It was April, halfway through quarantine, when I decided to jump on Tinder. I was equal parts lonely and bored, and hadn’t dated anyone since October. Although I knew I couldn’t go on actual, in-person dates thanks to lockdown, I still wanted a guy with whom I could chat and flirt. Maybe I could even practice some sexting with him or have a Zoom date like my friends were doing.
I had left New York City, where I’ve lived for 16 years, to shelter-in-place at my parents’ country home in New Hampshire. I figured from there, in the sanctuary of the woods and mountains, I could find someone interesting on Tinder. It’s not like my parents’ town of 10,000 people is bustling with excitement and with lockdown in place, I had nothing else better to do anyway.
So as someone who spends six to eight months of the year abroad, I decided to take advantage of the Tinder Passport feature that allows you to change your profile location to a few different countries. And, although my plans to travel through Southeast Asia in March and April had been derailed by the virus, I still planned to be in Europe by May, so I didn’t see the point in meeting someone who lived in the States.
With my profile in Madrid, I matched with Alejandro. Although originally from Catalonia, he was working in Madrid as a furniture maker (Hello, Aiden from SATC!), was well-educated, funny, and had that Spanish accent that makes the hair on the back of my neck rise in excitement. Alejandro was the first person I’d met in a long time who seemed to be on the same page as me intellectually, sexually, politically, culturally, and in so many other ways. There seemed to be long-term potential there, too, as at the time we matched, I had plans to move to Barcelona—plans that are currently on hold thanks to U.S. citizens being barred from the E.U.—and Madrid is just a short train ride away.
It was only a matter of days before we moved from Tinder to WhatsApp messaging, then to Zoom and FaceTime. We discussed our experiences in quarantine, the things we did before, the countries we had planned to travel to, our families, our friends, our pasts, our hopes for the future—all that stuff you cover on the first few dates with someone, but through technology instead. We even started following each other on Instagram, which is a big deal for me. Since I’m a writer who has written intimately about my life and relationships, one quick Google search of my name means anyone can know everything about me in a matter of seconds, including how I sent my cheating ex-husband horse shit. These are the type of things you want to mention over wine, face-to-face, so you can explain the reasons, include the necessary caveats, and answer questions before your date can jump to conclusions. But I never got that chance. In fact, I have no idea if he even Googled me at all.
Alejandro began following me a couple weeks before the murder of George Floyd, and within a matter of hours, my Instagram stories went from posts of my adorable dog and articles I’d written to posts about justice for Floyd, defunding the police, and the Trump-related racism that runs rampant in the United States. Shortly after Alejandro started following me, he ghosted me completely.
Although Alejandro’s disappearing act wasn’t immediate, he dwindled a bit, then was gone. After a few days of silence, I reached out to see if he was okay. He said he was fine, busy, and he’d message me later. He didn’t; it was like the last five weeks never happened.
While I realized I shouldn’t be hurt or waste any energy on some dude I’d never met, I still felt bummed and a bit paranoid. No matter how you sliced it, I felt ghosted. I spent some time wondering what I did wrong, rereading texts, analyzing previous conversations, and wondering if his roommate was actually his girlfriend. Alejandro had become a light in the darkness of the pandemic lockdown, and now he was gone.
I gave it a little over a week before I deleted his chat, as well as his number. But then just a couple days later, I heard from him.
There was no apology for disappearing, no admitting that he had ghosted me, just one sentence: “You’re just too political for me. I thought you were a fun girl.”
It didn’t make sense. We had discussed politics, feminism, and our disdain for Trump, but now I was “too political” for him? I didn’t respond, because I didn’t know how to respond. I wasn’t going to apologize or try to justify myself. I was just confused. While I know the political climate in Spain is different from in the States, George Floyd’s murder inspired protests all over the world. Breonna Taylor’s murder, while she slept in her bed, has enraged people on an international level, as have the deaths of Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black people killed by the police. Those who are “sworn to protect and serve” are committing murder and turning a blind eye to violence, especially against the transgender community. I’m angry and heartbroken that some people in the U.S. don’t value human lives, especially if those lives are Black. If “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so eloquently put it, then who the hell am I to just sit back, ignore the injustice around me, and post photos of avocado toast and me sipping rosé by the pool?
And although Prime Minister Sánchez of Spain isn’t inciting hate, spewing racist rhetoric, and calling the chokehold that killed Floyd and many others “innocent” and “perfect,” as Trump did, Spain (and the rest of the world), should be concerned by Trump’s behavior and the toxic environment he has created. People everywhere should give a damn and not slither away because someone is “too political” for them. If anything, Alejandro’s complaint that I was “too political” made me realize that I hadn’t been loud enough in my politics. I was raised in a very progressive, liberal family and while I’ll take to my soapbox from time to time, I know now that isn’t enough.
A few days after his text, Alejandro messaged me again to let me know I was “too much” for him, as if I hadn’t put two and two together with his previous comment. This time, fired up by Trump’s pathetic photo op in front of St. John’s Church, I told him that I didn’t care what he thought—this was not a time in history, no matter where you lived, to remain silent. Although Alejandro agreed when I brought this up, saying, “yeah, things are crazy in the U.S. right now,” it felt halfhearted; this topic deserves far more than that response. This is what I believe and what I need a partner to believe—whether that partner is short-term, long-term, or a week-long fling.
I’ve since gotten off Tinder. In a historical moment of such social unrest, browsing dating apps feels obtuse and tone-deaf to me when I could instead be doing something more substantial to help the movement in my downtime. Do my decisions to stop using dating apps, post political things on Instagram, and protest when I can make me too political, or boring, or not a “fun girl?” Maybe. But being apolitical, especially now, doesn’t suit me. So that’s Alejandro’s loss, not mine. I guess he wasn’t a good match for me after all.