Relationships

Chatroulette for Chickenshits

Six weeks in, the men of Feeld have some explaining to do.

A woman picks petals off a flower.
Illustration by Rey Velasquez Sagcal

Feeld Notes is a column about a middle-aged woman who suddenly realizes she wants to have sex again—and the beguiling app she uses to do it. 

Men are disappearing on me all the time on this fucking app. Within the first six weeks of my time on Feeld, I’d had some fun, but I’d also been flaked on or ghosted no fewer than six times. There was one guy, Mike, a short, brown-haired 33-year-old writer who described himself as a “dom” and promised to show me the ropes around domination and submission (no pun intended). I spent a few steamy nights chatting with him on WhatsApp, then made a plan to meet up with him on a Friday night. We had a time and a place and everything, but then, an hour before he was set to arrive, I got a message from him saying that he couldn’t wrest himself away from a work drinks thing and that he’d get back to me later that evening. I never heard from him again.

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A few weeks later, there was another guy, also named Mike, with whom I had a great phone conversation and then a fun date that ended up in a full-on makeout session on a city sidewalk. This particular Mike, a handsome 37-year-old architect, was an engaging and open conversationalist: We talked about how and where we grew up, about our families, our failed marriages, and what we do in our free time. (He skateboards. I read books, fret about my weight, and play on Feeld.) In between kisses, Mike and I set up a date for the following evening, but then he failed to show up, claiming the next morning that he’d fallen asleep early. Mike’s excuse was not only dumb, it was a lie. I knew this because, half an hour after he was supposed to come over, I glanced at his Feeld profile and saw that he was online.

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Then there was Mark. In retrospect, I don’t know why I bothered. A thirtysomething who worked in a low-level position in film production, Mark hadn’t written anything particularly interesting in his profile, but I’d accepted his “like” because I was turned on by the idea of him: 6’4 with an allegedly 8-inch dick. (Men on Feeld often, though not always, advertise the size of their penises.) Plus, he seemed interested in the idea of meeting up in person, albeit perhaps a little too interested: On day two of our online chat, after explaining that he had a girlfriend with whom he was in an “ENM” (ethically non-monogamous relationship), he asked if he could come over to my house that very afternoon. I said no.

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[Previously in Feeld Notes: When My Lost 48-Year-Old Sex Drive Roared Back]

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Pretty soon, however, it became clear that Mark was incredibly self-obsessed and probably sexually selfish. He could keep up with me in conversation, but he never asked any questions about me, and he was always focused on what I could or might do to—or for—him. What my mouth would feel like on him, what I’d look like when he took me from behind, yadda yadda yadda. There was, to my increasing irritation, rarely any talk about what he could do for me.

Obviously, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, for whatever reason, and despite all these warning signs, part of me found Mark intriguing—the part that wanted to be thrown around on the bed by a man who stands close to 6 and a half feet tall. During my time on dating apps, I’ve discovered that I’m what some might call a size queen, though my obsession with size is as much about a man’s height as it is the size of his package.

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Anyway, a few days after we matched on Feeld, Mark and I made plans to meet at a coffee shop halfway between my apartment and his office. The morning of, we messaged back and forth to confirm … and to engage in some last-minute, anxious sexting. “Fuck, I’m nervous, but I bet I won’t be with my cock in your mouth,” he wrote at one point. I rolled my eyes into the back of my head. But I did not cancel.

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Mark told me he’d text when he was leaving work so that I wouldn’t wait around unnecessarily. Noon was zero hour. By about 11:52, when I was itching to leave, I noticed that my heart was racing. I looked at my Fitbit: It clocked me at 108 beats per minute and was only getting faster. Noon came around. No Mark. 12:10. Nothing. At 12:15, he texted me to say that he’d gotten “caught up” in some stuff and that he had to wait until his boss came back before he could leave.

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“Are you flaking on me?” I asked. In my best Cool Girl impression, I added a winky-face emoji to appear amused instead of irritated.

