Pokémon With People

Swiping right

Of course, I’ve been on the various dating apps for a long time. Bumble, Tinder, and OK Cupid, primarily. I don’t know of many others. Match? Plenty of Fish (which I can’t help but see as “Plenty Offish” for reasons that should be obvious)? Hinge is a new one, too, but that requires far more interaction than I’m comfortable with. Actually commenting and sending a message with the first response? I’d much rather just swipe, right or left, yes or no, in or out.

Of the swipey-swipey apps, I call them “Pokémon with people”. When I have that hit of boredom that makes me want to get a quick hit of dopamine, I’ll open up the folder on my phone where I keep all the dating apps, and go through them, swiping until I’ve swiped everyone in my area that meets my requirements. I do it just to see a parade of faces and names and pithy descriptions. For a long time now, several years at the very least, I have done it with no expectations of matching with anyone. It’s just a simple game. The app developers have gamified dating and I am falling for the hook.

I don’t fall for it enough to pay money to increase my odds. Deep down, I don’t want to increase my odds of matching at all, if I’m honest with myself. Just the rare match is enough to keep me going.

Even when I do match, I rarely initiate conversation. I just keep swiping. That’s why it feels like an empty, pointless, game.

(There’s a word or phrase for that kind of game, right? The ones that just keep you coming back without any overall achievement? The Farmville kinds of games. Why am I blanking on that word? Maybe it’ll come to me if I keep typing.)

Swiping Left

I don’t think my requirements are very strict, so in theory, I should match with a lot of potential partners. Being 54 and male, I set the age range between 40 and 60, which, as I understand it, goes up much higher than other men my age. Of course, I could see myself dating a woman older than myself. There are plenty of women in my age bracket that I find attractive. The question in the back of my mind (oh, hello, Inner Negative Voice) is: would they find me attractive?

I have the usual dealbreakers, or what feels like a standard set. I swipe left (left is “No”, in case you didn’t know) on people who describe themselves as conservative. I’m very left-wing, politically, and I don’t think I would get much empathy or feel much connection with someone whose politics exclude all empathy and connection, which is what American conservatism is focused on these days.

I’m also not interested in folks who describe themselves as moderates, or, shudder, “apolitical”. That, to me, is just giving up, or giving aid to the conservatives. It’s not enough in our polarized times to claim neutrality against fascism, authoritarianism, or cults of personality; in my view, we need to stand against those ideologies. When I see “centrist” in a dating profile, I send them to the left. Best of luck but you are not for me.

Self-described Christians are also generally a turn-off. I’m an atheist, largely because American Christianity has become so strongly associated, politically, with conservative radicals, so I’m wary. I will, however, give more consideration to potential matches who claim liberal Christianity—though to be fair, those are few and far between.

One last dealbreaker for me, and it might be a touchy one. This is not meant as a judgment of someone’s character, it’s just that it’s not something I see myself as being capable of enjoying without a lot of angst and anxiety on my part. I swipe left if I see someone describe themselves as poly or in an “open” relationship. I understand that many people are communicative and honest and inclusive. I would love to be all of those things. In practice, I fear that I am not. I would have to have built up a level of trust with someone before I would be willing to try it, and the thought of starting off a relationship, even in the very beginning stages, while also including others I may or may not know about, is daunting in the extreme. So I decline to match with those folks. Maybe I could build up to it, approach it cautiously over time.

Whoops, We Matched?

All of this is rambling is because, for some magical reason, I currently have, not one, not two, but three matches in a couple of apps. I’m confused by this. I haven’t done anything differently. I haven’t really updated my profile, although I did add a couple of recent pics from last weekend from the comic convention—do I look happier in those pictures, and therefore might seem a better match?

Regardless, having three matches seems like an embarrassment of riches. How could it possibly be that there are three people out there who would want to talk to me, want to get to know me better, want to maybe meet up and share thoughts and all that? Not possible says my Inner Negative Voice. That can’t be right. It must be a mistake.

Do I find them attractive, my matches? Yes, I do. They’re all in my age range, they all seem politically left, they all have profiles with lots of words of description and thought put into them, indicating lively and creative minds. All these things are plusses. What do I do?

Well, if I had to tell a friend in this situation some advice, I’d say: just respond and see what happens. Try not to overthink it. Just go with it. I know you feel like matching is anxiety-inducing because you’re not used to it, and your self-esteem has been beaten down over the years, but communicating is not nearly as big a risk as your Inner Negative Voice is telling you. Just respond.

It’ll be OK, no matter what. It’ll be OK. You’re going to be OK.