Finding Love (or at Least Sex) in the Time of Tinder
He's a fruitarian. The first Tinder date I went on wasn't exactly mine; it was my friend Suzy's. We were vacationing in Amsterdam in 2013 and we thought, why the hell not? We were single, in an exotic, foreign land, and more importantly, bored—not with our vacation, but with our lives.
Tinder. It’s what everyone was doing in those days, right? So with the gung-ho attitude of girls (trying) to go wild, I sent my friend off on her date. They met at a bookshop where our other friend Cora and I were discreetly hidden between shelves of Shakespeare and self-help books. While Suzy went on her date, Cora and I stopped by a coffee shop to wait.
An hour into the date, I texted: How now, brown cow? While we were all for trying out this newfangled app, safety measures were put into place. All good, Suzy replied. He’s a skateboarding fruitarian. He only eats fruits, apparently.
The date went well enough that Suzy and skaterboy made another date, to go on a picnic by a field of tulips and a battered old windmill. Though my inner matrona kicked in and insisted on seeing skaterboy’s car’s plate number, I let Suzy go off on her Tinder date.
She agreed to meet me at 5 p.m. at the parking lot of the Rijksmuseum, so when she hadn’t shown up by 5:15 p.m., I was in a panic. I checked my phone since I hadn’t heard from Suzy and found out there was no signal where I was. Alarmed, I rushed out into the open and called Suzy. Oh, I’m just hanging out with him in his car in the parking lot, she chirped. You can’t miss his car. I scanned the parking lot wondering what the hell you can’t miss… oh hell. There it was: a small flatbed truck with a wooden half pipe on it. I resisted the urge to fall on my ass laughing as we waved bye to Skaterboy. That was the best date I had (n)ever been on. By the looks of Suzy’s grass-stained jeans, it looked like she had a great time, too.
But there it was: the dawn of a new era. Remember speed dating, that trendy dating system that was all the rage 10 years ago? Well, Tinder’s like that, except you can do it in the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas. Best of all, you don’t have to come up with a memorable one-liner before your 3 minutes are up. The mechanics are simple: After you download the app and sign up (through Facebook Login), you are shown photos of potential matches. You swipe left if you don’t like the person, swipe right if you like them. Usually, you’re given the name, age, and distance from your location in your potential match’s profile. A short description may follow, but it’s totally up to you if you want to fill it out. Many put interests, hobbies, work, or type of date. A lot of men add their height (according to the guys I asked, height is an important factor to a lot of women); the more salacious may add length or girth. If you match with anyone, Tinder will notify you and you will be able to message each other. If there is no match, you can’t message the person. That’s pretty much it. Gone are the days of courtship, which required a man to nervously await his ladylove in her parents’ living room, clutching on to a bouquet of flowers for dear life. Dating and courtship have become less of an event nowadays. You meet potential dates in bars, in clubs, in concerts, on vacations, and even on plane flights to your vacation… basically everywhere but our parents’ living room.
VIVE LA (SEXUAL) REVOLUTION
It’s time for us to stop taking dating so seriously. Tinder (and most of the popular online dating apps) isn’t for finding Mr. Right as it is for finding Mr. Right Now. Or at least that’s what I learned during a trip to London. After a low-key dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Soho, I leaned over a friend’s shoulder to see her swiping around, searching for a potential Tinder match. I’m horny, she whines, tapping the red sole of her Loubutins on the tile floor. 10 minutes later and she’s hailing a minicab and off to somewhere in Camden. That’s the other thing you get on Tinder: sex a la carte.
You can tell who are genuine fetishists and who are just doing something on a lark by how polite they are when you’re messaging. The kinkier they are, the more polite they seem to be, possibly because they know they’re asking for something out of most people’s comfort zone.
