Tinder: An Old Fella’s Perspective
I’m not in the demographic described, being a separated-on-the-way-to-divorced dad freshly forty, but I’ve given a lot of thought to Tinder and online dating in general. And the conclusions are not sturdy or easily reached regarding any and all of these matchmaking options because, at least for this Generation-Xtant, it’s all life. There’s no separation for me between the online dating world and the local pub where fancies might be caught.
The differences are there, of course — I’d argue you get a better shot online to impress with clever profile writing and a humorous bullet-list of interests — but the same pieces of attraction are in play: you need to have at least some kind of physical chemistry to kick things off and then discussion paves the way to more.
In reality and in virtuality, though, it’s the woman who has the upper hand. Maybe this is naive of me, or a startling sign of my own insecurities as a male member of a patriarchal society I loathe, but I feel women control every initial step of the dating process. Sure I can attempt to be charming and witty and, for an old guy, I have at least a reasonable selfie-game that flatters yet doesn’t lie, but at the end of the day the woman is the one throttling progress. If she’s into things, she’ll be open and talk. If she’s not, she’ll be slow to reply or just unresponsive. The point is, nothing I say on Tinder, Match, Instagram (yes, even Instagram works as a match-maker, although that’s a whole other discussion) or to a lady in a bar can really control her, and that is a GOOD thing. I have no interest in the docile or accommodating and I like the idea that women are able to say no, whenever and however they want. The frustrations result when you’re on a run of unresponsiveness. The ego takes a hit. The apps get deleted. The bought drinks are a blemish in a struggling checking account.
How are those reactions really all that different as far as experience go? Whether it’s on an app or at a friend’s party, the emotions are still the same when meeting someone. The rush of excitement connecting with a person that appears attracted to you. The ease or struggle with conversation. The leap to next steps. It’s the same and I do not think the swipe left or right is any different than eye-contact held or broken.
But back to the “not controlling” bit of this, the fact that ladies are in charge. Some guys might say I lack confidence or that I’m not manipulating the object of my desire well enough. They’re “pick-up artists” and no different from the dudes trolling bars and supermarkets before there were apps to do so from the comfort of home. And if it’s a sign of bad “game,” So be it. This isn’t a game to me because, and maybe this is where I’m different than younger people, I’m actually looking for Ms. Swipe Right and not Ms. Swipe Right In and Out of My Bed.
Ultimately, Tinder and all other avenues of online and offline contact, are whatever you bring to them. It’s intention that I feel is really behind the questions surrounding these online methods, and if anything should be analyzed it’s the differences between generational viewpoints on sex, monogamy, and relationships. I don’t want to open a Pandora’s box of new topics, but American society has been in a serious love-hate relationship with sex since the early 20th Century, with a zenith of hypocrisy reached in the 1980's. We pimp women to sell everything from cars to beer, but then we slut-shame those who make choices to actually, healthily express themselves sexually. I figure a lot of these attitudes, including the frightening doses of impotent male rage that fuel decisions like de-funding Planned Parenthood and wrist-slapping celebrity domestic abusers, are related to the “game” attitude many men bring to Tinder. Yeah, I’m talking dick pics, but not just that clearly. Breaking hearts. Being douchey manipulative types. Looking only to score.
Yet those guys have been around forever, and they’ll continue to be regardless of platform. I believe what has older people all up and arms thinking Tinder is the Armageddon of monogamy is that there are now ladies out there too who are unapologetically looking for hook-ups; women that are either sexually confident in what they want to experience or shaped by our societal objectification of their sex. Regardless of the reason, I’m thinking women’s attitudes toward sex are the biggest sea change that’s arrived with this tide of worry over how people are meeting people and the various implications it might have on long-term generational characteristics. And if that smells of bullshit, it is. Men do something, it’s ok. Women’s dominance over their own bodies, minds and obtaining firm control over the beginning of courtship? Panic.
This got a lot headier than expected, so I’ll wrap up with personal experience. I liked using Tinder. It was easy, fun and, when times weren’t too lean, it offered me a little validation from the opposite sex during a my post-separation and pre-divorce limbo, thus bringing me some happiness back into my life. I dated some terrific, wonderful, intelligent and beautiful women. None proved to be “the one” as I think I wistfully hoped I might meet, but that story might be true for a long while as I figure out myself as a single dad after divorce. Again, it really is everything you bring to it. With each and every story, I believe that’s what you’ll find.