I Was Sickeningly, Obsessively Addicted To Tinder — Until I Did This

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woman on tinder

When I think of my original lure to Tinder, I blame my roommate, Allison. Ironically, Al has never been on Tinder in her entire life.

Let me explain. 

Up until I downloaded the popular dating app on my phone a year and a half ago, I hadn't been on a date in five years. During that time, I did what every leading lady in a romantic comedy who hasn't dated in a while does: I sacrificed my love life so I could focus on building my career.

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Unlike other leading ladies, I didn't become the legal guardian of two elementary school-aged children after my sibling died in a tragic accident or try to take care of a "love fern." (But that's mostly because the best representation of my love life in floral form was more like a cactus.)

But then, I downloaded Tinder at the behest of a friend who sold it to me as "Seamless for Dudes."

You put up a few pictures, type in barely a sentence, and voila! A date whenever you want! What better way to dip a toe back into the dating pool than to do a cannonball into the deep end?

And so, it started. I put up a handful of pictures, wrote a two-sentence bio, and then something I didn't anticipate happened: the matches started rolling in.

I don't know what I expected but after not putting myself out there in so long, I truly thought no one was going to swipe for me.

I know I'm not a hideous troll monster but, for some reason, it didn't seem real, mainly because it was so many people. The last time I had gotten this much male attention was when I fainted after getting my finger pricked for a blood sugar test in the hospital and woke up surrounded by eight male nurses, my legs straight up in the air.

Before I knew it, one of my Tinder matches asked me out to brunch. He was even willing to schlep from the Lower East Side to where I live in Queens. I was flattered, but I'd been out of the game for so long, I was intimidated by the prospect of talking to someone over mimosas and Eggs Benedict.

Looking for any chance to postpone meeting this guy in person, I set up a plan to meet him after the most amount of time I could get away with: a week, which is like 25 years in Tinder time. I may as well had written my phone number on a piece of paper, stuck that piece of paper in a bottle, thrown that bottle into the ocean, and said he could meet me after he had found it.

But to my surprise, Mike was willing to wait out that entire week.

Then, I got sick. I developed the stomach flu so relentless, I had chills that knocked me on my butt so hard I'd lie in bed singing "Come, Josephine, In My Flying Machine," my teeth chattering like Rose in the shipwreck scene of Titanic. I stared up at the ceiling, dead-eyed, my mouth agape; all I needed was a whistle.

It was so bad that I started hallucinating. I'd hear cats screeching in the middle of the night, the sound seemingly coming from within my apartment.

I had the flu equivalent of a really bad magic mushroom trip. I sent a picture of what I looked like to my mother — my cheeks sunken in, my eyes buggy, my skin tone paler than one of Ed Sheeran's farts — and she replied, "You look like the Ghost of Christmas Future."

I was in no condition to be seen in public, let alone date for the first time in years.

The week passed and the morning of my first Tinder date rolled around. I told my roommate I wanted to cancel. I still wasn't feeling well, I lied. But the truth was, the only thing rolling around in my stomach besides ginger ale and saltines were actually butterflies.

I'd been told that getting back into dating was going to be like riding a bike: no one forgets how to do it. But the idea of meeting Mike for brunch felt more like suddenly learning how to unicycle while juggling knives with the pedals on fire.

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"I can't do it," I told Al. "I'm not gonna go. I'll cancel on him now before he schleps all the way up here. Maybe I can still catch him before he leaves his place."

And that's when Al told me I was just scared. And that if I didn't do it now, I would never do it. I'd be so intimidated that I'd let another five years pass before I was ready to date again. She was right.

And with my pockets stuffed full of tissues and throat lozenges, I went on the date.

I've always believed that brunch is a gateway drug.

I dated Mike for a few months, dumped him, and then moved on to the next person. That was always my way: eight weeks or less and then move on. I wasn't looking for anything serious (this was Tinder, after all). This went on for close to a year.

I was dating people with the same frequency of changing my Brita filter. It was fun, but then it got to be problematic.

I would take my phone with me to the bathroom at work and swipe while I was on the toilet. I was swiping so much, I'd have to crack my right thumb much more than I remember ever having to do.

I went to yoga one night and the moment I slid into a plank from a downward dog, I felt a shooting pain travel up my right thumb to my wrist and radiate up my forearm. The pain was so sharp and came so quickly, tears sprung to my eyes.

The other thing that was getting thin (besides the cartilage in my wrist) was my wallet. As someone who doesn't let dates pay for her, going out three to four times a week was taking a toll on my savings.

Plus, I was exhausted! Dating so often can be mentally taxing and I was letting my self-care methods (going to the gym, cooking for myself, seeing friends) fly out the window.

I wasn't the best version of myself. So I decided to take a break.

In the end, I wouldn't give up my year of sleeping around for anything. I learned a lot about myself: what my deal-breakers are, what I like in bed, what I'm looking for in a partner.

I'm back to dating, but only one site in particular, and I'm taking it slow. I allow myself one hour a day to check my messages on OkCupid.

It's like being on a diet: Instead of eating an entire sleeve of Oreos, I take one cookie after dinner as a treat. So far, it's been going great. I'm glad I was able to tackle my addiction on my own because I'm pretty sure my health insurance doesn't cover Tinder rehab.

Bumble rehab, sure, but Tinder's a different story.

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Dana Hamilton is a New York-based writer who writes about body image, dating, and relationships.