Tinder is a Video Game

Did you here about this guy on Tinder who got, like, a thousand matches because he replaced his photo with an everything bagel? His profile photo, instead of his face, is this shot of an everything bagel with deli meat, scrambled eggs, and just pornographic amounts of melted cheese. What red blooded American woman can resist? The man is a goddamn genius.

Are any of you on Tinder? In case you aren’t, let me tell you, it’s awesome. Not like, you can actually use it to get laid all the time, no. At least not when you look like this. [refers to self] Men who get laid all the time using Tinder look like Ryan Gosling, not like a background character in a Ryan Gosling movie, not like third mathlete on the left.

But it’s fun to a…nerd like me because it is a video game. This is how you’re supposed to use it: There are humans, they upload pictures, and there’s a little space to write something about themselves. Their photo pops up. Swipe right, on a face, if you like them. Swipe left if you don’t. If two people swipe right on each other, that’s the only time you’re allowed to contact that person. But, and this is the thing, if you match with someone, and you don’t message them right away, a little number pops up on the side of the app, a little red number that goes up every time you match with someone.

Aaaand now they got me.

I can’t ignore little numbers, man. I grew up on Nintendo. Numerical scores are like crack to me. So now I have to see how high I can get that number to go. Like I have to find out. I have to get the Tinder high score. But not actually score. Because if I message any of these women, the number goes down.

And by the way, I don’t cheat. I don’t just swipe right on everybody. I still only swipe right for very special ladies whose photos make me want to, you know, settle down and get married. I just don’t message any of them so the number won’t go down. I tell my friends and they’re like “well then what’s the point of being on a dating app?!” That’s when I flip the table we’re sitting at and run away.

I don’t cheat at the Tinder video game. I do swipe left, a lot. Because I’m a ball of neuroses. Some things on Tinder that make me swipe left are things that would make anyone swipe left. Like a profile will come up, and there’s no photo. Tinder is NOT the place for blind dates. Are you insane? Swipe left. Or worse, with photos but no face. Like every photo is… [turns back]. This sunset and/or grand canyon is amazing. [faces forward] Or like the hair is dramatically covering the face. If you’re that embarrassed to be on here, maybe don’t be on here? But some of the reasons I swipe left are just nuts-to-the butts. For example…

If the first letter of every word in their summary is capitalized. — Not that they’re writing in all caps like they’re…screaming at me. I LIKE LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH. Just the first letters of every word. What is that?! I mean, people make mistakes. I’m not going to judge someone for typos or grammar. English might not be their first language! Maybe they’re French…and hot. But there’s just no excuse for this specific mistake. It’s not even that they don’t give a fuck. I respect not giving a fuck. But people who don’t give a fuck don’t capitalize anything, or won’t write anything at all. Capitalizing the first letter of every word is willful ignorance. And I can’t date that! Can you imagine dating someone who does dumb shit on purpose? Yes. Yes, you can.

I’ll swipe left immediately if they have the same facial expression in all the photos. — If you’ve got the same half smile and dead stare at a rally and a baby shower and Burning Man, then you are obviously a sociopath and this is your heavily rehearsed people-hunting face. And that face, half smile plus dead stare, that’s usually the face. It’s never a big smile, it’s always Mona Lisa minus the humanity. “Am I smiling at you? Or do I want to eat your liver?” Because if they’re actually making A face, a single wacky face, in a bunch of photos, well then that’s performance art. That’s the bit. I get it. I can work with that.

Another one is, all their photos are group shots with their friends. — Hey, I’m down with #squadgoals. Bros are important. Girl power is, hands down, my favorite kind of power after natural gas. But maybe just one photo to show — you’re an adult who can be left alone in public.

What else? Oh! Their profile mentions that they love Jesus. On Tinder. — Whoa there. What kind of man do you think I am? Whipping out god is solid third date stuff. First date, common interests and trivia. Where are you from, where did you go to school? Second date, heavy petting. Third date, Jesus.

Swipe left if they will date you depending on astrology. — Their write up starts with “I’m a gemini and…” Nope! [swipe left] Nope nope nope.

I only have one more and it’s the worst.

I swipe left if they’ve got a photo of them helping underprivileged children of color. — Ohhhhhh daaaaaamn. Shit just got real. It’s fine! We’re gonna talk about this. You’ve seen these photos, right? There they are, and they’re usually white. They’re obviously middle class or higher. And they’re in a classroom, teaching or just, like, hugging [awkward hugging motions] these black or brown kids who are obviously very poor and foreign. Like, this isn’t Harlem. You can tell from context clues. (And by the way, if it’s East Asian kids and the students are well dressed, well that’s South Korea or Japan. So she’s an English tutor at a prep school. That’s fine. You don’t have to worry about that. I mean, it’s still weird but whatever.) Now, benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re an honest to goodness humanitarian. Except they can’t be that much of a humanitarian if they don’t get why this is creepy.

