Op-Ed: My Troubles With Dating on Tinder in Denver

How do you find the right man?
Brandon Marshall
How do you find the right man?

Months into COVID-19, I re-downloaded Tinder for the seventh time this year. I had sworn off it, swearing the app would never see my phone again. But after mindless scrolling through my Instagram and texting the same five prospects in rotation, I found myself swiping left, rejecting most — and then right every now and then.

As I made my way through the men of Colorado, most looked the same: a white, fit, dog-owning mountain guy who loved drinking beer and has plenty of money to spend. Variety? Not so much.

Having returned from Atlanta in May 2019, where there were Black men from cities all over the country who carried degrees and were used to dealing with women of color like myself, these Mile High guys were not what I was used to or looking for. From what I could tell, I wasn’t the kind of person they appeared to be hanging out with in the pictures they were posting. Their friends were just like them and nothing like me. I’m a Black and Chicana woman with curly hair, Aztec tattoos and a healthy obsession with Spike Lee films. My interests don’t involve dogs or Columbia fleeces, and I’m not a brewery fanatic.

So whenever I expressed interest by swiping right on one of these craft-brew mountain men, I was almost as shocked to find out they were as interested in me as I was turned off by their messages: “You’re beautiful. What race are you?” or “You like white guys? I lucked out!”

That does not flatter me, and it damn sure does not get a date out of me. Even if I did date them, it wouldn’t last long. Who could afford to?

These Tinder bros reminded me of my high school classmates: young white men in long-sleeved T-shirts from Patagonia, salmon-pink khaki shorts two inches above their knees, and Nike socks with Birkenstocks. They dated girls in Lululemon leggings and would drive to the mountains for weekend jaunts in Subarus and Jeeps given to them by their parents.

Their girlfriends feverishly posted to Instagram pictures of themselves in bikinis, posing with their best friend, hands on each other’s hips, blowing air kisses to one another in front of a frat house or on the beach. They were uniform in their style, and the expensive lives they led were financed with their parents’ money. Mine was not.

Whenever I’d come back to Denver on Christmas vacation or get a late-night Facebook friend request, they’d always greet me the same way: a little catching up and then something along the lines of “I always had a crush on you in high school.”

They’d try to court me or touch me, but when it came to dating me, that was impossible. To date in Denver, you need money, and money is something I’ve never had in abundance.

Let’s do some math. To be the ideal Denver girlfriend, you have to invest in your appearances. You’re expected to have had a Brazilian wax. That costs $50. Eyelash extensions run around $200 a month. A regular trim for hair? An average price is $75 — and God forbid you have “ethnic” hair. While Denver boasts a bounty of gyms, yoga and cross-fit studios, monthly memberships are around $150.

You want to eat food? Well, you gotta watch that diet. Alternative healthy options for groceries can easily rack up $200 a month. We cannot forget a natural-looking spray tan, which will cost around $300 a month to maintain.

Now that we’ve got the fundamentals of our looks down, it’s important that the lifestyle matches. As a young single professional, you want to live somewhere cool. Whether it be the Eastside (RiNo), the Northside (Highland) or Cap Hill, rent will clock in at over $1,500 a month.

Hot men will want to go to Breckenridge for fun, so you need $1,000 for an Epic Pass — assuming you already own a snowboard or skis and all the accompanying gear and don’t need to pay for lessons.

We can’t assume that some handsome stud will give us a ride to the slopes in his 2018 Toyota 4 Runner, so let’s not forget the $20 for gas to drive a 200-mile minimum to the mountains and back, not to mention the cost of owning and maintaining a car.

Let’s say he also wants to hit one of the breweries around town; that’s easily a smooth $20. And afterward, you two just want to hit the dispensary and cuddle; there’s another $20.

All this is to say, Denver’s a great city for dating for those who can afford it — or are willing to rack up the debt.

COVID-19 seems to have shifted some men's priorities, since many of these pricey outings are no longer options. With many of the city's expenses temporarily paused or scarcely available thanks to the pandemic, the influx of casual middle-class colonizers wishing to waste my time has grown. Suddenly, that I am a Spike Lee enthusiast, secondhand wearing, outspoken black-and-brown girl seems to matter less and less.

But there's another issue.
Matching with Tinder bros is tiresome, because regardless of whether there’s some sort of mutual attraction, there’s a set of questions I have to ask: “Who did you vote for?” “Do you wear a mask?” “Do Black lives matter?” “How’s work going for you given the pandemic?” — all questions I never thought I’d have to ask to decide if I want to go out with someone or if I’m even safe. And these men's answers are rarely satisfying.

Maybe it's time to delete Tinder again and go find some real men.