It was junior year of high school. I was sitting at the desk second farthest to the right in Ms. B’s* chemistry class. I received a text.
It contained the first of many incriminating screenshots I would tangle myself in over subsequent years. The text was from my then- v serious boyfriend; the screenshot was of my Tinder profile. Yes, that is oxymoronic.
“My camp friend sent this screenshot to me,” he typed below the image. “What the hell is this?”
To this day, this is one of the best stories I keep in my back pocket. Hours before the text, Twitter was going off about some new app called “Tinder.” I did not know anything about it — all I saw was the mental red flag that signals rough ocean waters, social media, or a combination of the two — but I was in. Quickly in between classes, I downloaded the app and made myself a profile. And to this day, I will swear on sleepaway camp that I was innocent. All I had done was create an account — I hadn’t even had the time to see what the app actually did.
I didn’t know that Tinder is a socially acceptable Match.com for lonely young people in the same geographical area that also allows you to decide your level of interest in a potential partner on the sole basis of his or her Facebook profile picture. Mine, by the way, was a cute one of me and said boyfriend.
He was mad and called bluff. I, of course, thought the whole fiasco was hysterical. I mean, if I was really looking to use Tinder to get guys at the ripe age of 16, don’t you think I would have at least changed my profile picture to one less couple-y?
But I’m sure you can now understand why my Tinder account has been almost completely untouched by the heat of any fire ever since. With my luck and previous experience, it’ll go up in flames from “0 to 100 real quick,” said Drake. Therefore, I cannot claim to be a Tinder connoisseur, so I will instead ask my perhaps embarrassing, perhaps easily-explanable, perhaps pathetic for a millennial questions to you in case you swipe as well as that fox in Dora the Explorer.
Can someone please tell me what Tinder is actually for? Is it for pursuing relationships, and is it really just a simplified version of Match.com that is easier on our eyes (well, I guess that depends on who comes up on your feed), easier on your brain, and fast enough for our multi-tasking millennial over-diagnosed ADD? Or is it, instead, an aid to those in search of bootay? If you are looking just for the B, or the D, or the AA because women of all sizes are BEAUTIFUL (gotcha there, didn’t I), wouldn’t it be beyond weird to talk to someone on Tinder for half an hour about menial things and meet up with them and just start making out because, c’mon, that’s what you’re both here for in the first place?
Is that how Tinder works and am I just naive like Liesl when she’s 16 going on 17? Because IMHO (in my honest opinion), most people a) are not on Tinder looking to go steady but also b) it would be really effing weird to make out with someone just because you have some mutual friends on Facebook. So what’s the dealio? Haha, dealio.
But then again, we’ve all been with someone just because of mutual friends, but just in real life — at bars, clubs, concerts.
This is what my friend, remotely avid Tinder user, but really just the most openly avid I know, says. In her words, “I think a lot of people joke about it and don’t take it seriously, meanwhile almost everyone is on it with a similar purpose. [They] joke it’s unconventional, but most of us don’t know dating in any other form, or interacting with people in any other element than online.” And then she dropped the holy bomb:
“It’s sort of the norm for our generation, in my opinion.”
I think her opinion might be mine too. When she connects with someone on Tinder, they arrange to hang out. Recently, she went to an expensive restaurant in the city on a first Tinder date. Other times, she just hangs out with her matches. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Whenever she does connect, though, it sounds completely, totally normal.
When I reactivated my Tinder account at the end of last summer, admittedly bored and lonely in the Hamptons — which is not as romantic as it sounds when you are sharing a bedroom with your two brothers — I matched with every person I swiped right. My ego inflated instantly. More gratifying than Easy Mac. Tinder was fun. It was like Candy Crush.
With each of my matches, I avoided all conversation. I received a “Hey,” and took it as a joke. I was paranoid. No one seemed real. I wasn’t getting out of bed to meet up with some random guy to fool around in the dunes or at the dive around the corner. The best part of the experience was by far the matching; realizing — remembering — you can get back in the game, that there is such a thing as mutual attraction, that there are fish in the area of the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the easternmost tip of Long Island.
