Why, despite everything, I won't be trying dating apps

Yes, my love life may be in need of a spark, but I won’t use Tinder to get the flames going.

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A friend recently suggested that I go on Tinder. For those who do not know, this is apparently an “app”, or, as I prefer to call it, an “application”, which one downloads on to one’s mobile telephone. One posts a flattering photograph of oneself and waits for bored and frustrated people to say, in effect, that they’d like to meet you. This is generally understood, sometimes a little too swiftly, to mean: “I would like to have sex with you.”

There are several reasons why I have not taken up my friend’s suggestion. For a start, I did not have a mobile phone sophisticated enough to download any kind of app at all. It was a spare, replacement phone for the one I got about five years ago, the shuttle craft to its Enterprise, as it were. But then that was five years ago and the big phone, cutting-edge when I got it (Ah! 2011! Who could forget those heady days? Summer riots! The royal wedding! The Alternative Vote referendum! Having a girlfriend!), became obsolete shortly afterwards, and non-operational last year, and at first I didn’t bother to replace it. However, lately it decided that texts were beyond its capabilities and the battery also seemed to have given up. (Whatever its shortcomings, the baby phone could last for four days without needing to be recharged, so maybe you can see why I hung on to it for so long.)

Well, I now have a replacement, bang up-to-date, but this is not a technology column (I also wonder if there’s anything more boring than a phone story), and so we now get to the real reason I am not going to go on Tinder, and that is because it is, I strongly suspect, a young person’s game, and there is no way even I can kid myself that I am young any more. It’s not so bad if the lighting is right and I keep my mouth shut. Because if I keep my mouth shut then no one can see my teeth.

My teeth . . . Someone sent me a photo of me he’d taken some time around 1985 and recently rediscovered. In it, I am looking sidelong at the camera and baring my teeth in a mock grimace.

I am mesmerised by those teeth. They have not been wrecked by decades of red wine and tobacco. They are white. White! (For what it’s worth, my old hair is dark and thick, as opposed to pale and thin, but at least I still have some.) Also, there is no gap between the front two teeth in the top row and the front two teeth in the bottom row. How did that gap happen? Have I been gnawing on cables, like a rodent? At least when one grinds one’s teeth in the still watches of the night it’s only the molars that
suffer. As it is, a long-running dispute between my molars and something going on underneath them has obliged me not to eat anything on the left side of my mouth for a year or two, so I can’t even grind my teeth in rage or despair any longer.

But I also look at the general state of my body. Considering what I do to myself, I suppose I’m lucky I still have one at all, and that the one I have is not confined to a wheelchair or the vicinity of a dialysis machine. But as I shave I contemplate the skin just above the armpit. It is beginning to look like old man’s skin. For some reason it’s worse on the right side. It is not the kind of skin, I suspect, that one looks forward to encountering in hook-up culture.

Anyway, it’s not about the sex, I realise. Sex is just the validation of a relationship, and from what I have learned about Tinder from clickbaity articles with headlines like “23 Stories About Tinder Dates That Will Make You Throw Your Phone Away”, it would appear that I am far from the mindset of the typical Tinder user. It must be age.

This time of year makes me think about the passage of time more than usual: we are running out of summer, and this September I will have racked up nine years in the Hovel, always intended as a temporary solution. If I stay here another nine years I will be 62. Sixty-two. My eldest child will be 30. Thirty. People say that with age comes wisdom but actually it’s simply exhaustion. One no longer has the energy to make a fool of oneself (or so one feels until one makes a fool of oneself again, which I did, rather badly, a couple of months ago).

There is, of course, another reason I’m not going on Tinder. There is a chance – admittedly a small one, but a chance nevertheless – that whoever I meet will be a reader of this magazine. And somehow, I feel that Sidney and Beatrice Webb would Not Approve.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 11 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, From the Somme to lraq