It’s a long way from prom night, and today we have an app for everything, including finding love later in life.
In the seven months since I’ve used the app Tinder to find love, I’ve gone on so many dates I’ve half forgotten faces and completely forgotten names. It’s not hard to rack up encounters. Those of us on Tinder reach for it during work breaks, commercial breaks, while the kettle boils. When you swipe right for yes on a profile of someone who has already said yes to you, your phone lets out this addictive sexy little buzz. It’s a Match! Tinder exclaims albeit prematurely. Now you two can message each other. I’ve accumulated about 100 matches since I started. Shamelessly at this point.
Tinder now strikes me as this massive, constantly refreshed, virtual cocktail party to which everyone with a smartphone is invited, thick skin optional but advised. From some of the press it gets you’d think Tinder was a fast track to depravity but, in my experience interacting with the 51-year-old and up crowd that I’ve selected (the app lets you select a minimum and maximum age, which after 54 then defaults to 55-plus), most people’s initial intention is to be charming followed by a lovely get-together, the ultimate goal being a relationship.
Not getting a leg over with as many partners as possible assemble-line style as Vanity Fair famously documented with the under 30-set. If you ask me, making the most of Tinder’s up-to-the-moment convenience says something cool about you from the start.
Granted only about half my so-called matches get in touch with a message. I gather some men swipe yes indiscriminately and cull from there or are in it for the ego boost of a match and only that.
If I do hear from a man, it’s usually within 24 hours. I leave this first real move up to the guy; I find you learn so much more about a man if you wait to see how much initiative he takes. If he’s interested, you’ll know; ambiguity, his anyway, is out the window.
The monkey wrench in the works with Tinder is that even if you confine your hunting ground (in my case, I’ve arranged my settings so I only see profiles of men who have come within three miles of me) you pick up anyone passing through town on their way home to, say, Marseille or L.A. Cue a long-distance relationship when you least intended it (hey, I was curious about Ireland anyway).
If you find commuting for romance impractical or anything else off-putting, you say a polite good-bye or don’t bother; block the man in question so you drop off each other’s list of matches and can no longer reach each other, then go on mingling.
I’d estimate three-quarters of my flirty new pen pals end up suggesting a phone call, or we go straight to meeting for a coffee, a drink or, my personal favourite, a walk that turns into a drink. This stage heralds the shift out of Tinder to text messaging. NB, in France, where I currently live, middle-aged lawyers, bankers and doctors employ emojis with wild abandon; I’ve never seen so many winky, kissy smiley faces in my life.
Further NB, if a man disappears from your list of matches now, it probably means he’s blocked you to stop you from seeing how often he’s popping back into the party: Tinder records the time of your last visit for all to see. Don’t make my mistake and think he’s decided you’re The One, logged off altogether and stripped Tinder from his phone.
Not quite, not yet.
To be honest, dating in bulk is work. If I had more friends and family nearby, it’s hard to imagine staying this motivated to get out there. But when I’ve felt lonely or at odds, it’s been a boon to have a rendezvous on the horizon. Sorry, gents, sorry, Germaine Greer, but I love the fact I never foot the first date bill. I sing well for my tisane, cocktail or supper – I try to offer every date an experience he’ll remember fondly no matter the outcome.
A month-and-a-half into my Tinder experience, however, I was hankering to invest. Time for a second date. More hinges on Date No. 2 than Date No. 1: you start truly assessing compatibility. Do you admire this person enough generally to overlook however irritating he’ll be eventually? Could he put up with you?
Not to mention Date No. 2 is one date away from the Sex Date – at least Make-Out Date if you’re me and my friends. Second dates reveal more or should.
I was ready.
One option was Nice Guy, an early match who hadn’t seemed my type, but I’d doubled back to him. Our first get-together we gallery-hopped, tippled. He texted afterward to say he felt he’d met someone special. Likewise … except the day before I’d gone out with Rich Guy, who’d picked me up in his two-seater Benz for an impromptu run in the Bois de Boulogne park (he walked), followed by lunch at his tennis club.
Rich Guy seemed melancholy until he broke into his first belly laugh. Over salmon salads, we sparred ideologically – always a good sign in my case. There was something masculine about Rich Guy that called out to me. Hopefully not his bank balance, but it would take time to figure that out.
“Guess what,” I called to say as he cruised home from golf. “It’s my birthday this weekend.” “Wonderful,” he said. “Let’s do dinner.”
For the first time in a long time I gussied-up – slinky dress and heels. I waited 30 minutes, then called Rich Guy who’d bungled our meeting place, “got pissed off” and huffed to a local Italian joint. Not even an after-dinner cruise in his fancy convertible rescued matters once Rich Guy switched in my mind to Big Baby.
I huddled in his passenger seat, taking seemingly ecstatic Instagram shots, feeling horribly trapped except for the fact that when he’d checked his phone between courses, I’d texted Nice Guy. Tinder = options.
Nice Guy and I enjoyed a second date loaded with my kind of charm (Ferris wheel, hipster beer garden, Mexican café, sweet kiss goodnight). The next day he took off on holiday, messaged me ardently for a couple weeks, then his attention dwindled. I never saw Nice Guy again. From crush to crushed in three weeks.
In retrospect, a close friend, a Tinder veteran, was justified in barking at me to get a grip and keep circulating. A tool like Tinder feels like it gives you a head start, but I’ve learned the finish line, i.e., monogamy, commitment, is as far away as ever. Maybe farther. Shooting cute messages back and forth is a lot easier than dressing up a little, meeting and actually smiling, winking and kissing your way to meaningfulness.
On I went, ticking separate items off my wish list with checkmarks that never actually led to attraction. The lawyer who dressed impeccably: I hit the cufflink jackpot with him, but he was inconsiderate. The banker who was a culture vulture, but we had no desire to touch each other. A Sorbonne professor who ought to warn women he’s five foot three since he’s prone to pre-date build-up. My new rule is no exchanging extensive, thrilled correspondence until you’ve smelled each other.
Recently I came close.
Let’s call him François. He lunched in my neck of the woods, and Tinder found him for me. I wouldn’t have met him any other way – he lives on the other side of Paris, revolves in separate circles and comes nowhere near my wish list. As soon as I laid eyes on him, he made me beam. Date No. 1: hotel bar. Date No. 2 the next evening: a seafood restaurant. Date No. 3 three days later ended with tea and some smooching at his place, which was when he became Franky to me. Date No. 4: Saturday dinner at a crêperie, my treat, with a peek at my apartment afterwards so I could prove how microscopic it is.
So much for momentum. When Franky’s enthusiasm seemed to wane booking Date No. 5, I got suspicious. Correction; I got hurt, then suspicious. I went back on Tinder for the first time in 10 days and there he was after midnight. I blocked him, not in anger, just to protect myself, then texted the next morning to suggest we take a step back and reflect. There is another François out there for me. Literally. He’s a journalist and wants to meet up for Moroccan food on rue Mouffetard. I can’t say no to that.
It occurs to me now one of the best parts of even the most fun parties is heading home to privacy and comfort. Ideally with someone who didn’t quote Paolo Coelho or pose beside a motorcycle and understands Tinder is a means, not an end. A means to what is entirely up to us once I find him if I ever do. I can’t think of a better place to look.