Sunday, December 1, 2013

‘You can heal yourself with my cuddles’ – my weekend on Tinder, Part 2

This is the second part of my Tinder experiment - to read part 1, click here.
Saturday: When I wake up and check my phone, I have 11 new messages, one of them telling me that I got a ‘sexy look’ – just what you need to hear after a night of white wine, Kirsch and cheese fondue.
Jean-Claude*, who already started talking to me yesterday, finally has given me an answer as to whether he minds that I’m in a wheelchair: ‘Not particularly, it’s not contagious, right? ;-)’. No it’s not, Jean Claude, love your sense of humour, babes.
George, a silver fox in his 40s and quite attractive, is continuing the flirty exchange we had yesterday. He calls me ‘red’, which makes me feel like Joan from Mad Men. Meanwhile Jason, 35, just wants to make me ‘cum’ but again he doesn’t mind that I’m in a wheelchair. I politely decline.
I spend way too much time on Tinder, yet again, liking another 50 guys or so – and all of that before breakfast. After I have taken a shower and feel slightly better – that is until I see Jaric’s  (37) message: ‘Can I ask you something?’ He obviously really does want to, because he didn’t wait for answer. ‘Why are you in a wheelchair?’. I ask him why he wants to know. ‘Are you paralyzed?’ ‘Do you live alone?’ ‘Do you drive?’ I didn’t realise they are doing the ATOS assessments now via tinder. I ask him why he cares so much and is trying to assess me, and he tells me he is not, but just trying to figure out whether we can meet. ‘You can heal yourself with my cuddles!’, he promises. Better go and heal yourself, dude. I might hit you up again when I have a cold.
This would have almost put me off Tinder for good, were it not for Carl, 30 a Scotsman who recently moved to London and looks a little bit like my husband (handsome!). Via Tinder, we discuss the Scottish independence, and while we’re at it, women’s rights and abortion. Carl is one of the few guys I started talking to first. Eventually I tell him that I am on Tinder for research, and as him about his feelings about my wheelchair. He says that he didn’t notice at first when he ‘liked’ my picture, but when I started talking to him he checked my pictures out again and noticed, but, in his words, it ‘didn’t phase’ him. We now follow each other on twitter. Due to my conversation with Carl, I neglect George, the silver fox, a little bit. ‘What are you up to next weekend, Red? Would you like to meet?’ He does not mind that I’m in a wheelchair and does not stop flirting after I ask him about it, so he must have noticed from the start. They are actually decent, attractive men on Tinder who want to go on dates with me!! When I tell this excitedly to my husband over coffee, he just gives me a blank stare. ‘Why wouldn’t there be?’ For him it is normal that guys would find me attractive – he married me 2 months ago, after all. I feel a bit stupid and ungrateful after that, and go easy on the Tinder for the rest of the day.

Sunday: I decide the Tinder experiment has got to come to an end. I start by confronting all the guys I have been chatting to with my disability. Sunday morning is as good a time as any to ponder whether you would hook up with a lady on wheels, right?
Andre, 33, who is looking for ‘no-strings-attached fun’ has not noticed I’m in a wheelchair, even after going through all of my pictures, but he says he does not mind because I got ‘a pretty face’.  Toby, 38, who is clearly looking for a girlfriend, also didn’t notice. As soon as I tell him, though, he starts googling places with good access for dates. Bless his heart.
Simon (37) didn’t realise I was disabled, but when I ask him about my disability he openly tells him that he wouldn’t have flirted with me if he had noticed my chair and that he cannot bring disability and sexuality together. Oh well.  Chris, 30, meanwhile has a different issue. He chats me up, saying ‘I like your necklace, like your wheels, love your hair but your tag line sucks.’ What’s wrong with a Cher lyric?? A lot, apparently, and he tells me that Cher has not released a good song since ‘If I could turn back time’. Babes, please! The banter between us goes on for a while, but does not lad anywhere – as is the case with many Tinder conversations. I decide to change my tag-line from the non-descript Cher lyric to ‘She-Devil On Wheels’ – not because Cher’s ‘Woman’s World’ is not the best song I have heard all year, but because I wonder whether it changes anything if I hint at my disability in the tag-line. Apparently not. I do notice however that the guys who are interested in ‘real’ conversation, not just super speedy hook-ups, tend to notice my wheelchair (and generally do not seem to mind) more than the other guys.
A good example for this is Aaron, in his 30s: He tells me that he noticed the wheelchair after the match, before he messaged me. He says what first caught his eye and made him ‘like’ me was my red hair, my ‘geeky-artsy vibe’ (thanks, I guess?!), my skin and my cleavage. Fair enough. At first, he thought my tag-line was a reference to a B-movie or roller derby (Whip It, Aaron!). We continue talking for a while – we have a shared facebook friend who we both do not know very well, but we soon find out that we have more in common. I quickly tell him that I’m on Tinder for research, but he keeps on flirting with me in a subtle, gentle manner and still wants to meet me. I politely decline and tell him that I am married, which, like all the other guys on Tinder, he takes really easy (apart from one guy who scolds me: ‘Do not waste people’s time, Nina!’). However, we are now friends on Facebook now and had some interesting conversations about the advantages and disadvantages of Tinder. As a guy, apparently, it is not very easy to get any ‘likes’ on Tinder at all if you do not look like James Bond. Not even my advice, to choose a profile picture where he is holding a cute pet helped, apparently. Personally, I ‘liked’ every guy who posed with a puppy and even started talking to most of them – never underestimate the power of puppies! While for me, Tinder was mostly a massive ego boost, if I were a guy, it might have been the complete opposite.

never underestimate the power
of puppies!
It was very refreshing for me to be not reduced to my wheelchair – when going out, it is quite often the first thing that people notice (which, I guess, partly explains my penchant I developed in my early twenties for big skirts, glitter and sparkly handbags: Notice something else, already!!). On Tinder, if you are female and have a fairly regular looking face, you’re good and it’s a wonderful little tool to play with, to keep you entertained and get a nice little ego kick out of. It really surprised me that for the majority of guys, my disability did not play a role at all. I do wonder why some many guys did not notice I’m in a wheelchair: An assumed nondisabled identity seems to be a given in the world of online dating, just as much as when I was 15 years old. While some guys just do not seem to engage properly with the profiles of the people they talk to, some seem to actively block the wheelchair out.
My biggest surprise on Tinder, apart from its strange addiction-forming power, was that about half of the guys seemed to be interested in real conversation, a date and not just a quick hook up – it seems slightly less sex-obsessed that Grindr, although there might be regional differences with Tinder (I heard the New York Tinderers are quite dodgy). At least in theory, the basic profiles lead to objectifying, but more so of faces than of bodies.  Personally, I found it a positive experience, although slightly addictive, and I have yet to hear about a relationship that was formed via Tinder. But then, crazier things have happened and there are some really decent, handsome and smart guys on Tinder – I wish them the best of luck.

*All names of Tinder guys changed.