A couple of months ago, I went through a particularly unfun breakup. This was the first partner I had ever lived with, so our split involved not only the usual amount of existential heartbreak, but also the equitable (yet still cognizant of the wage gap) division of a West Elm couch. It was all new territory for me, and I’ll be honest: It sort of felt like the universe was Linda Blair-ing all over my general existence. In fact, if you put aside the deepening of meaningful friendships and a renewed sense of self, the only real good thing I got out of this Diet Divorce™ is my Tinder Plus account.
Yeah, that’s right. Thanks to a generous iTunes gift card from my ex’s aunt, I can now swipe ad nauseam.
Of course, having unlimited swipes is probably only fun if you are truly a fedora of a human being. Unless we’re in the midst of the 2016 Olympics, and your friend reminds you that your Tinder Plus account means you can virtually make your way down to Olympic Village. I laugh. Sure, I remember skimming the Sochi headlines: Everyone’s on Tinder, everyone’s boning, condomscondomscondoms, etc. But is it really so easy for astigmatic flesh sacks like me to match with Olympians, 5,300 miles away?
First things first—the table tennis players. Oh, god bless the table tennis players. They will fill up your feed, and you should swipe the right out of each and every one of them. In fact, the first conversation I had with an Olympian was with a member of the US table tennis team. Our exchange:
Me: Bet you must be tired of wearing all those stars and stripes, huh?
Olympian: *radio silence*
That encouraging exchange aside, I was perfectly prepared to swipe right on the low-hanging Olympic fruit, like archers or Fox Sports reporters, get rejected because hey, they earned a spot at the Olympics, and then spend the rest of my night realizing that everyone—and I mean everyone—in Rio is insanely hot. Like 2004 Usher hot.
But then, it happened: a light vibration. I had gotten a response to my overwhelmingly charming “hey.” Only this time, it was from a track-and-fielder.
I yelp. My friend screams. I crack my mysteriously sweaty knuckles and get to business.
I had to set the tone. Just as Hitch might tell Paul Blart, it’s important to make your intentions clear—while leaving just a little room for your personality to shine:
Now it’s time to lean in and relate. I would have made that joke too, I tell him, but I’m glad he went for it instead. He admits he’s a “jokester,” so it seems like as good a time as any to womansplain his potential career paths.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the line between having fun on the Internet and being a grade-D troll. This, however, is not the time to worry about that, because this Olympian is picking up my bronze-level zingers with fervor.
“Athlete, for sure,” he responds. Now we are beginning to get a first-hand glimpse into the Olympic mind, with its laser-point focus holding steady on the prize. I’ve never experienced anything close to that—unless you count deep, repeated reads of Lindsay Lohan’s Wikipedia entry. Mmm. Deep. Repeated. Lohan. God, just get through this Freudian headshrinking business so we can get to what Freud was really after: gold medal peen.
We keep messaging, now about whether making a pump-up playlist for Spotify would ramp up his profile as an Olympic athlete. He says the only way to do that is to win, win again, and then win some more. I tell him that leaking a few Phelpsian photos of him smoking a bong might help too. And then, with way more confidence than I should realistically have in this context, I bite the bullet: I leave my phone number.
I immediately exit the app. My knuckles are sweatier than ever. Raw, unadulterated panic sets in. Oooh. Raw. Unadulterated. Jesus, get yourself together.
And then. Another buzz. Only this time, a text.
My jaw drops, along with my phone. I pick it back up, worried that the drop had etch-a-sketched away the text. But no—there it is, all shiny with the hope of a still-unassigned contact. I start laughing hysterically, wheezing my way through the absurdity that is the half-digital life.
It’s at this point the naysayers will bring it up—the possibility of being catfished. It’s a legitimate fear, but there are a few key pieces of evidence that suggest that this could be the real deal. He sends me a picture from his hotel room. I send him one from last weekend — you know, the one where my hairstyle looks intentional. He says, “you’re very attractive *mischievous devil emoji*” I squeal. Maybe this is real. Besides, between my dormant Instagram account and my current profile picture (Macaulay Culkin as Thomas J. from My Girl), it’s really my Internet presence that screams “MTV’s Catfish.” I reread his texts. You’re very attractive. Would I take his last name? You’re very attractive. Or maybe he would hyphenate his and mine: Mr. Olympian-Bachelor of Arts.
You’re very attractive.
I start listening to Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” on repeat. I imagine him, this man with muscles I didn’t even know could be toned, throwing me in a pool. You know, like he’s being cute and flirtatious, not like he wants to chop up my bones and toss them in a pool (Note to self: Stop watching “Partners in Crime” while Tindering). For some reason, I also imagine all of my exes sitting there, watching in silence as I majestically belly flop my way into the deep end.
“This will be…”
“...An everlasting love…”
But all good things must come to a protracted, two-texts-every-few-hours end, and our exchange was no exception. We’re still talking a bit—he might be in town for the holidays, and I might be willing to disappoint my family in exchange for a night with an Olympic athlete. But, to bastardize the Counting Crows, it’s a pretty long way to December.
So I close out the messaging app, load up a lyric video for “This Will Be” on my mobile browser (I can suggest Spotify sponsorships, but I can’t bring myself to buy a subscription), and head off to the train. Midway through my fifth listen, I realize I don’t even know when his event is. I could Google it, but then I’d have to close out of this video, and it really is the best soundtrack for my wildly out-of-control fantasies. I lean back on the bench seat, and wonder if Fu Yuanhui would swipe right on a girl who's still afraid of Diva Cups.