A few weeks ago, I texted SFR culture editor Alex De Vore: "I just had a silly idea for Love & Sex. I could make a Tinder profile that's like, 'I work at a newspaper. Hit me with your most successful pickup line and maybe I'll put it in print.' Or something. It could end up funny."
But you know that any time you say "It could end up funny," "it" almost certainly ends up anything but funny.
Of course, hookup apps are inherently stupid. That being said, I've always been curious about Tinder. I hadn't been on a dating site of any sort in years—they are cesspools—and my fascination was akin to a desire to peek inside a six-month-old container in the back of the fridge.
Plus, I mean … I'm a red-blooded woman, right? Dating is kind of fun, when your date isn't trash. I like people. I like companionship. I like men. What's the worst that could happen?
When Alex green-lighted the pickup line piece, I cut up half a wheel of double-cream brie, climbed into bed and texted my friend asking what she thought my cutest selfies were. I made the profile. Swiping, at first nerve-wracking, became easier as time went on. The dude would only know I swiped right (favorably) if he too swiped right on me, and only then could we correspond.
That first night, I exchanged a few messages here and there and got a few funny pickup lines, but mostly the conversations went nowhere.
His occupation was listed as "writer"—usually a douchebag red flag. (Takes one to know one; that was my listed occupation too.) But it turns out he actually was. He lived in the Northeast, had just attended a writing workshop in Taos, and was only in Santa Fe for another couple days. He was working on a second novel and was planning on hitting up a reading or two in Santa Fe before heading back home. He had an MFA in fiction. I told him I had my BA in poetry. We messaged about workshopping, about academia, about how to write and be human at the same time. The banter was quick and smart. I hadn't had such an invigorating conversation about writing since college. If it's possible to swoon over text, I did.
Of course, amidst all the intelligent discussion of craft, a 2:30 am offer of a massage in his hotel room came up—because this was still Tinder, after all. I demurred.
We met up the next night. In a quiet corner of a bar over drinks, it turned out that in person, he wasn't exactly as he was online—he was better. We continued the talk of writing; I told him about the newspaper, he told me about small-time publishing, we swapped impostor-syndrome anxieties. He mused on the Western paradigm and how it might differ from the Indigenous ethos at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he planned to catch a couple readings during his brief stay. I told him about recent interviews I'd done with professors there. He told me the ins and outs of a low-residency MFA program when I said I've considered applying to one for a decade.
He was intelligent but humble, his energy gentle but strong. He listened deeply and responded thoughtfully. When he smiled, it was blinding. Vehemently single as I may be, I knew that if he lived nearby, I'd do my best to lock that shit down. He was a catch; I was twitterpated.
The bar announced last call. We'd been too busy talking to have more than one drink each. I thumbed in the vague direction of west and said, "I live, like, less than a mile from here. Do you want to, like … keep hanging out?"
He looked surprised, but said with raised eyebrows, "I mean—yeah, totally. I'll follow you?"
Later, after we talked for an hour more in my living room and the world had settled into a slow-moving night, his face was close to mine. I guess I hesitated, because his breath was warm on my cheek when he said softly: "Is it because I'm leaving?"
"No," I replied, perhaps too quickly. I let the word hang for a moment. "I think once you reach a certain age, you just assume everyone is leaving."
We parted so late it was early, and said we may see one another at tomorrow's reading. I didn't contact him the next day, opting to take a snowy solo drive in Pecos instead of socialize.
The following evening's reading at IAIA closed with Pam Houston. I arrived a little late and saw him from across the room and gave a small wave once I caught his eye. Really, though, I was there for the reading, so I didn't look his way again. I imagined his eyes burning holes in the back of my head. But to be honest, I doubt he looked at me.
Houston, that patron saint of rugged, fiercely independent pan-Western women who drive Subarus and cry a lot and feel feelings way too hard, finished the evening. She read a sublime essay about the sources of our sadness and the ways we choose to survive, and the way in which so many women's chronic pain is rooted in men or love or lack of one or the other or both. And how when we say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous. We should know better.
But the vast majority of nights I've spent lying awake, I've spent them lying awake over men. The times I've felt small have been when men told me I was. The biggest doubts in my heart have always been planted there by lovers. I hate it. But it's the truth. I wept as she read.
He sent me a message after the reading. He was already gone, and unlikely to return to Santa Fe in the foreseeable future. I told him to travel safely and that I was glad to have met him.
And then he unmatched me, and our conversation vanished.
The next morning, I woke early. I emailed a former poetry professor from college and said I want to go for my MFA in poetry. I asked for her recommendation and help on a portfolio. I told her I've unequivocally decided to get my master's. I felt enormous.
She responded: She'd been waiting for this email from me for years. And yes, she'd help.
A week later, I cut up the other half of the wheel of brie. I deleted Tinder.
Editor's Note: This story previously mentioned the desire to "peek into a six-month-old Tupperware." Two days after publication, the author received an email from a law firm representing Tupperware Brands that stated, among other things: "[I]n this article you are not referring specifically to containers made by our clients. Rather, you are referring to containers in general, since there is no reason why you would want to peek into our clients' containers rather than another brand of containers. Thus, this reference to 'Tupperware' is a misuse of our clients' registered TUPPERWARE trademark. This misuse of our clients' registered TUPPERWARE trademark is to our clients' detriment." We disagree with the assessment and assert our right to free speech, but we opted to edit this section with transparency rather than engage in a court battle, and thought we'd share our reasoning for the edit with our readers.