Black Travel Stories: Tinder Sent Me Across the Country to Find Love
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Dating tends to be feast or famine for me. I’m either in a committed relationship or single single and haven’t had a date in months. Add to that my hectic schedule as a freelance travel writer means I’m typically on a flight twice a month. So when Tinder reached out asking if I’d like to take a dating challenge, I said why not?

I used Tinder before. But the good folks at the dating app set me up with Tinder Gold, which opened up a few additional features including changing my location. While you typically swipe on people based on your current geographic location, the Passport feature let me change my location to anywhere in the world, essentially opening up the dating pool. I love living in Brooklyn, but the options in my borough started to feel like slim pickings, so I changed my location to Oakland. The Bay has always felt like home since I visited for the first time 10 years ago. The plan was to head to Oakland and go on some dates after a few weeks of swiping.

I immediately noticed something. Where are the black men? This is the Bay, right? Should I have chosen a different city? I swear it felt like I had to swipe by at least three dozen men before I came across a fine melanated brother.

Per usual, there were the guys who wouldn’t initiate contact or those who lacked conversational skills (“hey beautiful, wyd?” isn’t an opening line!), but I had some great convos with a handful of men. I made it clear I would only be in Oakland for a few days but would love to connect.

My goal was to have three dates planned and it worked out perfectly. Or so I thought.

There was J* who was too attractive for words. He was surprisingly taller than I expected, about 6’4” and had a casual cool style. If theres a celeb I’d have to compare him to, it would be Michael B. Jordan. His cuffed khakis fit perfectly and a canary yellow tee let me know he clearly wasn’t afraid of rocking the boldest colors. As a consultant for a tech firm, I guess this was a break from his normal 9 to 5 style. We grabbed a drink a few hours after I landed. I typically avoid going into details and telling people what I do for a living when we first meet and J reminded me why. I previously told him I was a writer but didn’t specify what type of writing or for what publications. But as he pressed and as the drinks flowed, I shared more about my career in media. His eyes lit up and the tech guy started telling me how he wanted to start his own business for black travelers and told me how he needed to “pick my brain.” It started to feel like a networking function versus a date.

The next morning I woke up to a text from M* asking what my plans were for the day. In his Tinder photos, M wasn’t exactly my type physically. Dark skin, locs and a nice smile made it easy to swipe right but he appeared a bit short and he was wearing those shoes your uncle wears when he’s cheffing it up on the grill! But after we started chatting on the phone, he told me he worked with a community organization in Oakland that assisted folks with housing and I could tell he was passionate about his work which was a major turn on. After communicating consistently for two weeks, I can honestly say we were digging each other. I told him I’d absolutely be free for dinner or breakfast the next day.

In the meantime I had to get ready for my Saturday afternoon date with Q*. Q was probably just under six feet tall but had the type of swag and confident walk that would have made me do a double take if I saw him on the train in Brooklyn. He kinda sorta looked like his pics so when I saw a handsome man walking toward me and smiling, I figured it was him. Dark skin, bald head and a frame that made it clear he worked out, which once he gave me a tight hug, I confirmed this to be true. As an attorney he seemed just as uninterested in talking about his job as I was about talking about my writing career, especially after the incident with J. I told him I loved fried chicken and a good dessert so we met at Bakesale Betty and hopped in an Uber to Lake Merritt. The convo was a bit stale at times but I appreciated a thoughtful man and he genuinely seemed interested in showing me the city. We walked around for a few and when he headed to the restroom, I checked my phone to see if there was any word from M about our possible date tonight. No word. Q and I wrapped up our afternoon and he put me in an Uber to head back to my hotel.

8pm. Still no word from M. He finally texted around 10:30 telling me how busy his day was but made no mention of us meeting up the next morning, as he knew my trip was coming to an end. I gave a polite, “oh okay” instead of really wanting to say “what happened to tonight or what about tomorrow morning!!!!???” Oh well.

Did I notice a difference with the men of Oakland versus Brooklyn? Not. At. All. I went from one gentrified area to another where the selection of black men felt even slimmer and each coast has no shortage of men who are either focused more on ladder climbing or those who just don’t follow through.

I went back home and never heard from M.

J texted a few times and tracked me down on LinkedIn.

Q and I have texted a few times, but I feel more of a flirtatious friendship versus romantic companionship and I’m actually okay with that. We plan to hang out when he comes to BK.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this dating challenge but it confirmed I’m in no rush for anything that doesn’t feed my needs or feel right. After years of giving too much when it wasn’t reciprocated and bickering with men who were only situationships at best, my energy can only tolerate peace, whether that means a nice date or a lifetime with someone.

I’m entering my heavy travel season and I’ll be on the road for two weeks straight. Maybe I’ll swipe again and see what I find in a different zip code. Wish me luck.

*names have been changed to protect the identities of the subjects. *

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