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31 Jul

Can you truly "want" someone who exists solely on a phone?

Over the next few days, her photos get more and more explicit: Here she is in a bikini, here she is out of the bikini.

Nope, nope, liked, nope, liked, liked, nope: This is what romance looks like on Tinder, the fastest-growing mobile dating service in the nation, and either the most superficial one to be invented or the one most honest about the primal instincts that have been drawing strangers to each other since the beginning of time.

Using the magic of GPS, Tinder finds potential mates nearby and presents them to you.

Making our maybe-date more awkward is the fact that Ashley and I have already covered, via text, the most time-honored icebreakers. I'm confident this is going to be the night that converts me into a Tinder proselytizer.

So what we mainly talk about is Tinder, rationalizing why we're "on it," trying to convey to the other that we're not really "Tinder types." Over a six-week period, most of my Tinder-to-reality experiences follow this narrative arc: the excitement of digitized potential fading the moment it's actualized. She sidles right up next to me and wraps her arm around my waist (good sign! But the moment Maya takes her shot, a friend materializes out of nowhere, grabbing her arm and yanking her into the crowd.

Our conversation is effortless and flirty, and we don't realize we're the last ones in the restaurant until the waiter politely tells us they're trying to close.

An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man.

The cougar can be anyone from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie or milf.

Because Tinder is purposely casual, rendering indistinguishable the boundaries between those looking to hang out, hook up, and get hitched, I'm not even sure, as I leave to meet Ashley, if I should think of this as a "date." Whatever it is, I wish I could report that it turns out to be life-changing, and that, as I write this sentence, Ashley is in the next room, reading the paper in a forearm stand, wearing nothing but lingerie and trusting that I'll accurately convey the glories that have bloomed between us.

But the truth is, the moment I see Ashley at the bar of a dimly lit restaurant in the French Quarter, I know exactly where this is going. It isn't that she isn't beautiful, but physical attraction is a beguiling force: instantaneous, , one no amount of digital chemistry can will into existence.