Thumb-shaped faces, dead animals: Tindering in Ohio

As I merged onto I-84 West during my drive from Poughkeepsie to my hometown of Bainbridge, Ohio at the end of my junior year, I shed four tragic tears. The first was because I was leaving behind a house that had become my home for the past 10 months, my wonderful housemates and dear friends who had become my family and a grocery store where the owners knew to put a pack of Marlboro 27s on the counter for me as soon as I walked through the door (here’s looking at you, My Market ). The second was because apparently everyone in the left lane of the freeway had agreed to drive just barely above the legal speed limit, when I lean more towards what could be considered “reckless” driving. The third was because “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac was playing on the radio. Enough said.

The fourth tear, and perhaps the bitterest, was because I knew with reluctant certainty that I would have to change my Tinder location from Poughkeepsie to Bainbridge.

Bainbridge is a painfully small town about 45 minutes east of Cleveland; it is comprised mostly of farmland, gas stations and churches, with the occasional Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses thrown in for variety’s sake. It is not uncommon to spot someone driving a tractor down the street in lieu of a car, or see a massive “Ron Paul for President” sign looming menacingly over a cornfield. So I was less than thrilled that my Tinder prospects for the summer would be limited to these very people.

During the course of the summer, my time on Tinder became less about finding someone who was at least passably attractive and who might be willing to engage in a drama-free summer fling, and more about cataloging, out of sheer morbid curiosity, general trends among people who identify as men aged 20 to 34 on Tinder, who live within a 20-mile radius of Bainbridge. Of course, some of these trends apply to the broader Tinder community, such as the countless prospects who claimed to be “searching for their Tinderella,” or who promised that they would “lie about how we met” if I were to become romantically-involved with them. There was, naturally, no shortage of men who seemed to spend their entire lives shirtless and flexing their muscles in bathroom mirrors, trying to hold their poses, arrange their faces into perfect masks of brooding masculinity, and precisely angle their phones to take a flattering photo all at the same time (whoever said that men can’t multi-task? ). And, of course, the rule still applied that in a group photo, the Tinder profile always belongs to the ugliest member.

However, some trends seemed specific to my particular slice of Midwestern rural America. For example, there were many times when I felt a small glimmer of hope upon happening across someone who appeared decently attractive and whose head was not at all thumb-shaped (I don’t know why so many people in my radius looked like thumbs, but it was an alarmingly common occurrence). I would scroll through their pictures, my optimism growing all the while, until the inevitable deal-breaker surfaced: a photograph of my possible Tinder match grinning proudly next to the carcass of a freshly shot animal. Only slightly less disturbing were the pictures of men triumphantly displaying the massive fish that, I’d imagine, they had just dragged out of the crystalline, pristine depths of Lake Erie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I was not entirely blameless in my failure to find a suitable summer companion with whom I could cow-tip and frolic in cornfields. At one point, I matched with a medical student who had a nice strong jawline, decent hair and no unsightly tattoos (no chest piece that declared “May I Never Lose My Youth,” no chickens on his back, no homage to deadmau5 adorning his shoulder blade).  He messaged me to say that I looked like Winona Ryder, and instead of responding as a more conscientious person might, with a gracious “thank you” and perhaps a compliment in return, I told him that I, too had unwittingly assisted in the murders of several of my high school classmates. It was a fairly obvious reference to Ryder’s role in the 1988 film “Heathers,” but I guess he hadn’t seen it because he never messaged me again. Although I was briefly disappointed, I ultimately decided that it was no great loss, since he wasn’t nearly as cute as Christian Slater, anyway.

At the end of the summer, I had not succeeded in finding the J.D. to my Veronica Sawyer, but now I’m back in Poughkeepsie for my senior year with a sense of renewed faith in Tinder. I’m still available to be somebody’s Tinderella, but people with thumb-shaped heads need not apply.

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