Taking a bus to Philadelphia so I could go on Tinder at the DNC is a little much, but this isn’t the first time I’ve done something just because it seemed vaguely funny in theory. Adventure and lust pushed me forward, and forward into adventure and lust did I most certainly tumble. I packed a bag with an change of clothes should romance or a torrential downpour sweep me off my feet.
My favorite part about this idea – besides that it got an okay from my editor – was that all I needed to do to “work” was be within swiping distance of Democratic National Convention attendees. I got off the bus at 30th Street Station, plopped down at Wendy’s, and got my profile ready to go live. I toyed with the idea of keeping my mission a secret to fellow swipers, but my brain flashed with hours of empty flirting and teeth-pulling boredom. I made a screenshot of my last piece on the DNC my second photo and injected “In Philly covering the DNC! Swipe right if you’re down to talk about your DNC experience!” into my bio. I set my discovery settings to men and women ages 18 to 32, figuring that’d cover a solid selection of protesters, volunteers, and others who weren’t too successful to not talk to the press. Stuffing my face with a Dave’s hot and juicy half pounder, I started swiping.
A majority of the profiles, unsurprisingly, were blank aside from a single, hypersexualized selfie. I fantasized about a Catfish-meets-Intervention-style show where Tinderellas and Tinderellos are ambushed by their family to discuss their Tinder profiles. I made sure to be mindful, neither right swiping everyone nor getting overly critical and cynical. I was surprised by how many SuperLikes I had, but I assumed they were signals that the SuperLiker wanted to discuss their experiences at the DNC. Sadly, it turns out dudes SuperLike the idea of women who are just passing through. My first SuperLike immediately messaged me to say, “I didn’t necessarily want to chat DNC. Just thought you were cute. But I’ll chat about it if it means I can buy you a drink!”
I soft-dodged by asking if he didn’t want to talk DNC because he was ready for it to be over. Clever move, if I do say so myself.
“What? No! It’s been awesome. I’d take another week. What’s a little traffic compared to history?” Fair enough. At this point, my focus was to use Tinder to find people to interview about their DNC experience, and SuperLike was not being helpful. I tried to press further, hoping he’d casually drop a quote-worthy anecdote about the DNC. He pressed further hoping I’d be down to meet him for a drink “from 7 to 10:30.” My bus was leaving at 6, I told him, and our love story stopped there.
Climbing the stairs to the Union League, McTinder suggested I pretend to be his photographer. He handed me his camera, heavy and professional-looking, like the cameras you need an employee at Best Buy to let you touch. My heart fluttered.
After about two hours of fruitless swiping, I realized something troubling: For this to work, I need these delegates and volunteers and congressional staffers to swipe right on me, too. But they’re busy doing delegate/volunteer/congressional staffer work. I contemplated running around the convention screaming about Tinder in the hopes it’d motivate someone to open up the app, but that would involve exercise and leaving air conditioning. Just as I’d started to give up all hope, a handsome beacon of light graced my matches and, shortly thereafter, my messages:
“My favorite part of your piece might have been ‘But it’s not sustainable!’ That, and the protesters politely waiting their turn to hop over the fence.” This guy had read my last piece and liked it?! My own mother didn’t even do either of those things! Swoon!
He asked if I’d been to the Rock The Vote art exhibit. I said no, he sent me the address, and shortly thereafter I was in an Uberpool to meet up at the coffee shop across from the exhibit. Shit was gunna go down. In the Uberpool, I chatted with a very well-dressed man who smelled fantastic and something sparked within me. I noticed he was charming. I noticed his suit was not polyester. I noticed he was more interested in what I had to say than in talking about his job. I noticed he did not have any rings on any fingers. I was ready should he ask me to grab a drink. That didn’t happen, and I left the car feeling primed, if you catch my drift.
When I met up with McTinder (he asked not to be named, and I don’t blame him), he told me he was a reporter covering the DNC. I told him I was a freelancer making up weird angles vaguely related to the DNC. The conversation flowed easily, despite me fidgeting and oversharing, as I’m wont to do when nervous. Not long after, he got an email from his editor asking him to attend a private, “off-the-record” event at the Union League.
