The fact that a thing like Tinder exists is already the worst, honestly. It consistently undermines one of the primary lessons our parents at least tried to instill in us: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
After almost three years of being an active Tinder user in New York City, I feel confident telling you that I’ve judged more covers than a publishing house. I can only imagine after countless years of telling me I should pick a mate based on kindness, intelligence, and loyalty, how proud my mom would be to know I now "swipe left" when someone doesn't meet my height requirements... or has a tagline like "just trying to get it in."
New York takes Tinder to an entire other God-awful level. It’s a simple math equation, really. What happens when you take New York’s already infinity options and add infinity more options, and then multiply that by ego and flakiness? You yield New York City’s Tinder population, that’s what. The root of the problem is that New Yorkers are used to being able to get what they want, when they want it. That’s because they can. This city thrives on limitless options and opportunities, and most of all, it perpetuates the “there’s probably something better around the corner” attitude.
So, you take that very factual New Yorker mentality, and then add something that in a literal sense puts even more possibility at our fingertips, making our already numerous options grow exponentially?
Fuck you, Tinder.
I wasn’t always like this
I even used to be optimistic. Moving to New York also coincided with the first time I had been single in more than half a decade. I was an online dating virgin; at the time, I viewed Tinder as the perfect “baby step” into the process. (Writer’s Note: I’m laughing out loud at my own naivety right now.)
I’ll be the first to admit that when you first get on the thing, there’s a bit of a high to it -- especially when I would “match” with the hot guy who also went to an SEC school, enjoyed outdoor beers, and watching reruns of Friday Night Lights. Could there actually be a chance?
Probably not. Because despite the fact that you've both matched -- meaning you both find each other attractive enough for a one-night stand at minimum -- you’re at just the tip of the iceberg of numerous levels you need to get through in this dead-end Tinder journey.
The entire Tinder process is scarily reminiscent of Nintendo’s Punch-Out!!
For anyone who was born in the ‘80s and played inarguably the greatest video game of all time, you know how hard it was to even reach Mike Tyson, let alone beat him. For those of you who this metaphor is lost on, it took bobbing and weaving through 10 other kick-ass fighters waiting to TKO (technical knockout!) you to reach Mike Tyson; it was the holy grail, an unspeakable feat so rarely achieved that Nintendo actually gave you a FREE GAME when you did it.
Actually dating someone you meet on Tinder is the modern-day equivalent. And, in this case, the game is hardly free.
Level one: It’s almost certain no one actually messages each other
This may be why Tinder in NYC sucks the most. What's even the point? I'll tell you, to keep that queue steadily climbing, because maybe one day you’ll want to talk to him/her, who knows! Except, well, you won’t. You know why? That same feeling that makes New Yorkers think we have yet to sample most the delicious ramen in the city or down a beer at the best rooftop bar is the same motivation behind always, always clicking “Keep Playing” rather than “Send Message” once we’ve received a match. I can pretty much guarantee none of you have ever hit “Send Message” the moment that exciting little window pops up. And before you get all “Oh, like you have” on me -- of course I haven’t. Because no one does. Ever.
Level two: You’ve made it through the Glass Joe-equivalent first round, and now you’re chatting
Progress! Let’s see if that date actually happens. The odds are not forever in your favor, Katniss. What will probably happen is you’ll talk a lot about meeting up -- because you both LOVE ping-pong, and you should totally do that! -- but never actually will. From there, the (dare I call it) “courting,” will likely go something like this:
Tinderer 1: So how about next week?
Tinderer 2: Slammed at work that week, can we do next Friday?
Tinderer 1 [after contemplating wasting a Friday on a stranger]: I’m actually out of town that weekend.
Tinderer 2: Alright, well here’s my number [redacted]. Hit me up when you’re back and we’ll figure it out.
Spoiler alert: you didn’t figure it out.
