Cultural: News, Travel & Trendsetters

Voices: How tweaking my Tinder game landed me a boyfriend


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I entered the dating scene for the first time this year, and as a newly single mother in my thirties, no less – so you could say I’ve been on a learning curve.

I’ve had to learn how to put myself out there. I’ve learned dos and don’ts (be authentic – avoid giving an exaggerated version of yourself, that sort of thing). And I’ve learned a lot of new lingo, which I’ll come to shortly.

Now, Tinder has just released its annual survey of dating trends – its so-called “Year In Swipe” – which contains seriously useful tricks and tips gleaned from the site’s most successful hook-up merchants.

It seems 2023 was the year for “doing it for the plot”, “taking a Nato stance” and embracing the power of being “delulu”.

If you don’t have your dating dictionary to hand, please allow me to explain.

Placing yourself at the centre of your romantic narrative and allowing yourself to make decisions based on what’s going to further the “storyline” of your own life is a trend that Gen Z have dubbed “doing it for the plot”. It’s also referred to as having “main character energy” – whereby you act as if you’re the star of your own show. It’s what we used to call putting your own needs first.

I’m both delighted and unsurprised by this, because my middle name is “main character”. Everything I did in the early months of 2023 was for the plot, and after a lot of years of sleepwalking through an unhappy relationship, it was revolutionary.

Sure, “doing it for the plot” meant that I got hurt a lot more than I used to. One evening, I found myself polishing all of my silverware for two hours in an attempt to busy my hands when a guy wasn’t replying to me. I cried, listened to a lot of Olivia Rodrigo (despite being 31 years old), and even once attempted to write poetry. But painful as “doing it for the plot” was, it was exciting – and, on some level, it was nice to be reminded of the human capacity to flip between despair and delight over the absence of a single WhatsApp message.

“Taking a Nato stance” doesn’t require calling Jens Stoltenberg for dating advice – rather, it means you’re “not attached to outcomes”. It’s a clicky way of saying that you’re dating for fun, not on the hunt for The One, and just seeing what happens.

And more than anything, this, I think, is the key to why I’ve enjoyed dating so much this year.

After a long-term relationship which ended in a flaming wreckage, I was very much not looking for a boyfriend. I wanted to meet people, amass some interesting stories and enjoy an excuse to talk about myself while wearing a low-cut top. I was very clear with everyone I met that I didn’t want to get into a relationship – in fact, much of the time I explained that I was trying to date all the men I missed out on in my twenties, and that I was largely looking to have sex. Obviously, this resulted in meeting my now boyfriend.

Being “delulu” (short for “delusional”, but in a cute, fun way) is another trait I didn’t realise I had. I think the pain of dating is alleviated if you’re slightly delusional. Despite being a newly single mother with a propensity to talk too much and a rack that is 7/10 on a really good day, I went on every date like I was the most brilliant woman in the world. And, because I was able to kid myself that I was utterly special, others seemed to believe it.

I assumed that anyone who swiped left on me was merely intimidated by my glittering career, and that when men sent me unsolicited pictures of their genitals, it was because they were enthusiastic photographers, not grim perverts. The Pollyanna-ish ability to see the best in absolutely everything might have been delusional, but it worked for me – and my dates picked up on it. There’s nothing worse than meeting up with someone who spends the first half hour whining about how miserable the app carousel was.

Tinder might have the granular data on what works for dating in 2023, but as a self-appointed dating guru, I’ve got a few key principles now, too. Terrified of accidental catfishing, I put some fairly mediocre photos of myself on my profile which meant that I was a pleasant surprise upon arrival at whatever pub I’d chosen.

I also developed a slightly naughty trick, of going on an app binge in the Uber to the pub, then leaving my phone on the table. That way, the stream of matches flashing up on my screen gave the impression of being wildly desirable.

But my best tip, the thing I tell anyone who will listen, is that dating is supposed to be fun. It’s traditional to whinge about the experience, but the apps are a marvel. They’ve revolutionised modern life. With a little bit of effort, you could be on a date with someone wonderful who has given up their time to meet you, in a matter of hours.

There’s something utterly beautiful about the whole thing – the mutual vulnerability, the excitement, the hope, deciding who you’re going to be that evening, what kind of a performance you’re going to give, and wondering whether this might be the thing that changes your life.

I think it’s entirely possible that, in dating, I did actually find the one thing that I’m truly naturally gifted at. I only hope I don’t find myself in a position to have to use those newly acquired skills again any time soon.


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