Last summer, I went to a sex party at a BDSM dungeon on a first date. I did this because a Tinder match messaged me a link to the invitation and said, “Saw this and thought of you. Want to check it out Saturday night?”
In other words, he got my attention. This, as anyone who’s spent much time at all on dating apps will tell you, can be a tough thing to do. Why? Because people on dating apps, especially women, are inundated with messages from strangers on a daily basis. No one can read them all, and we can respond to even fewer. If you want to get someone’s attention on a dating app, it’s going to take more than “Hey.” (N.B. “Heyy” with multiple y’s and/or “Hey how are you,” “Hey sexy,” or some variation thereof, does not count as “more.”)
Fortunately, getting someone’s attention on a dating app is not nearly as complicated as all the articles about dating app fatigue make it out to be. You don’t need to suggest you get a dog together or weave some elaborate, slightly humorous story about how you ended up in the trunk of a stranger’s car that we all know you just keep in your notes app and copy and paste to every match in the hope that one will bite.
All you have to do is ask the person out. On a date. You know, like you would in real life. This move should be familiar to those of you who began dating in the pre-Tinder era, perhaps coming as a comforting callback to a simpler time when people met at bars or in elevators or whatever you all used to do. An early Tinder tagline, charged with the task of introducing the then-novel concept of app-dating to a world of eyebrow-raisers, explained the app as: “How people meet, like real life, only better.” That still holds true. Tinder, and its myriad successors, is like real life. Don’t overcomplicate it. Just ask the person out.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying you have to invite your Hinge match to a sex party. In fact, I’d even hazard that you probably shouldn’t. This particular man took a risk and it happened to pay off, but I cannot, in good conscience, suggest attempting to pick up a woman by telling her she gives off a strong sex dungeon vibe. Sure, the BDSM aspect gave his pitch an edge, but what really got my attention didn’t have anything to do with leather or paddles. All this man did to set himself apart from the pack was ask me out to a specific event on a specific date. You could do this! In fact, you should!
The idea of asking a stranger out relatively shortly after matching with them may seem daunting, especially to those who are new to dating apps. Yes, in the early days of Tinder the simple validation of getting romantic attention from a stranger on the internet may have been enough to keep a conversation going, but I can promise you the days of lengthy pre-date flirtation on those platforms have long since expired.
Related: 20 Things to Stop Doing on Dating Apps in 2020
Most people you’re likely to match with on a dating app have probably been on that app for years. They’re tired. So while it may seem natural to spend some time getting to know your match before you ask them out, no grown adult worth taking out in the first place actually has the time or energy to waste on shooting the shit with a rando on Tinder. If you try to keep a conversation going online for too long before meeting, only one of two things will happen: 1. The conversation will fizzle out and you’ll never meet in real life; or 2. You’ll have too much time and material to project some colossal fantasy onto the person to which they will inevitably pale in real life.
Take it from me, a seasoned app-dater who is at once young and haggard: If you have any intention of taking a connection off your phone and into the real world, it needs to be initiated ASAP. Here’s how to do that in three simple steps.
Ask Her Out
Ideally, this should be done in the first message for best results. Again, I know this may seem like an aggressive approach. Shouldn’t you ease your way in? Test the waters with humor? No. No one has time for that, and carrying on a conversation for too long before initiating an IRL meeting is actually more of a red flag in today’s online dating landscape than the opposite. Yes, back in 2013 the idea of texting back and forth with a Tinder match all day everyday was all the validation anyone needed or wanted from a dating app, but times have changed. If you spend too much time messaging, we assume you’re either a catfish or a flake. So, I repeat, just ask her out.
Related: Why Do We Keep Coming Up With Stupid Names for Dating Trends?
This can even be an effective way to resurrect a conversation that has fizzled. Sex party guy and I had exchanged a few messages back and forth a few weeks before he extended the invite that finally got me to leave the apartment.
Women love a man with a plan. A vague “I’d love to take you out for a drink sometime” is a start, but you’ll probably get further with “I’ve been meaning to check out this cool bar that just opened. Any interest in joining me Thursday night?”
This accomplishes two things.
1. It shows that you are a competent person who is capable of making plans. Wanna know a secret? This automatically puts you above the vast majority of men! Yes, the bar is really that low!
2. A specific event/location gives her some added incentive to say yes. I’ve gone out with guys I may not have otherwise agreed to go out with simply because they suggested a cool-sounding restaurant or a bar I’d always wanted to go to (or, you know, a sex party). Should the mere idea of going out with you be enough without any extra frills? Sure, maybe. But she doesn’t know you. If you want her to go out with you instead of any one of her hundreds of other matches, you’re going to need to sweeten the deal a little.
Suggesting specific plans also works to your benefit because it makes it seem more likely that those plans will actually happen. As you may have gathered, the dating app landscape is an extremely flakey place. Every day millions of app-daters make vague plans that never come to fruition. I just made that up, but it’s probably true. If you instead propose clear, concise plans, your prospective date will think, “Hey, it sounds like that date could actually happen,” which will make her more likely to agree to it.
However, please remember that even the best-laid plans do not actually exist if you don’t follow up day of. Made firm, solid plans to hit up Thursday’s sex party on Tuesday? Great. But you still have to follow up to confirm on Thursday, otherwise your date will assume you’ve flaked. In 2020, we all presume ourselves ghosted until proven otherwise.
The state of online dating today is a cynical affair, to be sure. But ultimately, it’s still just dating. Don’t overthink it. As Too Old to Date podcaster Brad Garoon told InsideHook last year, “If you pick the time and place to meet, make it a convenient location for your date, and confirm that it’s happening, you’re already doing better than a great portion of your competition.” Especially if that convenient location happens to be a BDSM dungeon.