Level three: The in-person meet-up seldom goes well
If someone actually documented the levels of emotion I’ve experienced from getting ready for first Tinder dates, they would Baker Act me. It quickly spiraled from cute outfits and positive thinking to having a burrito waiting for me when I got home, because there was no way I was staying through a dinner. I realize how negative that sounds, and that you should always keep an open mind, and that’s true, you should. But it’s also true that after enough first dates with people who pretty much blatantly lie about themselves and/or are totally insane after weeks of Level two-coordinating an in-person meeting, you can’t help it.
New Yorkers are fantastic at selling themselves; it’s why everyone here is always after a promotion or new job -- and likely secures it. We’re so good at the interview process it seamlessly transitions to the smoke screens used in the Tinder messaging process, meaning it can be both very stimulating and very misleading. The latter becomes blatantly obvious when you go on a date with someone recently released from prison.*
Speaking of misleading, you know when you’re apartment hunting in New York, and the online pictures are very often not real and/or are shot with a crazy angle to make them look huge? Same thing often applies to Tinder, except instead of square footage, it’s height. If any guy says he’s 5'10", it means 5’7” at best. Trust me.
Level four: Not making this date all about sex and getting him/her to respect you enough to go on a second date
Holy effing cow you actually want to see this person again. This is both incredible and terrifying; it’s the definitive Soda Popinski-equivalent level of this process, because you can actually catch a glimpse at Mike Tyson (i.e. the dating level). Your hopes arise, and you think you can beat it. Then out of nowhere you’re nailed by an uppercut, and subsequently laughed at as he/she takes another swig of “pop” -- which in both cases is booze, Soda Popinski was always drinking.
Here’s why: not making the first Tinder date, let alone the second, about sex is like when a sophomore is dating a graduating senior -- there’s this weird precedent set. Yes, we’re all hopefully more secure than we were when we succumbed to the whole “C’mon, it’s our last prom. We may never see each other again, don’t you want this to be special?” But that jilted logic has evolved. You still have to work to fight that elephant in the room that’s basically screaming, “Wait, we’re going to have sex, right? We met on Tinder for Pete’s sake!” It’s often wafting in the air throughout the entire date. And even if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s still just depressing. After being forced into meeting someone via an application, the universal setting defaults to “No Romance.”
Factor in that you’ll almost undoubtedly be having your first date at a bar -- because, New York -- and, naturally, the several drinks you’ll down to take that first-date edge off; before you know it, you get to the point where you may as well have slept with this person, given you made out all over the city. Silver lining here is, no matter where you land on the “to bone or not to bone” decision, you’ll still wonder if this person isn’t texting you because you did or didn’t do one of them. So, yeah, not really a silver lining as much as a silver bullet you want to aim towards your head.
Level five: The out-of-nowhere fade out
AKA the part of the game New Yorkers kick so much ass at, it’s a wonder we didn’t invent this method. Or did we? The obvious Punch-Out!!-level comparison here is Great Tiger, because this is some serious magician shit. Things are actually going well. You’ve been on a few dates, somehow overcame the sex elephant, and managed to not get knocked out yet. You are a solid player whose fighting skills are so masterful they’ve resulted in arriving at a very advanced level in this crapshoot of a game.
But like Great Tiger disappears just to reappear as if from nowhere only to punch you in the face, such is the case when a Tinder mate just goes stone-cold silent for no damn reason. Seriously, they can just drop off the map and you will have no idea why. Nothing happened. Literally, nothing. Your last correspondence could very well have been about a concert in Brooklyn you were planning to catch together next week. Then, just, crickets.
Neither I, the universe, nor Robert Stack have any answers for this because these are total Unsolved Mysteries. I can tell you that you should expect it to happen almost 100% of the time in New York City’s “it’s a Tinder-iffic life” saga.
Level six: Throwing your hands up in utter defeat after being pummeled to the ground too much
Even Little Mac can’t get up sometimes, and you’ve had it. Seriously, this is it. You’re deleting the app. WHO THE HELL NEEDS THIS?
You do. Eventually you’ll once again realize it’s pretty much the only way to meet people In New York City these days. Or more likely, you’ll just miss having options.
So you get back on it, starting the entire process again. And hating yourself.
Seriously. Fuck you, Tinder.
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