I recently went through a bad break-up, and the few months leading up to it were so emotionally trying, that once it finally happened, I began to make weird, rash decisions. I cut and dyed my hair, I had an inter-office fling, and…I downloaded Tinder.
For those of you unfamiliar with this revolutionary app, Tinder is a way for you to make deep, profound connections with other singles in your area who are also looking for a long-term, meaningful commitment. The wild and wonderful thing about Tinder’s algorithms is that it makes this possible purely through photographs. By making a snap-judgment about someone’s looks (swiping right if you like them, swiping left if you don’t), you are able to narrow down your potential soul mates into a small, sparkling pool of possibilities. Talk about putting your faith in love at first sight! All you have to do from that point onward is sit and dream that one of the little fishies in your pool will also swipe right when your picture appears, and the two of you can swim off fin-in-fin, and you’ll have a romantic, beautiful love story to tell your grandchildren.
Or maybe it’s more of a venue for girls to be reassured that their looks are worthy of male affection and for guys to send dick pics as a token of said affection. But I’m more of a glass-half-full person myself.
So I sat on my bed with my phone in my shaking hands, waiting for the app to download. This may sound a bit exaggerated, but you have to understand that this was a big step for me. I was willingly subjecting myself to socializing with strangers. Strangers! My most great and terrible fear! The little icon finally transformed from a washed-out gray into an intimidating orange flame, and with a sigh, I clicked.
While other dating sites such as Match and eHarmony, from what I understand anyway, ask for many personal details in order to best match you up with someone, Tinder only requires your name, age, and location. Well, I knew all of those things! Didn’t even have to think twice about them. Thus far, this experiment was proving to be nice and easy.
And then, I had to pick out a photo.
I can maybe name three things I enjoy less than having my picture taken, so suffice it to say, this was a debilitating task for me. I saw myself as having three options:
- A professional headshot. Definitely the best pictures of me in existence, but what on earth do they say about me as a human? Would I want to hang out with me if I saw a picture of me with my hair and makeup all neat, smiling robotically at the camera? Plus, let’s be honest, I don’t actually look like that. Those pictures are less about what I look like and more about the amazing things that some good lighting and some Photoshop can do.
- A picture of me with my friends/doing something silly. This option certainly presented a bit more personality than number 1. I tend to take better pictures with my friends because I am more comfortable with them. The biggest problem here is that they won’t know which one is me and my friends are all better-looking. What if they actually swiped right for one of my friends and then I show up on the date and they are sorely disappointed and it turns out they brought some tar and feathers with them just incase? And then I get tarred and feathered and it would be the third worst first date I’ve ever had.
- A picture of me by myself, whether it be posed or candid. This was pretty much never an option even though it technically was. When I am asked to pose for a picture by myself, my body enters a state of confusion that scientists have yet to figure out. My arms snap to my sides while my legs strangely remain hip-width apart, and my smile shows a tension one might also encounter when thoroughly brushing his or her teeth. Plus my eyes very clearly state, “I would rather be anywhere but here.” And all candid shots of me just illustrate that I do weird things with my face when I think no one is looking.
After much deliberation, I decided option 1 was the safest. This is Tinder after all.
Now for the fun part: the swiping. I admit I enjoyed it for a little while. I actually felt kind of cool while doing it, sitting nonchalantly on my bed with a glass of wine next to me, looking at pictures of cute guys. I felt like I could do this; like I could dive right back into the dating pool, no problem; like I could be the kind of person who meets up for some drinks and light flirting and be very casual about things.
And then a guy popped up who wasn’t my type at all, looks-wise. But he looked incredibly nice. He was sitting outside with his mom and a puppy in his arms, toothy grin shining through a tufty beard. And I sat and stared at my phone for an unreasonably long time trying to decide what to do about it. I mean, he was clearly family-oriented, liked animals, liked the outdoors: all great things. But I didn’t necessarily like the way he looked. At that moment, I wished everyone posted impersonal headshots with pretend smiles.
And, filled with crippling guilt, I swiped left.
I swear I could hear the sound of Taps playing softly in the background, mourning the loss of my integrity as swiping left became easier and easier. Soon, it was second nature. I found myself being able to adopt the casual attitude I so coveted, and it scared me. Gravely. I put my phone down and chugged the rest of my wine.
Then I heard that fateful ping.
A Tinder notification popped up on my home screen, “You have a message from Mike V.”
I remembered Mike. He had sandy blond hair and ripped abs. His picture was of him standing on the tip of a boat. He seemed dangerous and fun and that was exactly what I needed. I took a deep breath as I opened the app to reveal the message.
At that, I was pummeled by nerves. He gave me absolutely nothing to work with. He didn’t even give me words. Was this a trap? What was I supposed to say? “Muffin”? Was it too early for food humor? How do I respond and seem coy, sexy, and interesting? “Oh, ya know, just a little tipsy, sitting on my bed in my PJs, hitting the Twin Peaks message boards, and crying a little bit.” Why should I even bother trying to be those things when the best he could do was, “Sup”?
I ultimately decided to ignore it for the time being. Better to make them wait after all, right? That’s how this works?
And then, a second message came from Kyle S.
“Hi Jillian!! How are you?!”
Whoa, hey now, buddy, that is too many exclamation points. While it was a big step-up from “Sup,” this guy already had way too much energy for me. Extraverts scare the shit out of me, with their smiles and their natural volume and their penchant for doing things. Kyle S. was giving me way too much while Mike V. gave me nothing at all. Will I ever find the delicate balance? Will I ever fall in love again? What if the guy with the puppy had sent me a nice message? What if he quoted Mel Brooks or Monty Python or Tolstoy or Chuck Norris and I swooned after him into happily ever after?
After roughly three hours of having the power of Tinder in my hands, I ultimately decided I wasn’t ready. I pressed the icon on my phone’s screen, and hit “Delete.”