Oh, my. Talk about an eye-opening experience!
For the uninitiated, the way Tinder works is when you like someone’s profile you swipe right on their picture, and when you would rather pass, you swipe left. If you both ‘swipe right’ then you come up as matches for one another, and can start talking. And take it from there.
Apparently (and I say apparently because prior to Tinder I was pretty much an online dating virgin), this is much better than traditional online dating sites, where anybody can message you (or harass you, if the attention is unwanted!). At least on Tinder, the only people who can talk to you are the people whose profile you have liked.
Which means that you know you kind of like each other before you chat online.
But the whole swiping thing took a bit of adjustment. It seemed kind of shallow, to swipe left or right on someone based on photos and a brief profile. And I actually felt kind of bad about swiping left on a person. And a bit nervous about swiping right. I mean, these were people right, real people – not just some nameless anonymous photos.
One of my galpals said to take the nervousness out of it, treat it like a game of ‘Hot or Not’. Like just swipe one way or the other and don’t worry any further than that. If you swipe left, they won’t know so they’re not going to feel rejected or anything like that. If you swipe right, they won’t know unless they also swipe right so again, nobody gets an obvious thumbs down.
So off I went, within an hour of joining Tinder, swiping left and right with reckless abandon and without putting much thought into it.
And within a few hours a series of eye-openers ensued.
The first eye opener was how many men there are between 35-50 who are single. I had no idea! In New Zealand where I live now, there’s long been a much-publicised ‘man-drought’ (http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/love-sex/9598458/Man-drought-leaves-many-lacking-romance) but I have to say, erm, nope. Not on Tinder anyways!
The second eye opener was the response to my profile. Within an hour of playing ‘Tinder swipe’, I had no less than 20 matches. I was astounded – no, overwhelmed – at the rate that matches were coming through. I hadn’t been on the receiving end of that kind of male attention since before I became a Christian 22 years ago! I didn’t even realize that I’d swiped right on that many people…
The third eye opener (which shouldn’t really have been a surprise) is that there is definitely a dodgy, crazy element on Tinder. The younger guy immediately offering to be a toyboy. The married man being very up-front that he is looking for a lover. The American guy ‘passing through town’ and asking me where I am and suggesting we ‘meet up’. And later on, the obviously very troubled guy (who I never actually met) who stalked me and said so many inappropriate things that genuinely scared me, that my burly protective brother had to contact him and tell him in no uncertain terms to Leave My Sister Alone.
The other thing that I realized with each of these individuals, was that these men were often behaving the way they did out of past experiences (good and bad), conquests, baggage, hurts or loneliness. And often, it was clear that many of these men did not know any other way to approach, pursue or interact with a woman.
In the 35+ age group in particular, I realized that men often have years, or decades of patterns of behaviour in relating to women in a certain way – whether through relationships, dating or one night stands. And just because they meet someone ‘really different from other girls’ (more on that later), even if they wanted to change those patterns to win a different kind of girl, said patterns are almost impossible to change, especially later in life. As a Christian, I believe that the only way people can change patterns for the better, is through a God-breathed transformation of the heart.
It was a revelation to me to realize that being spoken to in a particular way by men, was not a reflection of me or my worth at all. It said more about where they were at than where I was at.
And I didn’t judge them for where they were at. We are all often a composite of our experiences and our responses to them – it takes a lot of hard work and conscious effort to be otherwise. I really understood this, and even when they sometimes freaked me out a bit with how forward (or, yes, creepy) they were, I always tried to let understanding rule my responses.
This idea that their approach to me was not an indicator of my worth or value – it sounds so obvious, and so many friends have said this to me over the years.
But finally, there in amongst being bombarded with everything from ‘hey baby, you’re gorgeous’ to ‘I must say you are hot’ to ‘would you like me to teach you how to <<name of sexual act here>>’ to ‘when do you want to get married’…it finally, finally clicked.
I don’t need to take on other people’s stuff and infer that I’m somehow less valuable because of the way they treat me or the damaging words they might try to speak over me.
I’ve spent my whole life doing that. Believing that the treatment I received from men – from anyone, in fact – was a direct function of my value, or lack thereof. Believing that I didn’t deserve any better from men than to be spoken to like I was nothing more than a plaything, a fantasy. Not a real person.
But I am now learning that can’t control what other people think of me, good or bad. And it says nothing at all about who I am in God’s eyes and the insanely unconditional love that He – I now understand more than ever – has for me.
I’m not sure why it took me getting out of a church setting and into the jungle of lust that is Tinder, for me to really realize this. For this to finally become something that I could internalize, that could take hold and anchor itself in my heart, and which could finally settle into me as truth. A healthy truth.
So anyway – the morning after I joined Tinder, I realized that I had to be very, very, very clear on my bio. So, for the removal of all doubt, I updated it to say ‘I’m not here for swipe-to-shag, so if that’s your thing please move along :-)’…note the smiley face!
The smiley face was important – because one thing I had resolved to do in all my interactions with people on Tinder, was as far as possible, to always be kind. So even if I had to say something ‘difficult’ I always tried to say it in a way that was not destructive to the other person, but was still clear and firm. I didn’t always get that right – I found this easier said than done at times!
The updated bio went some way towards mitigating The Crazy, but not entirely…I realized that many Americans don’t know what a ‘shag’ is!! And perhaps some of the non-Americans who still ‘tried it on’ just simply couldn’t read 🙂
Eventually though, matches on Tinder started to ‘stabilise’ as I learned how to filter and manage conversations in such a way that both parties were respected but everybody knew where they stood from the get-go.
And after a few – sometimes very entertaining – conversations (there are some really good value guys out there, I have to say), the dates started happening.
And that’s when the Tinder learning curve really ramped up!