Over a year ago I started using this blog to write about my Tinder dates. 2016 was a difficult year for me, and I was in a totally different space to the one I’m in now. That’s part of the reason that nothing has been published on this platform for the last few months – it no longer feels relevant. To convert these thoughts to written pieces means that I have to reach back to another part of my life and try to connect with a past version of myself. It’s a bit like reading a diary from your early teenage years; alienating, hilarious and more than a little cringe-worthy. Who was this person?
Despite this, and despite the possibility that those who read these posts might be getting bored with what might now feel tired and repetitive as subject-matter, I want to see this writing venture through. It’s been a cathartic endeavour to pen (or type) these stories, and to hear just how similar many people’s experiences of 21st century dating actually are.
Once the stories of Mark* and Elliot* are finally concluded (following my unexplained hiatus), only two more Tinder dates remain – and then my spree comes to an end. I still have loooaaads of posts surrounding other things, experiences and people about which I want to write. Some are about romance, and others diverge entirely from this topic. I’m excited to expand.
I suppose I felt the need to explain where I’m going with this blog, and to situate this seemingly out-of-the-blue post. Some readers might be relieved that the date stories are drawing to a close. In the past, when describing Tinder dates as gaining life experience, regardless of whether or not the date/s work/s out, I’ve been met with the phrase, ‘Gaining life experience from Tinder: what a life that must be.’ And many people share that outlook.
Tinder is often considered dirty, seedy and for the desperate. Regardless of the app’s becoming more commonly accepted over the years, many still believe (and have expressed to me both overtly and more subtly) that it’s for the promiscuous, and that Tinder is for people who want casual sex right here, right now. I remember having a conversation earlier this year with someone who said,
‘No offence, but I could never go on Tinder. I’m not one of those girls.’ What girls was she talking about? The culture of slut shaming is often ingrained in the ideas of those who frown upon the Tinder experience. Here, the patriarchy rears its ugly head (as it tends to do in so many places).
The way in which women are shamed for expressing a desire for casual sex/sexual activity is bad enough, but the fact that many are afraid/put off by the connotations with which they might be associated if they do join this app are worse. Speaking from personal experience, I can confirm that sure, a lot of Tinder users are after casual relations. And that’s totally okay. Period. But there are also those who are looking for lasting relationships. I know a handful of long-term couples who met through this app and are still going strong years later. The majority of matches don’t end in this way, but some do.
What I’m trying to say is, eschew Tinder because you’re convinced that you won’t find what you’re looking for. (Although, I’m evidence that there are people who use it for dating as well). Don’t eschew Tinder because you’re afraid you’ll be labelled a ‘slut’. You can make of Tinder whatever you want. Let’s stop punishing women for having a sex drive and for boldly (or shyly! Or in any other type of adverb way) wanting to have sex or to express sexuality. Then Tinder (regardless of whether using the app labels you as sexually promiscuous or not) wouldn’t be such a taboo topic for so many women. Men who use Tinder for hook-up purposes aren’t shamed. And they shouldn’t be. Neither should women users. Let’s stop referring to ‘those’ types of girls, shall we?
I went off on a long tangent there, but I felt it necessary.
So, some might be disappointed to find that my dating blog posts prevail. But until I conclude the final piece in my Tinder saga, they shall continue in all their intermittent splendour.
A long time ago in probably March I wrote parts 1 and 2 of the story of Mark and Elliot. So now it’s time to finish it. Or some of it, at least.
Elliot and I had been talking on Tinder for weeks, but we still hadn’t met up. I went to a party at which he was supposed to be. He didn’t show, but I met Mark instead. I ended up giving him my number after tripping and knocking into him. Much to my surprise, he messaged me the next day. We went on a mostly lovely date and made plans for another. Less than two hours before my second date with Mark, Elliot suddenly appeared at my bookstore to bring me my favourite chocolate (It’s since changed by the way). This was the first time I met Elliot in the flesh. And suddenly all I wanted was to get dinner with him after my shift, instead of trekking out in the cold to meet Mark. (End summary)
But, of course, I didn’t. And that turned out to be a colossal waste of time, because, as one might have guessed, Mark is a pretty deplorable human being, although we share(d) some mutual friends. Either he’s good at concealing how terrible he is, or it’s time to start questioning judgements…. You can decide for yourself from this subjective description of the evening. It was decided that we’d get pizza and then enter a beer pong tournament since I’d never played it and always wanted to. He was a pro at this sport. I named our two-person team Alcoholics A-noun-ymous, because we’d both studied English at some point and also because why waste the opportunity for a smug pun?
