Aristotle attended Plato’s Academy at the tender age of 18. Bill Gates was just 20 when he co-founded Microsoft, Oprah was 32 when she earned her first million and I was nearly 19 when I discovered the dating app Tinder.
First, it’s necessary to note that I am not the intended Tinder audience. As a Muslim girl who dons the hijab – you know, “that thing” people constantly ask if I will get killed for removing – I’m probably not the sort of person most guys in South Mississippi expect to see pop up on their screen. The hijab combined with my blue contacts (honestly, why is this still a question I get? Of course they aren’t real) and incredibly original food metaphors (“I put the Hiba in Hibachi”) make me an automatic right swipe for a lot of people.
I mean, I’m assuming.
My 600 matches are always somewhat mind-blowing to me because, despite accusations to the contrary, I am not a nice person. I am honest to a fault. I am enthused by cheese sticks and corny humor, cloudy skies and making people uncomfortable. Somehow, 600 young men in the Hattiesburg area were willing to take that chance, and consequently, I’ve learned a few things.
Never miss a local story.
First, I have one automatic right swipe of my own – guys holding fish in their profile pictures. I send them all the same first message: “Nice minnow! :-)”
The response is always something along the lines of “hahaha that’s funny.”
You can hear the asphyxia in those 16 letters. You can see the pain between each letter of that macho laughter.
“Like me please,” each character begs. “Validate me again!”
I don’t answer. A few minutes later, they’ll inevitably say, “What’s up?”
It’s suave. It makes it sound like they don’t care. They can do bigger things. Let them show me.
But this is where I show them mercy. This is where I level the playing field.
“Just my cholesterol,” I say, and pleasantly surprised, they laugh again. They can see a future together. They can see our entwined wrinkled hands reaching for statins at the local pharmacy.
This brings me to my next lesson – honesty begets hilarity, even when I don’t tell my own truths. I don’t have high cholesterol. I’m not as foreign as I pretend to be. I’m not The Proclaimers’ number one fan. But if you act embarrassed enough, people will believe anything.
I have a whole legion of frat boys in Hattiesburg and the surrounding area convinced that my head will spontaneously combust if I pull my hijab off, and the only way to stop it is to traverse the Tibetan mountains seven times by Toggenburg goat.
Of course, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I often find myself incapable of responding at all. The other day, someone randomly messaged me “ISIS?”
Was he asking? Was he legitimately concerned that I’ve partnered with a militant group and thought the quickest way to complete my mission was to download a hookup app?
If ISIS is a bunch of overly confident girls in frilly frocks trolling frat boys on Tinder, maybe we’ve been going about this whole war thing the wrong way.
Hiba Tahir is a writer at the Student Printz, the student newspaper of the University of Southern Mississippi.