With regards to Tinder use, this is more of a survival story than a guide, but scattered throughout this tale of love, loss, and harrowing escapes from terrible dates are at least a couple bits of decent advice.
So it happened; the dreaded, first real-life breakup.
No, I’m not talking about the beertear-fueled screamfests of your college years, or even one of those painfully articulate breakups people have in their early 20s that make you feel like maybe Gilmore Girls and Dawson’s Creek were actually onto something. No, this breakup was of the more brutal, soul-crushing kind, the kind that put Carrie Bradshaw on bed rest until one of her friends shit her pants in the Sex and the City movie.
My contemporary love story – the one I valued so much – officially ended the way most do: With the opening of an OK Cupid account. A few disappointing online interactions later, I was left with the realization that neither Argentina nor my heart were totally ready for this digital take on Yenta, and I quickly found myself in a shame spiral that involved late nights at Nac & Pop and an inappropriate amount of time spent talking to my cat about my need to “get back out there.”
Pushing aside my initial disdain for online dating and an intense urge to buy a Dream Boyfriend Pillow, I decided to get back on the horse and recast myself as the lead role in a real life love story I decided to call Tinderfella, a story I hoped would end with me getting the fuck on with my life.
So on a very ordinary night spent on a friend’s couch, I downed an ordinary amount of Malbec, ventured into the app store on my smartphone and downloaded Tinder. In keeping with making everything more difficult than it needs to be, I insisted on being given a crash course on profile building, after which I feel confident in dishing out pointers on how to be your own digital pimp.
I quickly found that Tinder’s real selling point is that it connects with your Facebook account. This not only makes setting up a profile a breeze, but also cuts back on the faceless torso trend that plagues most of the other dating apps gay dudes use. When picking out your photos, keep in mind that a successful pic collection should include some variation on the following:
- A cute close up
- One or two travel photos where you don’t look too much like a yanqui tourist
- One shirtless beach or outdoor workout photo (unless you’re like me, and find pasta and wine to be a better investment than Crossfit – in that case, replace with other travel candid)
- End with a pic that conveys the funnier, more charming aspects of your personality (think Hugh Grant goes to an empanada cooking class)
Also: This is not Grindr so save the underwear shots and steamy gym workout selfies for a rainy day.
With that, I was off and out into the world of online dating. Making broad, sweeping generalizations here, us gay guys tend to make a lot of things about hooking-up, both on and off of a mobile device, so it came as a little bit of a shock that Tinder is one of the few places you can come across guys who’d rather go on an actual date than get another d-pic for their collection. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t a couple gay-bros looking for sex on Tinder, but it seems that the particularly virile may be dancing out of step with the typical gay Tinder pack.
I went on an average of two dates a week over a span of three months. Here’s what I learned:
- It doesn’t matter who swiped right first – both parties are free to message each other if they like the onda being thrown out there in the profile pics.
- Invest in a decent bar with cheap food. Going Dutch is pretty standard, but you should always be able to pick up the check if your date is working his way through clown school. Word to the wise: clown school is an actual thing here, so make sure to emotionally prepare yourself for this should your date attempt to pay his half of the bill with a coin he pulls out from behind your ear. Cheap tricks can be annoying or endearing depending on the context but make sure you have enough money in your wallet to front the bill, por las dudas.
- After offices and happy hours will be your new best friend this friendship ends at your liver, though, so invest in vitamin B12 supplements.). After offices have everything you are looking for in first dates with people you meet online. They take place on a weeknight, have cheaper booze, and don’t usually turn into all night ragers – so you can get your beauty sleep in while “getting back out there.”
- If you need to escape the date, but don’t want to hurt the other guy’s feelings, order a clear cocktail (I’m a fan of all things ginger and gin) and spill it on yourself on purpose, then say you need to take care of your sweater before it gets totally ruined. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and who wouldn’t be able to understand that you have a dapper sweater that needs tending to?
- Okay, so maybe the drink spilling trick is too drastic for some cases, but this was the escape strategy I employed when an especially douchey date managed to insult and hit on me all in one sentence after talking about his car for the better part of 45 minutes.
- A disturbingly high percentage of Argentine men on Tinder seem have an obsession with posing with cute things in photos. Get ready for lots of dogs, nieces, nephews, and old people. Also be ready to pretend that’s normal, and definitely practice the sentence “Ay por dios, que hermosura.”
- See an ex? Don’t think, don’t react, just swipe left. Shame spirals are preventable, just like excessive weight-gain and forest fires.
- See a friend? Swipe right and slut-shame to your heart’s content. Knowing you’re both on the dating equivalent of the short bus shouldn’t be embarrassing. Realize you’re in this together and laugh about it.
What Does it All Add Up To?
One night after a fine but kind of blah date, I found myself thinking…
Is there some kind of formula for online dating? Can we take comfort in knowing that we’re that much closer to finding someone we click with, or are we selling ourselves short by taking the vulnerable, in-person, real-life hunt out of the equation? If there is a formula to finding love are we isolating the right variables or just ourselves by going online?
Maybe we are. The coincidence of being geographically close to someone tends to be a main factor in two people finding each other. But there are, of course, exceptions to this. And it’s probably safe to say that you will at least find someone to talk to on Tinder. Whether or not you want to spend significant amount of time with them is another story.
Here’s what happened for me; I got used to dating. I had a series of decent meals and engaging late night conversations, and I even walked down a cobblestone street in San Telmo holding hands with a seriously cute guy (my definition of success). In a way, I practice-dated. I turned dating into something that was once foreign and nerve-wracking into a chance to meet cool people and talk about something other than which fabrica de pasta had the best price-to-quality ratio on raviolis.
What happens for all of us, gay or straight, on Tinder? You get a break. Specifically a break from feeling alone, a feeling few of us talk about but almost all of us feel more intensely in this city known for its addiction to nostalgia and all things melancholic. Maybe it’s realizing that someone swiped right too, or maybe it’s the simple but real conversation that gives your heart a break from feeling so, well, broken.
Either way, there’s no telling if a dating app will actually help you find your soul mate faster – but if you do it right, it will give you an occasional glimpse of why we are still in this (dating) game in the first place.
You’d be surprised by what just holding hands on an old lantern-lit street can do to a broken heart.