But that was where it stopped. Even a fresh, dense stack of Tinder was, for me, not enough to light my fire.
*Name abbreviated to protect the privacy of this wonderful woman.
I could win an award for walking around New York with resting bitch face. So last summer, when an attractive gentleman came up to me on the corner of West 33rd and 6th asking where I got the Starbucks cup I was holding — well, really asking where I got the cup and what was inside of it — I was shocked. Could I, a 5-foot-4 Godzilla wearing leather boots in the city heat blasting acoustic Nirvana through my cheap earbuds, be so approachable? I knew he was hitting on me because there’s a Starbucks on every block in Midtown Manhattan and he didn’t give off touristy vibes. If I was holding a Mason jar with a blended green concoction inside, I would have understood his inquiry. But I was holding the symbol for commercial America in my right hand and my iPhone in my left, so it seemed to be that it had to be true — he was interested. I pulled out my earbuds, and told him I got my iced coffee on 27th, but there was another Starbucks just a block thataway.
Before I walked back into the 5:06pm rush, he pivoted a step in my direction. “I know this sounds crazy, but is there any chance you want to get dinner with me tonight?” I had dinner plans with the person I was seeing at the time, so I politely declined his offer and told him I was booked. “Well, can I have your number, then?” I had no intentions of hooking up with him, but without a second thought, and actually without a first thought, too, I gave the guy my digits.
I walked away feeling exhilarated. It was one of the things that only happens in movies or happens to people with Cara Delevigne eyebrows. It wasn’t that I was going to pursue it, and I didn’t even think or know if he would text me. It served as a late-afternoon espresso shot of ego boost.
A few hours later, I get a text. “Hey, it’s blahblahblah. Are you around to grab a drink tomorrow?” I never answered. I didn’t want to for various reasons: I had a boyfriend and I didn’t know anything about this person. We’re so used to meeting people through mutual friends on Facebook, or mutual friends from school, or from family friends, or from summer camp ten years ago that we’ve never learned how to court and be courted by people we don’t know. It seems scary and dangerous to me to be alone with someone who I have no mutual friends with — on Facebook and in real life. But back in the day, I guess that’s how things worked.
Like the good nerd I am, I told my parents about my Sex and the City moment and the text that followed. They weren’t proud of me, nor did they praise me for my eyebrows. They each broke out into seizure, explaining that now I was surely doomed for this person would surely find my longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates now that he had my cell phone number, and I was surely going to be stalked and kidnapped and murdered.
“Do you know how powerful technology is today?!?!?!?” my dad yelled. Yes, Dad, I know about technology.
The thing is, though, that they were right. But when you meet someone random and decide you want to meet them again, how else are you supposed to go about it? There’s no time to stop and pause for a quick Google search and background check when you’re standing in the vortex that is Midtown.
Two months later, I was walking in Providence when a man — five years too old for me, walking three dogs on leashes — walked up to me while I was on my way to the gym. “I know this sounds crazy,” he said, “but you’re one of the cutest girls I’ve ever seen and I was wondering if I could have your number.” More abrupt and less attractive than the last. I froze with Mom and Dad’s wishes in mind. How are you supposed to tell someone that you don’t want them to have your number? Do you say no and walk away?
Well, I did. Or I guess I kind of did. Three male friends of mine who I didn’t see standing across the street saw me from the distance, sensed my discomfort, and called me over. My response to this strange pursuer ended up along the lines of: [To friends] “Hey guys!!!!!!!!!!!” [To strange man] “Sorry, I’ve gotta go!” And I ran away before he could get in another word.
I felt like an asshole. When I told my best friend the story, she confirmed that, yes, I was an asshole.
But if you don’t want to say no, and you don’t want to say yes, what do you say?
