Tinder, Dating Apps, and Showing up as your Damn Self
This week I reactivated my Tinder. How I got there is sort of a long story, one involving snooping and a little bit of gossip, but before I knew it I found myself in the oh-too-familiar k-hole of right and left swipes.
Let me get this straight: I pretty much despise Tinder. The app is a playground for superficiality, misogyny, and painfully awkward conversations. However--I always find myself too curious, and wind up with my hand back in the sugar bowl. It’s become a fun and terrible game, one I’ve learned to keep it in my back pocket, usually only remembering it when I’m really bored, stoned, and horny.
Last night, the unthinkable happened: after swiping for the millionth time, my own tiny icon popped up, bobbing in and out of echoing geolocation rings. I had swiped through all my options.
I double checked my search settings: men/women, within 30 miles of me, aged 21-30. Since I figured I couldn’t meet anyone further than thirty miles outside of the city, I widened my age range to 35. Still, nothing.
Had I really sorted through everybody in this damn town? I made hundreds of matches, but nothing amounted to a date or even a normal conversation. I received one dick pic through a direct message request on Instagram. No dates, no drinks, no winners.
Unwilling to accept the end of my nightly scroll, I opened OkCupid. This app is a minefield of unsolicited messages and notifications from strangers checking you out. I hadn’t been active on it since 2014, and the shitstorm of my inbox immediately killed my buzz.
The environment on OkCupid is different, more active, but full of fucking weirdos. I have found a few notable dates in the past from this app; namely my now infamous Sailor™, with whom I had a great evening full of laughter and bar-hopping, only to end with him ripping my clothes off and bursting into tears on my dorm room floor. Apparently he was in love with a girl in Paris that he also met online and felt horrible cheating on her. Another match I met up with lasted a few weeks but ended in an encounter where I saw him at an art opening with another woman (who turned out to be a professor at my college, which turned out to be pretty awkward for me later).
At least back then I was getting dates. I’m not sure what’s changed that makes using these apps so difficult. Maybe it’s going out of style. But then again then, where do single people meet in this city? S.O.S. Seeking Out Single-cool-people-who-want-to-date-and-maybe-cuddle.
Perhaps, the world of online dating has given us the sense of “wanting more” rather than finding “the one”. It’s now quantity over quality. It’s hard to believe that tinder could facilitate anyone meeting just one person when the potential matches are algorithmically exponential. You can play the game forever, but when it comes to dating, should we be wary of holding a poker face?
I reopened my Tinder with a message waiting: “Sorry it took almost a year to respond but I’m well”.
If this guy’s morale about dating has plummeted, he certainly isn’t trying to up the ante with his approach. I wondered if he had any luck, he probably at least had fucked some people. But c’mon bro, don’t acknowledge that you suck and then leave it there. If you want to talk to someone, be *engaging*! Follow up with a question! Thanks for getting back to me Matt, I’m glad you’re well.
Its feels like effectively communicating with people--amongst the nebulous throws of attraction, ego, and interaction--might be going out of style.
I wondered if this was what made meeting people in real life so difficult. As online dating has evolved from a marginal to a mainstream practice, are we stunting our dating practices in real life? What if we treated those we wanted to fuck the same in person and online?
Because I do, I am pretty sure that I terrify men. In a heteronormative society that was built around systems of opposition between masculine and feminine traits, in dating and courtship I exist as a dynamic complication of what they (cis men) are taught to expect from me (a cis woman). I am a feminine woman who shows up, takes up space, intellectually challenges those I respect, confronts behavior that makes me uncomfortable. Dating straight men has become especially complicated since I’ve grown into being comfortable with myself. There are some men I cannot even get to be my friend. If anything, men in my circle will passively creep across my instagram feed on occasion and offer polite waves in passing. It’s as if they don’t trust me, since they can’t “figure me out”. Whenever I’ve liked one, and had the opportunity and tried to make moves, they shy away into almost complete absence. It’s like they disappear from the room completely.
Back on my feed, I came across the cute barista from a coffeeshop where I showed my work in once. He was so charming and I immediately recognized his photo. I was excited when we matched, and feeling confident, I messaged first, asked him out casually (thank goddess that picnic/park dates are finally in season). He replied, “yeah that sounds nice i’ll get back to you later”. I’ll get back to you later.
Considering my investment and return on these apps, I am signing off and moving forward about my week with a new approach. From now on I am just going to be my forward, flirtatious, and free self in person in real life. I wear giant tshirts and too many buns and my lipstick matches my shoes and I like that I can be smart and sing Sheryl Crow on the streetcar. I show up as myself, I give a shit, and that’s pretty damn cool.
If real life were like tinder, we would know automatically if somebody was into us or not, and maybe we’d have the private space to consider how we wanted to move from there. Which might be cool. But no virtual representation is gonna do us justice, so we should take pride in what we have to offer at all times regardless. Maybe Portland just isn’t ready for that. But I am.