As someone of Indian heritage, I'm used to the notion of parents being involved in their children's love lives.
Although this isn't the case for me personally, it got me wondering about Tinder and interested in how parents would react to it. What if I let my mother use my Tinder and do the swiping for me? How would she cope with courting in cyberspace?
More importantly, how would she react to a dick pic?
When I approached her with the idea (I refrained from mentioning dick pics), I could see a glint of excitement in her eye. This of course disappeared as soon as I mentioned that 1) it was a mobile app and 2) it involved an action called "swiping". I could see her mum brain go into overdrive, and she soon panicked, saying:
"THIS ALL SOUNDS VERY COMPLICATED, REMEE."
Which I guess is to be expected from a woman who still operates a flip phone.
I decided that the best way to proceed without confusing her would be to take it one step at a time. I started by getting her to set up my profile and making her choose pictures from my Facebook account, which was conveniently already linked to the app. When selecting the photos, she told me she thought it was important people saw my smile and that the photos expressed who I was or appealed to potential suitors. "They might be an animal person," she said, picking a picture of me hugging a labrador.
When I told her to write the "About Me" section, she immediately asked, "What, like your hobbies?" I replied, "Whatever you think is appropriate, Mum," then walked out of the room cringing.
What on earth would she write?
I didn't have any bloody hobbies, which could only mean she would resort to listing past achievements: orange badge at swimming and Grade 1 piano.
After an hour had passed, I checked on her. I found her squinting furiously at the screen because she'd forgotten where she'd put her reading glasses. She handed me the phone, evidently quite stressed from it all, and told me she was done.
I was immediately drawn to two things.
When I questioned her about the final sentence, she said, indignantly, "It's important people know you have a job, Remee." I didn't even bother arguing about "social interaction" – she would never understand that she might as well have written "HELLO I AM EXTREMELY AWKWARD".
The process of explaining swiping and matching was painstakingly slow, but she understood the premise in the end, or at least I thought she did. Before I left her to swipe to her heart's content, I set some ground rules, making sure she understood that she could not tell people anything about the experiment, including the fact that I'm a writer.
BUT DID SHE LISTEN???
I decided to watch her swipe for a while and it wasn't long before she paused at a gentleman we'll call Bob – all names in this post have been changed – who was hot, but with an awful bio and one too many shirt buttons undone.
Mum: Oh, he says "cheeky", I like cheeky people.
At this I started worrying that she'd already forgotten the point of the experiment.
Mum: I mean, you like cheeky people. Romantic walks to the fridge... Yes, yes, that could work for you.
Mum: "Eat clean train dirty"? WHAT DOES HE MEAN?? No, not dealing with that, sorry.
She shook her head and swiped left.
She continued swiping for about five minutes and I could tell she was already getting tired of it. "SO much ugliness" she said, completely aghast at a photo in front of her. This took me by surprise – I thought that as a parent she might have been a bit more forgiving, but then I remembered the lure of Tinder, how utterly superficial it all is, and realised that maybe our parents were no better than we were. I left her to swipe by herself for a bit, hoping she'd get into the swing of things and would try being a bit more open.
After what felt like an eternity, I went to check on her again.
Me: Have you got any matches yet?
Mum: No. I've only picked two!
Me: Only two??
Mum: Oh, and I keep getting confused and not picking people I want and picking people I do not want.
Me: Welcome to Tinder, Mum.
The next day she seemed to have a better grasp on things. I caught her leaning against the windowsill, her eyes glued to the phone, giggling like a teenage girl. Mum was chatting to Ron, an IT guy with a penchant for close brackets:
When I tried to take the phone off her she practically yelled, "WAIT! I need to say goodnight to Ron!"
By now I was getting massively weirded out. To pre-empt some sort of Catfish situation, I reminded her that it was ME Ron was talking to, and that he could wait. She handed over the phone reluctantly and I wondered if I'd created a monster.
A few days later I asked Mum how she was finding Tinder. She expressed her annoyance at the lack of "nice, descriptive" bios:
Mum: One guy just wrote "I'm motherfucking bad, I'm motherfucking this, I'm mother fucking that". Honestly.
Me: Did you pick him?
I decided to leave her to her own devices for the rest of the week. This is what happened:
She bragged to MY potential love interests about how successful my brother is.
You can take the woman out of India...
And made out that I was basically an alcoholic.
She didn't fail to mention my strong attributes, however.
She played games with a guy called Mick, but was strictly business with Ron.
She appreciated David's interest in heritage, but not VJ's interest in tits.
She failed to read the subtext of Colin's offer but played Nigel at his own game.
She coped well with proposals.
Although some were just so cheeky.
Gary, what are you like??!
She shared her TV recommendations.
All of which were for "The House of Cards".
Ultimately, she just couldn't help being a mother.
During the week I taught Mum how to screenshot and asked her to save any profiles she thought were "weird" or "highly unusual" in the hope that she'd come across the notorious dick pic. This is what she selected:
After the experiment ended, I interviewed Mum to get her thoughts on the whole thing.
Me: So what do you think of Tinder? You know, the idea of it?
Mum: I think it's a great idea. I suppose it gives young people a chance to meet people and get to know them before they meet. You have a choice, whereas when you're dating them you don't have a choice. With this you can just cut them off.
Me: What, so if you were using this for yourself you would just cut people off?
Mum: Yeah, I would, of course I would. If I don't like them I'll cut them off – it's easier than doing it face to face.
Me: Heartless wench. What did you like most about it?
Mum: It was fun talking to all these different guys because they are so different and some of the things they say are so funny. Some are completely barmy. One of the guys asked me three questions and the second one was about blowjobs, Remee.
Me: So did you find that weird? You know, that guys approach you, well me, in that way? Like, did you find it insulting that guys were talking to me like that?
Mum: A lot of guys that are out there are shallow and have sex on their minds a lot. I read a study recently where apparently men have sex on their minds 99% of the time. NINETY-NINE PER CENT OF THE TIME! They are cheeky and it can be embarrassing and insulting, but it depends on the type of person you are, how you react, I guess.
Me: So what did you learn about dating from Tinder?
Mum: You should ask more details about themselves before you meet them, you shouldn't just go on pictures. The idea is to get to know them more. They could be bloody maniacs.
Me: Can you find love on Tinder?
Mum: Yes, but I think you have to find the right person. You have to pick out the best ones and then go for those. Depends on whether you take it seriously or not – there are so many out there. Converse on the telephone before you meet them though, because there are all sorts out there. There could be a rapist out there, or murderers.
Me: What did you like the least?
Mum: It was time-consuming – there are so many people it will probably take weeks before you can narrow down to find a few you're interested in.
Me: Who was your favourite Tinder match and why?
Me: Which Ron? There were two.
Mum (dreamily): Oh, both I guess. Hiten was a nice bloke too, an Indian bloke actually. And I liked Sam, he was sweet. His name is Samuel.
Me: Who was your least favourite Tinder match?
Mum: The one who said stuff about your tits.
Me: Yeah, he was a twat.
Mum: He was Indian, you know.
Me: Yes Mum, Indian people are capable of being terrible people. So, do you think I should use Tinder? Do you approve?
Mum: Providing that you use it wisely, yes. I could have got someone – I could have dated Ron.
Me: Mum, Ron thinks you're me. So you see the appeal of the app?
Mum: Yeah, it's a fun way of meeting people. Actually, it's an ingenious idea. if I wanted to meet someone I'd probably use Tinder myself, if they had a grown-up version. Also, you could technically make friends on it, it doesn't have to be a dating thing, does it? You could use it to get some friends, Remee.
Me: Thanks, Mum.