Memoir — From the February 2016 issue

Isn’t It Romantic?

Looking for love in the age of Tinder

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Two years ago, in the last days of a flatlining relationship, my boyfriend, Bobby, and I were crashing with a pal of his in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Bobby and Max — whose names I’ve changed, like most of the others in this story, along with some identifying details — had grown up together and played on the same elite soccer team. Max’s apartment was in a village like many in America, with a cast of characters leaning out of old cars and teenagers playing trap music from the little balconies around the deserted pool. The apartment was pretty dirty, its sink clogged with ancient mounds of mac and cheese and, as a maintenance man would later discover, a number of pulverized shot glasses.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae

Illustration by Shonagh Rae

It was an awkward ménage à trois. Bobby was fed up with me, and we were essentially pretending to parent an unruly and garrulous man-child. Max went off to his job as a programmer and returned home for lunch like a Fifties schoolboy, wolfing a burrito and watching Tron: Uprising. A lovable work in progress, like most of us, he was seeking romantic companionship online. That sounded stale to me. A decade late, I joined Facebook, assuming the fake surname Starchild and bypassing the intrusive introductory questionnaire. Then I downloaded the dating app Tinder and sat with Max late at night, checking out a brazen array of babes.

Bobby and I split up on Valentine’s Day, signifying nothing, and I returned to New York for the end of the longest winter. The heat wasn’t working properly: the low panels gave off only the faintest warmth, like the breath of a near-death person. I spent most of my time in bed, racking up a thousand-dollar electricity bill with the space heater Bobby had left behind.

The Tinder icon, with its hot-rod flame, was still on my phone, and it guttered at me when I was low. My profile showed just one picture of me, wearing a fedora and faux-smoking a feather, with my name underneath. I felt safe, semi-anonymous, especially because I had left the text box blank. Every day was different, the self was dim and fickle, I didn’t know what I was looking for.

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