Instead of using the email from his editor as the perfect chance to escape my sweaty, frumpy grasp, McTinder asked if I wanted to come with. “Maybe they’ll let you in if you just say you registered but didn’t get the email.” I was just excited a guy invited me to something.
We walked a little over two miles from the coffee shop to The Union League. The troubling fact that I was walking through a city I don’t know with a man I didn’t know did not escape me. I briefly wondered if he was taking us in circles because he was trying to tire me out before kidnapping me, like a racehorse before being kidnapped. But it turned out he was relying on Apple Maps instead of Google Maps, which is proof that he’s a monster, just a different type than the kind that kills chubby would-be journalists who talk too much when nervous.
Climbing the stairs to the Union League, McTinder suggested I pretend to be his photographer. He handed me his camera, heavy and professional-looking, like the cameras you need an employee at Best Buy to let you touch. My heart fluttered. Our relationship was already abloom with a deep, beautiful trust that I wouldn’t drop his camera and that he hadn’t led me on a wild goose chase to a cult meeting wherein I was to be the sacrificial lamb.
I can’t disclose who was at the event or what the event was for because it was ‘off-the-record’ and no one had nametags. But I can say: McTinder felt compelled to put on his suit jacket and there were tons of hors d’oeuvre ranging from mini passionfruit meringues, little spoons full of salmon caviar, hot sandwiches made to order, a massive pile of several types of Tastykake products, and an open bar that didn’t even take tips. The clearest signs of exquisite wealth. I’d later find out the Secret Service was there, too.
McTinder and I split up. I, to load up a very small plate with many very small delicacies and he to the doorway of a forum to try and suss out exactly what this event was. Once I filled my plate with free chow, I didn’t really care what was going on. I took a selfie with a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody spoke to me, but plenty stole brief glances, like they could smell my poorness. It didn’t help that I was slinking about with stars in my eyes and flip flops on my feet. But I didn’t care. I was in my own personal first date dream come true: a guy who’s nice, professional, and drops me off in front of a ton of free food. If the promise of tagging along to swanky events with piles of fancy chow was part of the deal, I would’ve married McTinder right then and there.
Sadly, though, our romance was cut short…. by a beautiful young woman wearing a charming skirt, mascara so perfectly applied it made her eyes look like magical black fireworks, and the nicest teeth I’ve ever seen up close.
The sandwich was bitter, both because it was the symbolic death of our courtship and also because it was a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone cheese.
She asked me if I had anything to wear besides jeans and flip flops. I told her, mouth full of a type of cheese I don’t recognize, that I had sneakers in my backpack. I was so in love with the world and all the beautiful gifts it had given my stomach that I started to smirk and was going to offer to wear her skirt. I stopped myself because that would’ve been offensive and despite her delicate beauty, something in her eyes and her ability to walk in heels better than I walk in flip flops told me she didn’t just deserve my respect, but prostrating adoration, too.
With a soft yet dominating tone, she informed me that the Union League has a strict dress code and “unfortunately, that means you have to leave.” Somehow she made it sound like the Union League was the one losing out on a dream come true. What magical power. I was enchanted. My second opportunity at romance abruptly wilted and died in the folds of her skirt rustling past me as she went to point me out to security.
I met up with Security, an extremely large wall of a man, and I asked his belly button if he’d like to join me so I could search for the guy I had come in with to tell him I was leaving. Security said “sure” and when his response finally echoed down his forty-foot long chest and into my ear canal, we set off to find a white guy of average build wearing an all-black suit in a sea of white guys of average builds wearing all-black suits. McTinder appeared from the food room holding a sandwich.
Still acting like we were coworkers, I said, “I have to go. And I’m taking your sandwich because you didn’t tell me this had a dress code so I came dressed to do photographer work and because you can go get another one and I can’t.” I think he laughed. The sandwich was bitter, both because it was the symbolic death of our courtship and also because it was a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone cheese.
Standing outside the Union League, I spotted two men — one who’d been earlier identified by a Union League employee as a tech millionaire-turned-bar owner, the other a lawyer with VIP credentials to the DNC. I made up an excuse to chat them up and the VIP said the event was just a fundraiser disguised as a party. He offered to give me his credentials “if you can convince them you’re a two-star general.” The techy bar owner told me going into the bar business cost him his marriage. Then he complimented my feet. I contemplated trying for a third shot at love, but their Uber arrived.