My Trouble with Tinder

An archangel hits the dating apps, with unexpected results. “For some of you, it’s a regrettable hookup or a funny first-date-from-hell story. For me, it is the specter of my estranged wife, ever-present and cursing my name to this day.”

Miguel Pichardo

It was 2018, and I was newly single. I was eager to try out the new dating apps that all of my single friends had been using, to various ends. Previously, I had only lived vicariously through their hookups, situationships, and wild nights, all while stuck at home with a woman I could no longer even feign affection for. I inevitably sent her packing. I started a Tinder profile before she had even collected the last of her things from my place.

It didn't take long for me to realize that each app came with certain implications. Tinder is where the unserious go for hookups. Hinge, for those of us seeking a bit more substance out of our bedfellows. And Bumble is for simps woefully incapable of approaching women so they leave it up to them to make the first move. Seeing as I’d just ended a relationship, I was looking for something casual. Like Hawaiian-print-shirts-flip-flops-and-jean-shorts-at-the-office-on-a-Friday casual. Tinder was my entry into this depraved new world. And to this end, it worked. Until it didn’t, because few things are as casual as proposing to someone you matched with only nine months earlier.

So, here dear reader, I offer a post-mortem of my Tinder profile and how I used the app. Perhaps together, we can see where I fumbled. What was I putting out into the Miami dating scene that decided my fate? Most of the connections made on this app are ultimately inconsequential, but mine wasn’t. In fact, its aftermath weighs on me even as I write this. For some of you, it’s a regrettable hookup or a funny first-date-from-hell story. For me, it is the specter of my estranged wife, ever-present and cursing my name to this day. 


Starting at the top of the screen, the first thing you would’ve seen was my name. Miguel, or Michael with a dash of sazón. Everybody knows a Michael, or a Mike, a Mikey. You could shout any variation of Michael into a crowd and more than a few heads will turn. But a Miguel, you only get a couple of Miguels in a lifetime. Two, three max. None, if you live in the middle of the country. Mine are my father and my best friend. The thing about Miguels is that we have a way about us that leaves a lasting impression. Maybe it’s how we look at you, or how we made you feel or how you felt about us, but we are near-indelible presences. A potential match could make certain inferences based off of my name alone, like that I’m a Spanish-speaker or that I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household. She could also assume some degree of spirituality, seeing as Miguel is the name of an archangel whose name translates to and poses the esoteric question, “Who is like God?” Mike doesn't mean any of that, so I chose to display the biblical name my immigrant parents chose for me, English-speaking hegemony be damned.

Next, you’d see my carefully selected photos. The first slide was a shot of me at a gala donning a smart blue-gray blazer atop a wine-colored cashmere turtleneck. My hair was coiffed and curly with my beard blessed by the straight blade of a Dominican barber, the only nationality I’ve ever allowed to cut my hair. My mouth showed a sly smirk sans teeth. For my casual look in the next shot, I wore all black with my signature Levi’s jean jacket on my back and vintage Adidas Mutumbos on my feet. I was sitting on a park swing, a boyish, almost goofy smile on my face to show that I didn’t take myself too seriously despite my dark attire and imposing build. The last photo was a candid shot taken at a work event. I’m standing mere feet away from Alicia Keys as she addresses a crowd of 200+ Miami-Dade public school students at the PAMM. I’m looking, damn near leering, at her with her husband nearby. The event photographer caught me in the middle of my adoring trance. I figured a potential match might see the way I’m looking at Alicia and might want to find herself on the receiving end of such a gaze, despite her lack of Grammy awards.

If I’d satisfied whatever superficial criteria a woman held and she hadn’t yet swiped left or right (or deleted the app like she probably should have), she’d be reading my bio. I kept it brief: a list of bullet points so as to hold diminished attention spans and generate an air of mystery. Males on Tinder tend to over-explain themselves into rejection if their shirtless gym, fish carcass, and/or pandering cute dog photos haven’t done so already. My terse list told women what they needed to know about me, leaving the rest up to a future conversation, preferably held in-person as we shared a kush-stuffed cone at her place and almost never mine.

