I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Dora the Explorer had a crystal ball and could see the danger awaiting us in the age of Tinder.
Notice, it’s Tinder, not Tender. I get the benefits of a photo, age, and distance between me and my potential paramour. Date, booty call, one-night stand, relationship, potential love interest, however I choose to use it. It is a good tool for finding some company when I travel because it doesn’t just match me based on my homebase, it works on my actual location. It’s akin to a bar living in my phone. There is frequently a sense of ennui to my swiping. A detached boredom with no expectation. I am simply window shopping. I might try a few things on, but I really have zero intention of buying. My wallet is empty, and I don’t have that much credit.
Unfortunately, the absence of alcohol, dark lighting, and loud music promotes a strange sense of intimacy. I have to use words to communicate. Sorry honey, your cleavage isn’t going to buy you company tonight. Words easily trap me. I lose all sense of reality and fall into a hopeless fantasy. I can convince myself this is safe, because it’s not real. I am in no danger of falling in love or getting trapped because it’s Tinder. Somehow I talk myself into dropping some of the walls I use to keep everyone at a safe distance. I recklessly engage in mutual sharing of hopes and dreams for the future. I shed a little of the prickly “f*ck off” persona I adopted so long ago. I even have a few photos that are apparently “hot.” I think it’s the lighting and red lipstick. Maybe the angle. I managed to catch a pensive yet not angry expression. It wasn’t easy. It was one of many, many bad ones. I’m not showing you, because now that I mention it I am more than a little embarrassed and should probably delete this whole aside.
I pretend. The safety of my little blue screen gives me a sense of confidence and I become charming and flirtatious. The awkward parts of my personality are hidden a little. I’m not afraid of being myself, because it doesn’t matter what these guys think of me. They aren’t real. I honestly have nothing to lose. I’m just passing through.
I find myself saying things I would never say IRL. I match and unmatch with an abandon usually reserved for women more beautiful than I am. I am picky about who I choose to meet. The conversation has to be lively and interesting. I eschew the men who start of asking my bra size. I know my bra size. It’s not interesting to me. Somehow I feel like I am in control in this situation. If you irritate me, I can just stop talking to you. Unmatch, block, ghost, ignore, I have a plethora of tools at my disposal.
Sometimes I am pretending to pretend. I allow myself to get caught up in the excitement of foreign experiences. I start to look forward to our interactions. This is probably because I am so picky about the men I choose for communication. Really, it’s easy to dislike boring, unintelligent men.
I’ve become friends with a few of these men. The ones I go out with are generally quite attractive, educated, clever, and age-appropriate. They tend to have a way with words. I find myself intrigued and at times more than a little attracted to their electronic personas.
That doesn’t diminish my fear of intimacy. It doesn’t ease my distrust of the whole prospect of love and happy endings. I firmly believe (well, I tell myself I firmly believe) there are no fairy tale endings, and there is no Prince Charming. All that is waiting for me is a lifetime of disappointment and resentment. Who needs that? It’s far better to never get your hopes up. Don’t get attached. Don’t expect anything from anyone. You are the master of your own happiness. It’s not lying within another person’s grasp. They will only let you down.
When I first discovered the possibility of dating for “fun” I thought I had found the perfect solution. I would be honest from the beginning and demand these men play by my rules. It was great.
Except I forgot the rules. I found myself daydreaming about one man when I was out with another. I just wanted to be with him. I did not want to see the others.
What is the punishment for self-imposed and perhaps misguided infractions?
I know! I know! Let’s overthink and concoct imaginary slights to punish him over. Except let’s not tell him how I am feeling. I will just quietly seeth with resentment and start judging him much more harshly than he probably deserves. I will not discuss this with him because it makes me sound crazy.
I have turned into “that girl.”
There is safety in numbers. I don’t have to risk getting attached. I can pretend. Until I start pretending to pretend. Then the real danger starts.