As a twenty-something year-old woman living in a city that is highly populated with single individuals, I have become quite familiar with Tinder. Newly single, ready to mingle, and hungry for Pringles, I committed to eating for a work week only while on Tinder dates. I approached each date with the intention of getting to know each man and considering him in my dating life post-meal. However, as an individual notorious for her hanger (the dangerous combination of hungry and angry), I realized it was crucial to be strategic in the execution of this challenge, both in terms of dining establishments and men. Those bearded artists, writers and pedicab drivers that I was naturally drawn to (I blame my white trash roots) were not going to suffice in the operation of Tinder-ing for food. I needed to invest my energy in investment bankers, CPA’s, orthodontists, and jaded lawyers who weren’t appalled by my appetite and ardor for eating. Would these men be as boring as their job titles? Would one of them be my future husband? Were they going to fund my grocery expenses for the week? Would any attempt to kiss me…or worse…post-dining? Was that the typical exchange rate of a burrito the size of a new born baby? I was going to find out.
I am assuming that you are not a hermit with trendy-phone-app-avoidance tendencies and know what Tinder is. This dating app is accessible via mobile device and entails creating a profile of a few photographs, as the foundation of this app is based on physical appearance. There is an option to detail a tag line, as well. Some individuals choose to put their Instagram names, others announce their open relationship statues, few are simple, sweet and clever, and many shock you with their ability to prove the idiocy of a human specimen in just a few words. As you log on to the app during bus rides, post-brunch and pre-nights-out on the town, you are given a stack of people in your preferred mile radius to browse.
When presented with this selection of men (or women), you then have the option to “swipe right,” ultimately saying yes to someone. As in Yes, you would date them, fuck them, or let them take you to dinner, or you can “swipe left,” virtually rejecting them; no, you would rather lick a pole during a snow storm than go to dinner with them, you would rather be celibate for a year than fuck them, and no, you would rather not speak to them. The simple and beautiful catch of Tinder is that two people can message one another only if they have both said yes to each other. There is something reassuringly rudimentary about engaging in communication while knowing this and that you’re not aimlessly sending out OKCupid messages that are lengthier than your eccentric grandmother’s will into a space of sent-box rejections. Tinder’s messaging format fits into the convenience and texting lifestyle that we twenty-somethings are accustomed to.
Detailed below are the dates in which I Tinder-ed for food. The most distressing dates are recounted in detail. In my experience it is more common for first dates arranged via social media to involve “getting drinks” together than a full dinner. Meals are naturally more of a time, conversation, and awkward encounter commitment that can be questionable if you have not yet met the person. I felt confident in my ability to make conversation with almost anyone for an hour after years in a sorority as social chair arranging asinine events with fraternity boys whose farts offered more conversational depth than they ever could.
I used that weekend to set-up weekday dinner dates. I will admit that I targeted males who looked like they could provide meals for me. This sick reversion to cro-magnon times of the man as the provider of food, paired with this new dating technology proved to be an interesting twist. I was less inclined to “yes” the scrawny guy with his cat on his bare chest and more inclined to “yes” the man with a hot-dog in hand and a slight double chin. If he could eat, he could feed me and he probably knew how to make cookies. My messaging conversations always began normal enough, but when they asked me what I liked to do for fun I steadily answered these questions with food-related activities only. I was a foodie! I took cooking classes. I loved trying new restaurants. I was training for a marathon and I needed to eat often and plentifully. I loved desserts and I had just finished Julie Child’s biography. Here’s how it worked out…
I met with Dorian for lunch for my first date of the week (yes, his name sounds like the fruit that equally smells like garbage and feces and is banned in airports and certain public places in South East Asia because of it). His place of employment was near my own, although he lived across the bay. He did pay for my Super Duper Burger and he did throw a temper tantrum when his slab of cow was served with cheese. The man was lactose intolerant. I became Dorian intolerant after this outing.
