Hitting the Tinder jackpot
28 Tinder dates in 10 weeks. That was my Australian summer in 2016. There was a juggler. A cardboard architect. A guy who lived in his car. A guy who was addicted to white chocolate. A guy who, ten minutes into the date, pulled out his phone and said “Oh, I forgot that I’m organizing a barbeque at my house tonight so I’m going to have to cut this short”. And a whole bunch of guys who made it through our dates without asking me a single question about myself.
Rewind a couple of months to a breakup with a guy who managed to shatter my heart, twice. I’d met him fifteen years ago and given him a whole lot of love before he told me I wasn’t good enough. I drew him back into my life in 2015. He told me he was a changed man and that I was his biggest regret. I gave him a lot of love. Again. And then he told me I was not enough. Again.
After my Tinder summer in Melbourne I moved to northern Laos. Where there were no guys. Like, literally not a single-single man in the entire country. Proof of this: I would turn on Tinder and see a big red dot, radiating outwards, with the words “There is no one in your geographic vicinity (and you are likely to die lonely)”
I had a lot of time to think in Laos. I’d spend my evenings walking the quiet streets as the golden sunlight sank around the mountains. I’d watch local life float by – feeling disconnected – like I had no idea what the fuck I was doing in this remote town, in this mysterious country in south east Asia. I managed to find happiness in the company of a few good strangers who became friends, and in the colours of the tired sky, but there was a deep loneliness that I could not ignore.
I contemplated the six-year relationship I’d found myself in before an earthquake broke my numbness in 2015. A relationship of convenience that I’d chosen because I was so afraid of closeness, of falling so deeply in love and having a person turn around one day to tell me they no longer wanted me. So I lived alone. I worked alone. I offered up love, with limitations, to a man who offered his love, with limitations and I thought – at the time – it was going to be the answer to all of my fears. But one day I woke up and realised I deserved more. He deserved more. And so I went to Nepal to clear my head. And then the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit and life was not the same.
One night, sitting on my favourite hilltop in Luang Prabang last year in Laos, a boy monk struck up a conversation with me. It began with the words, “Do you ever feel lonely?” and before answering him, I felt a rush of heat to my cheeks and feared I might burst into tears. “Yes, yes, I do. I get lonely all the time,” I replied before listening to his story about his life of solitude as a monk and how he deeply missed his family up north.
My year in Laos – single with much time on my hands – allowed me to come to a very clear conclusion. I was ready for the real thing. I was ready for true love. I was ready for togetherness. For partnership. For commitment. For giving myself, without limitations, and believing that I was worthy of a man who would do the same. I was ready to breathe through my fear of rejection and fall in love – the kind of love that’s forever-love. And despite my relationship disappointments, I still held onto hope that I was capable of finding it/him.
I had no idea how or when ‘he’ would happen but I knew that unless I was out there meeting men, I didn’t stand much of a chance of finding the love that I knew I was ready for. And so, touching down in Bangkok last December where I was due to spend a week rehearsing for a Joni Mitchell tribute concert, I logged on to Tinder and messaged a bunch of guys that I matched with.
Some replied. Some did not. Some went out on dates with me. One of those men had a girlfriend that he casually mentioned within the first few minutes of our meal. Another was still in love with his ex-girlfriend. And then there was the guy who text me after our iced teas to tell me he’d like to be my friend. No, I said. I was not interested in friendship. I wanted true love and nothing less.
And then I met Pete. Our date almost didn’t happen. We’d set a rough plan in advance and messaged briefly in the morning and then I waited for a location and time text…but it didn’t come…for hours…and I figured he was just like all the other dudes on Tinder who book in an appointment and cancel at the last minute when something better comes along. But the text finally came through with a tone of mortification. He’d accidently switched his data off. He was terribly sorry. He still wanted to meet. Wherever I was in Bangkok, he would come to me.
Fast forward to October 25 – to a perfect sunset on a perfect island off the coast of Thailand – with Pete, down on one knee, a ring in his hand, asking me to spend the rest of my life as his wife.
Sometimes my head spins. What if I’d given up on Tinder? What if he didn’t turn his data on until I’d gone home? What are the chances, after so many not-right-guys, that I’d find a man who is so good to me, so perfect for me, so kind and clever and charming and handsome. A man from the other side of the world who happened to find himself in Bangkok – on Tinder – at the same time as me.
I could thank God. Or the Universe. Or the Powers That Be. Or Tinder. But I’m going to thank myself. For not giving up on me. For not giving up on love. And I’m going to thank Pete. For doing the same. And for proving to me, effortlessly, each and every day, that true love does exist. And it’s the most beautiful, wondrous thing…definitely worth going on 28 Tinder dates for.