The Weather

Bruce Springsteen was Right, or, What Worries Me about Tinder

Bruce Springsteen was right: You can’t start a fire without a spark. But just because he was right doesn’t mean it’s any easier to locate that spark. Maybe your lighter is out of lighter fluid or perhaps you’re just too busy being an independent lady who came of age in a post-SATC world where somewhere Lena Dunham was conceiving of Girls and somewhere else sans-serif was gaining ground. Maybe you just need a little help.

Maybe you need Tinder.

So I paid a visit to the app store. In a flash, all the single people in my area made themselves known to me. Suddenly sparks—real, metaphorical, and imagined—were flying left, right, and center. I had a kitchen full of kindling; a bedroom brimming with those easy-light foam squares; a living room littered with newspaper twists ready for the fireplace… You get the picture. Tinder does what it says on the tin.

But soon I started to fret. “Maybe I don’t believe in the divorce of narrative preamble (ie. dating) from sex. And if not, what the hell am I doing sitting in this pile of flammables!” I inwardly shout: “I am scared and confused! It does do what it says on the tin and this tin is a goddam TINDERBOX and it’s going to BLOW.”

So I made a list of all the things that were worrying me, as old wives and grandmothers tell you to do.

#1: My number of matches is disproportionately lower than the number of people I have admitted to finding attractive

Do not, under any circumstances, keep a mental tally of how many swipes-to-the-right you’ve made versus how many matches you’ve received. This is mental. Do not justify this perceived shortfall by blaming the complex geographical logistics of Tinder and the fact that you move around a lot. You don’t actually move around that much. You eat cereal. You watch The View. You turn your laptop on and off to fix the WiFi. You text the people in the room next to you. This is also mental.

#2: I can’t tell how tall people are

When choosing your gallery of four or five photos on Tinder you are not under any obligation to include a shot of yourself standing next to something of a recognized or standardized height, like a phone booth or a street sign. You would do well to remember that you cannot personally make this a requirement because you are neither an app engineer for Tinder nor one of those people who goes on customer service forums, which, in the grand scheme, is a good thing. Besides, although you are very tall, this is not something that should worry you. It’s akin to discounting a man because of the kink of his nose or the curl of his hair or (god forbid) the curl of his nose and the kink of his hair! It also doesn’t matter that this isn’t strictly true. I know that someone else’s crooked nose cannot make you feel like an oversized, galumphing yeti; but this is a failing of society. So what if you’re the one to reach down the pickles from the top shelf at the supermarket. This is not the issue of a feminist. You should feel okay about being the pickle-winner.

#3: As soon as I stop worrying about people’s heights I start to worry that this is not because of my views on gender equality but because I don’t really want to meet my Tinder matches in real life

Technically, this makes you a Tinder tease. But take comfort in the fact that there are far worse teases hiding in and behind this user-friendly interface: the people who have lengthy taglines about being six-foot-tall test pilots, or the people who list their age as 102 and abruptly stop messaging you when you point out the absurdities of their life span. No, you are not the biggest culprit in the tinderbox because you are not a liar and there’s nothing wrong with just chatting. But there’s also no sass in MSN Messenger 2.0.

#4: Now when I make prolonged eye contact with people I am scared that they recognize me from Tinder

See! You don’t refuse Tinder’s potential for real-world crossover after all! But answer me this: Have you ever spotted someone on the sidewalk and thought, “AHA. I know you from Tinder”? No one is as memorable as they think they are. Remember that.

#5: I preface too many of my responses with “ha ha”

Firstly, this is sometimes necessary when talking to strangers. How else will they know that you’re being funny (which you are) or that you think they’re funny (which you don’t)? And secondly and more importantly, this is most likely something that only you yourself have picked up on. Not everyone is a high school teacher hell-bent on encouraging you to begin your sentences with an array of pronouns, connectives, and prepositions. In fact, this fear exhibits exactly the sort of egocentric tendencies which made it so hard for said high school teacher to stop you from starting every sentence with “I” “I” “I” “I.” So stop this silliness.

#6: I censor my messages so as not to alienate anybody with my actual personality/idiosyncrasies/verbose language/actual way of being/actual way of talking

Oh, actually, that is bad. Try not to do that so much. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like you. You don’t even know them. This isn’t an emotionally precarious place; you aren’t running with scissors. What you are doing is sitting in your kitchen eating PB&J and messaging strangers. So it’s okay if someone severs the almost-storyline because of something you said. It just means they probably weren’t that funny. Remember that these storylines are in no way connected to your lifeline. Nothing is at stake on Tinder.

#7: I am attaching some larger significance to Tinder

I just told you that nothing is at stake on Tinder! God. There is no overarching narrative at play here, except the long and drawn out saga of your need to be needed. Stop fleshing out four-to-five photos and a first name into a relationship this instant! This is not the time or the place for that funny business. You either meet up with him or you don’t and in the meantime don’t judge yourself by the response time of others. This is a fiery box of tinder not a basket in which to safeguard your eggs. Be casual. Burn and break those eggs! (Just remember to freeze some for later.)

#8: I hate breaking eggs

Bruce Springsteen was right, girl: It’s that feeling of safety you prize. Goddammit. You are bad at this.

Emma is a writer living in London and working for The Wylie Agency. Her writing has found its way onto The Huffington Post and the occasional dating website. She is also the author of one half of a published book about university. She can be found and hired here: @emma_etc.