It was time. Overdue time, according to my friends. “Get out there.” “Start looking.”
Yes, I was supposed to meet people of the opposite sex for what could be a possible romantic interest, even though the only thing I was romantically interested in was my stash of 72% dark chocolate in the fridge.
“Okay, fine. I’ll tinderize myself for 3 weeks,” I heard myself say.
My friends, thrilled to be devious on my behalf, turned me into an iOS advertisement.
They created an intro that was intriguing (I like to travel… to Uzbekistan) and selected photos that showed just enough of my body to seem appealing yet not suggest that I’m a prostitute. Alas, this meant no Halloween photos of slutty intergalatica girl. They also dismissed my burning man photos for numerous reasons (Do you want to attract someone that goes by his playa name year round? they ask) and instead posted ones of me running races… even though the last race I ran was in 2010.
Damn I looked good. I started to crush on my own Tinder profile.
And then, in approximately eight minutes, the better version of me was up and I was able to see my matches like a deck of a magician’s playing cards. First, I poured over each word in their intros (e.g. do they sound “curious” enough?). I also took my time with each man’s photo, carefully assessing smiles, hairlines and signs of outdoor enthusiasm.
Sadly it was taking me 10 minutes to decide which way to swipe per person.
A more advanced Tinder user informed me that I had it all wrong. “It’s swipe quantity right now. You cannot assess quality until you chat with them. Just like in a bar. It’s all about banter.”
A bar. Right. One thing I was good at was chatting people up in bars. So after some time I swiped a little more liberally, throwing caution to the wind. I was free, I was reckless, and I was, in spite of myself, intrigued. By chatting with a diverse range of people, I started learning new things.
Tinder had totally turned me on to:
1. People’s loneliness.
No no, I don’t mean the people that are really lonely at 2 a.m. and ask, “so, what are you wearing?” but the normal people. The people that were built for relationships, but life laughed at their plans and rained down breakups and divorces and heartache. Career, travel, and baby decisions threatened hopes of lifelong commitment. You know, all those things everyone thought would perfectly fold into a romantic relationship once they found their soul mate.
No one ever tells you that soul mates have wings.
Save a few, most everyone I encountered on Tinder was kind of wistfully sad. No one seemed to want to be there, but felt it was some penance they had to pay for making wrong choices somewhere along their romantic road. It became a unity of people bonding over life’s hardships through right-facing swipes.
And then there were those that asked what I was wearing at 2 a.m.
2. People’s unique mystery.
This app forced me to meet people that live on different planes than I do. People I once thought I’d have nothing in common with. I had to go into the whole experience thinking, “They are not my soul mate but they are a soul.”
Each person had passions and interests and something valuable to say, even with a limited character count and faulty autocorrect. They may not be a tech mogul or a published author, but they have done something awesome that I haven’t. Like taken time to work with kids in Afghanistan, or climbed mountains in Bolivia or learned sign language to help their younger mute sibling. One even wrote me a haiku. Good thing I never swiped left on, oh, everyone.
I need to not be so judgy on first impressions, I thought. I’m not better than anyone on here. Neither are my exes.
3. My new “f*ck you” attitude.
During my early Tinder days of 10-minute swipe decisions, I was paranoid my ex or my boss or that cute guy at the corner coffee shop would find me in the app and feel sorry for me. I only allowed matching when I was 50 miles away from the vicinity of anyone that I knew.
I quickly realized I had limited myself to the suburbs of Vacaville. Sigh. Fine. I quickly changed my settings and decided to acknowledge to the world that yes, indeed, I was on here. Being humble is empowering. I’m here. Yes, this is my life.
I soon didn’t care who found me on this thing anymore. Because, duh, they were on here too. Tinder made me confident and fierce.
I wish I could end this post with a Tinderella story and report I had met my true love. But I actually found something much more important: a love of humanity.
Because of this little iOS app, I’m more accepting of new sorts of folk and lifestyles. I’m also more accepting of myself. I stopped caring what other people thought of me and decided to celebrate my own life path, even if it included somewhat random dating.
However, after the three-week experiment ended, I deactivated my account.
With my newfound freedom, I realized that I had more to achieve in life before I dated again. After all, to fully give to anyone else you need to be completely whole yourself. Having someone else responsible for your purpose or your happiness is a dangerous mission. So is leading them on during late night autocorrected conversations.
I have another 50,000 words to write outside of Tinder and probably another 50,000 miles to travel until I am solid in who I am.
And then I’ll go back on humble-proud and learn all over again. One swipe at a time.
Author: Heidi Isern
Editor: Toby Israel