I had a dinner date with Jerald, a Daly City resident with a love for this foggy and slow suburb of San Francisco, because he always had a parking spot and Pizza Hut close by. Jerald requested we go to a restaurant a few blocks from his work. This miffed me and was usual grounds for dismissal because it showed no consideration of my own location. However, I was using him to sustain my blood sugar levels and I needed to take what I could get. He turned out to be one of those socially tragic individuals whose lack of conversational normalcy leaves you feeling awkward, and was most likely on the autistic side of the spectrum. I ordered a chicken teriyaki bowl, as rice and chicken are filling and I knew there would be some carrots in there so I could get my Vitamin A on. Jerald asked me how I got there, not into the world, but to that restaurant. I told him I took the bus. He gave me a look that insinuated I kicked puppies for fun and not like I indulged in an environmentally friendly version of transportation. He told me that I was very independent. I wondered if he knew school children and blind people regularly take the bus. Every sentence of conversation was painful, and after asking him about his entire life story and favorite color, I had nothing else to ask. I was nearing the beginning stages of a break down when our food arrived.
I immediately realized why the dish I ordered was listed on the menu as “chicken” teriyaki. It was because it was fucking tofu. At that moment, I understood for the first time that we were at a vegan and gluten-free restaurant. Jerald glorified his gluten allergy as he sipped on his gluten-free beer. All I could think about was him spending the better half an afternoon sharting his guts out on a toilet after eating a baguette. I ate as quickly as I could and asked for to-go boxes. When I said goodbye to him, I give him a half armed consolation prize hug and he grabbed my shoulder and cornered my face for a kiss. I turned my head as quickly as I could and felt the slime of his tongue touch my cheek. Did he think that the date went well? Later that night he asked me if I wanted to see the Lego movie with him on Wednesday.
Andrew the accountant, also known as the most boring man I have ever met, financed my lunch. I ended up attacking him with bizarre questions while my hanger got the best of me over lunch time sushi. “Would your rather be a zucchini or a tomato?” “Can I hear your best dinosaur noise?” “How do you feel about anal sex?” He answered every question thoughtfully and without smile or even pity laugh. I hoped a bird would poop on his head as we walked away from one another, and neither of us mentioned ever seeing one another again.
At dinner, James was too cool for me; this bearded beauty owned his own print shop, and lived on a boat that he built himself. He had suggested we go to a restaurant that featured dishes made with local ingredients and cheese aged since I was in kindergarten (probably), and craft beer. This was after his first Tinder message to me included the question: “Do you think craftsmanship suffers at the hands of technology?” He talked about World War II, and his boat, and his art…and I had nothing to contribute to the conversation besides my love of olives. Who had undiagnosed aspergers now? I left our dinner feeling unintelligent and hungry. The portions were tortuously tiny and I was horrified when James shook my hand goodbye. I even hugged people I hated. The dinner was pleasant and polite, but I couldn’t help but think I could have had more fun and more to eat at a senior citizen home.
A mid-week lull in Tinder conversations occurred. No new gentlemen were reaching out to me, and with my standards already lowered from would-jump-his-bones-attractive to would-accept-food-from-him-attractive, I needed to adopt a new strategy. I spent the better part of my workday morning sending out some variation of the following Tinder message to men who were in my area: “Hello good sir! I like your face. You are cute. :)” I know it’s disgusting, but food was the motivating factor. You would be surprised at what you are willing to do to feed yourself.
I scrambled as lunch time approached and finally lured in a French man, Sebastien, who was visiting for the week, with my “you are cute” comment and smiley face facade. He was decently attractive. We arranged to meet outside my work as his leisurely vacation time exceeded my one hour lunch break. I had had a craving for chicken nuggets from the moment I awoke that morning and thought I should try to go for what I wanted. Sebastien had a sexy accent, but I could hardly understand a damn thing he said. I asked if he had ever had McDonald’s in the United States before. He said no, and I couldn’t decipher if was a look of horror or genuine interest on his face. I realized I would never see this man again and my chicken nugget craving was not going to evaporate, and c’est la vie, right? We discussed our lives over grease and fry grime, and he mentioned his girlfriend back home in Paris. Girlfriend? I did my best to appear charming and composed over three dipping sauces and asked him more about this French woman. As I said goodbye and offered sight-seeing suggestions I wondered if I should inquire about a ménage à trois.
I dined with Christopher for dinner. His cat played fetch with hair ties, and he experienced acute disappointment when he discovered that I did not own a cat. We went to a chic Chinese restaurant and the terror of not recognizing someone right away in a crowded entity hit me hard. My eyes scanned one solo diner to the next and after receiving pity looks from the waitress, I realized a bald man was waving at me. Bald? Christopher of the cats was NOT bald. He stood up and introduced himself and shortly after I excused myself to the bathroom so that I could consult his Tinder photographs. As I scrolled through his profile, it became clear that the top of his head was strategically cropped off in his photographs, or he was wearing a hat. We ordered random items from the menu to prove our sense of adventure to one another which ultimately resulted in a plate of fish crackers that was less than appetizing. He was skilled in controlling the conversation in a way that only those without head hair can master.
