I'm late to the Tinder party. I only recently made an account in October, after my last relationship ended.
Having heard two years' worth of Tinder horror stories from my single friends, I didn't want to make an account just because I'd rejoined their ranks. When it comes to dating — in any form — I'll be the first to admit that my recent breakup has made me cynical. Some (my parents) might even say bitter.
I made a valiant effort to embrace spinsterhood — spent my free time knitting, got a cat, bingewatched "Gilmore Girls" — but I got bored after a few weeks. Convinced I had nothing to lose (but mostly nothing better to do), I decided to try dating again.
For me, the main draw of getting a dating app was its singular ability to keep everyone at arm's (and iPhone's) length. So I chose to make a Tinder rather than a Hinge or a Coffee Meets Bagel account, because I didn't want anything "real."
My wish was granted when I matched with Mason (name changed) in early November.
Of all the boys I’ve talked to on Tinder, the one I like the most is the only one I’m never going to meet.
Within our first 10 messages, I felt like I was talking to a friend with whom I already shared a thousand inside jokes. I could say something sarcastic, ridiculous, obscene even, knowing he'd have the perfect response.
Mason was the first guy where, immediately upon "meeting" him, I didn't have to think twice about what I should say or worry if I sent multiple messages. We didn't strike up a conversation, we stumbled into a shared stream of consciousness that I like to imagine was there all along, just waiting for us to discover it.
Talking to him was like talking to no one else I’d ever met, probably because we never actually would.
I did try, though. A few weeks after we started talking, I asked, "Would you be interested in going out and being (semi-) real people or do you think this whole interaction should just stay on Tinder?"
"I'm not sure," he responded. "I've never actually met anyone on this, so I tend to think towards the latter."
I was disappointed, but I didn't press the issue. "OK, no pressure," I said before letting the conversation fizzle out for the first time since it'd begun. I didn't see the point in talking to someone I'd never meet and figured our interaction would end just as quickly as it started.
The next day, however, he messaged me with a reference to an earlier inside joke. I couldn't help responding because, well, it was funny.
It had been so long since I’d talked to someone whose personality so perfectly complemented my own and I wasn't about to give that up just because he didn't want to meet me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized his rejection was, in a way, a blessing.
Our real selves could never meet the expectations set by our respective Tinder versions. By communicating solely through texting, we were given the luxury of time (and Google) to present the best versions of ourselves.
The double-edged sword of online dating is that you can "meet" someone before actually meeting them. But when you take that irreversible risk and finally peek out from behind your phone screen, you don’t always like what you find.
Anyone who's ventured into the real world with someone they met online has felt the pressure to live up to the expectations set by their virtual identity. But we're kidding ourselves because no one can ever fully live up to those expectations.
Tinder You always has the perfect comeback, the hilarious joke, the devastating way you leave him hanging.
Real You has the imperfect timing, the awkward silence, the devastating way you say "um" too much.
The only consolation is that the other person's "real" self does, too.
Even if I were to meet Mason in person, he wouldn’t be the boy I like. That boy only exists in the virtual world.
Even if we somehow lived up to each other's expectations on a first date, things went well, time passed and we entered into a relationship, disaster would strike.
Somewhere down the line, our facades would crack. Our real selves would have to face real problems. We could never return to the idyllic world in which our Tinder selves had once lived.
Would it be worth it? I don't know.
Here's what I do know: I like Tinder Mason and he likes Tinder Lindsay — I think, anyway. We've done a tremendous job of keeping each other at arm's length. I got what I wished for, didn't I?