The Internet has done for dating what the pill did for women in the ’60s: It changed the way the game is played. If the Pill leveled the sexual playing field, Tinder levels the social one. Nowhere can you see the mingling of social stratospheres better than Tindering here in the Philippines. It took Suzy and me some time before we tried online dating in the Philippines. It was easier to go online dating abroad where no one knew us. Who cares if he’s a martial arts-loving acupuncturist with an unfortunate monkey tattoo on his shoulder, or a part-time sales rep for AT&T? I’m not bringing any of them home to meet mom anytime soon. Go ahead and hook up with that cute barista from Starbucks you’ve been flirting with on Tinder. There’s no one to judge you.
But in Manila, where the six degrees of separation condense into three, it was trickier. What if I see someone I know on it? A friend once exclaimed. So what? She’s using the app, too. I argued. My friend looked unconvinced. What is it about online dating that makes us squirm uncomfortably in our seats? Open up the venerable New York Times on a Sunday and you’ll see just how many Tinder matches turn to marriage without shame. But locally, we’re still concerned, we’re still suspicious. Most seem to think that Tinder is only for the desperate, the lonely—the sad hacks that can’t get a date the regular way. But what is the “regular way” anyhow?
Back in my teens and 20s, the way to get a date was through friends and classmates. This tried and tested method has worked for us in the past, but by the time you hit your 30s, you’ve gone through most of those your friends have to offer and know none of them are right for you. The dating pool seems smaller the older I get, but are there less people out there or am I just pickier? It’s absolute bullcrap that one gets more desperate to find a mate as the years go by. Maybe that was true 20 years ago, but nowadays, with all the different dating options we literally have at our fingertips—aside from Tinder, you can also look into OKCupid, Match.com, Bumble, and Hinge. If you’re gay or bisexual, you can’t go wrong with Growlr—we can afford to be a little choosier with potential long-term mates and at the same time a little more forgiving when it comes to dating just for fun.
THE LATE GREAT DOM
When Esquire asked me to write this story, I had been on an online dating fast for almost a year, and the last time I went Tindering in Manila was more than two years ago. I was recovering from online dating fatigue. Also, the local Tinder selection at that time was pretty sad. There weren’t that many people on the app back in 2014 and after a day or two of swiping (mostly) left, Tinder was hard-pressed to find other matches in my area. While I was able to meet a few potential dates, weeding through them is a process. Among the duds were: the surfer who wanted to lick my feet under a table while I ate my dinner, the guy from San Diego who was also willing to hire me as his nanny if dating wasn’t going to work out, the man who was in the Philippines to find a wife to bring back to London… the list is pretty extensive. The most surprising thing to me is the number of entrepreneurs who use Tinder to advertise. I can’t tell you how many real estate agents have tried to sell me property. There was also the personal trainer who guarantees 15-pound weight loss in the first month, the caterer who also delivers diet food, and my personal favorite: the cuddle therapist. For 500 bucks an hour, the cuddle therapist will listen to your problems and hold you while you let it all out.
Also surprising is the plethora of married men on Tinder Philippines. The number of men who use their wedding picture or family photo as their main Tinder profile photo is astounding. (Seriously, guys, you do know what Tinder is for, right? This ain’t no Ashley Madison site!) Once again, let us return to the fact that Manila is a small society and you will have friends on Tinder who will find your profile and wonder if they should let your significant other (who is smiling so happily next to you on your Tinder profile photo) know what you’re up to. Please don’t confuse these people with those who are in an open relationship. Most people who are in open relationships will say so in their profile. There are also those who are looking for a third person for a threesome.
You will find a number of kinksters with varying degrees of kink, but all in all, the politest people I spoke to are the ones who are looking for a little more than plain vanilla. Honestly, you can tell who are genuine fetishists and who are just doing something on a lark by how polite they are when you’re messaging. The kinkier they are, the more polite they seem to be, possibly because they know they’re asking for something out of most people’s comfort zone. They understand the delicacy that this kind of dating entails. Those with little or zero experience will always talk a big game and fall short when questioned, such as the self-proclaimed dominant that Suzy met online a few weeks ago.
