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She keeps telling me how she can't wait to take a ride on my motorcycle, a reference to one of my Tinder photos, in which I am straddling a Triumph, one I admittedly put up to look cooler than I am.
When I confess to Meg that the bike isn't mine and that the photo was taken during the first and only time I'd ridden one, she doesn't seem to hear me.
I swipe Christine to the left, watching the flash across the screen in glib orange lettering.
Nope, nope, liked, nope, liked, liked, nope: This is what romance looks like on Tinder, the fastest-growing mobile dating service in the nation, and either the most superficial one to be invented or the one most honest about the primal instincts that have been drawing strangers to each other since the beginning of time.
She enters my life like the dozen women who came before her and the hundreds who will follow: in the palm of my hand, flickering on the touchscreen of my phone. Being nearly a decade older, I find her youth a bit distressing. Further stoking my curiosity is the knowledge that Michelle is three miles from here, which has the effect of making her seem more real than the catalog resembles, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, pixel and potential.
Indeed, a few minutes into the experiment and I've already forgotten how under ordinary circumstances, Tinder is exactly the sort of digital-age phenomenon that makes me want to move to a yurt and learn to spearfish. Thirty-four years old, newly single for the first time in years, I have dealt with the breakup by impulsively moving from New York to New Orleans, where I know next to no one. I am at one of those disorienting life junctures where you find yourself hunched over your phone entertaining the idea that maybe 50 years from now your grandchildren will gather around the holographic fire to hear the story about how you and Granny met on Tinder. While this is not as thrilling as catching a stranger returning your nervous smile from across a room, my ego swells at the thought of these women deeming me worthy of a rightward swipe."), before realizing she had a system rigged to let her friend know if she needed rescuing from the "Tinder dude." I spend two weeks in New York, hoping it will prove to be an especially fertile ground to get my Tinder on. Within two days, I've been matched with more than 60 women.One night I meet up with Nicole, a 34-year-old designer of throw pillows, and when it's clear that neither of us is really feeling it, I log on to Tinder and set up a date with Casey, a 28-year-old who works at Google, whom I meet at a bar up the block an hour later for... Two days later, things take a promising turn when I find myself at a Brooklyn taco joint with Meg, a 29-year-old fashion exec I'd exchanged a flurry of messages with."She looks like fun," I think, and so I press my thumb onto the screen and swipe her to the right, a gesture that passes for flirtation here in the peculiar world of Tinder, the mobile app responsible for "introducing" us.With that, the word liked flares up in green, a virtual stamp denoting my interest, and Michelle vanishes into the digitized ether as quickly as she first appeared. I contemplate this for about a second, then forget Michelle entirely, distracted now by Christine, the 36-year-old in a sequined evening gown who has taken Michelle's place. Certainly more age-appropriate, but she is 28 miles away and, more to the point, doesn't inspire the sort of fun thoughts Michelle did.
So what we mainly talk about is Tinder, rationalizing why we're "on it," trying to convey to the other that we're not really "Tinder types." Over a six-week period, most of my Tinder-to-reality experiences follow this narrative arc: the excitement of digitized potential fading the moment it's actualized. She sidles right up next to me and wraps her arm around my waist (good sign! But the moment Maya takes her shot, a friend materializes out of nowhere, grabbing her arm and yanking her into the crowd.