Ch**k in a Box: The Latest Tinder Trend?

Why are these girls stuffing themselves into small spaces?

For four years, we’ve submitted ourselves to a torture called Tinder. In the name of love, we will pay to be judged; let our mothers run our accounts; pose with vicious cats; and sometimes, get married. Though irrational, these behaviors are explicable. Here is one that is not: Girls stuffing themselves into various small things.

It started with two photos, sent from a friend.

Meg, 28, smiled out of an airplane’s overhead compartment. Jae, 27, curled snuggly, like a shrimp, within an open dryer.

A few days later, more photos arrived. Melly, 33, crouched within a corrugated box. Johanne, 28, posed audaciously, albeit nonchalantly, between a locomotive’s wheels. While Chrissy, 34, climbed into a child-sized stagecoach.

“I think it must be a conversation starter,” one friend posited. “Like, ‘Hey girl, how’d you get into that stagecoach?’” Plausible: you swipe right, maybe match, and then… silence. The contortion tactic helps circumvent standard, stupid — “hey, you’re pretty cute” or “tell me more about yourself” — one-liners.

Stuffing photos, as we named those found on various dating apps, also immediately indicate one’s hobbies. Meg, for example, could be a frequent flier; Jae maybe launders in leisure; while Chrissy could be a child caretaker (or, in need of one). Maybe the photos lead to deeper, more meaningful connection — even if they run the risk of unwelcome sexual statements. (I need not explain the connotations of “stuffing,” but creepy guys exist online, and that’s why God created the block button.)

“On some subconscious level maybe it is a damsel in distress sort of thing,” another friend proffered. “We don’t have dragons anymore, but we can still get stuck. Do you buy it? [princess face emoji].”

Like Tinder men posing with tigers — an instant indicator of machismo, worldliness, and access to exotic animals — stuffing photos may indicate inculcated Victorian relationship roles that women latently assume men are attracted to.

“I was thinking the girls were trying hard to look tiny,” my male friend stated. “Or exacerbate their tininess. Tinder seems to be obsessed with height.”

Most men post their measurements.

Tom, 20, states the facts: “5’9.”
Jeffery, 29, reveals a little more: “I am 6’2” living in NYC.”
Bryant, 28, challengingly states: “I bet I’m taller than you.”
Johnny, 30, critically writes: “6-ft: because height is apparently a missing feature on here.”

Aside from reinforcing heteronomative relationship expectations (tall man; tiny woman), stuffing photos provide valuable consumer-insight. Telling Tinder that its users want to “discover” not just by age, sex, and distance — but by stature, too!

More creepily, the photos represent a literal “packaging” of the self — one that mirrors what occurs on the dating app where all attributes must be displayed in five photos and, optionally, a few sentences. Inadvertently, stuffing photos mock and articulate the misalignment between our online portrayals and us as humans, IRL. By comically skewing expectations, they assuage the anxiety that accompanies any first-Tinder date too — that is, assuming that a Tinder date even happens.

Personally, Tinder is among my favorite drinking games. (Shot if they’re hot; water if they’re not—I am very well-hydrated.) For many friends, it’s a fascinating anthropological study, or filler in fits of boredom. Few go on actual dates.

That’s because although these women appear quite comfy in stuffing photos — indicating our apparent ease in packaging, presenting, and engaging online — dating, like actually squirming into or out of any enclosed space, is an overwhelmingly uncomfortable and awkward endeavor.

Only, Tinder doesn’t want us to think that. “It’s like real life, but better.” It widens the dating gyre. It makes dating fun! For a while, everyone believed this. Now, true feelings about Tinder as a claustrophobic cyberspace limiting everyone’s attributes have migrated and manifested as a physical impulse. Ergo: stuffing photos!

There’s one final — and more innocent — possibility: Stuffing oneself into small spaces is fun. Just ask my brother who, at five years of age, hid on a shelf in the closet, prompting my parents to search the entire neighborhood and almost call the cops. Or, after sliding his bulbous head in and out of a fence’s wooden slats, eventually found his noggin stuck between them.

Sixteen years later, my mother still has the photos. Ladies, swipe right.