Damir was about to get laid. At least, that’s what he thought. Hours earlier we’d matched on Tinder. Now, he was standing in the doorway of my Dubrovnik hotel room. Like many Croatian men, he reeked of cigarette smoke. “Welcome,” I said demurely. “Wine?” He nodded, and the night began…
Two years before meeting Damir, I went on my first Tinder date. Brad was the closest thing to Bradley Cooper I’ll ever see, and we went to dinner at one of the poshest restaurants in town. I don’t remember my entree—I was already naming our offspring in my head—but I do remember he didn’t let me order dessert.
“I don’t want you to get sick,” he said.
Sick? Was Brad calling me fat? I thought the night would end there. But it didn’t. Much to my surprise, we drove up to the airport. It was 11 p.m.—the last commercial flight of the day had taken off hours earlier.
“Come fly with me,” Brad said, leading me to a two-seater Cessna. I had no idea if it passed inspection, and I didn’t ask to see Brad’s pilot’s license. I just put the headset on and let this stranger I met on Tinder take me 1,000 meters up over the city, at night nonetheless.
Despite sharing a few romantic nights, Brad and I didn’t fly off into the sunset together. I knew things wouldn’t last when, on our last date—camping in the mountains—he asked me to take a photo of him posing on a rock. “This will be my next Tinder profile pic,” he said, aloud, not realizing in doing so he was stabbing an ice pick through my aorta. I’d really liked Brad and saw a future together.
In my current profile photo, I’m posing with a plush Tramp from Lady and the Tramp. I got him at Duty Free in the Brussels Airport, and he goes everywhere with me. Any guy who wants to sleep with me has to be cool with sharing the bed with Tramp too. “Just think of it as a sex toy,” I tell guys who raise their eyebrows when they pull back the sheets and see cartoon eyes staring back at them.
I travel, alone, about nine months a year. Much like Tramp looks for Lady, I look for a gentleman. After writing a Fox News story about tips for Tindering internationally, Tinder gave me a free subscription to Tinder Plus, so that’s my modus operandi for finding men. Currently, I have about 1,100 matches. I could easily have a million (if I swipe right 20 times I will match with at least 18) but I don’t consider myself a collector. I’m a curator with standards so high that you could be Brad Pitt’s body double but if I’m looking at your six-pack in a mirror selfie, I swipe left. Still, 1,100 means one man for every day of the year for the past three years. During that time, I’ve visited 25 countries spanning five continents.
Cagri was not my type. Not because he was Turkish, but because he looked like my cousin Burke. Still, his profile said he worked for Al Jazeera, and I was also a journalist on assignment in Bali, so why not meet for drinks and swap best practices? We met at a beach club bursting with wasted Australians and Irish tourists trying to keep up with them. There were no sparks between us (maybe I looked like his cousin too), but our conversation was stimulating.
“I matched with this really hot girl on Tinder in Java,” Cagri said. “The problem was she was into this other girl, not me”
I had a hard time following, but basically, the other girl liked Cagri. So, the only way girl A. could get in bed with girl B. was by getting Cagri in bed to lure her in. “It was my first threesome,” he proudly proclaimed. There was an awkward silence while he waited for me to tell him about my first threesome.
Instead of making something up—the only threesome I’ve been in involves Tramp—I told him about Tim. I’d matched with Tim in the U.S. but it wasn’t until we were both in Thailand that we were physically together. “You flew from the U.S. to Thailand for a guy you met on Tinder?” Cagri asked incredulously, as if it was more ludicrous than him sleeping with two Indonesian women, including a lesbian who used his Turkish ass to get with her dream girl!
But, Cagri was right. In hindsight, Tim was a waste of time. The only thing a guy like him is good for is providing material for Taylor Swift’s boy-bashing songs.
A year later, I met up with another Tinder match in Thailand. Roger was about 15 years older than me and he had a trail of ex-wives two women long. However, he was so tall, dark, handsome and Swiss that I wouldn’t have minded being a much younger wife number three. We’d matched a few months earlier when I was in Bali, but it wasn’t until we were both working remotely in Chiang Mai that we got physical.
Our couples’ massage was at Lila’s, across the street from a restaurant called Burgers and Spring Rolls, a disastrous combination pretty much summing up all of my past relationships. Staffed by former female inmates who were taught massage in prison, Lila’s isn’t the most romantic massage parlour. Since we were in a crowded room with other sweaty tourists, and we spent most of the time wondering what the tiny Thai women on top of us did to get themselves locked up, we had no chance at having a happy ending. (I adore Roger though and am happy to report that he is now happily dating a Balinese woman he met on Tinder.)
