Tales of Tinder and the dating game abroad

Ugh. This best describes how I feel about the dating game, because in all seriousness it is a game. There are guidelines, rules and penalties for those who don’t play “properly” (however ambiguous that word is). There is the right time to text and the wrong time to call. There is a proper amount of time to wait before responding to a message so as to feign disinterest or unavailability. There is confusion and resentment when the other side has seen your message and not responded. There is an order of events for a first date. There are winners and losers. It is absolutely a game. I call it Bullshit.

I was married for 12 years. I met my ex-husband when I was 21 years old. Before that I’d had only one serious relationship. And wouldn’t you know it? I met both of them the old-fashioned, organic way: in person. Neither of these relationships felt like a game at the beginning, though they both occurred long before mobile phones and internet hook-ups were ubiquitous. I can’t imagine how either of those relationships might have played out through the messiness of social media that has become somewhat of a platform for relationship building. I can assume they would have become complicated more quickly than they did, had they endured time at all. So I don’t really get how all of this works. My weak threads of understanding when sewn together make me want to run and hide away in a blanket fort, spoon feed myself crunchy peanut butter and never look outside. Yes crunchy… much more robust.

There’s this online dating thing called Tinder… have you heard of it? Of course you have! You’re probably on it! Seems everybody is. At its basic level (I’m not sure if it gets more complicated), Tinder shows you all the available people (other Tinder users) within a certain kilometre radius of your location (you set the parameters). If you see something you like you swipe right, if not, you swipe left. If you swipe right on a person who also swipes right on you it’s a match and you go from there. It is based totally on physical appearance and, when it comes right down to it, a still photograph. I swipe through news articles and photos and apps, but swiping through people? It just feels wrong.

I won’t lie, I got on Tinder once as an act of curiosity, sort of like lifting a big rock to see what yucky little bugs were living underneath. Three things stopped me: 1) the realisation that I was on-line shopping for a man, 2) I was dismissing people based totally on physical appearance, and 3) I developed a thumb cramp from swiping left so many times I actually exhausted my Surabaya options. Only once did I swipe right, totally by accident, and PANIC–it was a match. Naturally, I couldn’t undo the right swipe unless I ungraded. That little mess-up was enough to make me delete my profile just minutes after I’d created it. I was left with a feeling of dread and just plain YUCK, like I had unwittingly sacrificed my moral integrity in the name of curiosity. I think I’d rather leave all those rocks unturned and soak in the familiar waters of solitude and celibacy than sell my soul to the Tinder devil.

I met a guy who is a self-professed Tinder addict. He takes the whole thing very seriously. He lives in a fairly remote area of Indonesia and so when he has a holiday, he lines up Tinder dates wherever he plans to travel. He even has questions prepared. Obviously this is about sex right? Wrong. Of course this guy is into getting laid but that is not why he’s on Tinder. He wants to find “the One”, and funnily, he EXPECTS that he will meet the one and that Tinder offers a perfectly natural way to accomplish that. I’m not sure if this is pure, unabashed naivety, a matter or believing = seeing, or just plain hope. I can relate to wanting to find the Right One, I just use a different search mechanism so I would be unfair in saying that his way is wrong, it’s just NOT for me. The chances that either method will produce the desired result are slim to none.

A close girlfriend of mine in Canada is a serial on-line dater. This girl is amazing. She’s smart and has a wicked-ass sense of humour including a hilarious repertoire of accents. And she’s gorgeous. Men flock to her like wild geese, but they’re the nasty little geese, the ones that approach you with seemingly good intentions and then peck you just as you get close enough. So she’s got this online dating thing down to a fine art. She schedules Skype meetings once sussing out their profiles because on several occasions she’s found herself on a blind date that wasn’t supposed to be blind. The guy had either posted a very old photo of himself, one that did not in anyway represent reality, or one that just plain wasn’t him. So last year when I visited she begged me to create a profile on Plenty of Fish just so I could empathise with her about what was swimming around out there. She set up the whole thing for me one night and the next morning I woke up to about 80 messages reading shit like “hey baby, you look cool, let’s hang out”. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I shut it down. I empathised and my advice to her was to just find a guy in a coffee shop or down at the dog park. But who am I to give advice? I evidently fall for the KingPins of the Game.

