Before diving into this narrative with wild expectations, you should know that this could be any person's story. My Tinder experience wasn't a disaster. It wasn't responsible for a date straight out of hell, with some creeper who was nothing like his profile suggested. In fact, it was the opposite. I don't regret it, I'm not ashamed of it. Giving it the benefit of the doubt was the right choice, even though there was no favorable outcome. Sure, the app is notorious for being a hookup facilitator, but as with all rules, there are exceptions.
This is the story of one such exception... or so I thought.
I jumped on the Tinder bandwagon when the rest of the single, 20-something population did, but never anticipated actually meeting someone from there in the real world -- because duh, that would just be unnatural and awkward.
I had the same mindset when deciding to pull the app up while visiting NYC. In fact, I was even more hesitant about meeting someone outside of Minnesota for a number of reasons. I wasn't familiar with the area, wasn't staying long and on the off chance I actually liked the person, didn't want to set myself up to be hurt since I would be leaving the east coast when the summer ended.
On this particular night, I spent about 20 minutes flipping through photos, swiping the majority to the left, one or two to the right. And then there he was: a coffee-loving country music junkie and sports journalist like myself. Not to mention he was easy on the eyes. My curiosity was piqued. I initiated a conversation and it unfolded from there.
Our first few exchanges alone were enough to tell me I liked Tinder Boy -- we bonded over being sticklers for grammar, the correct use of "you're" and "your" and "then" and "than" being of utmost importance in our lives. The banter came naturally.
He made the rookie mistake of dropping his last name, so I did what any good journalist would do -- turned to Facebook to find out more. I Googled him to make sure he actually was a journalist (because what journalist has no hits on Google?) Everything he had told me checked out, and to top it off, he was a talented writer -- the equivalent of having eight-pack abs in a fellow writer's mind.
I was intrigued without having even met him, but there was no way to know if the chemistry would be there in person. No way except taking a leap of faith, trusting my instincts and going on a date, which I rarely do. But something was telling me this was different. I had a limited time frame to take him up on the offer. So I did, and suddenly, I was on a Long Island-bound train with no time to overthink or turn back.
We met for pizza and the conversation came easily, fluidly, as if we hadn't just met. He knew everyone we encountered since he was from a small community, which further eased my tentativeness. No one was running away screaming, so he must be an OK guy with a good reputation. We took the date a step further and got frozen yogurt and sat on the beach for hours, under the stars, the water lapping the shore, discussing college, journalism, family.
The night was beyond my wildest expectations and I was blindsided. Never in my life have I had such a simple, yet perfect, first date or fallen so hard so quickly. I was smitten, unable to wipe the smile off of my face the rest of the night. He drove me the hour back to NYC rather than making me take the train again, and we continued to text. We met again the next day for date number two, which went as well as, if not better than, date number one -- in my mind, at least.
We seemed to have so much in common. There was a level of intellectual connection, something that is so much harder to come across than physical connection is. I was (and still am) positive that if he only was in it for a hookup, there would have been other less exhausting and time-consuming ways to go about it. I worked to convince myself it was worth taking a chance on, even though the odds weren't necessarily in our favor.
Then it all went downhill.
His texts became less frequent, and when he did text, they weren't as engaged or thorough as when we first began talking. We had discussed getting together again over the summer, but when I actually mentioned doing it, it wasn't received as expected. Something was just off in comparison to how it had felt days earlier.
But here's what really irks me: He played my commitment-phobe game and I recognized it, enough so that I should have turned and run before getting hurt, before the inevitable letdown. He began backing off, pulling away little by little, which is exactly what I do when I lose interest in someone, when the game isn't fun anymore.
But curiosity about the potential kept me hanging on... until he texted me saying he "didn't want me to get my hopes up about some fairy tale ending." Ouch. Probably the worst thing you can say to a person who is hesitant to let other people in. That sentence was a dagger, a softer way of saying, "You're just like every other die-hard romantic, needy, clingy girl out there and I'm just not that into it." In plain and simple words, it hurt -- more than I expected it to. He went on to deliver the "I really enjoyed spending time with you," and, "You're a great girl, I think the world of you," lines. Yeah buddy, I'm sure. At least do me the justice of not lying when delivering the letdown.
So, after two weeks of daily messages and Snapchats, that was our last exchange. And here I sit, stuck on a 20-hour car ride with my family of seven, iPod in, computer out, being given ample time to dwell on this whole fiasco.
Rejection would sting in anyone's world, but for people like myself, who pride themselves on being independent and not allowing others to dictate their emotions, it packs a little more punch to be vulnerable. For us, there are few emotions in this world that are more humiliating than feeling inadequate.
But as humans, we make mistakes. We misread people and their intentions. We all want to be that person who can change someone, who can make them better and more whole, rather than become just another commitment. We all desire to be the exception in their life, but it kills us to admit that because we are independent people, dammit.
We can sit and kick ourselves, wondering where we went wrong. We can feel rejected, as if something is wrong with us after having the "I'm just not looking for a relationship" line delivered yet again -- a line we have used many times ourselves, a line that serves as an easy way to let someone down without saying directly, "Look, it's is actually you, not me." Because let's face it, that's what we really mean.
So, we can choose to dwell on that. Or we can choose to be proud of ourselves for actually trying. After all, we only "knew" Tinder Boy (or whoever the man of the moment may be) for two weeks and probably liked the idea of him more than we actually liked him. (Because let's be real, we can't like someone we never really knew.) So we try to choose the latter, try to be happy we took a chance, even though every fiber of our being is telling us to be pissed off, bitter, resentful that someone broke through our rigid exterior and left us with these uncomfortable, unfamiliar things called "feelings."
We forget that we need to be hurt, torn down a little sometimes. Experiences like this teach us that we are never broken. We are always capable of letting our guards down. Maybe abrupt endings like this one remind us of why we so often don't, but at least we create feelings to cling to when we want to give up on romance.
Would I give Tinder another chance? Probably not. I'll stick to chance meetings from now on. However, I have minimal regrets -- I only wish I had chosen to leave the experience as those two perfect dates, chosen to sit with the "what-ifs," and allowing the rest to unfold in my mind, rather than forcing it to in reality.