“You’re on Tinder!?”
The surprise in my friend’s voice was so thick I could cut through it with a knife. Yes. I was on Tinder. I had a 3G connection, and comfortably large phone screen for looking at people’s photos. Not very complicated is it? But I pricked up my ears at the un-uttered assumption: “What business does an asexual woman like you have on a dating app?”
In the last two years, a handful of my friends have reacted the same way. It used to ruffle my feathers, but the answer had always always been right under everyone’s noses. Literally. It was in my bio.
“Vegan, asexual, bookworm. Here to find friends.”
I’d spent an entire evening crafting my profile, and carefully selecting my top five photos. In the end I settled for that very innocuous description. I won’t lie, I was proud of the simplicity. But more than that, I was interested in knowing how the average viewer would receive me. A thick-jawed woman, with glasses, dyed hair, and disastrously thick eyeliner, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But here I was. The way I wanted to be seen. And there was something comforting in that.
When the matches came rolling in – both men and women – it was a combination of questions I had already expected (and maybe even hoped for?). “What is asexual?” “Are you interested in dating?” “Why are you using Tinder?” “Will you change your mind about sex?” Clearly, I was an anomaly. I braced myself for some of the reactions I was used to offline: reactions that told me I wasn’t quite right, that I had to be fixed, that I was throwing a wrench in the works of the species preserving its future generations (uh, hello, there’s too few of us asexual people to make that kind of impact; you might wanna talk about pollution harming future generations instead). But as my conversations with other Tinder users lengthened, I was pleasantly surprised.
Everyone I matched with, initially, was allosexual (people who experience sexual attraction towards other people, be it heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual – you know.) After quick introductions, the conversation eventually veered towards that odd little word in my bio.
“So you aren’t attracted to anyone?”
“Not sexually, no.”
“Wow, is that tough?”
“Only when people get judgemental.”
My friends had all told me to expect varying degrees of flirting, offers for coffee, and offers for ‘coffee’, but with sex and romance decidedly off the table, my matches and I hit an awkward pause. And that’s when the real stuff began.
A boy from North-West Delhi, who had been trying to ‘figure me out’, let the walls come down. He began to tell me about the IAS exams he was studying for because of pressure from home, when all he wanted to do in that moment was go explore fort ruins nearby with his dog. On the day of his exam, I wished him luck. “Thanks for taking time to listen to me,” he replied.
Another match was a Bombay-based filmmaker, who sent me links to his trippy, abstract, art-house videos on YouTube, and introduced me to an array of interesting music.
A third was a lesbian movie buff, who dyed her hair crazy colours just like me! Two hours in, she was telling me all about her favourite feminist flicks from the early 2000s.
A fourth was a man who dubbed me his “Meme Buddy”, and we routinely sent each other the worst of puns and GIFs, because (we both agreed) everyone needed a good laugh at the end of the day.
And the fifth was a budding lawyer, who asked me what exactly I was looking for on Tinder. As it turns out, all of these people were what I was looking for; people who I could connect with, share my interests with, even learn a thing or two from them. The lawyer and I are still in touch, updating each other about the work we do, little successes in life, and more.
But wait, there’s more! Every match that came my way, every person I spoke to, every time someone pointed to the word “asexual” in my bio – it was all an exercise in acceptance, compassion, and empathy. People were asking questions because they wanted to know how best to interact with me, how to respect my boundaries, how to to get over their own misgivings about ‘my kind’. It was an opportunity to tell my matches that people like me exist. And for kicks, I would say, “Well, you already like me very much so there’s no escaping this friendship!”
In many ways, my matches and I were also dismantling that nonsensical concept of a “friendzone”. But it wasn’t just about connecting with people who happened to be allosexual. Soon, I began to match with other asexual people on Tinder. More than I could count on my fingers, in fact! For one, it made me realise just how many of us there are, how many had decided to take the plunge and try their hand at online dating, putting themselves out there, believing that the world was full of people who would understand, who wouldn’t judge. For another, it was the perfect way for me to talk to people who shared my experiences, one-on-one, exchanging notes and jokes, without any external nastiness spilling in, in a way that wasn’t possible offline.
People might still raise an eyebrow at me when they hear the Tinder notification sound go off on my phone – “She’s on Tinder!?” – because of their narrow little ideas about forming relationships. But here’s what I have to them: “Sorry, gotta check this. Might be a hilarious meme from my new friend.”