I hadn’t been using Tinder for a long time. I used to think of it as a shallow way to meet people. People are condensed into photos, age, sex, and location – their profiles displayed in a catalogue of faces. You can swipe right or left according to your liking, like online shopping. When I swiped left or right, I always felt self-conscious and questioned myself, “Is this a normal human interaction? Is this thing morally right?”
My friends introduced me to the app last year and I got about three matches that time. The three of them had nice polite chats with me but it led to nothing. Then I uninstalled the app, as I felt both excited and embarrassed every time I was on it. I was thrilled about meeting the next new person, but was also ashamed of myself. Whenever I opened the app, I judged myself for being desperate and lonely.
But I started using the app again earlier this month following a post-breakup extreme sadness. This time I did not judge myself for being desperate and lonely. I was desperate and lonely. And horny all the time. It was a month of frequent crying and masturbating, so I thought a one-night stand with a faceless stranger – just anyone – might be an act of self-healing rebound.
This time, I got heaps of matches. It wasn’t because I had done some major revamping of my profile – the app has become much more popular. With that came the lowering of people’s standard, mine including.
Last year, I gave long and deep thoughts before swiping right. This time, I swiped right after finding guys who met my criteria (cute, cultured, young, had very few or no mutual friends). Using Tinder became something I did in my spare time anywhere, anytime, after checking my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Path accounts. I understood that I was scanning through a catalogue of humans, and that I was being in it too. I was aware that there were people out there swiping my profile left or right at the very moment.
Despite the number of matches, the only person with whom I had what passed as a conversation was the writer guy. It seemed like we were into the same things (literature, art, blahblahblah), and it would be nice to meet him in person. Perhaps we’ll have a real nice talk.
So we decided to meet at a gelato place in town. I did not put much effort to glam myself up. Dressed in my everyday attire (sneakers, cotton dress, tote-bag), I did not expect anything to really happen. I did have condoms with me, in case things turned seriously wild, but, to my surprise, I wasn’t really longing for sex.
Also, I found that I wasn’t really excited about meeting a new person, especially because the reason we crossed paths was the fact that both of us are looking for a new person to meet. Desperation and loneliness are neither flattering nor attractive. It is different from being introduced to a friend’s friend in a music show or in someone’s party, or knowing a person from a workplace or school, or just bumping into someone particularly interesting like in a library or an interest-based portal such as last.fm.
Meeting someone through Tinder is like connecting with someone who has just been summoned from thin air. The idea of making a conversation with someone I barely know sounds tiring, especially after a long day at work and when I had barely moved on from my last relationship.
Nevertheless, I sat down at the gelato place and had a conversation for two hours with the guy. He seemed nice, but the conversation felt a bit forced. I wore a big smile all the time and laughed at his stories. He was also full of smile, responding with “Yeah, cool!”, or “I like that”, or “Whoa, amazing!” to my stories. To be honest, my inner alarm was buzzing with “awkward”, “boring”, “go home and watch movies” halfway into our meeting. However, another tiny voice at the back of my head was screaming, “Hang on! You’re probably gonna have fun in the next hour!”
When the café closed at 10 pm, he asked if I wanted to hang out some more. Almost immediately I agreed, though somewhat indifferently. I gave him a lift on my rattling motorbike back to his hotel. He hugged my waist a little too tightly that I had to ask him if he was terrified of being at the back of a motorbike.
Up in his room, my awkward alarm was blaring again. We were in a tiny hotel room that had no other furniture but a bed. Sitting in bed, we started to chat again. My mind was divided, half on the conversation and half on making judgment whether it was time to go home, or whether I should just go “what the hell, lets fuck!”
When he started kissing me, I giggled nervously. When we began to make out, I had an attack of self-consciousness, telling myself: “Okay, this is not working. You don’t need this. You don’t have to force it.” I stopped and told him I was sorry but I was very nervous and didn’t feel like going on further.
I was not lying. I was terribly sorry and really nervous, and I lost my interest in having sex with him after I realized that everything was forced. Now I understand how Holden Caulfield in A Catcher in the Rye and Toru in Norwegian Wood felt when they decided to not have sex. I used to read those parts and thought they were unrealistic.
While we were making out, my mind started to fuss with things not related to sex: his orange socks or yellow boxers. I felt that I couldn’t summon the passion to have sex with a man who wore these and who had to fake smiles – I couldn’t do it after a night of faking interests. To be honest, I started to feel very bad, and all I wanted to was get out of there, rush to my ex-boyfriend’s home, and hide in his armpit.
I didn’t do it, though. We lay there, in my dress, my cardigan pulled to cover my neck and cleavage, and he half naked and spooning me. I told him that he was the first person I met on Tinder. He said he already had a few Tinder experiences, most of them were weird and some of them led to an unsuccessful series of dates. The weirdest Tinder girl he met was a born-again Christian on a mission to convert people she matched with, he said.
I thought about the whole thing as I rode my bike home, and felt as if a little hidden part of me had been revealed. I had thought I needed to have sex with anyone attractive enough in this heartbroken/horny condition. I had thought sex with a total stranger would help cheer me up and balance my hormones. But I was happy that I pulled out before it had gone too far. I would’ve woken up feeling like shit if I had done it.
The fact is I was not really attracted to him. There were nanoseconds between kisses in which I questioned myself about what really mattered. If I continued, it would be akin to raping myself. I would probably just drown in a pool of self-hate. My self-esteem would be destroyed, and I would miss my ex-boyfriend even more.
Experimenting with sex and interaction could help give you insights into what you prefer and what you don’t. It can also adjust your Hollywood-influenced imagination with your real situation. My experiment with Tinder date was not a particularly horrible one, but the near-sex-experience told me that it did not suit me. It might work on other girls, but not me.
I could not imagine being sex-less at 25, but I found out that having sex with a stranger would not fill the void in me. And I’m not sad at all about that.
Seralita is an English Literature graduate living in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She has uninstalled her Tinder.