My Sprint Down Tinder Lane

I like being a secretary. I keep track of all the information that comes in, keep it updated with checklists, and visualize it all in tables and graphs. It’s nice. It’s clear. It makes sense. In fact, I like it so much that I did the same thing with my Tinder matches.

This needs some explanation. I’ve been single for a while, and I’m mostly fine with it. It gives me time to act out the cliche phrase, ‘focusing on me’. I’m studying, I’m writing, I’m seeing friends, and I’m… going abroad soon, for a year. So I don’t even have time for anything serious. Perfect opportunity to experiment with this new way of dating, I think. Plus, guys don’t just ‘come up to you in real life’ anymore. What even is real life?

The creation of a Tinder profile is easy: I don’t need potential matches to know a lot about me. The blissful ignorance should be mutual. We can go on fun dates, see what happens. I’m in it for the (free) beers and occasional… cuddles. Let’s call it cuddles.

Then come the matches, and with them, my greatest struggle: how can you tell, from two or three pictures, what someone’s like? There are some ground rules, of course. I mean, guys:

  • No bathroom selfies. You’re not a high school girl in 2013.

  • No posing on the hood of your car. Please. I’m not impressed by your stained, dented four-wheel drive.

  • Unless you’re in a swimsuit, there’s no need for shirtless pics. You don’t have to undress for me. (Not yet.) Especially when you’re obviously turning yourself on, alone, in your bedroom…

  • You have friends? That’s nice. Point is, I have no clue who you are if your bestie is there with you in every shot. And sorry, but you’re probably not the good-looking one.

Mostly, my problem is that I need to… ‘observe’ someone, in the flesh. How they move. What their eyes say. The sound of their voice and laughter. And most of all, if there’s this undefinable thing called a connection. I discussed this with a friend of mine who identifies as pansexual. She’s attracted to people not based on looks, or gender, but on something deeper. I think she used the word ‘vibe’, and that’s exactly what it is. A vibe is made up of small gestures and facial expressions. It also definitely has to do with the energy between you and the other person: how easy it is to communicate, and how comfortable you feel in one another’s presence. And you can’t get someone’s vibe from a picture. Your clothes/abs/car do not constitute who you are.

But alas, this world is a visual, virtual, instant one. So I chat with a few of my matches. They heap up quickly. (I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. ‘Maybe he’s really funny.’) And soon, there you have it: I am in need of a system.

I don’t actually write up a table, of course. I thought about it. But I keep track in my mind. Guy So-and-So is a student/bartender/insert-occupation-here, has these hobbies, is from this part of the country and lives in this part of town. Rate opening line from 1 to 5. Rate the way he messages (this is so important!). Compliments? Check. Interesting questions? Check. Asked me out, or I him? Check. Insert date. Add a star at the end for the ones that Superlike me. I don’t Superlike. I don’t play favorites with strangers.

But Tinder has a great way of not making them feel like strangers. It gives you the illusion that, based on a few nondescript facts, you know someone. You can look into their lives if they let you, by connecting Instagram, Spotify or even Facebook (yes: adding a number to your contacts now leads to a new friend suggestion). So although I hadn’t seen these guys in the flesh yet, I felt like I could tell what they’d be like. And I did start forming favorites. Some people I really wanted to meet and have fun with. Some dates I canceled, so I was not optimistic about the outcome. At some point, too, I simply didn’t have the time. I still had to focus on me.

Also, are you a slut for ‘dating around’? I feel like a term for that is on the brink of being coined. Credits to Megan for finding out about the term Tinder Bender, which, according to the Urban Dictionary, describes a ‘spree of Tinder dates’. But luckily, there’s not a negative word yet for a girl–or guy–going on such a spree.

I don’t feel like there’s a lot wrong with it, although I wouldn’t be surprised about the existence of a gendered double standard. There always is. However, I’m not attached to anyone. I don’t need to get into anything serious right now. Plus, everything is bit-sized and lightning-fast these days. Before you’ve bought the latest edition, there’s an even newer phone or shoe or Avengers film. What if it’s becoming the same with love lives? Is this the new normal? Are we dating by the laws of consumerism?

I’m scared that this might happen. Although I’m not looking for a relationship currently, I would like to know that there are still people out there who are. So that when I’m ready, I can find someone who is looking for more. People are not objects. People are not discardable. More isn’t better when it comes to connecting with individuals. There’s not a lot wrong with it, but in my opinion, ‘love’ isn’t made to be a product for fast mass consumption. I hope that, by sharing some of my own experiences, I can illustrate what I mean.

The dates I went on were… fine. On my way home from the first one, I was smiling to myself like a girl in a movie would. But not because it had been great: on the contrary. This evening had been exactly what I did not want, what I was not looking for, and I was completely all right with it.

The guy was nice. I distinctly remember how the sound of his voice didn’t agree with the idea I had formed of him. It was remarkable to me how much of a difference that made. In his pictures, he had looked like a tough guy who also could be very sweet and cuddle-worthy. But in real life, he had a snobby frat-boy accent that didn’t line up with that image at all. Other than that, we had a fun time. We drank beers and addressed the discomfort of small talk. The more we drank, the more we talked. The more we talked, the closer we moved towards each other. Though, mostly, he towards me. I didn’t mind, I didn’t stop him, but I didn’t know how to feel. I wasn’t uncomfortable, I wasn’t unwilling. I think I was just indifferent. We did kiss: I immediately assumed that this was normal, and felt like it ‘aligned’ with the sped-up process of dating through an app. I briefly wondered how many girls had sat here before me, with him, in this bar around the corner from his house. And how many had stumble-followed him home? That’s when I noticed: I didn’t really care.

I grew tired after a while, and he walked me to the nearest bus stop. I kept insisting that he didn’t have to wait with me, and after a while he kissed me one last time and left. I watched how he walked away, and fully reached the conclusion that this night had been… average. Mediocre. Unmemorable but for the fact that it had been ‘My first Tinder-date’. I smiled, though. Fine was fine. And I hadn’t lost hope yet. It could still just be him.

The second guy I met up with was more my type. We had more in common. But he, too, had a peculiar accent that took me a while to adjust my preconceived image to. We didn’t kiss after the first date, but went on a second. And although we had fun, I will give the following Tinder Tip: don’t take a person you just met to the movies. Not only do you not get to talk, but it has a lot of potential for awkward situations. What if the film turns out to be overly violent, overly sexual, or offensive in some way? The movie we saw was foreign, but luckily, non-problematic. We biked home in the same direction, and kissed before we parted ways. But it wasn’t… romantic. It was forced. It was haunted by notions of obligation. ‘It’s the end of the second date, and you don’t want the other to think you’re either a prude or a tease.’ It was fine, yet again. Nothing less, but nothing more either.

The third date took place a few months later. I had sort of gotten used to being single. I didn’t need anyone ‘special’ for now: just someone to have fun with. And it was fun, but again, only averagely so. We made out. I’ve accepted it as standard procedure, although I’m slightly conflicted about it. By now I was starting to become convinced that it wasn’t the individual guys that made it mediocre, and it wasn’t me either. (I considered the latter, but I’ve been on successful, non-Tinder dates.) It had to be the medium.

Here and now, I am deciding to wait. I am waiting for someone to come up to me in real life–you know, that thing that still exists, despite our sometimes desperate attempts to escape it. Tinder isn’t real. And I wish we could all simultaneously stop believing in its power, stop feeding it with bad selfies, and start talking again.

In the meantime, I’ll have my fun making lists for no particular reason. I’ll look busy on my phone while doing so– I’ll look like I am still in touch with the modern rules of love. But I will not be… up to date.

Fannah website

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