Looking for suggestions to answer the question, “Can I have yo numba?” in sticky situations. However, the likelihood of this ever happening again is slim. Love at first sight tends to be a twice in a lifetime thing. So take your time with getting back to me — I doubt I’ll ever need the advice, anyway.
Everyone shacks up in the winter. Those single ladies? That girl whose milkshake brought all the boys to the yard? They’ve put flash-tats on their ring fingers.
Now, you’re the only one who finds the chemical radiation from her laptop warmer than a big spoon with five o’clock shadow. Your girlfriends who used to be your girlfriends are now somebody else’s. Your Snapchat-ready sister wives relationship could only last so long. Winter is coming, so she decided that it was time she did, too.
Suddenly, you’re left in the dark. And don’t forget that we have three less hours of sunlight than we’d like to. The dark lasts a long time.
The problem with winter-ships isn’t that our friends get a quarterly boyfriend. It isn’t that this quarterly boyfriend becomes the priority. It’s the how and why girls think it’s okay to do it like that.
Putting your boyfriend first is as passive aggressive as “k.”: You schedule your plans with him first and then fit your friends in wherever it’s most convenient afterwards. You don’t commit to anything until you weigh your social options in case his is better. If nothing is going on, you’d rather do nothing with him than with your friends. The second your friends’ plans fall through, you’ve already sent an emoji his way. Do you need to print something? Does he have a printer? Then you’ll ask to use his, right?
I know I’ve hit the nail on the head because I’m retracing my own methodological thoughts from years passed. In other words, I’m not denying it, so you can’t either. I’ve told you before, girls are insane. Our brains work in mysterious ways. We aren’t that evil, though, because none of this is a conscious stream of thought. It isn’t that we don’t love our friends, it isn’t that we’d rather SoulCycle with him, it isn’t that he’s more fun to talk about pooping with. It’s just that it “happens.” It’s convenient for it to, and it’s easy.
We aren’t trying to be shitty and manipulative. But we still are!
Girls put their boyfriends first because they can always grab lunch with a girlfriend. Grabbing lunch is a metaphor for like, everything: all cuisines, juice bars included, all time spent together, every bagel, every coffee run, every toenail painted, every hair given the deuces at your shared bikini-waxings. While still retracing my old trains of thought, I can tell you I’ve also hit this nail right back on the head — they tell me I’m great with a hammer these days.
No matter how much your relationship feels like a room without a roof, there is a laden, looming ephemerality. If you’ve always been wondering why Allie and Noah lay in the middle of the street for ten minutes, it’s precisely because of this. You do everything because you never know how much time you have. This is why he comes first. Because he’s not permanent, but ~sisterhood~ is.
This is just as unconscious as our friend manipulation. We don’t all think we’re going to break up with our boyfriends. A lot of girls don’t, actually, and that’s the magic of a relationship: if it’s so good, you don’t even really imagine the end because you don’t see why there would be one. However, clinginess comes from being afraid that if you let go of whatever you’re holding on to, it’s gonna fly away and give you the deuces just like that waxed bikini line. Bye, Felicia. (That’s what the kids are saying these days, right?)
What makes us think that our friends are going to be permanent no matter how much we forget about them between daylight savings times? Is it that we’re so used to being heartbroken, post-breakup, with a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie in one hand and your BFF’s hand in the other?
I don’t have a seasonal allergy to oxytocin. I am oxytocin. But have we been shitty friends to each other for so long that we’re accustomed to being the lone front wheel on the tricyle? Is that why we’re not only willing to hold the hand covered in melted ice cream and salty tears, but we showed up with the ice cream in ten minutes or less?
Or maybe it’s just that we’re so used to boys being shitty to us that they’re inherently temporary:
-She’s dating Liam now. I think it’s going to be more like her vegan phase than her gluten-free one.
-Oh, cool, so like two months and then epic mental degradation and anemia?
This could be a “Cut her some slack, she’s shacking up for winter” sitch, or it could be a “Girl World is an animal kingdom” sitch.
All I know is that I’m going into hibernation.