The first time I downloaded Tinder, it was just out of curiosity, to see what all the hype was about. At the time, it seemed like everyone who was single was using it. I myself was recently single too, but I was quite committed to staying single for a while. I’d spent a long time being a serial monogamist, and I was really enjoying just doing me.
I downloaded the app and created my profile by simply selecting the five pictures I thought I looked best in. I debated adding a witty comment to my biography section, but I couldn’t do it. I just left it blank. It was too much pressure to try to be funny for strangers. Nobody was on Tinder to read, anyway. Plus, I found those witty biography comments somewhat obnoxious.
I set my search range close, very close to me. I wasn’t really interested in seeing complete strangers, I was more just snooping around to see who I knew using it. Everyone was using it. It was weird. Kind of nice, actually. Basically, everyone I went to high school with, or knew of in Bridgewood that was single was using Tinder. (And one guy who’d already gotten married, but we suspected was in the middle of a divorce.) I liked being a part of this single world.
I spent some weeks fooling around with the app. I would meticulously swipe left, rejecting men’s pictures for the most ridiculous reasons. Too short. Too tall. Too nerdy. Too eccentric. Hair too long. No hair. They were all swipe, swipe, swiped away, off my screen and my life forever. Spurning had never been so easy or guilt free. Very rarely, I would swipe right and revel in the confidence boost that someone who I found attractive also found me attractive. But even then, I never talked to my matches. I didn’t want to. That’s not what I was there for. I was using it more as an observational study than a legitimate way to meet someone. I didn’t want to meet someone. Eventually I got bored and deleted the app.
Fast forward, to almost a year later, and two of my closest friends had gotten into long term relationships within a few weeks of each other. They had both gotten together with people they’d met through Tinder! Even my exboyfriend, who’d I’d been great friends with after we’d broken up had dropped me like a smartphone following a decree from his new Tinder girlfriend. Now I was single with no single friends. While I’d been using Tinder as a game, they had all been using it the way it was intended to be used.
Being single can be a celebration of self-love and adventure and freedom, or it can be a reminder of self-doubt and boredom and loneliness. During my bout of singlehood, I experienced both scenarios. First, I had a blast, but eventually I realized I wanted someone to go to festivals with. To randomly go on road trips with. To watch my favourite TV shows with. All the things I did with my friends, but an ultimate partner, who I had unlimited access to. And to have sex with too, of course. I missed that. That intimate companionship you can’t get from friends.
So, one afternoon, I found myself alone at home as usual. I was lying on the couch watching Judge Judy with nowhere to go, longing from some excitement in my life. I decided then to redownload that Tinder app. I was actually considering meeting someone on it this time. Maybe even go on a date! In that past year, I had had a few interesting encounters with various kinds of men, and I was feeling a bit more confident. More daring. More open to new experiences. Kind of. Old habits die hard.
I updated my Tinder pics and started swiping. I was pickier than ever about swiping right now. That was the point of the app, to be vain. To handpick exactly the kind of partner I wanted, without having to settle for anything else. I spent hours that night swiping people away precipitately, until one guy caught my eye. His name was Niall, and he had thick red hair to match his thick red beard. He was tall, and kind of handsome, in a nontraditional way. But it wasn’t his appearance that caught my eye.
I was that person on Tinder, reading people’s biographies. It was hypocritical, I know, considering I refused to write my own, but I could not in good conscience swipe right for a guy who didn’t know how to write. Or who had bad spelling. Or bad grammar. Those guys were all swipe, swipe, swiped away instantly, regardless of how chiseled their jawline may have been. It was important to me.
Niall’s bio read, “I’m a writer, who tutors ESL on the side.”
I looked around suspiciously to see if someone was pranking me. My self-consumed self was all over it. He was the reverse of me. I had to talk to him. I had to tell him.
I swiped right. To my delight, the screen flashed black and a celebratory screen popped up, informing me that we were a match! He’d already seen my picture and decided I was pretty. Sweet. For the first and only time in my Tinder life, I messaged him first.
“Bet you can’t guess what my job and favourite hobby are,” I challenged him.
He replied fairly quickly, but not too quick that it seemed desperate. These things all matter in the Tinder world. He guessed, “lion tamer and fly fishing?”
