Columbia College junior Emily Bauer has conditioned herself to swipe left on the legions of men from other universities she sees on the popular dating app Tinder, citing an instinctive revulsion to happiness and self-worth.
Regardless of whether their pictures display them proudly flaunting a prize sea-bass, toting an assault rifle as a compensation mechanism, hanging out with eerily similar fraternity members or hugging their fiances, any male Bauer catches with a discernible expression of fleeting joy instantly gets rejected.
“I guess I’m just not into the whole ‘self-confidence’ or ‘contentment’ thing,” she said. “They just aren’t emotions that Columbia students have in common with other places.”
Bauer said that the pick-up lines she receives from students at other schools tend to hint at the unbridgeable divide.
“They use so many winky-faced emoticons. I’m just not prepared for that kind of energy in my life,” she said. “Or they’re posting pictures of themselves at the gym, or visiting Brooklyn, or going to concerts.”
“Aside from taking the train to the airport, I’ve actually never left Morningside Heights,” Bauer said. “And my main form of exercise is running to class hungover.”
She once went out on a date with a philosophy student at NYU who got her front-row seats to the New York Philharmonic. The couple then went on a tender late-night walk along the Hudson, gazing into each other's eyes in the soft light of the stars.
But despite his model contract with Dolce & Gabbana, Bauer said that the NYU student’s unflagging enthusiasm and “almost sinister” cheerfulness drove her off.
In comparison, Bauer said, she has much more to draw on in her flirtations with Columbia students.
“They’re usually sallow, badly dressed and hungry, which are all things I can relate to,” she said, “and I find their casual sociopathy really endearing. Like one time, I met an editor for this undergrad literary magazine who was describing rejecting a bright-eyed first year, and it was so hot.”
In addition, Bauer said that the international, cosmopolitan character of the dating scene on campus had added immeasurably to her romantic experience. She said that her Tinder matches were always introducing her to new sights and restaurants in Morningside.
“I met this guy last week who showed me this great coffee place in NoCo. I was so impressed,” she sighed. “But it turns out we’re in the same discussion section for our Global Core class, so I had to stop talking to him.”
She has, however, matched with the course TA, who she plans to meet up with to discuss their mutual interest in Late Pharaonic Period hieroglyphics and shadowy liaisons in the Butler Stacks. Bauer said that she doesn’t expect Tinder to help her find a committed relationship.
“Going to Columbia, I learned very quickly not to devote myself to unrealistic expectations of romantic love,” she said. “As Socrates explains in The Republic, that’s really only possible between retirees and teenage boys.”
Bauer’s dire appraisal of the prospects of finding a soulmate at Columbia was mirrored by some of her former Tinder matches. Alexei Suganov, a senior in the School of General Studies, said that his childhood spent fighting as a mercenary in the Caucasus had trained him for dating at Columbia.
“When you’re loading a grenade into an RPG-launcher as an Azerbaijani tank rumbles over the hill in front of you, you really don’t have time to stop and ponder the deeper questions in life, like what makes you happy or whether you should really swipe right on somebody with a nose ring,” Suganov said.
“But ultimately life is short, you’re desperate and you have to pull the trigger. And that’s why I’m leaving this university as a dad.”
Bauer, reserving comment, started to laugh bleakly as her phone dinged to indicate another match. She looked down in nervous anticipation before grimacing and unmatching.
“His bio says live, laugh, love,” she said. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”