The first bullet point was my height, 6’8”. Very quickly, I realized that disclosing my height was akin to a dating app cheat code. Obviously, I led with this. A comment about my height was actually my opening line to my soon-to-be-ex-wife. She’s a tall woman, and had been catfished by too many of Miami’s vertically challenged men. Her bio simply read, “I’m taller than you.” Once we matched, I seized the opportunity to let her know that she was not. It seems dating apps run rife with height supremacists, women who simply want the option to wear heels without risking the emasculation of their wee suitors. As a tall man, this is a double standard I’m fine with benefitting from. Sorry not sorry to the ascending short kings who might be reading this. Thankfully, the wonders of modern medicine have met the depths of male vanity. There’s an excruciatingly painful, obscenely expensive surgery you can undergo to add a few inches to your height. That is to say, there is actually something you can do about it. Better I point it out to you than some girl you like.

Next, I shared the fact that I’m a native New Yorker. I was born in Queens, and although I was raised in the 305, my ties to New York have always been and remain strong; I spent many summers there with family and moved back to attend college at 18. But at 30, mentioning this in my Tinder profile was a deliberate choice that served as an excuse to be kind of rude and pretentious. This identity also allowed me to disappear “out of town” for weeks at a time, making me appear more important than I actually was, which we all know is the default costume of all NYC transplants in Miami.

The next bullet point was the flags of two nations: Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The latter was a red flag. Actually, a red, white, and blue flag with a crest in the center that reads “Dios, Patria y Libertad.” Dominican men have a reputation. On one Tinder date, a woman asked me how many kids I had before asking me anything else about me. I can’t really blame her for stereotyping me; I’m the fourth of nine myself. My Ecuadorian heritage is harmless, I suppose. There aren’t enough of us in Miami to establish a reputation, be it good or bad. For those who know, they could expect binge drinking while singing Julio Jaramillo ballads off-key with tears in our eyes. Also food seasoned with lime and cilantro. Lots of cilantro.

The final bullet point was something of a litmus test for me. It simply read “zen af.” To be clear, I am not nor have I ever been a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. But if a woman read this odd phrase and from its five letters gleaned that I was a very laid-back guy, decidedly aloof and unbothered by even the slightest hint of drama, then I knew we’d get along just fine. I knew that she wasn’t basic and didn’t think Zen AF was the name of my favorite DJ at Club Space. Maybe, like me, she prioritized her peace and was looking for someone who could add to it.


My Tinder profile was the only aspect of my app usage that fell within my locus of control. The first impression a woman had of me upon discovering my profile was a curated experience, even if a brief one. Everything she saw, everything she learned was tailored by me specifically for her consumption. I must have been doing something right, because I was matching frequently. More than most of my male friends, actually. I started picking apart their profiles and making suggestions as to how they could put up numbers like I was. But the presentation of my profile was where my agency as a user ended. Of course, I’d like to think that I had agency as a user. However, the way dating apps are designed, one’s usage is monitored, predicted, and inevitably controlled by what may seem to the user like fate, but is in fact fate’s antithesis: an algorithm. Even as I employ the word user, I don’t think of someone who is using Tinder as a tool to connect to other singles; I think of an addict driven by pleasure-seeking behavior.

As a former pack-a-day smoker, I know what a compulsion feels like all too well. External events and stimuli that would have no effect on a non-addict compel the afflicted to transmute thought into action. Imagine lighting up every time you start your car or finish a meal, all for the promised release of dopamine that comes from performing such a self-destructive act. The same could be said of how I interacted with Tinder. Whenever I landed in a new city — Raleigh, Tulum, Seattle — and settled into my hotel, I opened the app and started swiping. Because my time in town was limited, I eventually started blind-swiping, swiping right on every woman in rapid, indiscriminate succession without seeing their photos or reading their bios until a match was made. Just like that, my dopamine hit was delivered. Sadly, not from the ensuing conversation or possible date, but from the match itself. A wave of validation washed over me as my thumb hovered over the screen, an animation placing our photos side-by-side with large text above proclaiming, fallaciously, “It’s a Match.”

