Swipe left on judgements and right on new perspectives

Photo by Tyler Meuter

After nine long months, my New Year’s resolution is still on track to be complete come January. Rather than promise to lose 20 pounds, gain 20 pounds or finally read a book, I decided on something that was actually attainable: to try one new thing every month. Since making that decision, I have become an avid kickboxer, an unsuccessful blogger and a lover of the spicy chicken sandwich. Last month, however, I raised the stakes to a new high: I went on my first Tinder date.

The preparation for this task was a feat in and of itself. I had to take pictures with my dog, come up with a clever bio and carry out the long and shallow process of swiping. After three arduous days of questioning my mother’s assessment of my devilishly good looks and boyish charm, the matches slowly started coming in.

All of the girls I met on Tinder were perfectly normal. There were sporty blondes, bookish brunettes and everything in between. Somewhere in that spectrum though, there was Emily (whose name has been changed in order to protect her identity).

Emily, like many of my matches, fit all of my requirements: she was a human female. She was also cute and she laughed at my jokes. I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for. I set up a date, put on some real clothes and headed into what proved to be one of the most interesting afternoons of my life.

The beginning of the date was exactly as I had expected it to be. Siblings, majors and television were discussed, and my mind was able to paint a general picture of this girl that was a stranger two hours prior. It wasn’t until an offhand remark about her name, however, that things took an interesting turn.

One simple request, “Don’t Google my name,” sent my imagination into overdrive. Was I sharing a delicious pizza with a criminal? A low-key Olympic athlete? A closet porn star perhaps? My curiosity overcame my obedience, and during a short trip to the bathroom the least exciting of my three possibilities was confirmed. Staring back from my phone screen was Emily, wearing an orange jumpsuit and an acrid scowl.

She was very nice, and we were having a great time, so I felt no need to press her for details on her criminal past. Soon enough, however, she sated my burning curiosity and brought up the details of her arrest. I acted surprised when she told me she had been arrested, but the look on my face when I heard she was a drug dealer was one of genuine shock.

She had a Chaco tan, was obsessed with “The Bachelor” and  was studying mechanical engineering. Needless to say, she absolutely defied my schema of a drug dealer. Almost one month prior to our date, she was in handcuffs (not unlike the kind you’d usually see on a Tinder date) and in the back of a police car.

But Emily’s tale began months before that, when life began serving her a series of uncontrollable circumstances. She lost her mother, was forced to forgo her college plans in order to stay local, and worked two jobs to support herself. I’m not condoning the sale of drugs, but I believe she was justified in feeling overwhelmed.

We finally finished our pizza after three hours of stories, tears and laughs, and I drove home thoroughly satisfied with my Tinder experience. Rather than look at every criminal as the embodiment of their bad choices, I now understand that they could simply be victims of circumstance.

Most importantly, I decided that everybody needs to go on a Tinder date before they die. It provides you with the perspective of a complete stranger and puts you in a situation that you would otherwise never experience. There are certainly risks involved with Tinder, but if you use it right you could be eating pizza with a criminal and having the
time of your life.