Our own Polly Chester has transformed herself into Tinder-ella in her efforts to find a replacement date for the ball.
Often I wonder whether having a successful, loving partnership with another person is more difficult nowadays than it was for people who are a generation or two older than me. After a conversation I recently had with a former colleague, who is originally from India, I found out that perhaps the issues we encounter now are perhaps not so dissimilar. Over lunch, I asked her how she’d met her husband of 20 or so years. “We found him in the paper – that’s how matchmaking was done at the time.”
On the day my colleague shared that story, I was mentally gearing myself up for going on my second of five dates I had arranged through Tinder for the upcoming weekend.
For those who have luckily managed to bypass this phenomenon, Tinder is a social media application, whereby you effectively market yourself to your preferred gender using a limited amount of text (completely optional) alongside a maximum of five photos. Later that day, as I reflected on the story, I wondered whether anything had really changed that much in the world of dating aside from looking for romantic partners online instead of advertising ourselves in the paper.
Anyway, back to my dates. There was a good reason for all this Tinderising. I was looking for a date for an upcoming wedding, after the man who I had wanted to take had become, suddenly and sadly, unavailable. I was lamenting about this with a friend over a cup of coffee when she burst out with “Why don’t you look for a wedding date on Tinder?”
I froze in nostalgic horror.
Last time I used Tinder was a couple of years ago when I really needed to get over someone. I needed to go on a couple of dates in order to reassure myself that I was still eligible and attractive (not proud of this, but big enough to admit it).
The first man I met provided the necessary affirmation I needed, but he was a complete douche canoe and I never saw him again. The second guy…well, he was just lovely. Intellectually, he was everything I wanted in a man, but I wasn’t physically attracted to him. For about a week, I painstakingly considered whether I could manufacture the sexual attraction, but in the end couldn’t, so I very nicely let him go. As a result, for the following few weeks, I felt like the most superficial bitch in the world, which I guessed was my penance for using Tinder in the first place. Then I got on with my life.
Just as I began to tell that story to my friend, that lovely man, that ill-fated date walked past the coffee shop we were sitting in. I dissolved with shame and hid under the table, in true adult style. It was a sign. I logged onto Tinder and by that night, I had lined up five potentials that I would audition to take to the wedding. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to meeting any of them, but decided I would treat it as a social experiment.
I’m going to draw a veil around the particulars of those dates out of respect to those involved. I will say that I ended up cancelling a couple, and was glad to have done so…especially with one, who showed early indications of being a perpetrator of domestic violence.
The wonderful thing is, this whole exercise got me around to thinking about a much broader issue: perhaps we should be advertising ourselves more honestly when we use dating sites or applications.
On the subject of developing romantic relationships, the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton gives the following advice:
“A standard question on any initial dinner date should simply be: ‘So in what particular ways are you crazy?’”
Anyone who’s had a scroll through Tinder will roll their eyes and holla at yo girl when I speak of the countless boring shots of jetskis and motorbikes, of dudes “impressively” cuddling up with dead or tranquilised kings/queens of the jungle (lions, tigers et. al.), shots with other women (WTF), and of contrived, meaningful moments partaking in some sort of activity such as playing a sitar or a bongo drum.
You also may recognise phrases such as “living the dream”, “loving life”, “stay positive”, or “into clean eating”, none of which there is inherently anything wrong, except for the fact that they are unrealistic depictions of real life.
Especially clean eating: Get. Fucked.
I think that De Botton is right. Rather than trying to identify with the positive characteristics we have in common with others, perhaps we should actually be looking at the stickier and ickier ones. We could all save a buttload of time and heartache if, instead of matchmaking based on a mutual love of cooking, or mud wrestling, or of ornithology, we instead connected based on whether we would be able to tolerate embrace each other’s worst characteristics.
In this ideal, honest world, this is what my Tinder profile blurb would look like:
Fledgling academic seeks handsome man to hold her, stroke her hair and reassure her that humanity isn’t doomed and that there are at least some decent humans left in this world. Certified nerd. Control freak. Terribly anxious. Chronically worried. Paranoid and suspicious of you forever after the first time you are caught out lying, even if you lied because you are trying to spare my feelings. Part time insomniac. Self-flagellator. Terminally insecure around men. Terrified of abandonment.
In fairness, that’s me only on one of my worst days.
I can also reel off numerous things that I like about myself. I have a great sense of humour, I’m super smart, pretty, quick-witted, caring, sassy, articulate, compassionate, spirited, loving and loyal.
But I have quite a few bad days, and I don’t see the point in dating anyone who can’t handle them.
So many men who I have met, both within and outside of Tinder, say that they want to date a smart girl. That they want to date a girl with a brain. What they don’t realise that although the girl with the brain exudes characteristics that you would consider positive, each one of those characteristics has a polarised, equally intense and opposite version. So alongside the humour and vitality, you may have to endure a great deal of sorrow and depression. That’s the guts of it, and it’s the ability to embrace the full spectrum of polarised characteristics within another human being, and commitment to being present for all of them, that makes relationships successful.
De Botton also cautions us that “The challenge of modern relationships (is) how to prove more interesting than the other’s smartphone.”
As much as my experiment was a disaster in some ways and I did get a little burnt, in other ways, I loved it. In essence, my smartphone got me out of my comfort zone and into the big wide world of dating dudes in their mid 30s and I met some genuinely interesting people with whom I plan to stay in touch.
We’ve all got emotional baggage. Perhaps it’s best if we’re more upfront with each other about who we really are, before we begin our relationships. If we do that, we can help each other get to where we ideally want to be, rather than pretending we are already there.
Until that day, and the colossal shift changes us for the better, I’ll carry on in the way I have this week.
Single. To weddings.