Inwardly, I’d fostered the hope that beer pong would be one of my greatest (previously unknown) talents, and that I’d impress both Mark and the general public with my ability to throw a spherical piece of plastic into a container full of fermented grain. Alas, I have the hand-eye coordination skills of a new-born, which explains why I was picked last or second to last in every PE class as a child. In fact, one time in grade four when I managed to hit the ball four times during a game of rounders (my previous record for the duration of primary school had been zero), one boy exclaimed earnestly,
‘Jaime hitting the ball four times? There’s a higher chance of me coming home to find a hippo in my bath.’ Indeed, this is possibly the most favourable review of my athletic prowess that you’d find.
But I digress.
So, as one might expect, instead of being approached by some form of sports person (An agent? A scout? A captain?) and told that I would bring glory to South Africa in the beer pong event at the Olympics (Not a thing, right?), I didn’t sink one ping pong ball. I still don’t really understand whether the drinking of the beer is a punishment when you miss a shot, or whether it’s a reward for when the globular object lands in the cup, but I guess that depends on whether you like beer.
I mean a sip or two or is quite nice and a third is tolerable, but after that it becomes altogether insufferable, at least to me.
[Image courtesy of this site.]
This might have something to do with its colour resembling caramel or the fact that I’m expecting it to taste sweet like my imagined perception of butterbeer, so I guess I’m blaming JK Rowling for the fact that I don’t like beer.
ANYWAY. After we lost embarrassingly badly, and were left with this huuuuge thing of beer which Mark was able to gulp down in a matter of seconds (very impressive), we spent some more time getting to know each other. So far though, the date had been going really well. The conversation was fluent and free of awkwardness, and I was tipsy and having fun. I decided I liked him. Now here’s the thing about Mark. He was good-looking in a rugged kind of way, and might be viewed as a sweet teddy-bear type…except I just didn’t quite buy it. Generally, I’m pretty sceptical and I don’t trust people easily – even more so if we’re talking about men. If I were a dictator, my justice system would probably run according to a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ belief, and on the OCEAN personality test, I score pretty highly on neuroticism. Just being real.
So when he started telling me random things about himself, like how he sings in front of the mirror, and then kind of let his face light up like he had just realised something big and said, ‘I’ve never told anyone that before’, I kind of felt like he was just trying to score brownie points. Like it wasn’t that personal a thing to tell someone. We all do that. As the evening progressed (as well as his bullsh**), I realised I was right.
The reader probably won’t remember this, but in Part 2 of this story, Mark was mugged and his phone was stolen, so we’d been communicating over Facebook ever since. On this date, however, he told me the full story of this ‘mugging’ and let me tell you it’s not as harrowing as he made it sound. Apparently he’d had a drunk night out the week before and, at around 1:00am he got talking to this random guy while walking about. The two bonded over a conversation that seemed ineffably profound, as most conversations seem when you’re inebriated, and they hugged. Later, Mark realised that his phone was no longer in his back pocket. That’s his mugging story….
It gets worse though. Mark told me that he knew it wasn’t really as hectic of a story as he’d spread on social media, but if he told his mom the truth she’d never send him the money for a new phone. Yup. So, by this point I’ve got ‘liar’ ringing in my head, along with alarm bells going, ‘this guy is NOT genuine. GET OUT.’ But the fact is that this was someone I’d met not through Tinder and it felt so ‘90s spontaneous. Plus, this was our SECOND date, and he was funny and gorgeous and not creepy. So I decided that this was just my neuroticism/defence mechanisms coming out to play, and that I’d re-evaluate at a later stage.
But then it got worse. By this time, I’d had enough to drink – a cocktail or two and some of that awful beer and some white wine. I was happy to be done with alcohol for the night. I have a very low tolerance for drinking; it hits me pretty quickly. More than that though, I can’t drink a lot in one sitting – I don’t mean it doesn’t stay down; I mean I can’t actually ingest it. Mark on the other hand drank more during the course of that night than I’ve ever seen anyone drink ever, and it didn’t seem to have much of an impact. In fact, one of the things he said to me that evening was,
‘If this is going to work then you should know straight up that I drink a lot. Like a lot.’
That’s chill. What wasn’t so chill was that he started trying to force me to drink more than I wanted/could handle. First these were gentle suggestions made every now and then. Later he started trying to bargain with me,
‘Just drink this much and I’ll have the rest.’ Or,
‘I’m getting more booze; just have one. I’m getting you another. It’s just one.’
By this time, we’d caught a cab from the beer pong/dinner place to another location about fifteen minutes away. That night the place was packed and I ended up running into just about everyone I knew. This turned out to be both a blessing and a curse, and I wish I could go into why, because it’s kind of hilarious but alas it breaks anonymity things.