A motivational speaker in real life, this dominant (and I use the term loosely) talked big about his fantasies and what he wants in a submissive woman. Suzy agreed to meet him for coffee (and then some if sparks were going to ignite). She waited in a café in Capitol Commons for nearly 3 hours. The only reason she didn’t leave after waiting for an hour is because there was a hilarious exchange over Whatsapp with me and two other friends about Suzy’s delayed dom. After hour one, we all came to the conclusion that this man had no idea where he was going. Claiming to be from Makati, it shouldn’t have taken that long to get to Capitol Commons, but the route he took was so convoluted, I had to ask: Is he cycling to get to you?!
Suzy ordered another glass of wine as she waited, the dom frantically texting her to make sure she hadn’t left yet. I think the scales have tipped. He’s called twice to apologize. Suzy messaged over Whatsapp. But we all decided to humor him for now because bashing the man via Whatsapp was worth the inconvenience Suzy was dealing with. It’s like when you order food and the rider can’t find your house! I say. Damn, this is funnier than I expected. I’m thinking of him as a slab of meat, says Suzy. Nikka comes online and chimes in, laughing at the exchange: He’s not steak. He’s barely liempo at this point. Experienced dominant my ass! What kind of dominant cedes control because of traffic? Planning, darling! All good doms are great at planning.
Another hour later, the delayed dom claims to be looking for parking in the mall and messages Suzy to ask where he should park. That’s when Suzy had enough. He was simply too pathetic to meet at this point and the Whatsapp messages had sharpened our tongues to the point where this man had already been cut to ribbons. The only reason I would meet him now is so he can pay for my drinks. Suzy declares.
Tinder is the most casual of casual dating and it’s a good rule of thumb to keep your expectations low.
THE DATING GAME
When I downloaded Tinder again two months ago, there were certainly a lot of upgrades for me to explore. There was Premium Tinder, which, for a monthly fee, gives you a whole slew of options. Among the upgrades are boosting, which means you can be the top profile in your area for 30 minutes a week; and the removal of both your age and geographical location from your profile. (Your age, which is also used to filter your matches, is set by your Facebook account, so there’s no changing that on the unpaid app, while your location is based off your phone.)
More interesting is the addition of Tinder Passport, which means that people from around the world can view your profile, and more importantly, you can view profiles around the world with a simple switch of location. Travelers seem to find this most useful, switching their Tinder accounts to the country where they will be traveling to in the next month or so. While on vacation, it isn’t unusual to book tours and restaurants in advance, so why not book a potential date or two? At best, you find love on holiday. At worst, you get a drink at a bar you’ve never heard of and a good anecdote about your trip to tell your friends back home.
Unfortunately, because Tindering here in Manila isn’t as large as it is abroad (yet, but that is sure to change in a little while), these apps are a bit of a waste of time if you’re looking for local dates. Turn these apps on when you’re abroad and you’re suddenly inundated with so many matches, it’s overwhelming.
My two favorite Tinder Plus options would have to be the Rewind feature and the unlimited likes. Rewind means you can take back your last swipe. Sometimes, when autopilot sets in, you swipe left on someone you should have swiped right on, leaving your with a tinge of regret as you go through the next 10 profiles, none of which are as good as the one that got away. On the other end of the spectrum, you can take back someone you accidentally swiped right on. Having unlimited likes, on the other hand, means that you can swipe right on as many people as you like. We’re not quite sure what the quota cap is since the Tinder algorithm controls the number of right swipes you can make at a given time period, but majority say that it’s an average of 100 likes for a 12- to 24-hour period. The 100 likes resets every 12-24 hours. Now, a 100 likes seems to be a bit much, no? But it depends on your dating strategy. You could carefully curate your likes, which means you will most likely never hit the 100 likes in 12 hours; or you could go wholesale and keep swiping right on everyone with some modicum of dating potential. With curation, you may not get as many likes back, but those you do match with will be someone you may share more in common with. Those with less patience who like to cast a wider net may get more likes but the quality of the matches are questionable.
