“Your sister is on Tinder”, is what the text read.
A chivalrous friend had sent it to my sister, accompanied with a screenshot in matter of fact tone that did not seem to question why he was on there himself but somehow put my izzat to question. His nonchalance made me rile up a little, as did his guts when I saw that he had alternatively swiped a “superlike” for my profile.
Thanks but no thanks.
Tinder was an uncharted territory, at least for me and so, an even bigger curious component of the burgeoning dating scene in Pakistan.
A lot had changed over the past few years. A decade ago, the word “boyfriend” was not only frowned upon but a disgraceful label for men and women alike. You were “friends” that were practically inseparable, everybody knew there was more than meets the eye but no one used that word to link you to your significant other. It was almost a gaali, “larki itni badchalan hay, uske tou itne bwoyfrands bhi hein” in gossip auntie language.
But now, it’s an acceptable term. I see it in captions, in conversations and in carelessly written tweets. Boyfriend and girlfriend concept had finally undergone the test of time. Dating, however, was still new. Most people I know of have taken this simple five-step course of relationship:
Friends – Really good friends – Friends who knew everything about you- Friends who ask you to be their girlfriend – Relationship
The ins and outs of dating, the charms of getting to know someone without the “heavy stuff”, nobody would have any of that – let alone happening with someone you had met online.
A walk down memory lane would end you somewhere on Orkut, where many a love stories commenced in the crisp summer of ’05 but Tinder came with a certain undertone.
When curiosity claimed the best of me, I finally decided to see what the fuss was about. I gave myself a month to meet, interact and get to know men from around my city and then judge the app. The app is linked to your Facebook account, acquiring pertinent information like your interests and mutual friends before it plays matchmaker.
Friends, friends of friends, husbands of current friends, ex-boyfriends of friends, exes, ex’s cousins, it seemed everybody was on tinder and I never got the memo.
I somehow enjoyed the swiping, consumed by superficial power, it was a high like no other, something rishta aunties must feel on a regular basis. I was taking revenge on behalf of all women ever for being reduced to the crook in her nose or the croon in her teeth. Of course the strategy died down by my fifteenth swipe, this is when things became, well, classically me.
I started looking for jazzy bios, photos with personality (change of scenery, adventure sports, more than just a perfectly timed selfie), school information, the kind of mutual friends I shared with them.
The “friends” bit was a little…awkward. It’s a small world and everybody knows everybody. There were times when I also fell into the cuckoo’s nest. It was my izzat, after all, as if being a woman in this precarious situation was a crime. Letting some know about my “investigative journalism” efforts, I felt at ease. Later, I came to my senses and swiped every guy I liked right, mutual friends or not.
Many men on Tinder decided to offer the full experience
I was surprised by the number of men who thought it was wise to add at least one image with a pet which according to a quick google search increases your chances of being matched. Of course, who can negate the notion of people who can love an animal as first class upstanding gentlemen!
One guy posted a photo of himself as a groom, whether it was his own wedding or he wished to display a preview of himself on the actual day remains a mystery. Suffice to say, I swiped left, didn’t exactly like what I saw. Found another quintessential jock that ate up an alphabet every now and then and seemed to be more self involved (judging from his Instagram posts on his tinder profile) than I was, always a bad mix. As for others who added a closeup of their automobile, still trying to figure out the relevance of that particular move.
Prisma seemed to be a hot favorite.
And hey, if you’re going to post a mirror selfie, sheeshay ko tou saaf kerloh pehle?
Things got slightly uncomfortable and super awkward when my friends’ brothers started showing up, I had to go back and reset the age restriction to avoid feeling unholy and somewhat pedophiliac.
Off we went to a very colorful start.
The mindset of rude = attractive was shunned rather quickly, I had to put a few in their place.
Save for a few, I was pleasantly surprised by most of the men I spoke to over the app. My expectations revolved around a lot of sex talk but I was met with intellectual and intelligent conversations with tinderellas instead. I was told it wasn’t the case for cis-males.
Number of women on Tinder was not only underwhelming but less than a couple dozen. Some were men posing to be women and others, sex workers or transvestites trying to digitize their domain so I fully understand their predicament.
One guy I chatted up talked about lack of cultural context being the reason behind the dearth in dating pool, especially for men.
“Should mothers be doing all the swiping?”, I asked to what he merely chuckled.
“Hook ups are rare in Pakistan”, he commented owing the cultural and religious prohibitions to the lack of women users on there. Being perfectly frank about his own contradicting beliefs, however, he said he was looking for someone he can have a good time with, nothing heavy, no strings attached.
“Maybe short-form dating is finally coming in vogue in Pakistan, which would make this a brilliant time to be young and typing”, said another twenty-something swiper, wiser than his years.
Speaking about Narcos and Coke Studio became a regular feature. I learned about bucket-lists and travel destinations, made extensive conversations about feminism and several walks down memory lane, discovered my hidden prejudices, Tinder seemed almost cathartic, therapeutic, it wasn’t just hooking up, men had adapted the model to tiptoe around it locally. Some asked for Snapchat IDs to be forthright (and verify your legitimacy), others thought it was fair to exchange Whatsapp numbers or a quick Skype chat (perhaps even to reassure you of their own identity) and if you refused or told them it was too soon, they shrugged it off instead of unmatching you like they rightfully should. When push came to shove, one guy politely asked if we could remain in touch and I obliged with my twitter handle.
Why would such good looking men need Tinder? The answer is simple: because they can. It’s true that Tinder was practically invented for a quickie, which explains how the app crashes ever so often when you’re chatting; it isn’t designed for theories on quantum physics. Having said that, not everybody has the luxury of having multiple friends circles in the same city. Some relocate after years of studying abroad and are genuinely looking for like-minded individuals. Other are on there just to have some fun and who are we to judge? If I were looking for a significant other, I wouldn’t entirely rule out dating apps. Intellectual stimulation was plentiful, meaningful conversations from sociology to psychology, I had a good fix of it all. So, hop on and get busy swipin’, who knows your prince charming is waiting in line…
And who cares if he’s not?
P.S: A special shout-out to this khatron ka sipahi.