Let me explain, ever seen a photo of Hugh Hefner surrounded by…props? In the form of…6 or 7 leggy blondes? This Tinder person helping-the-needy photo is like that. They’re Hefner in a silk smoking jacket. And the kids are leggy blondes. (This metaphor may have fallen apart.) I’m not saying it’s the same! I’m saying that’s what it looks like. Not bad, per se. Just uncomfortably exploitative. Like they could put up photos of, I assume, them in front of the school or outside, carrying buckets of water, or…in bed fighting malaria. That’s exciting! Right? And they can totally have photos of the kids because they loved them so much. That’s fine! Have those photos. But don’t put them up…on Tinder. Show them to me, in private, on our third date, after you tell me about Jesus.


Post-Fiction: A Future Eulogy

A reading from the Book of Satire, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” This is the good news.

[Wait to see if anyone says, “Thanks be to God.” If they do, say, “Gotcha!”]

That’s not from the bible. Sounds like it, I know, especially the “man is not dead” part, the sexist bastards. No, that’s from Terry Pratchett. Always wanted Alice to read more of him but she never found him compelling. Every time I’d bring it up she’d look me straight in the eye and say, “Butt pat!” Then she’d pat my butt.

If you laughed that means you knew her, understood her, better than most. And that makes you very, very lucky.

I have an idea about how this is supposed to go. I’m supposed to tell you her story. I won’t and I can’t. I don’t know why anyone tries to do that kind of thing at times like these. It always ends up sounding like a list of accomplishments, as if a funeral was a performance review and the year end bonus is Heaven. I won’t tell you her story because two stunning autobiographies and a personal memoir already exist. I can’t tell you her story, because I don’t know it all.

The only thing I can tell you is her life as it mattered to me. That’s all we’re doing here today anyway. We’re introducing versions of Alice to each other. It might sound selfish but, with all due respect, she’s dead and we are the ones that need closure.

So, humor an impossibly old man for a while as I say goodbye to a dear friend.

I met Alice on the edge of summer, 2003, on a bus heading south on Katipunan Avenue towards the University of the Philippines. I recognized her from the weekend before, at a gig she played with her band. (That’s right, she had a band. Grandchildren, we have the photos to prove it.)

We met up some time later to hang out, just talk mostly. But that conversation changed my life, because we didn’t talk about anything small. We talked about our beliefs, about books, art, the future, about things that mattered. We only truly understood what had happened afterward when we realized we didn’t know each others last name. Neither did we know how many friends we had in common, or how many siblings we each had, or any of the hundred things the newly acquainted bother with first.

That was the first thing Alice did to me. Fresh out of high school, buried nose deep in self-indulgent wank and pseudo-important factoids, I was in real danger of being lost. She taught me that life could be lived with all of the mundane left out.

We became friends.

That is such a loaded word: friends. It has one definition with so many meanings, like the word “love” or “balls.” But the most important thing about having friends is that these are the people that, for one reason or another, you choose to be with. If free will is the greatest human achievement, and it is (it’s better than chocolate and beer), then in a way your friends are more important than your relatives.

Friends are all the things relatives are, but they can leave. The fact that they’re sticking around means they really care about you. Just think of all the people you aren’t friends with anymore. Think about why you kicked them out or, more likely, why they slammed the door on you. Don’t they make the ones that are still hanging on seem so much more heroic?

Since that afternoon there have been dances and concerts and movies and exes and long walks and longer talks and new friends and lost friends and trips abroad and tiny cars and beers and jetpacks — all the things that make up a life. And what a life! I could stand here all day talking about adventures. It would never be enough. She lived more than most people, and more honorably.

If there is one image, though, in my mind that captures everything she meant to me it would have to be this: her hand grabbing mine and pulling me to the head of the crowd so we could dance in front of the bandstand at a rock concert. She was the captain; awesome was the destination. Life didn’t happen to Alice, not the way it did to other people. I don’t know how it felt for her but for me life was what happened when you were with people like her. You collected milestones in their company. They made you heavy with feeling, with meaning.

I’m sure she would say differently if she could, not because she was humble but because she had a better vocabulary than me. She had a sense of humor that time couldn’t dull. She had a laugh you could happily fall on the floor to.

Oh, and she had a lisp. Did anyone else notice? Yeah, okay.

She died, finally, on a Sunday afternoon. Cooking. It didn’t even have the decency to rain. It made me want to hit things when I found out. I did.

We talked, a lifetime ago, about the possibility of me writing her eulogy. But so much has happened since then. First drink. Three amazing kids. Six beautiful grandchildren. Tenure. An astounding career. The Robot Wars…I didn’t think this would be the hard part.

I’ve buried and burned many friends. I even saw a friend intentionally fight a bear once. You cry at these things, these endings, because you’ll never see the likes of them again. Never again, in all eternity. It’s sad. Life is a gift that is all the more precious for being temporary as well as rare.

I’m going to miss her the most.


First published at New-Slang.com (defunct) on 15 October 2010, for the Friends Issue. At the time of publication, New Slang editor Alice Sarmiento was a writer, college professor, clothing designer, and very much alive.