What I’ve Learned on Six Weeks of Tinder

It’s making for a muddled, confusing experience that’s as all over the place as the quality and class level of the men.

Telling people you’re on the dating app Tinder, I’m realizing, elicits more than a few raised eyebrows, bewildered looks and flurries of questions.

Some—mostly those who aren’t single and out mingling—still haven’t heard of it, even though it’s an application that’s billions strong.

There are the ready comparisons to Grindr, the gay hook-up app. Clearly, when you name an app something that sounds so much like its predecessor you’re inviting comparisons. The “Hot or Not” style display of Tinder, where you’re scrolling through photos like your phone’s on fire and judging people on images and, at the very most, a few lines of pithy text adds to the characterization of sex-on-demand facilitator for straight people.

But, having been using Tinder for some six weeks now, I can tell you it’s not that cut and dry.

For me, it’s making for a muddled, confusing experience that’s as all over the place as the quality and class level of the men.

Men (and I presume the women too, though I’m not viewing the profiles of females to confirm) are on for an enormous range of reasons:

•   They’ve just moved to a city and know no one. So maybe they need friends, someone to prevent them from going the complete wrong way on the Orange Line. Getting busy could be part of the desired equation. Who knows though?

•   They’re on a business trip for a day or two, yet they don’t really live here. Here, you can at least ascertain that something long-term is not in the cards. A few weeks back a New Yorker in Arlington for work encouraged me to come over to his hotel on a weekday in the morning between meetings. He had great Wifi and a big hot tub, so I could do my writing from there, he said. “Most guys will invite you to their hotel room at night like a creep. But who does it at 9:30 am?” he asked. “A creep who’s up early?” I responded.

That next week, a different out-of-towner tried to grab drinks with me during his brief stay here. We couldn’t make our schedules work. But he figured if we weren’t going to meet, he could at least pick my brain for knowledge from a local. Long story short, I pointed him in the direction of my favorite Korean taco truck—and I’ll probably never hear from him again.

•   Similarly, they’re in the military and on some short hiatus here.

•   They are a musician looking to spread the word about their sweet, sweet tunes. This function surprised me. Why go to the trouble of putting your mug, Youtube video link, Twitter handle, musician website and Instagram user name in something like Tinder? I can only hope it’s part of a larger branding strategy for your budding music career.

•   They are in search of a girlfriend or love of some nature. Usually this means respectable photos that show their face, their full body, probably them traveling or scaling a mountain (because this seems to be required). Often the clues are in the mini profiles. These are only accessed if you, the woman, clicks on the first photo of the guy and are interested enough to take a gander at his other photos and whatever he’s chosen to write. Sometimes, his desire to meet a quality women comes in the form of a quote.

More and more, I’m noticing pictures of men with kids or babies—and the profile portion is where they explain if the little ones are their offspring or someone else’s and they’re merely in the photo with them as a demonstration of their affection for children.

•   They don’t want to meet; they just want to banter. Sometimes the banter is standard, PG fare. Sometimes the desire is, like the Jason Derulo song, to “talk dirty to me.” Probably the most blatant opener for this type of Tinder user was when a man asked to hear about my craziest experiences in bed while at same time calling the prospect of meeting a woman who he’d ask that to as “kind of weird.”

•   They’re on for sex, often immediately or as instantly as they’re able to schedule it, since they’re taking advantage of the geolocation feature. This is usually obvious from the nature of the photos, or they might come right out and say something about being a stripper or skilled at nookie or something to that effect. True story.

I have yet to see a full naked photo showing all the goods. However, last week I saw a profile that entirely consisted of a naked guy grabbing his junk in a way to conceal his privates yet make it obvious he had on no clothing whatsoever. And then yesterday a guy topped it. Calvin, you see, has a diaper fetish. Yes, a diaper fetish. He explained this in his profile and included a trio of pictures of his lower torso in a diaper to prove it. He admitted that he was taking a risk by putting this preference out there, yet he wanted a lady also into the underwear style generally limited to infants.

Here’s the problem: The last group, the Calvins of the world, are, by far, the best, at truthfully revealing their Tinder intentions.

His fetish might not be popular, but I found myself saluting the diaper guy. At least he had the balls to say what he wanted out of being on the app. Even if decorum and probably the future of his professional life didn’t allow him to include a photo with his face in it, he was honestly representing himself.

Lately, I’m experiencing the opposite—men, not unlike some do in real life, making themselves out to be gentlemen on Tinder, in followup messages on the app and maybe even during the first meeting. Then, the truth rears its ugly head, and it’s a whole different thing.

Case in point was the engineer who bides his time between startups and lives out closer to Annapolis than I’d prefer. Over drinks, he told stories about being willing to drop everything if he met a dynamic woman who could be the love of his life. He used the “f” word like he was being paid per utterance, yet between curses he was all about commitment and following his heart. He spoke about me in complimentary terms. “Who gets to date you?” he asked.

Fast forward two days to a follow-up conversation. The engineer now was referring to me as “baby” and bragging about how skillful he’d be in pleasing me. I was put-off and taken aback, and I let him know that I didn’t want him to be vulgar and that he sounded like a different dude altogether. He didn’t fight it. He didn’t even respond. The next morning I checked the app, and he had “unmatched me.”

This sort of thing, I’m guessing, wouldn’t happen on a plain and simple hookup app. Tinder, you are no Grindr.