Let’s just say though that after enduring some awkward eye contact and making some excruciating and/or pleasant small-talk with some people, I was glad to see Mark as he emerged from the bar. He looked at me without saying anything and I knew he going to kiss me. I still hadn’t made my mind up about him, and at this point I was still very attracted to him, so I gladly went with it.
Let me just tell you right now that he was the sloppiest kisser I’d ever encountered. I don’t know if it was because of the booze or if that was simply his style, but it felt like he was sucking my face off, Kraken style. After what felt like hours, but which was really about twenty seconds, I pulled away.
‘Wow,’ he said, now vaguely resembling Pennywise with my lipstick all over the bottom half of his face,
‘I’ve been wanting to do that all night.’
His desire for me to drink increased substantially from then on (it hadn’t been that frequent up till then) and majority of our conversation was now his attempt at persuading me to drink. My Reponses ranged from,
‘No thanks, I’ve had enough,’ to
‘I’m starting to feel sick,’ to
‘I’ve broken my rule and mixed, so I really don’t want more,’ to
‘You should have more, but I don’t want,’ to
‘Drinking more is just going to make me tired.’
But he was as persistent as a misogynist is when debating with feminists on an offensive Facebook post. You don’t get more obstinate than that. I was starting to get seriously uncomfortable, and when he told me that he lived just a short way away, so if I drank more and got tired, I could stay over, I knew that I wouldn’t be putting a toe into his flat. If he wouldn’t take no for an answer over the act of drinking, I certainly didn’t want to find out if he was as pushy in other departments. Still, I tried to ignore the sinking feeling that he was bad news, and our hours-long date continued.
Luckily, and by total chance, one of my best friends happened to be there that night. She’d just returned from travelling so I hadn’t seen her in about a month, and I’d never been so thankful for her presence. She happened to know Mark too from a class and, days later, she expressed her relief that his and my short-lived dalliance was done. Mark, my friend (We’ll call her Mae*), Mae’s boyfriend, some of their friends and I caught up for a while. Then, when Mark bumped into a group of his own friends or acquaintances or fellow bullsh**ters, I enjoyed a brief respite away from him. But then Mark came to find me and I found myself next to him at the bar, another glass of wine in my hand, that I knew he’d eventually have to finish for me.
Mae proved an exceptional friend to me that night in various ways. I can’t go into all of them, but let’s just say she helped me kill two birds with one stone. Anyway, Mae was walking by the bar at the same moment that Mark was, once again, trying to coerce me into drinking. I took a few laboured sips, but I could do no more. Since I’d started feeling uneasy around Mark, I’d been stone-cold sober. And no matter how much more I drank (although I could never manage more than a few sips) it had no effect on me. Earlier on I’d told Mae about how pushy he’d been with alcohol, and when she saw him trying to convince me again she walked straight up to him and said firmly,
‘Hey. She said no. She doesn’t want any more to drink.’
He smirked at her and threw some kind of tepid insult her way. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I know that it was so lacking in bite and credibility that it couldn’t even cause offence. It had to do with getting assignments done on time, or something like that. Stinging stuff which the two of us threw back at him easily.
Soon after, Mae and co left. I remained with Mark and he kissed me again. This time I pulled away almost immediately. He handed me the glass of wine that I hadn’t touched, but this time my refusal was final:
‘I’m not going to have anymore, Mark. I already told you. I’m pretty tired; I think I’m gonna head home.’
Again, he presented me with the offer of staying over at his place, but the words had barely entered the atmosphere when I refused. The strange thing was (Or not that strange I guess because if a misogynist knows one thing it’s not to trust other men) he walked me to my Uber and instructed the driver to make sure I got home safely. Suddenly it was his job to ‘protect’ me from other men when he’d been exercising objectionable behaviour over the last few hours? No, buddy.
The last image I have of Mark was his wiping my lipstick from his mouth and heading back inside. I remember having no doubt that he’d end up with another girl that night and, what’s even clearer, is that I really didn’t mind.
The few minutes I spent getting into my pyjamas and brushing my teeth proved enough time to decide that the best thing to do under the circumstances was to end things over Facebook messenger. He was still without a phone so I couldn’t call him, and there was no way I would be subjecting myself to another face to face exchange. So the next afternoon, I sent him a message. Since I was going the cowardly route I decided not to be too cutting; I felt really guilty even though he was the one in the wrong. Looking back now, I’m disappointed in myself for not calling him out on his behaviour. It would have been the braver and right thing to do.
He never replied, but then again why would he have. My thoughts returned to Elliot and, as I sat attempting an English assignment, pondering over his shy but endearing demeanour while devouring the entire chocolate slab he’d brought me in mere minutes, I couldn’t help hoping I’d get a certain WhatsApp notification sooner rather than later.
*Names have been changed
** Subscribe – I post too infrequently for the notifications to be deemed spam.