It all started with Tinder. Yep, that’s probably one of the last things you’d ever expect to get that line from. It was about a month back when Thought Catalog posted a slew of articles with varying points of view (all of which somehow got to use that overrated “Tinderella” tag) that the app first got me intrigued, but it was my best friend who managed to get the app into my phone and logged in with my own account. He was sick of me being scared of dating and so he thought that maybe this would do the trick. So we lay on my bed on our bellies and laughed as we either swiped left or right. He taught me the basics and gave me a quick “How To Respond On Tinder 101” session.
I had quite a few decent conversations with absolute strangers and to a point, enjoyed being on Tinder. I was however, definitely not DTF and thereby got a few surprising messages (which I should have of course, expected, because this is TINDER we’re talking about). A few of these decent conversations ended with “So, you want to f*ck tonight?”
Being the dork that I am, I had no idea how to respond… at first. So I turned to honesty. For every conversation that a stranger would strike up, I would be up front about not being there for the good time that a lot of them were looking for. Eventually someone asked me “So what are you on Tinder for?” I realized that I was the freak who was, in fact, on Tinder to meet new people. And though I never really took it all that seriously or desperately opened the app every few minutes checking for matches or messages, I really did meet a few people there who ended up being friends, or something like it.
That was the point when I first thought of writing up an article on “The Tinder Experiment.” For weeks I’d been stumped on how it would go. I was honest with a lot of the people who messaged me about not being up for the good time that they wanted, but for some others, particularly the ones with the crudest messages, I sent outrageous responses just to see what I could write about—and ended up laughing at the whole exchange. I stopped that part quick though because it was cruel—some of them really did go on Tinder for whatever reason, and I was wasting their time for a potentially sucky article.
Eventually I came across a guy… let’s call him “Cody.” I spouted off the dork line off him and he was cool with it. So we ended up talking almost every day, just an exchange of life views and hilarious banter that never got old. Cody was a visitor in my country and would be leaving in a few short days, and I never thought we’d be able to meet in person (not that I really wanted to anyway) because that was also one of the busiest weeks I had.
Out of nowhere we found time to meet and against all my doubts, I decided to continue with the “date between potential friends.” I just made doubly sure he wasn’t the stalking, serial killer type and kept the meeting strictly public. If nothing else, at least I’d get more writing material out of it.
Call me Andie Andersen (just a bit less talented and a lot less hot), but my “Tinder Experiment” article ended up taking the last route I thought it would.
We met at a hotel for coffee (security, check!) and had the short and awkward “Nice to finally meet you in person, why are you on Tinder?” introduction—him in jeans and a dress shirt and me, straight from work in shorts and a shirt, looking every bit casual (turn off, check!). The plan that day (though there really wasn’t a set itinerary) was for me to show him around before he left, which I did. We made the long (stinky and crowded) commute to this compound that was not only a popular drinking spot during evenings, but had decent exhibits and sold various interesting stuff like old records and skateboards. The commute was fun in spite of the discomfort because we were laughing at each other’s reactions to the train the whole time. Instead of taking a cab to the place after the train stop, we also decided to take the long walk. I wasn’t familiar with the area as well though (best tour guide ever!) and we ended up getting sort-of lost together, but it didn’t matter because it was part of the adventure and just made it all the more fun.
When we got to the Expo, we wandered in and out of the shops together, making little comments on the merchandise or laughing about what we’d see and telling each other what the stuff reminded us of. After a bit we cooled off by going into this bar where he had a beer and got me a mango shake (do not get drunk, check!). We talked about our families, our college lives, our work environments, our exes, our favorite local food, our childhood pets, our future plans (separately, of course!), our dreams—one topic after another. We talked about ourselves the whole time and for some reason, it never felt awkward. I’d probably been more honest with him than any other stranger. I didn’t realize until then that I still knew how to open up to anyone else.
After that we headed to another city for dinner and more drinks. He ordered local food that he’d never tried as part of that day’s adventure—that he’d have nothing but the native cuisine. Throughout dinner as well, we couldn’t seem to stop talking. We also whipped out our phones and went on each other’s Tinder, after I told him about my “research,” and we tried more hysterical experiments then. He got a bit tipsy after dinner and suggested that we go partying. I was still in my crazy casual shorts-and-shirt combo but the company I kept made me forget that altogether—and so we crept to another city to go dancing in spite of it.
He was sweeter on the cab ride to the new city—I’m not entirely sure if it was because he was a bit drunk already or because he felt more comfortable. It was the latter for me. So when we got off the cab and (got lost again) started the short walk to the club, it was perfectly natural for him to hold my hand or put his arm around me (neither times trying anything funny).
More drinks awaited us there, this time with me taking a few sips of his beer. Now, that was a stupid move for me because I’m allergic to alcohol and I can get absolutely drunk in a shot or two. Still, he didn’t try anything. We got to the bar early so we talked some more while we waited for the party to really start. While sharing cigarettes, we also started to check out the crowd, pointing out the hottest girls and the sexiest guys, prepared to wingman each other. Somehow, somewhere, sometime along the night we forgot that part and acted like we were together. We danced holding hands (yes, at a club) and he’d kiss my forehead and my cheek from time to time. It was definitely unlike me to let him, but oddly enough I enjoyed it. We danced with our heads together and laughed while we screamed out the lyrics at each other.
As the night drew to a close, he took me home in a cab which he would take back to his own place afterward. We were quieter this time, and I hoped it was because of the beer. I hadn’t had any sleep for two nights and the fatigue had caught up with me so I lay my head on his shoulder (innocently, I think?) as I had the two cab rides before. He did do something (not sexual, get your mind out of the gutter) which I don’t think he knew that I knew, even as we parted, even as we said our good byes. I did know, and I minded, and it wasn’t okay, but it was fine anyway, if that was in any way truly possible.
So after a perfect day of endless conversation and countless moments of both hilarity and sweetness… That was it. That lovely night when you both treat each other exactly right and then disappear forever. I’d never checked his Tinder profile again and I have this feeling it was the same for him. We had no photos or mementos of that night, nothing to remember it by, other than our own intangible recollections. It was indeed a night to remember, that someday, we’re both likely to forget.
Maybe any further time together would have ruined it, this perfect date. Maybe I’d like to hear from him again, and maybe I wouldn’t. But I did learn a few things that night, the first being that the kind of chemistry (ugh, disgustingly corny) I’d only ever seen in movies really did exist (though it might not have, for him). The second is that I still know how to fall in love, however deathly afraid I still am of it. No, I definitely don’t mean that I want to stalk him and follow him around because I have fallen irrevocably in love with him and I want to have his kids. Puh-lease. I meant that for a few hours that night, it was like I was in love, even when I know I wasn’t. I don’t even know how the heck to say it right, other than I was happy, because at least I was still capable of feeling love, or something like it—whatever remotely close emotion you can associate with a complete stranger.
So that was my pointless Tinder experiment, a little test that both gave me exactly what I wanted and backfired on me. It was the perfect night with no further perfect nights on the horizon, no way to ruin a perfect memory.
A word of caution to this tale, however: If you’re expecting to become Tinderella to meet Prince Charming or get your own perfect date on Tinder and you plan to download this app immediately after reading this, well, you’re in for a long wait, darling. Tinder is Tinder, and as weeks after this experiment has proved, it’s both exactly what and nothing like you have ever expected. You’ve been warned.