Shoulda Swiped Left

 photo by Meaghan Harris

photo by Meaghan Harris

By Holly Dickinson

I remember when I first heard about Tinder. I was in my first year at Bishop’s University—population of 2000ish students—and the thought of swiping through the faces of people I saw every day in lecture and every night at the bar made me cringe with discomfort. However, when I transferred to Queen’s University the following year this awkward discomfort evolved into anonymous excitement. There was a million new faces in the student ghetto and I didn’t have to worry about a shameful in-person run-in. So I downloaded the app and got swiping.

Mostly left, mind you, but there are a lot of good looking people kicking around Queen’s who warranted a right swipe. Countless matches lead to a handful of mediocre (at best) conversations, which resulted in a couple of actual dates here and there.

One of these dates dragged out into a two-year (on-and-off) relationship. Everything to do with our time together—from the superficial way we met, to our 7-year age difference, to the unhealthy cyclical nature of the relationship—left me feeling ashamed in one way or another.

It was 2014 when I started using Tinder and at the time my 3 female roommates were in relationships. I had never really had a boyfriend at this point and I was beyond confused as to how people started liking each other one minute and were full-on the next; however, with this confusion came curiosity. I was embarrassed that I was resorting to a dating app, but so far all of the normal university wheeling hot spots (i.e. library, lecture hall, coffee shop, sketchy club) proved unsuccessful.

Fairly secretively I swiped my way through what felt like a million people (some of who were quite cool, others who used the platform as yet another way to degrade women). One of the seemingly cool ones was a third year law student. I was in my third year of undergrad when we met and I was captivated by his intelligence and humour; I think I admired him, which evolved into intimidation as time went on.

When we started to mingle with each other’s social groups I was ashamed of two things: 1) that we met on Tinder; and 2) that he was seven years older than me. I thought people would judge me for these things and think less of me or something. I have a vivid memory of my experience as his “Law Prom” date—I was super uncomfortable because I labelled myself as the “Undergrad Tinder Girl” in a room full of arrogant almost-lawyers.

I guess what it comes down to is that I didn’t feel good enough, smart enough, funny enough, educated enough, old enough, mature (HA!) enough, accomplished enough to be his equal. And I was ashamed to admit this—to myself or to anyone.

I turned a blind eye to his manipulation and condescension because I was too embarrassed to accept that I was one of those girls who kept getting back in line for that disappointing rollercoaster. I want to stress that this behaviour just wasn’t me. In fact, I was never really me when I was around him. I am a confident, competent, outspoken woman, yet I rarely expressed my opinion to him and barely spoke at all when his friends were around.

However, as a quiet observer, and even a quiet counterpart in some conversations, a number of things were said, opinions expressed, misogyny perpetuated, that I never repeated to anyone. Here are three examples:

1.     One night in the height of the Jian Ghomeshi trial I was having dinner with my sister and one of her friends. Much like the rest of Canada, we were talking about the trial in disbelief, disgust, and whatever else. One of them (probably my lovely sister) stated: imagine dating a guy who was on Ghomeshi’s side? How could you deal? I nodded in agreement, but never offered details about my personal struggle and how I was “dealing.” The night before I had witnessed a very different conversation between two young, male lawyers, and I think we all know who’s “side” they were on.

2.     There were 60 days (give or take) a couple of summers ago that my mom decided to go braless. She was sick of the back and neck pain that her bras caused and had huge health improvements once she kissed those fucking underwires goodbye. If you can’t already tell, I have a similar hatred for wearing bras—the straps dig into my shoulders, the underwire into my ribs, and I’m just generally a less happy person when I’m wearing one. I was admiring my mom’s “fuck it” attitude and proclaimed that I should try to do the same. His response: “you don’t have the right boobs to not wear a bra.”

3.     This March I decided to cut my hair short. While I’ve tried my hardest to emanate a “short hair, don’t care” attitude, it’s been a challenge (just ask my sister who has to talk me out of 15 insecurity spirals a day). Nevertheless, I’ve been rolling with it and trying not to let my fear of gender ambiguity dictate my personal style. One day I posted a picture of myself wearing a black, baggy jumpsuit that I had just splurged on. We had been broken up for almost six months at this point, yet he still deemed it appropriate/necessary to comment on how I look gender confused, and furthermore wondered “why girls don’t just wear sundresses anymore.”

These encounters (and countless others) left me feeling flawed and unworthy, or in other words, ashamed of who I am. Instead of shaking the person who made me feel this way, I hid him, our interactions, and our relationship in its entirety from the people who mattered most to me (the thought of my sister being a fly on the wall during some of these conversations makes me want to melt into the ground).

While I’m sure I’ll still date a handful of shitty people in my lifetime, I want to promise myself this:  I—a confident, smart feminist—will never again tolerate a mean misogynist.

Emily Dickinson