Adventures with Tinder

I think I learned about Tinder from Straight White Boys Texting

Tinder is basically a dating app without any of the stuff surrounding it. You load up a picture. Tinder shows you people nearby. You say “Yes” or “No” to each. If you both say yes to each other, you can then talk.

I find it very strange, flipping through random faces (or, disturbingly often, disembodied naked torsos) and saying, “Yup,” or “Nope” based on literally nothing but appearance. It makes me feel vaguely dirty.

I move really fast through my Tinder matches. I always put my age range at 30-44, but in spite of this, I never actually accept matches younger than me or older than 42. I should probably change my range.

I say yes to maybe one in twenty. I don’t like anyone too conventionally handsome. I don’t like anyone with a motorcycle. I don’t like anyone whose face isn’t visible. I don’t like anyone with blurry photos. I don’t like anyone who has one of those photos of them between two women. I don’t like anyone whose photo is designed to show off a tattoo. I don’t like anyone in sunglasses. I don’t like anyone whose shot is a selfie instead of something that shows personality and action. (Maybe I say yes to one in thirty. Or forty.)

Note that I am a total hypocrite, since my picture is a blurry selfie. But I’m okay with that. I own it.

Every so often, Tinder tells me, “It’s a match!” Want to measure my neurosis? Here you go: Every single time this happens, I make a little face and say to myself, “Ugh. I hate the jerks who just go through and say yes to everyone.” I know! I’m horrible. So then I start to consider messaging him, but before I hit send I manage to convince myself that he’s just trying to get laid tonight and being totally indiscriminate.

I think this app is profoundly not intended for people like me.


#2 – Duncan

I am an incredibly suggestible person. It is not one of my better traits. I’m one of those people who gets those charity calls saying, “What size donation would you like to give, $50 or $100?” and ends up giving $50 because that was the lowest option. There should be a 3-day waiting period on spending money for people like me, because I spend money on stupid things all the time.

Like a few weeks ago, when I went to sign up for an online dating service via a webform (with vague pricing data), and the webform turned into a phone conversation, which turned into me spending something like half a month’s rent on a stupid dating service which will probably not work. This was incredibly stupid. I need to have a new rule that my credit cards and my telephone aren’t allowed near each other, so when the lady on the phone says, “And what card will you be using today?” I say, “Um, I don’t have a card with me,” instead of giving a number because I’m easily led.

But I paid for it, so I’m using it. The way this works is that they send you on blind lunch dates. You get a name, an age, a profession, a height, and a few sentences of description. They give you a place and a time. You show up. You lunch. Afterwards, you call them to report back.

My first incredibly expensive purchased blind date was with Duncan. Duncan is a divorced dad, which matches my divorced mom nicely. He’s Catholic. He’s Caucasian, and 5’8″, and his friends would describe him as warm, funny, and a good listener. He’s an engineer. Great.

Duncan and I met at an Asian restaurant. I got there early, and got a water while I waited. This is my second try at a face-to-face date, and I think there’s a pretty good chance Duncan will show up, since, like me, he’s paying approximately a bajillion dollars for the privilege. I am nervous, and abruptly realizing I have NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. I don’t know Duncan! I don’t know anything about him! I don’t know what he looks like. What are we going to talk about? What if he’s ugly? What if he has no personality? What if he’s gorgeous and I do something profoundly stupid like belch mid-meal? What if he wants to kiss me? All of a sudden, I cannot think of anything except how intensely gross kissing is.

He shows up on the dot of noon, and the recognition is easier than I feared, since we are basically the only two people in the restaurant. We shake hands. He hopes that I haven’t been waiting long, and I tell him no, that I was just a bit early.

I’ve already read the menu at least six times and the drinks menu at least thirty, but I am not — NOT — ordering a cocktail for a lunch date. So I watch him study the menu. He is not at all like the picture I had in my head, but he’s… not bad, I guess? He has nice eyes. There’s something about the shape of his mouth and the lines around his that makes him look distantly sad, like he’s reflecting on something bad that happened years ago. He has a build that I tend to like: solid, with good wide shoulders. I try to imagine touching him — holding hands, cuddling, kissing — and it all feels very strange, like my whole spirit is wrenching away from the idea. So I let it go.