I once dated a guy who was (and likely still is) an informal ambassador of the dating game. He admitted to reading a book called ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Some describe the book as an ethnography, which it undoubtedly is, but of a seedy demographic. I call it Garbage and because I hate describing a book that way, I will stress that the garbage is in the advice offered in the book, rather than the book itself. I read this book by the way, so my criticisms are well-informed.

If you don’t know of this book, let me give you a synopsis. Strauss, an insecure, down-on-his-luck-with-the-ladies guy attended how-to sessions with a Pick Up Artist–conveniently abbreviated as PUA in the book but what I refer to as a Player–to learn how to successfully snag a woman and manipulate her into sleeping with him. Strauss got good at picking up women and eventually wrote ‘The Game’ as a self-help dating guide (aka manipulation manual) for men. It became sickeningly popular, perhaps because of its questionable ethics (we all like things that shock us, good or bad).

He recommends strategies such as “negging”, which is playfully insulting a woman in order to get her attention. Such negs include pointing out that she has food in her teeth, a crooked nose or a stain on her shirt. The negs are subtle enough to be just short of insulting but enough to take her down a notch, particularly if she is beautiful and not used to receiving comments of that nature. This is supposed to incite her interest in him so when he does give her positive attention she feels privileged and flattered. Seriously? How long would you stick around listening to some guy point out your flaws? Admittedly though, false compliments are as bad as negs. He also recommends approaching her in a group of friends and outright ignoring her, except to neg. This is supposed to make her desire his attention because he has won the women’s interest by “peacocking”: feigning confidence by wearing a bit of flare, such as a red cowboy hat or some stupid shit like that. Once the guy has her attention Strauss recommends that he regard her in such bipolar fashion as with complete disinterest and then total attention and flattery, back and forth. Sounds a bit like a mind f*ck right? It is.

Now, whilst I think these strategies are cheap and dishonest, I wonder why they actually work in many cases. Is it because women are insecure? Desperate? Shamefully, I was a victim once of the Player and I don’t consider myself insecure, desperate, or blind to such questionable character. So do we like the chase? I don’t think many of us can argue that we’re all attracted to or at least curious about those things that seem off-limits or simply unavailable. But that’s a can or worms I’ll open another time; that one deserves full attention. Whilst women suffer the brunt of the Game, I believe the Players are the truly insecure ones. Do they have to put forth that much effort and reduce their integrity to crumbs just to get laid? Or are the guys reading this book just crummy to begin with?

But I know another advocate of ‘The Game’ (regrettably another guy I dated) who argues that the book helps guys like Strauss, who strike out with women, guys who don’t have the confidence to approach women, guys who are constantly shot down by women because they lack a certain charisma, charm or physical attractiveness. I’ll go back to my previous crass but effective name for this: Bullshit. The advice in this book builds false, contrived self esteem, aka arrogance. Their time would be better spent reading something of the Dr. Phil nature. But that’s just my middle-aged, single white female perspective. Do I sound bitter? I’m actually not. I’m just disappointed by a world where people feel like they have to manipulate another person in order to feel better about themselves, and that my options for dating, in a large way include men who advocate for the Game.

This is how I don’t want to date. I don’t want to meet someone online. I don’t want to have Skype sessions to suss a person out. I don’t want to go out for drinks first to feel out the situation. Beer googles do NOT help us make wise decisions anyways. I don’t want to tolerate negs. I don’t want some guy to purposely delay responding to my message just to varnish his ego. And I definitely don’t want to date a guy who thinks that paying for dinner entitles him to sex (I know guys who think this). I don’t want any part of the Game. And I don’t want to see a movie either.

This is how I want to date. I want to meet someone waiting for a flight to some exotic place. Or in a bookstore, perusing GOOD literature. Or climbing a mountain, exploring a jungle, or just sitting on the dock of the bay wasting time, haha. And then I want to toss down our phones instead of hiding behind them and jump on a bike and take a ride somewhere. Climb a tree or go for a swim or do some barefoot hiking or find a local market. Sit and drink wine by a waterfall and talk about real shit other than the weather and other people. I want a friend with whom I can have good, spontaneous fun and awesome sex. I want someone who makes grocery shopping fun. I want someone who gets it and I have a hunch I won’t find him on Tinder or in a red cowboy hat schmoozing up women in a bar.


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