This was a day of men I would never go on dates with if food wasn’t involved. I was feeling famished after my dreadful dinner from the night before and found myself messaging and “yes-ing” men I would otherwise eliminate for small, yet crucial factors, such as pictures of their shaved abdomens and winking faces in their tag lines.
Lunch was carried out with a personal trainer, Sterling, who suggested an organic restaurant with salad, breakfast, and macaroni and cheese made with truffle oil, among other items that San Francisco babes go crazy for. Sterling was overly-bulky and I wondered about the location of his neck while he discussed the spiders in his apartment and we waited in line. He ordered a salad and I order a breakfast burrito with extra bacon. It felt wrong.
Dinner with a greasy-haired, nearly forty year old man, and probable virgin named Robin, was atrocious. He was a lawyer, and I had lowered my standards even further as dinner time approached. I was teetering on the dangerous edge of hangry, and I would eat anything with anyone. Robin’s messages were burdened with smiley faces and an absence of testosterone. He insisted I try a bite of his kebab and after I resisted he decided to feed it to me himself with his fork. I wanted to simultaneously die and vomit as I felt the group of girls next to us pause their chatter to watch. I may have been Tinder-ing for food, but I did not want a bite of Robin’s kebab.
After mere minutes of meeting Michael at lunch, he had divulged to me that his Dad was a gynecologist, his mom was a surgeon, and that he had gone to Yale and worked as an engineer for Google. I knew I would never be able to keep up with this level of intelligence that begins in the womb of a well-educated surgeon and from the sperm of a world-renowned gynecologist. He gave me a gift of homemade soap and was extremely kind, but also homosexual and didn’t know it yet. Unfortunately this particular breed of man is often attracted to me because of my broad shoulders. I wanted to ask Michael if it would it be weird if his dad saw my vagina, but I realized I needed to wait until our food arrived first.
Dinner with a sweater-vested and baby-faced man named Donald occurred at a gluttonous and garlic-focused restaurant, The Stinking Rose. I arranged this last dinner to be one of large proportions and one to discourage saliva exchange. In the span of the consumption of garlic bread in garlic sauces and garlic-based pizza, I learned that Donald’s mother lived in a mansion in New England, decorated with Alice in Wonderland figurines and lived off her family’s money. Donald once broke his arm while arm wrestling and he was so upset that he wrote a collection of poetry about it when he lived in Barcelona. He was deathly allergic to pineapple and he hated San Francisco because the weather was always the same. I had begun to hate him with the very core of my being until he asked me if I wanted to share dessert. Of course I did. When our garlic ice cream sundae arrived, getting even one-and-a-half spoonfuls of the sundae became a fight, as Donald, the ice cream hog, shoveled fudge and vanilla into his mouth between further revealings of his Amoxicillin allergy…and at an appalling rate. He chewed with his mouth open, the fudge and melted liquid making a marble of dark and light on his tongue. When the check came he made eye contact expectantly; I knew he was on the verge of suggesting a split. I thanked him for the dinner before he could open his mouth again and excused myself to the restroom so that he would have no choice but to pay for it. After watching a man devour ice cream like a five year-old and who needed a mother to dab his mouth with a napkin, I deserved this dinner. He held my hand with a cupped palm on my walk to the bus and it was disgustingly sticky.
This Tinder challenge far surpassed my expectations. Not only was I able to sustain myself from random San Francisco men willing to feed me, but I also met interesting individuals and learned invaluable lessons to share with others. For example…
You should always look for the top of a man’s head in his Tinder photographs. Please also remember that chicken nuggets are in fact enjoyed by our European friends and that you should avoid “chicken” teriyaki when you are hungry for meat. Men with mommy and incongruous ice cream issues are ones that don’t deserve your time or hand- holdings, and you should abstain from kebab sharing with forty-year old virgins named Robin. Although I approached each date with an open mind, heart and, well belly, I didn’t feel an organic connection to most of these men. I am sure some of them would recount their date with me in horror and discomfort actually. Will I participate in another week of Tinder-ing for food? Perhaps when Jerald stops texting me about the Lego movie and I have finished all of my leftovers.