He finishes looking at the menu and we make small talk about local restaurants. So far, he’s started all of the topics of conversation, and I’m feeling antsy about that — I should be more active in this, but I don’t know what to say. Fortunately, the waitress comes. I order the special lunch bowl, with six kinds of beef in a noodle soup. He orders tofu. Oh, no. Is he a vegetarian? Should I have ordered something meat-free?

When the waitress leaves, I ask him about his job. We talk networks and computers and projects for an incredibly short amount of time before the food shows up. Once it arrives, he starts talking diet. He’s on a healthy-living kick, he tells me. We eat way too much mean, he say, so he’s trying to only have meat on special occasions. He’s eating more vegetables, and he feels great! It’s amazing!

Mm-hm, I say politely, attempting to eat my giant bowl of red meat without slurping my noodles. (Note to self: soup is a bad date entree. Do not do this again!) He asks about my hobbies. We get into a conversation about cooking, in which I am talking about… meat, still. I am starting to worry that I’m coming across as meat-obsessed.

The conversation drifts to kids, and then to faith. He asks if I’m Catholic. “No,” I say, and tell him my brand of Protestant. “Oh,” he says. The conversation hits ground on the rocks of my feelings about each person’s individual journey to God and his annoyance with his son not taking confirmation class seriously enough, and it breaks apart. I slurp my soup.

Duncan really does have nice eyes. I’ve been watching them a lot, and one thing I like is how clearly and intensely his attention is on me. It doesn’t feel like he’s staring, just like he’s really watching me, like he’s enjoying looking at me. They are expressive eyes. I like them. I’ve been leaning into the conversation. The waitress comes and takes our plates, but I’m not eager to leave. I am flirting, I think, and he is responding.

I ask him about books he likes, and he mentions a type of non-fiction I’m interested in, and I’m instantly alive. We talk about the human brain, we trade recommendations, we talk research methodologies.

He asks about where I went to school. I tell him I was a Wellesley graduate. “Is that an Ivy?” he wants to know. “No, it’s not, but it’s very well respected. A lot of influential women went to school there.” “Like who?” “Oh, Hillary Clinton. Madeleine Albright.”

He smirks. “I’ll try not to hold that against them.”

I freeze up. Should I have said someone else? Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Diane Sawyer? How do I respond to this? I like Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright! I may not always agree with everything they say or do, but I respect them a lot. I don’t want to start an argument. I regret saying anything.

Duncan can clearly tell he’s said something wrong. “Oops,” he says. “I shouldn’t have brought up politics.” He’s right. I try to think of how to get out of this conversational trap, and can’t find anything. “I guess I’m pretty conservative,” he says. “Are you –” he breaks off. I’m not even thinking about conservative vs. liberal. I’m thinking about bitterness. What kind of a person has a knee-jerk “insult” reaction just hearing someone’s name, enough that even on a first date, they can’t keep from saying something petty and spiteful? He doesn’t know anything about me. Maybe I voted for Hillary Clinton in ’08. Maybe I didn’t. I am feeling kind of gross all of a sudden. The waitress meets my eyes, and I gesture for the check.

He claims the check and pays, though I try to cover my half of the bill. He asks if he can walk me out, and I say yes. We shake hands outside. Neither of us asks for or offers our number.

Online Dating

Online dating is so weird.

You try to write up the book blurb for your life: A divorced mother of three, out on her own after a decade of marriage. She fills her days with cooking, knitting, and gardening. She finds comfort in faith and in family. Now, the time has come to seek new love. Who will she end up with? Is it the 41-year-old single dad who likes walks on the beach and the Bruins? Is it the 38-year-old old-fashioned gentleman who still likes to open doors for a lady? Is it the 33-year-old geek who watches Doctor Who and has a Weeping Angel statue as his profile pic? Or is it you?

The sites ask you questions.

“What is the first thing people notice about you?” Advice on writing a good profile says to avoid cliche answers, such as “my eyes,” “my hair,” or “my smile.” I stare at the question. What the heck do people notice first about me? I would have said my eyes, but I don’t want to be cliche. I skip it.

“Six things you can’t live without.” “Don’t make cracks like ‘oxygen’ or anything based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” say the internet sages. I start thinking about things I can’t live without. There aren’t very many. Eventually I give in and add some nerd jokes. I move on.

