I’ve been dating in Denver for four and a half years, and the experiences I’ve had on Tinder are very similar to those depicted in Marie Wilde’s “My Troubles With Dating on Tinder in Denver.” To be truthful, dating on Tinder in Denver isn’t for me, either. I’m a definite outlier when it comes to the dating pool. Like Wilde, I’m biracial, and I don’t care much for breweries, rock climbing, skiing, SUVs and waking up at the crack of dawn on my days off to drive hours to crowded hiking trails. While I disagree that some pricey personal-care services like eyelash extensions, bikini waxes and spray tans are necessary to attract a partner, Wilde nailed the economic difficulties of trying to fit into mainstream Denver culture — that is to say, poor people need not apply.
The intersection of class and race in Denver is a whole other long-form expository undertaking which I don’t have the desire to write, although I’m sure there are tens of graduate-level dissertations on the subject available, so let’s move past that. The point I’m here to make, which enraged my white, flannel-wearing, share-the-road, rock-climbing ex BIG MAD, is that Denver isn’t cool. There is culture, if you know where to look, but white-dominated spaces are often not welcoming, are expensive and cater to whiteness. It often feels hollow for a city of this size, especially if you’re looking at a dating app where men generally have the same sets of interests: outdoor sports, their beards, partying with their bros, and telling you not to take yourself seriously — which I’ve begun to read as a dog whistle for both being “apolitical” and not taking accountability for their actions. Not to mention unexamined casual racism, probably fed to them by Joe Rogan’s podcast. If he gets most of his views from the former host of Fear Factor, do not sleep with him, sis: Just leave.
The comments on Westword’s Facebook page in response to Marie Wilde are par for the course for any social media comment section regarding criticism of men, especially white men, but there are some notable misunderstandings I found interesting, the first of which is the ol’ “reverse racism” (spoiler alert: It’s not real). Here’s the thing: Denver is predominantly white, and when you splice it by age demographic and location (Wilde did not specify the ranges she uses on Tinder, unfortunately), you’re not going to find the minorities you are looking for. Someone in the comments hilariously referred to the River North District as “Little Nashville.” For those new to Denver, there is missing historical context: RiNo didn’t exist fifteen years ago. Before the gentrification of the area and the explosion of luxury apartments and townhomes and ubiquitous tech bros, it was called Five Points, and was a black enclave for much of the twentieth century. Denver had culture; it just got pushed out — mostly to the suburbs, or out of state. That’s why most of the authentic restaurants are westward near Federal, or out in Aurora, if you’re “brave” enough to venture there. It’s also why the grocery stores in lower-income areas have nicknames like “The UnSafeway.”
If one were to reverse the author’s gender and race (assuming a couple of binaries between male and female, black and white), the piece wouldn’t be as egregious as many commenters speculated, because white men aren’t lacking in the dating pool for like-minded partners who have similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I’m not espousing that method for seeking a partner, just pointing out that white men in Denver don’t have to make sure that the person they’re swiping understands and agrees that the systemic inequalities inherent in our society exist and affect them daily.
I like Denver, but before I moved here, I had never experienced the “Go back to where you came from” attitude — from both transplants and people born here. I expect the response to my opinions will be some version of “If you don’t like it here, leave,” which would be a heavy financial undertaking not available to most, as well as a further perpetuation of Denver’s whiteness. I’ve long since stopped using Tinder, but it doesn’t matter, the same bros are on all the apps. Hinge is my favorite, because nothing says “I love weed, but fuck poor people” like setting your political views to “Moderate.” Before you assume it might be better if you date women, I’ll out myself and tell you that the women are much the same, just with nose rings and braggy social media posts about how they don’t shower or brush their hair.
These are all generalizations, sure, but at the end of the day, after I’ve left-swiped 47 dudes with the five same Biblical names, liking The Office STILL isn’t a personality.
Erika Gill is a human-shaped dandelion fluff blown into Denver by way of flight-attendant base assignment. That didn’t last; she now works in tech. She grew up primarily in Victorville, California, which is notable only in being the filming location of The Hills Have Eyes. She's written for Los Angeles Loyolan as well as 303 Magazine. Her creative work is featured in birdy and Angel City Review.
Westword.com frequently publishes op-eds and essays on issues of interest to the Denver community on weekends. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also respond to this piece.