Most noticeable was the option to link your Spotify and Instagram account. Many are using it as a way to show their personality without having to write out an extensive profile. Another new feature is the Super Like, where you swipe upwards instead of left or right. Super-liking a profile means that a star will appear in your profile when the person you super liked comes across it. I discovered the Super Like function in what could have been an incredibly embarrassing situation. While reacquainting myself with the app, I came across the profile of an acquaintance of mine, Leonard. We were primarily work friends, he had shot the photos of some of the stories I had worked on. Flabbergasted and unsure of whether I should swipe right to be polite or swipe left and pretend I never saw his profile, I ended up swiping upwards and a large blue star appeared. Shit.
A few hours later, a reciprocated Super Like and message from Leonard: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hi Felicia!
Super-liking Leonard turned out to be a godsend. In his mid-twenties, Leonard’s experiences, while similar to mine, had opened my eyes to how millenials (the core group of Tinder users) use the app. Through Leonard, I was able to experience secondhand how Tinder Social, one of the newest features on Tinder, works. Tinder Social in a nutshell, is for group dates. When you turn on Tinder social, it prompts you to select Facebook friends who are also on Tinder to join your group. When you’ve got your group together, you’ll state what your plans are for the evening, which will appear in the corner of your group profile and you begin looking for other groups with similar plans or in a nearby location. Leonard says he and a friend tried it once and it was pretty successful. He and his friend met up with two graphic artists, who were showing their work at Art in the Park that weekend, for a drink. While there were no sparks flying for either Leonard or his friend, the experience was fun and pleasant enough for Leonard to want to try again in the future.
Leonard was the first friend I spoke to that didn’t look too ashamed to be on Tinder. It’s different now. Back in 2014, everyone was keeping Tinder a secret, he says.
Are people still keeping their Tinder activities secret now? I ask.
Some people do, but I don’t! I’ll even go on Tinder while riding an Uberpool. Leonard laughs. I must admit that Tinder is handy in traffi c, when there isn’t much to do but surf the net. Why not try a little online flirting. You may end up pleasantly surprised. If not, who cares? You’re in traffic anyway.
Online dating is a lot like online shopping, especially with Tinder. One should never go into it with expectations; it’s much better to be pleasantly surprised. Also, don’t be discouraged if you’re not clicking with many of your picks. In general, you’ll get maybe 1 match per 10 swipes. Women have better match ratios, but that doesn’t mean much because once you get to talking, you may change your mind about just how cute or fuckable someone is… especially when the first message from your match is: Hell0w P0wz.
A week later, Leonard sends me a message on Facebook: I have Tinder tips for you!
Ok! Hit me. I message back. Kunwari you’re in a café and you see someone cute. Set your radius to 2 km lang and hope that luck is on your side and she’s on Tinder. Leonard says. Also, if you find someone you really like on Tinder, follow her on Instagram. If swerte, she might follow you back and I try to message them on IG directly.
Simple as these tips were, I can see them working here in Manila. A quick look in the App store will show you just how many applications are used as Tinder hacks. Just as video gamers use walkthroughs and online guides when playing, these third-party applications are there to up your Tinder game. Unfortunately, because Tindering here in Manila isn’t as large as it is abroad (yet, but that is sure to change in a little while), these apps are a bit of a waste of time if you’re looking for local dates. Turn these apps on when you’re abroad and you’re suddenly inundated with so many matches, it’s overwhelming.
For better or worse, Tinder is now part of our social and cultural zeitgeist. Locally, we’re still at the beginnings of the online dating revolution, but that’s quickly changing. The number of in-depth articles in publications such as The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, gives you an idea of how huge Tinder has become and how it has helped evolve the act and art of dating. At this juncture, we’re really not sure if online dating is a good or bad thing. Is this the Dating Apocalypse Vanity Fair wrote about? Have we forgotten how to talk to people, to make connections that are more than just sexual? Some bemoan that we have opened up a Pandora’s Box that we cannot free ourselves from, that this is the death of relationships. Don’t despair, darlings. If Pandora herself found hope inside that godforsaken box, we can find love in this hopeless place… or at the very least have fun trying.
This article originally appeared in our February 2017 issue.