“What was the last book you read?” I can tell I’m going to need to update this answer a lot. I answer honestly: Guy In Real Life, by Steve Brezenoff. It’s a YA novel about World of Warcraft, which is a bit embarrassing. Tomorrow, my answer will probably be a romance novel about cowboys, however, so I have to consider these things relatively. Maybe I should start cherry-picking more? In the last few weeks, I also read The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Torch Song, The Hanover Square Affair, And One Last Thing, SPQR: The King’s Gambit, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, and Agile Testing: How to Succeed in an Extreme Testing Environment. Is one of those better? I’ll just run with honesty. And orcs.

Then OKCupid has all of these questions, ranging from “Would you date someone with kids?” to “Do you believe in God?” to “Have you ever been in a master-slave relationship?” Fortunately, if you don’t answer any one of questions, it won’t show you anyone else’s answer to that question. I don’t answer that third question. In addition to your own answer, you can say which answers you will accept from a partner. This feels very strange to me, but I go through a lot of the questions.

And people message me!

Hey sexxy



r u a sexy mama? 🙂


trade pics??

whats up? Chat?

where r pics??

Hi there!


The wit and charm is a bit overwhelming.

One Lothario sends a message saying, “I’m not what you’re looking for, but I wanted to say hi.” I should have just trusted him, but I click over to his profile. He’s looking for some “quality one-on-one time” with a nursing mother. I delete and block. And wash my hands.

Clearly, I am going to need to be the aggressor here, or else lower my standards a lot.

What Makes a Date?

And already, I am faced with a conundrum. How do I define a date?

Some things are obvious. If I’m actually in a place with a person, and both of us would call it a date, it’s a date. If someone on OKCupid sends me a message that “ur sexxy,” that is not a date, and would not be even if he could spell correctly.

But there’s a lot of middle ground here. I’ve already decided that being stood up is a date. Is it a date if we cancel beforehand? What if we have a commitment to doing a date “sometime” and then he turns awful and I back out in a rush?

Speaking of… here’s Pierre.

Pierre sent me a message noticing that I was clearly a book person. He asked me for recommendations for good books, naming a few things he’d read and enjoyed. His profile left me kind of meh, but I replied. He could spell correctly, and he’d clearly read my profile and was still interested.

Pierre asked to meet in his second mail. “Ack!” I said (and wrote). I said it felt really rushed and awkward and nervous, but… hey, it was only lunch. I’d risk it, I said. After all (I did not say), I was looking for bad dates, right?

“No, don’t,” Pierre told me. “If you feel nervous, it’s probably a sign that I’m moving too fast. We can talk more first.”

Suddenly, I liked Pierre a lot better.

He asked about my kids, and I told him a bit. He talked with me about his job; I talked about mine. We chatted about books, about traffic, about television and our writing aspirations. He shared some of his writing with me. I did not do the same, and I… didn’t really comment on his.

I asked him to meet. We had a date scheduled, which he had to postpone for a work event. We were trying to reschedule when he brought out some “third rail” topics, as he called them.

Yeah, you can see where this is going.

Did I want more kids?

What were my politics like?

Did I have any sexual fetishes?

I am not joking.

I stared for a moment, then wrote a response. Kids: no burning desire, but I’m still fertile. Haven’t closed any doors. Politics: liberal. More strongly liberal socially than fiscally. “And I’m not ready to answer the last question yet.”

Then I asked my third rail questions. Thoughts on gay marriage? Thoughts on abortion? City mouse or country mouse?

He answered my questions, then basically said he’d respect my reluctance to answer, but thought it’s sad that we as a society won’t talk about sex.

I informed him that he wasn’t just trying to talk about sex, he was asking about sexual fetishes. I told him there are exactly three people in the world who know the answer to that question, and I’VE HAD SEX WITH ALL OF THEM.

He tried to backpedal. I was done.

Was this a bad date? I think probably not. But it was a story.

#1 – Jay

Jay and I met on OKCupid.

I swooned over his cheekbones and his stated love of my favorite SF author. We chatted books, movies, investing (which was admittedly a little strange), and careers. After a few exchanged messages, I asked him if he’d like to meet.

He said yes.

