As a single Indian woman in my late 30s on Tinder, I’m a rare breed. I recognise “u up” as the millennial mating call. But I draw the line at “I’m really into older women” because that’s Indian guyspeak for “Please be my substitute momma.”
My Tinder profile has three pictures. In the first, I’m performing because duh, the stage increases personal appeal by a factor of 1,000. The second is a “casual” DSLR-quality party picture. Finally, there’s one in a saree, blowing a kiss at the camera (the saucy shot). This carefully crafted story combines the magic trifecta of flirtation – sex appeal, approachability, and intrigue.
How am I such an expert? I’ve been doing this a long time.
As a single Indian woman in my late 30s on Tinder, I’m a rare breed. I work in young industries, so my peers are a good decade younger. Most of my classmates are married, divorced, or on parenting season 2. I am an Xennial, the microgeneration characterised only by our confusion as we shuffle awkwardly between the generations that sandwich us, Generation X and Millennials. On the one hand, my experiences find no echo. But on the other hand, I’m (re)writing my own narrative and nowhere is this more fun than in my love life.
I first signed up on Tinder in 2014, citing research for my digital business profession. Many of my early matches were friends. There were very few people on the app then, most of them digital explorers like me and this felt like a “haha, look who’s here too” inside joke.
Then married male friends showed up. I started looking the other way and swiping left. A few strange encounters later, I added the stock “not looking for a hook-up” to my bio. The matches immediately dried up. An acquaintance found me, took a screenshot, and sent it to me asking, “If you don’t want to hook-up, what is the point of you?” Then someone at work said that he had spotted me on Tinder and swiped right. Rolling my eyes, I decided to deactivate the account.
Then I reconsidered. More people were getting onto Tinder and it had become the way to meet people. Maybe men have become less predatory with better gender ratios. Maybe my experience would be better if I learnt to weed out the unsavoury? Maybe I’ll be able to play the game of swipe left for no, up for hell no, down for in your dreams, and right for your place or mine?
Over the years, I’ve learnt that the way to have fun is to not invest emotionally, too much or too early. Mr 30-year-old New Entrepreneur went from fine wine to grammar jokes to “I’ve left something in my room. Why don’t you come up?” and when I declined, he said, “I really like you, why else would I match with a woman your age?” A younger me might have been bullied into succumbing, but my world-weariness had now equipped me to recognise his negging. So, I left.
Tinder makes gender imbalance work in my favour. Hundreds of men want to match with me, regardless of my age, looks, or any other factor there is. This means I get to choose, a novelty for anyone who has experienced oppressive matrimonial rituals. It’s taught me the joys of early and easy exits.
Anyway only a handful matches materialise into dates because I am picky about who I meet in real life. Not all conversations lead to dates, some transition to Twitter chats and it seems only mildly interesting that we first connected on Tinder. A date isn’t the final deal or it isn’t the only one. It’s nice to have a few minutes to flirt and chat during a busy day.
Nowadays I find a breed of recently divorced/separated/heartbroken men on Tinder, presumably driven by dudebro pals to partake of the “hook-up culture” as a cure for their bleeding hearts. These men wear the haunted air of those who’ve learnt late in life about things such as female agency. They swing between clingy (“Hello. Hello. Hello. U der? Why not replying?”) to inconsistently flaky. “Long drives” frequently pop up on the profile of these men and it’s tricky trying to explain why I don’t want to get into a car with someone I’ve just met. They tend to get a bit nasty when they encounter a no. One cursed my family for three generations when I disagreed with his politics. This kind doesn’t lack drama.
Minus the fairy-tale fantasy, 20-somethings have become legit match possibilities. They come with their own quirks but it helps to have been around the block a few times. My age doesn’t seem to dim the ardour of younger men. Their lingo is different but they’re less likely to invite the wrath of the gods. I recognise “u up” as the millennial mating call. But I draw the line at “I’m really into older women” because that’s Indian guyspeak for “Please be my substitute momma.” The unmatch button comes in handy again, so I let someone else teach an overgrown child how to be an adult.
Sticking to my guns makes for fewer demoralising conversations and leaves room for others. On a whim, I pinged a match with whom the conversation has been pleasant but not particularly memorable, “Coffee at 4?” We chatted through coffee, tea, sandwiches, and a pizza, covering world politics, our respective romantic journeys, millennial careers, music, and films. The date lasted eight hours and we were both surprised it was past midnight. It was special, yet I can only call this casual intimacy. The experience boosted my mood but we never met again. And this is okay. Tinder taught me that experiences could be transient but still meaningful.
“You Got A Match” still gives me a dopamine hit. As do the minutes before I open the coffee shop door and meet a new person. It’s a spark and that’s magical, even if it’s just a digital logo of a flame.
By Ramya Pandyan
Ramya Pandyan, also known as IdeaSmith, is a writer, digital strategist and performance artist. She runs a creative community called Alphabet Sambar and is co-founder of SXonomics, a feminist content producer. Ramya tweets, blogs, Instagrams and Youtubes as @ideasmithy