As a woman of a certain age that has unexpectedly found herself single and living in a foreign country, I have plunged deep into the brave new world of Tinder. Layered on top of the usual awkwardness of chatting up strangers has been the transient nature of people passing through my tourist town on vacation or business trips, and the lost in translation aspect of ESL flirting. A year in and my profile is still up, which I half-heartedly check at this point, no real aspirations of finding anyone of quality. My main frustration has been that this dating thing should be approached with a mix of joy and possibility, even fun, but it usually ends in bewilderment or, at worst, a real pessimism about what currently passes for normal human interaction. Full disclosure: I am a willing participant, many times for far too long, in many unseemly, pointless or downright gross communications. My hands are not clean, my what’s app history is shocking, and here are my stories.

We can glide right past the dippy young dudes starting conversations with classic one liners such as “You have a pretty face, it would look better with my sperm on it,” or the surprisingly popular “Nice tits.” That’s all part and parcel of the anonymity of these kinds of online exchanges- the freedom to really say anything for your own entertainment without regard of how comments like that land. Outrage and offense are wasted responses and a simple drive by unmatch is in order.

On the other side of the spectrum are the older, married calculating businessmen. Their MO seems to be starting right in with long (pre-prepared) messages about their lives and business success and open marriages. They are usually attentive and spend a lot of time grooming their targets with a careful hand. A married Danish man comes to mind; he insisted I use more emoticons in my texts since he wanted to see me as “a happy girl.” He offered to help me find employment and sent long intricate romantic emails designed to forge my comfort and emotional well-being. He was cultivating a girlfriend experience for his upcoming business trip to my city, which was (“So sorry, my darling!”) canceled the day before due to his father-in-law’s health problems.

While that experience was aimed at an emotional exchange, it’s the directly sexual propositions that are the most amusing, particularly when you are dealing with people for whom English is not their first language. Some highlights have been “Show me your pussy hairdo!” “Put your arms around my waste,” “ I got maserbasion, pin ass?” and “I want to make fartelo in your vagina.” Admittedly this is better than my friend’s google translate of a gay men’s hook-up app, where we puzzled over such requests as “I want to walk around with your dick in my snout.”

Perhaps I am showing my age, but one of the most shocking things I have found in this wacky world has been the sexual fluidity of some of the young men I have talked to. Dick pics are nothing: I have actual (unsolicited, I swear) pictures of men’s asses and a series of shots of one young Turk fucking his boyfriend (“I’m bee, I love fuck.”) I hang my head in shame to admit I guided this young man through a wank using other dick pics I had on hand. It’s that kind of party out there, folks.

There are tons of missed connections, people that stand you up, trails that go cold, and people you just have no interest in seeing face to face. And there are those that you actually meet.

The adorable rural Australian who took me on a museum date. A perfect gentleman but we hit a bump on the road when he told me his job in his heavy accent and I tried to understand what the hell a “cow mourner” was. My questions about the dairy industry seemed to aggravate him and after he was forced to actually spell out “C-O-A-L M-I-N-E-R” we never really recovered enough equilibrium to go on a second date.

The sexy guy from my home state with Tourettes that came over one Sunday morning for a bit of an adventure was a good time- until a Facebook glitch suggested that he was a person I might know and I saw his real name, real job, wife, and baby.

Or the Scottish guy with a refreshingly no bullshit approach who came to my house weekly over the summer for no talking, no strings attached hour increments of fun. It was a business doing pleasure with him, and a fascinating experiment in isolating sex from other emotions- there was an unexpected sense of abandon when absolutely nothing was on the line.

Tropical Viking, the Norwegian-Brazilian, was the kind of man that spent a lot of time telling you the type of man he was; a risk taker, sky diver, lover of life! First impressions were great, lots of drinks (the Norwegian Krone goes far here) and nonstop chatter. In all honestly it was a very entertaining 12-hour date that we both enjoyed (for the record, crazy is always good in bed), and we kept in touch. His return months later was a total bust: the short list of failures include him losing a tooth while eating, him going out with his “buddies” last minute and leaving his shit at my house while he was out all night (probably on another date), and the realization that his daredevil behavior probably had something to do with a bipolar disorder he had no interest in examining. Rejection in this case was definitely a two way street- in our last conversations he made it clear that he found me controlling and to be honest, I don’t think he had the slightest idea who I was personally, I just registered as a buzz kill complicating his quest for good times.

I dated a young Italian for a couple weeks, and he was the only person I have seen that actually lived in the same city. It was a series of long dinner dates, where he seemed pensive and thoughtful and though not my type (very young, vegetarian, blonde), pleasant enough company. It was moving nowhere in my opinion, so I thought I was making a new friend. Then he went in for a kiss unexpectedly one night and we had a bit of a fumble at mine. The next date a couple days later he walked me to the door and shook his head sadly when I asked if he wanted to come in. The next date after that I was only walked to the corner by my house, like he was disengaging from me by degrees. After that he made a date and canceled, and we never spoke again.

And when it’s good, it can be uplifting. I recall a wonderful date with an Irish guy that I felt a real connection with, both mentally and physically. We kept in touch for a couple months and I flew to his city to spend a long awaited weekend with him - a weekend I now refer to as “3 days of intimacy avoidance.” Early on I got a speech about how it wouldn’t be good for him to sleep with me if I was just going to leave (I never believe this excuse from a man- I find they generally do what they want, when they want without worrying about what it all means emotionally). We spent the weekend on a boat together and everything was going quite well until I noticed his half-mast eyes- it seems he had brought some Valium along and just drifted away from me over the next hours. When he was back, clear-headed, amusing and charming again, his guts were in a twist from the benzos and the situation was less than romantic. And yet he makes me laugh, we have zing-zing banter and I think we will be friends.

It’s been awhile since my last date, and to be honest since my birthday I have not had any connections. I think I have officially reached the scary age, the cut off point, the last fuckable days at 43. There’s one last nice guy I met months ago and travels here for work that still may have potential- a calm Dutchman that I think is actually quite blue collar but I get confused because all Europeans seem sophisticated to my American brain. He’s quiet, introverted, and has bad dress sense- but he looks at me like he won the lottery and has a caveman appreciation of my general physicality. God love a man who slaps your ass and just says “round” with lust in his voice.

I have a vision of what I want. I went on a party on a tram not long ago- a late night ride through the city complete with DJ, disco ball, dancing and rave levels of debauchery. As the tram rocked through the city streets and the traffic lights were all a blur, music blared and drunks whirled into me as I struggled to keep my balance, I watched a couple kiss passionately, hurtling through the mess and chaos, oblivious to the commotion around them.

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