Not heard of Tinder? The swipe-to-like app designed to help you meet your match? Come out from under that rock - all the kids are doing it! And therein may lie the problem. The term ?kids? implies an emotional immaturity, and that is all I encountered when I dipped my toe into the shallow waters of Tinder, whatever the age of my supposed suitors.
Now, yes, I know there are success stories, but all I can share are my own not-so successful stories.
I appreciate my story is the less typical of Tinder tales. The average age on the dating app is 27. So I am 12 years over optimum opportunity it seems. But I found quite the number of men in their late 30's to mid 40's who were more than willing to chat, question and make odd statements to me. Half naked bathroom shots, pics of wives (be they ex or otherwise, I never did know), charming children and endless football team crests filled my feed. How to pick amongst these treasures? Keep on swiping?
Left for no, right for yes and your interest is admitted. Then it's up to pure chance, it seems, to see if either party would contact the other. Some I initiated, some I didn't. The experiment was on.
So, some background: I am 39, and I have two kids. I have been separated from my ex-partner for over two and a half years. High time (my colleagues thought) for me to engage in a little light online dating! On a night out pre-Christmas last year, I allowed my phone to be manned by an eager advocate of Tinder (you know who you are!), and the app was downloaded along with a few swipes to ?get me going?. How bad could it be I thought? Yeah, pretty bad. But the idea had caught my curiousity. Also, I couldn't bear, and still can't, the idea of sitting down to write a profile page about myself on one of the other dating sites. My interests? My beliefs? My favourite food? Spare me.
Tinder seemed easier, albeit totally based on looks, and therefore as shallow as it is possible to be.
For the first few days it was quite a buzz. Matches were made and a few conversations started. Most of the chat petered out though, as it's hard to sustain a conversation when one party asks, 'so are you naughty??
I kept with it. As the mechanic is so easy to use, it becomes part of your usual phone routine - check Facebook, check Twitter, check email, check Tinder?
You easily get used to the swiping left, swiping right and sometimes making a mistake and hoping you don't make a match for fear of them connecting with you!
Oddly, I found it good to do and was proud of myself for making an effort to get back out there after the few years of single motherhood and all it's travails. It did make me more mindful of that fact and I did begin to hope that my swipes would prove fruitful. That's the thing - the hope. It's the hope in potential, the hope for possibility. And it's that hope that can let you down a little as you overlook (or even ignore) red flags that wave in your instinct.
So I progressed along, chatting by text to a few people who seemed vaguely normal. I graduated to WhatsApp with some, as it's easier to talk there. And to send pictures. I sent nice pictures of my face, some guys sent pictures of themselves just out of the shower. Never out and out rude pics, but the semi-naked thing made me a little uncomfortable. Was this just guys displaying their alpha male-ness? Whatever - ?not my thing. I rarely chatted back after a 'me after my shower? shot. Nope, next thing would be that towel would drop, and I could expect an ?oops! No thanks boys.
Tinder seems to be progessing to be more and more of a hook- up-for-sex site, and I may be playing it all wrong, but forgive me for wanting a little bit of wooing or some conversation before, ?where do you live, I'll come over?? five seconds after we become a match!
However I did have three real-life experiences with men from Tinder. Each extremely different from the other.
My first date was with a man I had chatted to for a week. He had his kids in one of his pictures, so I told him I have two daughters. This was common ground for us and we talked about them. It wasn't an ideal start, but I found it nice to be able to talk about my kids as I had told some people before and that was the end of the chat. So I met this guy in town one night, I knew within five minutes that I had no interest in him, but we chatted for a while and had a nice evening.
RESULT: A few days later I had to send him a text to say that I wasn't ready to date yet. It was the only excuse I could think of. He got annoyed.
I met the second man a month or two later after an epic series of texts where we really connected via humour, interests and knowledge of random facts! I was thrilled by our text exchanges and we spent upwards of four hours per night writing to each other. The build-up was huge, we met and it was great. It was all there - attraction, compatibility, compassion, laughs. We got along very well indeed, I was really interested, he was too?.
RESULT: He is a fantasist who has a long-term girlfriend and lives most of the time in another country. He said they were breaking up. They weren't.
The third man I met was only last week. We had been texting for ten days. He was very, very attentive, complimentary and extremely interested in me. I found him interesting and he seemed to be into a lot of the same things I am. He was married before, with no kids, and he wrote me a lovely response when I told him about my girls. He was so keen to keep in touch that he would text throughout the night - I would wake up to a string of kisses on my phone apparently sent when he ?got up to go to the loo?. My instinct squeaked at me then (not shouted - that's coming!). One morning he asked me would I have another baby (red flag!), the next morning I awoke to TEN messages including one saying ?where are you? Why haven't you checked your phone?? At 4.40am. ( red flags waving all over the place!). Briefly grumpy, I reminded him we hadn't yet met and to please chill until our date only two days later! He carried on planning holidays, theatre trips, weekends away?
RESULT: Awful date that culminated in him shouting at me and me going home in tears.
So my Tinder tales haven't gone so well. I'm feeling slightly let down and frazzled by the whole thing. How good a message is it to oneself to allow yourself to be judged purely on your looks and (hopefully) witty comebacks? It's not a great message to your soul. Especially when, although I'm 39 and pretty worldy, matters of the heart are still delicate. I don't think I can set out my stall for judgement anymore. The one positive is that it has become clear to me that I am, in fact, ready to find someone, as I wasn't sure for a long while. It'll just have to be by traditional means.