Blind-swiping was not limited to my out-of-town usage. I did it in Miami, too. I just had to be bored, horny, lonely (or some sad combination of these) enough to resort to this risky method of making friends with benefits.

Being an avid Tinder user emboldened me to interact with women in ways that I never would in real life. It’s not like I was anonymous; she could see my face and knew my name, but I felt a certain protection against the sting of rejection on the app: I could unmatch, too. I once asked a woman, “Has anybody worshipped that body lately?” before I even said hello. I figured too many women had been approached with “Hey” after matching, which was their cue to unmatch with the dude and hope to never cross paths with him again, online or IRL. My modus operandi employed shock and awe, saying shit that would leave my match thinking that I was a little off, maybe kind of funny, and definitely interested in hooking up.

My boldness then spilled over into the actual date, if I hadn’t already raised enough red flags over text and managed to arrange a meeting. For those women who required more of a “boyfriend experience” before intimacy, I was content with going through the paces of a conventional date. I’d pick her up, take her somewhere I’d taken other women before her, share a meal, some drinks, a joint over good conversation. That’s how it went with my estranged wife. I was driving us from a tea spot in the Gables to a kava bar on Miami Beach. My hand rested on her exposed thigh before we’d even made it to the highway. I usually kept my hands to myself, but I wanted to make it very clear that this was not a platonic night out, and that I intended to do more than just kiss on the first date. She responded by taking my hand in hers and moving it higher. 


The trouble with putting my best face forward on dating apps was that I was only showing the shiny parts, dangling them out there like lures to attract women who were perhaps as addicted to and distracted by Tinder as I was. My time there was just that, an obsessive distraction from a wealth of inner work I’d been putting off. I hid behind a profile of a tall, cocksure bachelor with good posture and his pick of Miami’s single women. It didn’t take long for my wife to note that I slouch too much, and doubt myself even more. A year into our marriage, I became withdrawn and complacent. The depression I’d struggled with since adolescence resurged. I’d never shared this detail about my past with her because there’s nothing sexy, cool, or fun about sleeping all day only to wake up, masturbate, and pass out once more. And because I didn’t really know her, I never felt secure enough to open up about my condition, assuming she’d just leave like the others after this side of me emerged. My depression on its own is not what caused our marriage to fail, but my failure to manage it precipitated our downfall. Now I know that it is there, in the differential between how you present yourself on dating apps versus you at your very worst, that lasting bonds are formed. If the person you matched with can abide your flaws and stick around long enough for you to catch up to that first impression they fell for, your relationship might fare better than mine did. 


Today, April 21st, 2024, marks 500 days since my wife and I last spoke. She is, in fact, still my wife. Instead of signing what could have been a simplified divorce between two people who don’t share any assets or children, she’s taken off and left me with the task of dissolving our marriage on my own. This task is nowhere near as simple, mindless, or gratifying as swiping left and right on Tinder. I won’t share what I’ve learned about Florida family law in the process, only what I’ve learned about myself.

The man I am today does not belong on Tinder, or on any dating app. I don’t fear another failed marriage that began by (mis)matching on an app. What I most wanted to avoid has already come to pass; I’ve already reduced women to sources of external validation. Women can inspire such awe in men, and I’d cheated myself out of this experience just so that I could feel better about myself by virtue of their attraction to me. I’ve learned that they have so much more to offer me, or any man, than their attention. In the past 500 days, I’ve started various purely platonic, strictly non-sexual friendships with women. From them, I’ve gained kinds of insight, comfort, and wisdom that are simply not a part of male camaraderie. I've been a cheating boyfriend, a poor husband, but I've never been a shitty friend. So, to these women, I offer a fiercely loyal friendship replete with laughter and brotherly love. And if they’re on the apps, I sincerely hope they swipe left on any suitor who resembles the man I used to be.

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