University had been a long and laborious day, so I was thankful when it came to my routine of a Monday morning coffee date with two of my best friends. Sitting on yellow stools in one of our campus’ many coffee shops, we giggled about how the cafe seemingly only played songs from the early ’00s. Not that I was complaining; I for one, get a kick out of the melodic tunes of Britney Spears.
My comfortable long term relationship had just ended, and with fifty percent of the two girls in front of me single, the conversation of online dating apps was unavoidable.
“Tinder isn’t even that bad. Unless you give your Snapchat out, you won’t even get any d*ck pics.” Rosie* laughed in a whirl of bleach damaged hair, her coffee threatening to spill from the lip of her biodegradable paper cup.
LISTEN: Would a ‘slow dating’ app work? Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and Jessie Stephens discuss on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
“I don’t know if I can do this guys.”
“Just download Bumble instead, you know it’s the feminist option.” Lauren* threw in, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“Yeah but then won’t I have to make the opening line?”
“I told you, feminist option.”
A few hours post our coffee shop meet up, I sat with my back hunched over on the squishy grey couch in my best friend’s living room. We had giggled on the walk home about how now I could finally download Tinder. Whilst I had missed the original Tinder train, I had some solace in my single friends’ phones, using their accounts to practice my comedy on unsuspecting men. Though when it came to the fire icon app being on my own phone, I recoiled at the idea. Sure, I loved being able to swipe right or left at the first look of someone, but only when it was on her phone and I was safe and secure in a long-term relationship.
My relationship had spanned almost three years, a boy who I met when I was 16. The idea of being 19, single, and living part time away from my home town kind of frightened me. Part of me was drunk on the idea of freedom, I could find a boy in the club and have sex with him in the bathrooms if I wanted. But part of me was scared about the whole dating process.
I know everyone says that your twenties are the best part of your life, you don’t have to worry about anything and you can soak up the partying and the dating multiple guys until you find someone who really does love you like you deserve to be loved. But it makes me wonder, did the people who carved that gospel into stone have crippling anxiety and a kink for getting their heart broken? Because I sure did.
It was exciting at first – as soon as I managed to claw myself out of the headspace where I felt guilty for the boy who’s heart I had broken – being able to swipe through the virtual catalogue of boys felt like being in a library full of potential.
I could check a guy out for a conversation, and return him if I didn’t like his grammar. I felt kind of bad for having the free will to objectify men, but this was the sort of thing that females faced daily; because, believe it or not, cat calling isn't a compliment. I had my rules sorted out:
- Dog? Swipe right
- No bio? Swipe left
- Look like they could break my heart and are non-committal? Swipe right
I was going to go through Tinder and use it as my own personal catalogue of potential dates. I didn’t care how that made me look. I was going to make the most of my twenties.
So thus, the experimentation began.
I hadn’t intended to find anyone to have sex with on the dating app, sure it was obviously what most people were looking for, with bios reading “not here for a long time, just here for a good time.” At the root of it, I just wanted someone else to talk to. Someone new, someone who was potentially in a similar boat to me on all counts; fresh out of a relationship, maybe struggling with mental health problems and not wanting anything serious. Hell, even if I had someone to talk to about my favourite TV show I would be happy.
But the thing that I never thought about was how when you tell a boy that you don’t want a relationship, they think you mean you want sex but without the commitment; and in a hook-up culture that is so prevalent within my generation, when you can just call a boy over by swiping right on a glass screen, this view was unfortunately more common than not.
But nothing prepares you for finding your ex on Tinder.
It had been a month. I was laying in my bedroom pretending I was okay from the breakup that I honestly never had a chance to heal from. I hadn’t given myself the time I needed, throwing myself into work and university and ignoring the perpetually tightening of my chest whenever I thought of the day it ended. My heart still caught in my throat when I thought of him, and I wanted to find whoever popularised the idea of the ‘dumper’ being fine with the decision to break off the relationship and punch them in the throat. Because everyone expected me to be okay, to be fine with the decision that had been made; but I wasn’t, and I hadn’t had a chance to process it.
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I almost swiped right upon seeing a dachshund-cross-beagle that appeared on my screen, but then I discovered that I knew the breed of dog for a reason. My ex had one and he was the cutest dog I had ever seen. And that’s when I realised, it was my ex.
I didn’t know what to think; I was on Tinder too, so I couldn’t be mad at him. I wanted to be mad at him. I wanted to yell and scream, to message him in a flurry asking how he could download an app that objectified women. But then I remembered, I was doing the exact same thing.
The whole reason I had downloaded the app in the first place was because I had wanted to scroll through my own personal selection of male library books. I wanted to find someone who met my specifications, and sure as hell didn’t want to date them. I hadn’t even given thought as far as to what I would do if I had met someone who had ticked all the boxes? Would I have a boozy one night stand, throw inhibition to the wind and regret ever downloading the app? Probably.
I didn't like where I was anymore but I believed there must be some successful outcomes for some people who met on Tinder. Hell, my cousin married a man she met on the app and he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. But in that moment, I realised that Tinder just might not be for me.