Sally is no longer on Tinder, having met a man four months ago. I was a serial monogamist, moving from one long-term relationship to the next. I had friends who'd indulged in one-night stands and was probably guilty of judging them a little, of slut-shaming. I saw the negatives — that merry-go-round of hook-ups and guys never calling again.
Then, in February , my partner dumped me. We'd only been together eight months but I was serious, deeply in love, and seven months of celibacy followed. By summer, I needed something to take the pain away. Big loves don't come every day. Instead of "boyfriend hunting", searching for an exact copy of my ex, why not get out there, enjoy dating, have a good laugh — and, if I felt a connection, some good sex too? I could be married in five years and I'd never experimented before.
This was my chance to see what all the fuss was about. There's a hierarchy of seriousness on the dating sites. At the top is something like Guardian Soulmates or Match — the ones you pay for. You put in your pictures and add some information if you can be bothered. I started with one line "Single Canadian girl in London". It's superficial, based purely on physical attraction, but that's what I was looking for. You go through what's there, if you see someone you like, you swipe right. If he swipes you too, it lights up like a game, then asks if you want to keep playing.
My first Tinder date was with someone I'd seen before on OKCupid — the same faces crop up on all these sites. He knew all the cool restaurants, the best places and, as he was only in London occasionally, things moved faster than they should have. After just a few dates, he booked us a night in a fancy Kensington hotel. I met him at a pub first — liquid courage — and knew the second I saw him that my heart wasn't in it.
The connection wasn't there for me. Not a great start. But Tinder is addictive. You find yourself browsing and swiping and playing on. The possibilities pile up. I'm ashamed to say it but I sometimes went on three or four dates a week. It could be to a bar around the corner, or somewhere fabulous — Berner's Tavern, the Chiltern Firehouse. Most of the guys I met were looking for sex, rarely were they after a relationship.
With Tinder, I discovered what it could be to have sex then walk away without a backward glance. Sex didn't have to be wrapped up with commitment, and "will he? It could just be fun. Sometimes I had nothing in common with the guy but there was a sexual spark. In "real life", he was the ultimate knob.
He didn't fit with my politics, my views, I'd never have introduced him to my friends. In bed, though, he was passionate, eager, energetic. For a while, we'd hook up every six weeks. But there were a lot of negatives. It could feel … seedy. Where do you go for sex? I didn't feel comfortable taking someone back to my place, as he'd then know where I lived, and I live alone.
If we went back to his, I'd have no idea what to expect. With "Aldgate East", we had to walk through a pub to get to the bedroom and I swear there was a train going through the lounge.
You're trusting people you barely know. After a few dates with "Manchester", I agreed to visit his hotel room next time he was in London. I'd always been diligent about practising safe sex, but he had trouble getting in the mood with the condoms and went against my wishes at the last moment. The next morning I wrote him an angry text. I've never felt so violated.
Most often, though, I didn't have sex at all. I generally left home open to the possibility but found, when my date showed up, that I didn't want to see him again, let alone see him naked. There was no spark, or he was dull or gross or just too pushy. One date chased me to the tube trying to shove his tongue down my throat.
Another — who started promisingly — changed after his second drink, spilling a glass of wine on me without apologising, and cutting me off each time I spoke. It can be harder to walk away when you've met through Tinder. When you're matched, you can spend days — in some cases, weeks, months — exchanging messages, texting and working yourselves up, filling in the gaps with your imagination. By the time you meet, you've both invested so much, you've raised your hopes and his.
In some ways Tinder can even work against you finding a partner. I met one guy who was a likely contender for a boyfriend. We went on five dates without sex, just a kiss and a hug. Then one night, he arrived at my place stinking of booze and likely high on something. The sex was over in seconds — a massive anticlimax after such a build-up. We never saw each other again. If we'd met another way, that could have been a blip, an awkward beginning. On Tinder everything's disposable, there's always more, you move on fast.
You start browsing again, he starts browsing — and you can see when anyone was last on it. If five days pass with no messaging between you, it's history. At times, Tinder seemed less like fun, more like a gruelling trek across an arid desert of small talk and apathetic texting.
More than once, I deleted the app, but always came back to it. It was more addictive than gambling. I never dreamed I'd end up dating 57 men in less than a year.
I'm off it now. Four months ago, I met a man — "Hackney Boy" — through Tinder and at first, I carried on seeing him and dating others. After a while, he wanted to get more serious. He's older than me and didn't want to waste time with Tinder any more. I had one last fling with "French Guy", then made a decision to stop. What did Tinder give me? I had the chance to live the Sex and the City fantasy. It has made me less judgmental and changed my attitude to monogamy too.
I used to be committed to it — now I think, if it's just sex, a one-night hook-up, where's the harm? I'm more open to the idea of swinging, open relationships, which is something I'd never have expected. At the same time, it has taught me the value of true connection. It's really obvious when you have it, and usually, you don't. I hate to say it, but sex in a relationship beats casual sex.
Yes, the rush of meeting someone new — new bed, new bodies — can, occasionally, be great. More often though, you find yourself yearning for a nice partner who loves you and treats you well.