“I don’t want to haha,” he responded.

I hated the “haha.”

I pressed him: “You don’t want to flake or you don’t want to meet up?”

“I don’t want to flake.”

I told Mark I was leaving that coming Monday for a week and that today was the only day I was free. And then, because I knew a certain moment and momentum was passing us by, I told him to have a good day.

“Can I keep you posted?” he responded. “Might be able to happen just a little later.”

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My heartbeat was at 74 bpm now. I took off my shoes and halfheartedly waited for an update. I didn’t hear from him again.

Until … I did. About three weeks later, Mark resurfaced in my iMessages, apologetic.

“I’m really sorry I flaked,” he texted. “I got nervous.”

“You also wasted my time,” I said. Mark begged me to forgive him, saying he’d make it up to me. How exactly he might do this he didn’t say. And I didn’t ask. “Please let me take you out. Give me another chance.”

That other chance—fool me once, fool me twice, etc.—was set for the following week. We again planned to meet for coffee: same time (noon), same place. The day before our meeting, Mark texted me, unprompted, to announce that he’d recently met up with a married, heterosexual couple who wanted him to fuck the wife while the husband watched. So much for nervousness.

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“Was your girlfriend okay with this?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, not entirely convincingly.

“How did you like it?”

“It was sort of hot.”

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The day of our date, I texted Mark to check in.

“Are you nervous today?” I asked.

“No.”

“Good.”

At 11:50 I made my way toward the cafe. The weather was still warm enough for me to sit outside, so I found a table, opened my book, and checked my heart rate: 85 bpm.

12:10: Nothing.

12:15: Still nothing.

At 12:20, I picked up my phone and texted Mark. “Where are you?”

While I waited for a response, I remembered a guy in sunglasses who’d walked by me about 15 minutes earlier. He’d looked to be about the right age and height, and he wore a baseball cap with a flattened brim, not unlike those in some of Mark’s profile pictures. But he’d glanced my way, then kept on going.

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I began to get a sinking feeling, which is when I looked down at my phone, and noticed that my text to Mark wasn’t going through: There was no message confirming its delivery. Apparently, baseball hat or no, he’d decided to not just ghost me but preemptively block me.

I wish I could say that Mark’s last-minute ghosting didn’t bother me, but it did. Sure, he was an immature idiot, but the idea that he had walked by in “disguise,” taken one look at me, and then decided “Thanks, but no thanks” stung me in all sorts of surprising ways. So did the rejections of Mike 1 and Mike 2. And any other number of guys I’d interacted with.

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I felt shitty about myself. And that self-loathing was compounded by shame for my having succumbed to feelings of failure in the first place. Jesus Christ, I thought: Haven’t modern women been taught that our worth is not predicated on our sexual desirability and availability to men? What was I getting all worked up about? Also: Wasn’t all this supposed to be fun?

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A few days later, on a walk with a friend, Jane, I caught her up on the latest developments. Online dating, especially on an app like Feeld, might be a young person’s game, I told her; I am too old for this ghosting shit. I figured I’d have to develop a thicker skin and zero expectations. Or else get off the app entirely.

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“Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But maybe it’s not about you.”

She pulled out her phone and played with it for a bit before handing it to me, chuckling: “Look.”

On the screen was an image from the TikTok account of an attractive young blonde, frowning, her finger pointed at her smartphone camera emphatically and somewhat accusingly. Her finger pointed downward at a grouping of words layered over the photo: “Feeld is Chat Roulette for cishet dudes that want to talk dirty but are too afraid to meet IRL.”

I took a beat and read it again, taking it all in.

Hot Take

 Feeld

 Is Chat Roulette

 For cishet dudes

that want to talk 

dirty but are too

afraid to meet IRL

In other words, Chatroulette for chickenshits. I felt seen, heard, understood. I handed the phone back to Jane. “Send it to me? I’m going to make this my new profile picture.”

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