My heart fluttered. He was being clever, not random. My first profile picture was me holding my cat Burnsy, and the next was of me from behind, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on a rock in Bahamas. So, they were both ridiculous but good guesses all at the same time.
“Close.” I texted with a smile on my face, after the compulsory five-minute wait. “I’m an ESL teacher, and I’m writing a book on the side.”
I sent it then shut my eyes hard. Did I sound weird? Was I not supposed to have read his profile? I hastily added, “how weird is that?”
“Well, not as weird as I was expecting. You meet a lot of much weirder people on this app.” He explained. “I was starting to worry that you were a dominatrix in a sex cave or something.”
Now he was being random. I countered, “lion tamer in a sex cave, actually. That was my last job. Yours too, I’ll bet?”
From there we went on to get to know each other. Our conversation flowed naturally from one topic to the next for several days. It was easy to talk to Niall. He was interesting. And his grammar and punctuation were great, so that was a bonus. Everything was going really well, until it happened. Two and a half days after the instigation of our conversation, Niall asked me to go on a date. In person. I cringed.
I know, I know. That’s the purpose of a dating app. It’s not a chatting app. But I had to be honest with Niall, so as to not waste his time. I told him, “I’ve never actually met anyone off of Tinder, and I’m not sure I can. I thought I might be able to, but I’m pretty shy in person and really apprehensive about the whole thing.”
“I’ve only done it a handful of times myself,” Niall admitted. “It can definitely be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s really no different than going on a date with someone you met at a bar a few nights before.”
I considered his analogy thoroughly. On the one hand, I’d actually never gone on a date with someone I met in a bar either. That scared me too. I’d only ever dated people I already knew. But I would be more willing to hang out with a bar guy, than with a Tinder guy for some reason. But Niall was right, in either situation I would still be agreeing to go out with a complete stranger. And I’d always been taught not to talk to strangers. Stranger danger. The bar guy could be an axe murderer just as easily as the Tinder guy. But at least the Tinder guy I’d had an actual conversation with for a few days.
When I hesitated Niall added, “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you take some time to think about it, so that you don’t feel pressured about it?”
I really appreciated that. Niall was smart and witty and patient. I was starting to really like him. Until the following afternoon.
“So, what’s the verdict?” He messaged me. I struggled to catch my breath. I guess I had misunderstood, “some time” to mean like a month or two of virtually getting to know each other more. Not 26 hours with no contact. This sure felt like pressure to me. I stared at my phone trying to summon the modern, confident, independent woman I knew existed deep inside of me. I heaved a heavy sigh. If I wasn’t planning on meeting guys, then what was I doing talking to them on Tinder in the first place?
“Okay.” I texted back slowly. “Let’s do it.”
We arranged to meet at Café Verona, a coffee shop in downtown Leafton, the very next day.
But that morning, I woke up positively sick to my stomach. I couldn’t do it. What was I supposed to wear? What if he smelled bad? What if he didn’t like my voice? What if I didn’t like his? What was I supposed to say? What if he swore? How was I supposed to act? Would he pay the bill? What if he didn’t understand my humour? Would he murder me? What if he asked about my past? What if he was married? What if he expected sex on the first date? What if I wanted to have sex on the first date? What if he looked nothing like his pictures? What if I looked nothing like mine? What if I met this really nice, handsome guy, and then he wasn’t interested in me? Or vice versa?
Questions of this nature, ranging from silly to completely irrational inundated my brain, and I started to gasp for air. I couldn’t go. It was too much pressure. That’s when I realized the stark difference between meeting someone on Tinder and someone in a bar. Reality. If we had met in a bar, some of these unknowns would be known. While I still wouldn’t know if he was married, or a serial killer, I would know if I was attracted to him. I’d know what he looked like, his mannerisms, his voice. I would know if he had bad breath, or body odor. This way was going in blind, and I just wasn’t brave enough to do it.
I apologetically texted him and bailed. I hate to bail. Part of it was the whole Tinder thing was too weird for me, but part of it was probably also that I just wasn’t ready to date. That was probably the big difference between myself and people who found successful matches on Tinder. I admire their courage. I deleted the app immediately after that, and never spoke to Niall again. I still wonder about him sometimes. I sincerely hope he found his happily ever after.