When a close friend of mine recommended I try Tinder one night, I was incredulous.
I had just been telling her about how lonely I was feeling, and I always had this perception that Tinder was just a place where desperate souls can hook up with people they find hot. “But not to hook up, just to talk to guys to ease the loneliness a little,” she said, reading my mind. Because this friend was someone I trusted and admired, I decided to give it a go.
At that time, I had been single my whole life. I had been madly in love with a man I met in Wellington, but things ended between us in bitterness and tears before a relationship could even flower. It traumatized and depressed me. I remained cut off from the dating scene for four years. I spent it grieving, crying, tearing myself down and building a completely new person from the ashes. I learned to love and respect myself and slowly fortified a newfound strength and confidence. When I first created a Tinder account, it was the first time I was opening myself up in years. It was scary, exhilarating and… fun.
The concept of swiping men on the basis of how attractive they are is somewhat dehumanizing. It’s like choosing a jar of olives from your local supermarket shelf. Humans are reduced to products – commodities to be bought or sold off to other friends if he’s not really your taste. I get how extremely shallow it is and I’m not going to defend it. I did realize early on, however, that Tinder was a game, and like any game, it’s not to be taken so seriously. I can say that in all my Tinder dates, something good has always come of it. I like to think that this is because I treat Tinder with the lightest grain of salt.
My first Tinder date became my first boyfriend, and while it lasted only a few months, it was tender and fun and it taught me so much about myself. I left that relationship to travel the world, but I also left with greater insight about my approach to love and men – I was ready to date, and I was ready to finally enjoy myself doing so. I country hopped with Tinder in hand and I met some pretty amazing people in every country I went to. I met men who took time off every night to take me to the coolest spots in their city, men who took me to romantic dinners and late-night drives into the night and men who invited me to play beer pong with his friends. I made friendships, connections and even romances in countries like Thailand, Italy, Cambodia and Greece. And even though a lot of my matches ended up in texting and never meeting in real life, my friend was right: even just messaging them eased my loneliness, boosted my confidence and added a little flirtation into my life.
There are, of course, strange and rude men on Tinder. There are men who instantly message you, “Where are you? Can you come over?” sometimes even without a ‘hello’. I once added a guy on Whatsapp through Tinder and he sent me a picture of him half naked with his privates hanging out. Another time, a guy in Austria invited me to his jacuzzi and unmatched me when I turned him down. The thing is, when things like that happen, it makes for some hilarious chats with your girlfriends.
Now I am back in New Zealand, the romantically spontaneous concept of Tinder is not so thrilling. I had a meltdown the other night. I panicked hard because I realized I am 24 and have never been in a long term relationship before. Perhaps what brought this on was the fact that three of my four best friends are either engaged or soon-to-be engaged. Here I was, swiping away in my pajamas on a Friday night, when deep within me was a new and surprising need to be in a meaningful, loving relationship with someone. As much fun as riding on the back of a Vespa with a cute Italian in Florence is, it doesn’t match coming home to someone you really love and want to eat takeout with.
I love Aziz Ansari’s insightful and witty book ‘Modern Romance.’ He said something in it I think about from time to time: 50 years ago, people would marry each other from down the road. But the thing is, they weren’t looking so much for love as they were for financial security and the ‘American dream.’ Now, people want to take their time. They’re not looking for what people did years back – they’re looking for their soul mates. I wondered if Tinder was the right way to go about that. Ansari explained in his book at how overwhelming it can be – the endless possibilities to choose from can leave you feeling paralyzed. What if you swipe right on a guy who could change your life? Sometimes, it feels better to do nothing about it than to know you might have made the wrong decision.
Tinder was becoming tiring and navigating an ever-changing dating landscape exhausting, but I didn’t know how else I was supposed to meet men. I told my engaged friend about my dating conflicts, and even though she was a skeptic on Tinder, when she realized it was the only way I could actually meet single men, she finally got it. I’m a homebody who rarely goes out, my friends have exhausted their connections, I don’t do workplace romances from bad experiences and flirting with someone on the street seemed a little creepy to me. I didn’t expect a guy to fall from the sky while I was doing a face mask and watching Netflix in my underwear. I knew I needed to be proactive. And so I prayed.
For some reason, I thought that God had forgotten about me. “Sorry Jenny, you missed the boat. The next one isn’t coming for another four years.” In my head, I was quietly wiping a tear while bidding my best friends adieu to the land of marriage and love. I’ll stop being dramatic now. But what I remembered after I talked to God about the troubling thoughts within me was how generous He is. Living a life with God in it is not barren or desolate or dry; it’s rich and full and always interesting. I don’t believe that the kind of God I love and serve would ever take away from me a desire he has personally sown in my heart. I had to remind myself, essentially, that God was always working for me, not against me, and that everything and everyone he brings into my life has its perfect time and place.
You might catch me on Tinder still, but don’t worry about me – I’m well-looked after from another kind of guy above.