Meanwhile, I’m haunted by the ghosts of Tinder matches past, like Theuns. It’s been more than two years since we met, but he still occasionally pops up in my Facebook inbox with marriage proposals. He’s not that into me, he just really wants his U.S. green card. Theuns, bless his heart, is the first South African I’d ever met. But the problem with dating Theuns, at the time, was his truck. Most girls like a guy with a big truck, but Theuns’ was too big. Originally from Stellenbosch, Theuns had jumped at a chance to work in the U.S. even if it was a depressing job driving a semi-truck across the country.
Downtrodden and exhausted after driving his 18-wheeler all night, Theuns slumped into the McDonald’s booth, struggling to keep his eyes open. We had to meet at a truck stop because that was the only place where he could park his giant-ass truck. Over too-salty fries and a too-sweet milkshake, we talked about the farms we’d grown up on. Naturally, that led to a conversation about farm murders. Naturally, that led to no goodnight makeout session. There are just some topics that can kill the mood almost as fast as shouting, “I have HIV!”
The next time I talked farming with a Tinder match was in Costa Rica. Sebastian was a mushroom farmer. What separates Seb from the rest of my Tinder dates is he told me he brought me a gift on our first date. I was praying for roses but expecting a bouquet of mushrooms. So, imagine my surprise when he produced a cycling cap. From the brownish-yellow stains, I could tell someone had sweated buckets in it. Seb beamed and pointed to the autograph across the cap’s bill. It was from a professional rider I’d never heard of. Evidently, Seb had seen that photo of me and my bike in my Tinder profile. I was honoured he’d brought me one of his most prized possessions, but I was also uncomfortable. I had nothing for him. (Don’t get me wrong, if I’d had a marker, I totally would have snuck into the café’s toilet and forged Beyonce’s signature on my sweaty panties.)
Speaking of panties, I have rules against sleeping with a guy on the first Tinder date. But for Taylor—to this day the dreamiest guy I’ve met on Tinder—I went rogue. How could I not? His nose was pierced, he had a man bun AND he took me for a ride through the Balinese rice paddies to a hip breakfast spot where we waxed philosophically over wheat grass shots and avocado toast. He was so attractive to look at I had to keep fighting my tongue. It wanted to call him Adonis. I only spent one night in bed with Taylor, but it was epic.
Maybe our mouths should have been doing other things, but I let my jaw drop open as he dramatically described the time he hiked to remote tidal pools off the coast of Cape Town. The tide came in, Taylor nearly drowned and the world almost lost one of its finest sources of sperm. Not that I knew what his sperm was like, we both fell asleep after talking.
When I think of Taylor, I get butterflies in my stomach. When I think of Phil, an Irish fellow I matched with in Ethiopia, my blood boils. I was new to Addis Ababa and he was my first and only friend. About a week into my Ethiopian trip, I was attacked by two young men who tried to rob me on a busy street IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. Since Phil was the only person I knew in town, I texted him for help. His response hurt as bad as being hit by the Ethiopian men.
Addis is safe, you must have been doing something to provoke them.
Gentleman, if you want to shoot yourself in the foot but don’t have a gun, tell a recently assaulted woman that she did something to deserve it. There is no excuse for violence.
Which brings me back to Damir. When a Tinder match invites you to meet at their hotel room and share a bottle of wine, sex is imminent. Or is it? Poor Damir had never met a girl like me. I didn’t want his cock, I wanted to talk. Earlier that week, I’d visited the War Photography Museum in Dubrovnik and I couldn’t get the images of the Yugoslav Wars out of my mind. I wanted to hear from someone who’d been alive during the siege of Dubrovnik. Someone who’d heard the bombs drop and shot back at the Yugoslav troops. But in 1991, Damir was too young to have a gun.
“I was responsible for collecting rainwater,” he told me. “We had no running water or electricity.”
Similarly, there was no electricity between Damir and me. I’d killed any shot at even kissing when I’d started the night off with “What was the war like?” Damir’s eyes grew wide with the realization he had been lured into a trap. His seductress didn’t want to get intimate with him; she wanted to interview him.
To his credit, Damir graciously and honestly answered all of my questions about what refugee life was like during the siege. We finished the bottle of wine, I thanked him for his time and then I led him to the door—the same door he had walked through just hours earlier, so sure he was going to get laid.
Damir didn’t get laid that night (at least not by me), and I didn’t get laid either. I think for every insane Tinder hookup story, there are a hundred stories where neither party gets any action. But does that stop me from using the app? Hell no. In fact, the next time my plane touches down in a foreign country I’ll have already swiped on at least 100 local men before the immigration officer officially lets me in.