed my hand.

I know I have more control of this than I am articulating. I also know that not every man I meet online is going to ask or be concerned about this question–especially not this early. But today the question gave me pause and made me want to think about the fear it put in my heart. So now I know what it is, and you know what it is, and every guy who may have been interested knows what it is and can now wonder no more that Nicole is a bit ambivalent about wanting children. Neither passionately for or adamantly against it, she situates herself in a kind of gray space about children while still holding a torch for the love who might change her mind either way.

PS: I meant for this post to be much funnier (or funny, period), better luck next time.