We set up a “coffee” date, although since I don’t drink coffee, it was more like a pastry date for me. Because of busy schedules, we set it up for a full week in the future, on a Sunday afternoon. We kept trading mails through the week, with a very regular one message a day.

The Friday before our date, Jay sent me this mail:

Holy smokes. I just got back from a date with a nurse. Lovely lady, but she won’t discuss her job or patients. We had nothing to talk about other than her abiding love of children and her need to have children of her own. I told her that I’ve been planning to move back to the west coast if my job ever lays me off, and that they may do so soon. I don’t think we’ll talk again.

Now then. You’re a church-going single mother of three. I’m positive that we could be the best of friends, but at some point, I’m going to move back to Seattle. Are you all right with this?

I think Jay may have been drunk when he sent this.

I responded:

So… that’s a fairly loaded question. I’m not sure how to answer it.

I’m also… not entirely sure what the context of the question is. Are you asking, “Are you okay with the idea that even if we hit it off, this may end up being a short-term deal?” or “I am looking to date people who could see themselves moving to Seattle sometime, are you in that category?”

My answer to the former is, “Yes.” I’m not closed to the idea of finding True Love(TM), but I’m also not expecting to find it around every corner. I’m looking to experience life, to have fun dating, and to see what grows from it.

If you’re asking the latter… I’ll say that my first reaction was a fairly instinctive, “No!” I was born in New England, raised here. Went briefly to college in the midwest, and then transferred back. I like New England. I have family here and roots here. There are also, frankly, custody complications. I have sole legal and physical custody of my children, but I can’t move them out of state without legal rigmarole — and frankly, I wouldn’t want to move them that far from their dad even if I could do it at my whim.

But I also think that’s… well, putting the cart before the horse is putting it pretty mildly. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, I respect that, but I’m not trying to look that far down the road at this stage. There are a thousand other things that could get in the way, or could change in unexpected ways.

Does the church-going single mother of three bother you? I know there are a lot of people who would consider either to be an automatic no, but I feel it’s important to put it out there, because if people are going to say no once they know, I’d rather they weed themselves out in the early stages, rather than once I’ve invested emotional energy in the process.

He didn’t respond.

When I double-checked the time a little before 1PM today (date day!) I saw that he’d deleted his profile.

I was not shocked to get stood up.

I consider this a fabulously successful first bad date. He was a promising candidate for a while, then went slightly patronizing, then vanished without a trace.

And I bought a pecan braid and a frozen lemonade, and they were delicious.

Origin Story

Four months ago, my husband and I sat down and decided it was just not going to work.  This is something I’d known for years, but lied to myself about, because I didn’t want to think of myself as someone who gave up on her marriage.

We have three kids, all under ten.

We owned a house, and were underwater on the mortgage.  The house is too far from my job for me to commute and take care of the kids, so we moved in with my parents for a year, giving me time to sell the house and rebuild savings to buy/rent a new place.

A few weeks ago, we appeared in court, and the settlement was ruled on.  I am not legally divorced until 120 days have passed, but I don’t have anything else to do to make it happen.

So here I am, a 34-year-old woman living with her parents and her three kids.  I married at 23, so it’s been a long time since I was single.  My last “first date” was when I was nineteen.

I haven’t had sex in two years.  I don’t even really think about sex.  I read romance novels, but the idea of actual men feels awkward and wrong, like I burned away that part of myself when I stopped wanting sex with my ex.

I don’t know how to look for love.  I don’t really even know what love is supposed to feel like.  I feel like a 12-year-old, staring out at this vista of dating and grown-up relationships with no idea what to do.  I’m going to mess up.  I’m going to be awful at this.  I’m going to be a failure.

So I have committed myself to a quest.  For six months, I am out to have as many bad dates as possible.  I don’t want good dates!  If good dates sneak in, I guess that’s a bonus, but mostly I want as many bad dates as possible.  I want the guy who shows up and won’t stop talking about himself, the guy who spills coffee on me, the guy who calls me frigid when I won’t sleep with him after a first date.  I want someone who freaks out when he finds out I have kids, who freaks out when he finds out I’m a Christian, who freaks out when he finds out I’m a liberal.  I want someone to dodge my calls.  I want to dodge someone else’s calls.

Six months of bad dates.  Let’s see how bad it can get.