O ne morning recently, after spending the night with a gentleman I was dating casually, something disturbing came up. He was torn apart with self-hatred for not being able to reconcile his desire to live life for God and his inability to stop chasing the “pleasures of the flesh”. This was a surprise to me, as the bulk of our time together was focused on the flesh. Tears came to his eyes as he spoke of his guilt. Tears.
Just as I was spreading the jam on my toast, he made a confession with so much sadness it made me want to both slap him in the face and swaddle him up in my arms: he said he believed premarital sex is a sin
A night that was hot to me was instantly regrettable to the other person – it was behaviour he was ashamed of. And that’s when it hit me: Tinder has turned me into a teenage boy.
I told myself not to take it personally – he’s just dealing with his own shit – but the question persisted: am I a person who doesn’t know how to experience sex the way the other person in the room does?
I am new to London, new to being single and, after my past two relationships with women, new to dating men. In the months since I turned 30 and left New York, my life has morphed into an off-brand episode of Sex and the City – one where there’s no budget for wardrobe and everyone is slightly fatter. I’ll go on a few dates with someone who seems great until they inevitably do or say something to relegate themselves to an anecdote. From now on, this man will be filed away in my memories as “the Closet Christian”. There. I did it: I quickly turned him into a cartoon to mask the fact that my feelings got hurt. Whew.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tinder – it’s the great equaliser of modern dating. There’s a straightforward, cards-on-the-table honesty and the tiniest bit of vulnerability to the fact that we’re all hanging out in this virtual meat market. I find it a purer medium than more traditional dating sites such as OkCupid or Match. A friend equated the latter to having your parents set you up on a date because, “You two have so much in common!” With Tinder, you can’t over-intellectualise it. It’s like being at a bar on your phone, whatever time of day you feel like it, with absolutely no risk of rejection.
This method of seduction feels ideal to me, as I experience extreme anxiety when trying to maintain eye contact with strangers (which is apparently what you do to meet people in the real world). If I find someone attractive, I start scowling the moment our eyes meet. Being from New York, my subconscious still operates under the assumption that everyone has a “wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have me as a member” mentality, and that showing interest upon first glance is a sign of weakness. On the flip side, when I find someone insufferable, I tend to smile broadly. I am in therapy.
You’d think that these dates would be a complete crapshoot, but it’s surprisingly straightforward. Photo choice and presentation communicates a lot about a person – it has made me examine what I find attractive, and not just physically. Sometimes a guy catches my eye, but then I see he hasn’t written anything in his profile, so I dismiss him – because that is one of my boner-killers. For reference, here’s a list of my top 10 boner-killers – with the disclaimer that there are probably plenty of women who drop their knickers for this kind of stuff. I just don’t know any of them personally.
3. Dude in bed, asexual dating sites lying on his back, phone straight in the air above him – nobody looks hot from this angle. It is just too damn earnest.
In this virtual game, you get to pretend that every single person pictured is potentially up for it – but now what do you want? That’s a question I never used to ask myself. Before, whenever a person showed interest, the wheels in my head would start turning: “What are they looking for and how do I keep fooling them into thinking I’m attractive?”
Here’s the problem: earlier, I said what was great about Tinder was the lack of risk. Not having to face my crippling social phobia and fear of rejection is the appealing factor here, but what if risk is the one thing that makes meeting someone special? Perhaps, by removing the risk, you bleed the experience of its most vital element and that’s why these encounters inevitably end up feeling disposable no matter how you approach them.
When an uncomfortable encounter occurs in a romantic setting, it can be crushing and reminds you how easy it is to become vulnerable without a partner acting as your shield against the world. This vulnerability works in direct opposition to my newly developed teen-boy instincts. I’m going to move forward and try to keep an open mind, an open heart and slightly less-open legs (because you never know who’s saving it for marriage).