Sometimes, because I've numbed myself enough to casually contribute to the callousness of the universe, I will open Tinder on my phone and let anyone swipe and chat as me. (I never said I wasn't a garbage person.)
For the men, it's at best educational, like when a married exec got called a "hot bitch" within four lines of text, and I thought, "Great, I showed him what it's like for us out here." But for the women—friends at all levels of closeness and even girls I've met maybe 10 minutes earlier—it's a phenomenon of kindness. And caring. And genuine, ulterior-motive-less connection.
I guess Tinder does bring people together—just not always as intended.
The first time I felt ASMR tingles, otherwise known as the "brain orgasms" some people get from this woman's YouTube channel or having others momentarily hijack their love lives for them, I was 6 years old, and a friend had just helped me clip on pearl earrings to match my princess dress-up costume. The last time those same shivers flooded across the back of my neck was Saturday, when a girl I'd met that night asked, while guest-Tindering intently for me, if smoking or ginger-ness were deal-breakers.
Science identifies attention as an ASMR trigger, which apps ostensibly prompt women to give and receive, with potential romantic partners but even more so with their friends. Like going to the bathroom, using those glorified meat markets with cutesy, innocuous-sounding names is largely a communal activity—a love story told in screenshots. "Is this too desperate?" you poll the group text. "How do I even respond to this?" The One Who's Extremely Skilled at Talking to Boys steps up to decipher and deploy answers to tricky communiqués. Victory? Failure? Not that they weren't before, but because everybody 1) likes dispensing advice, 2) playing matchmaker, and 3) is likely in the exact same capsizing boat, your friends are even more there for you, for both the hoping and the making it happen. "I want this to go well for you," all their actions say. This is perhaps the single arena of adult life in which one can still experience the simplistic togetherness of youth sports.
And this is where we can already find most of what we've been looking for. Between the turbulent, irrational-feeling giddiness and pain, the seesawing between hopelessness and "THIS COULD REALLY HAPPEN" dreaminess, our friends' being there provides stability within a quicksand, "tonight or never" landscape. It's slow, patient, serious love.
So through online dating, women are really practicing the antithesis of online dating. Sure, we're using man as a conduit, but Bram Stoker did it first and, oh, thousands of years of history too. How remarkable, then, that a stupid, probably futile plaything can remind us that there's more than one source of love. That there can be vulnerability amongst the calculatedness. Care in a chasm of carelessness. It's kind of beautiful when you realize that, in this way, we can be alone together.
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