“We met on Tinder!”
“…And now we’re engaged!”
“It’s really not just a hook-up app anymore.”
In recent years, I’d heard testimonials trumpeting Tinder as, “No Longer the One Night Stand Dating App You Used to Love to Hate.” Nevertheless, given that I wasn’t a big fan of dating apps (or, let’s be honest, dating), I’d steered clear.
Two years ago, when I moved to Oregon from New Jersey, I’d been single for two years. Free from marriage, Corporate America, and east coast humidity, I decided it was time to fire up Bumble (a dating app similar to Tinder in its swiping, but where only women have the power to send the first message). Let’s see if the scene is any different now that I live 3,000 miles away from my hometown.
Arguably, it was far worse in my new, small town (as the story linked above will prove). In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., you could go weeks without bumping into a familiar face. The likelihood of running into an ex or bad first date in Bend, Oregon, however: 113%. (Give or take.)
I quickly gave up and resumed my usual lifestyle: Friends, food, fur babies.
There was always the nagging thought that perhaps I’d “given up” versus consciously deciding to bow out of the dating scene.
“You’ve gotta put yourself out there!”
“It takes time to meet the right person.”
“Give him a chance!”
Despite honing my gut instinct over the past 38 years, the din of the masses still got to me. Maybe “they” all knew something I didn’t. Maybe everything I thought was right for me was just a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. Maybe I was going to DIE ALONE OH MY GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE ALONE.
And that’s how I got sucked in -AGAIN- to downloading a dating app on my phone last week. This time, I bit the bullet and chose the infamous Tinder. I swiped right, I swiped left, and I periodically put down my phone to hide under a blanket.
As matches and messages trickled in, my heart raced. Not in the good way. More in the clammy, “it puts the lotion in the basket,” low-level dread kind of way. Okay, Jules. Maybe you’re just talking yourself out of a good thing. Maybe you need to just get a post-COVID date out of the way. Break the seal.
I fired back a couple of overly clever replies to two men. Ugh. No. I can’t do this! I don’t want to meet any of these people! Who knows who they really are?!
I’d been on enough online dates to know that, no matter how many photos and phone calls you exchange before the first meeting, you’re still going on a blind date. And does anyone really want to go on an endless series of blind dates?
Let me put it this way. The best online date pales in comparison to Netflix and pasta. And involves far more prep time.
Within 48 hours, and long before I could exchange more than two short messages with anyone, I deleted my Tinder account. I briefly entertained the fantasy that some of my matches fell to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens, crying, “WHERE DID SHE GO? WHERE?!?!?!”
A few nights later, I shared drinks with a couple of girlfriends, and the conversation turned to our exes.
“I just got this random Facebook message from my ex’s new girlfriend. Look.”
She showed us her phone, which displayed a long string of messages: “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I know you dated [him] a while ago and I just have to know… did you experience anything like this? He’s gotten really emotionally and verbally abusive, accusing me of cheating and calling me all of these names and I just don’t know what to do.”
My friend was too afraid to say much in response for fear that this ex had created a fake account and was in fact the one messaging her. “Oh my god he’s been doing that to me!” the new girlfriend wrote. “Creating fake accounts…stalking me…”
“I still fear for my life from one of my exes,” I chimed in. “Everyone knows who to arrest if I go missing.”
“Yes!” my friend exclaimed. “Every woman I’ve talked to has a story like this!”
A familiar feeling rose in my chest. A mix of nausea, compassion, and curiosity. All of the “scary ex” stories always made me think, “What are we [as a society] doing wrong? This can’t be the result of testosterone overload. If our male counterparts could express hurt, sadness, and fear freely, would any of this happen?”
The very next morning, I woke up to a ‘New Blog Comment’ alert. Someone from Match.com, with whom I went on one date six years ago, had commented on a blog post from 2015. I had written a post about our first (and only) date and… apparently it didn’t land well with him.
I scratched my head. How did he even FIND this? I don’t think I ever mentioned that I had a blog, I always change or omit names, and I try REALLY hard not to say anything seemingly cruel… In fact, I had intentionally framed the post as, “This bizarre thing happened on a first date: what would you do to handle it?” to avoid coming across like I was maligning the man.
(In a nutshell: After our first date, this fella started sending me a cappella karaoke clips he’d recorded on his phone, and some other things I wasn’t quite sure how to react to, like a LinkedIn connection request and an article he’d written many years earlier [which he copied and pasted, in its entirety, into a single text message].)
After rereading the story several times, I definitively concluded that the post was funny – and harmless. Also, half the reason I’ve suffered through dating is for the stories.
Still, I cringed. I’m sure it can’t be fun to stumble on a blog post about you, even if it’s innocuous (…and six years old). More than that, though, I felt that same swirling concern. Why? Why do we exist in a world where hurt and pain (or simply bruised egos) become violence, cruelty, stalking, and aggression?
Here’s a situation where I spent a few hours with someone -a perfect stranger- six years ago, never saw him again, and now I feel unsafe. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that my inner monologue shouts, “Well. You blogged about him. YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT.”
Sigh. If anyone wants a pasta and Season 4 “Breaking Bad” binge, hit me up.
I almost don’t want to ask this, but: Any similar stories or concerns you’d like to share? Or, what do you think we can each do to create a safer, kinder world?