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A lady’s guide to Tinder etiquette

etiquette |ˈe-ti-kət, -ˌket |


1. rules of behavior considered polite and proper

2. rules of behavior considered polite and proper, completely nonexistent in the Tinder universe—except in men over 60 and Swedes

Let’s assume you were raised in an environment encouraging manners and promoting at least a modicum of old-fashioned courteousness. You’d probably have certain expectations of men, or a man’s role, in the world of romance. Most of these expectations have been neutered by the women’s movement. And regardless of one’s opinion of said movement, we are dealing with how the world operates today, where a gal is expected to raise the children and bring home the turkey bacon, sauté it up in a pan (with a side of quinoa), and never, ever, ever let him forget he’s a man.

So when, for whatever reason, you are tossed back into the dating world, you aspire to do it correctly, retain your dignity, and hopefully have reasonable expectations of being treated with respect, kindness, and—at the very least—better than your ex or the last douche-bag (d-bag, for short) you dated treated you.

For you, I present the following Tinderquette rules to assist you in navigating these muddled and often sexually confused waters.

Who Tinders first?

You have mutually liked each other. Who makes the first move? Who sends that first Tinder text message?

This scenario should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, contingent upon individual preferences and conventions. Personally, I always wait for the man to text first. This generally results in him not texting at all, therefore telling me he isn’t really into me in the first place . . . or he is married and got busted by the wife.

I just spent 14 years in a bad relationship—either being ignored, engaged in some form of nagging, or trying to locate Mr. Wonderful so I could beg him to “come home from work” and help with the broken dishwasher, sick kids, or worm-filled dogs. (Note: Mr. Wonderful was at Soho House with his mistress. No phones allowed.) So I sure as hell don’t want to chase a dude on Tinder!

If a man is interested, he’ll text you. If he doesn’t, he isn’t.

Having said that, I have many friends who have no problem ticking down their list of Tinder matches, dropping a cut-and-pasted “Hey” into every box, and then waiting to see what sticks. These are generally confident and efficient women. They also tend to be gals who like to bring home the turkey bacon, fry it, and remind him he’s a man. And they can do it all at once, whilst rocking heels.

Me? I’m not so good at multitasking.

Regardless of your approach, it’s all good and fine. Though, personally, I urge you to wait. See if he is truly interested. If he can’t take three seconds to text you, then he’s not worth your time.

Can I ask a dude out?

If you must, then do . . . but it’s Tinder, so chances are he will think you want to get laid. And if you do only want to get laid, then please see “Safety and Online Dating” by ESME’s Kathleen Laccinole, or watch Looking for Mr. Goodbar one more time.

Who pays?

There are two ways to go:

1. He who smelt it dealt it.

Although this might be the world’s greatest fart joke, it is also the standard for online daters. According to Emily Post’s Etiquette Daily, the rule of thumb for dating is, unless it’s decided in advance that the date will be Dutch, the person who asks pays.

Some truly awesome men like to be extremely clear in advance that they would like to treat you to a well-deserved meal, and we adore these men for their ability to communicate: “I’d love to take you out to dinner Saturday night.” When the bill comes on Saturday night, do not reach for you purse.

Wild cards:

  • He asks you out, but you make more money. This dude should be creative. He can plan something thoughtful but not expensive: a hike, a picnic, a free concert. If he asks you out and doesn’t attempt to pay—he’s looking for a sugar mama. Swipe on.
  • He asks you out, but you don’t feel comfortable with him paying for you. Let’s say you are a chick who insists on complete equality in all matters and that a dude paying for your dinner represents the objectification of women and the end of the world as we know it. Remember, you are trying to do better than the last d-bag who didn’t adore you or put you on a pedestal. You deserve to be courted.

If paying for yourself makes you feel happy, gooey, squishy, and bunny-rabbit sunny, then by all means go for it. But I strongly suggest letting him pay for date number one. You are setting a precedent. And even if you like to bring home the turkey bacon, chop it up, and make clams casino (please call me if you do), don’t you at least want a dude who’d be willing to do it for you if you are dieting or going kosher?

  • You ask him out, and he very clearly makes more money: If you ask, you pay.

But . . . if you’ve been texting for weeks; he’s bragged to you about his great job, his boat, and his fabulous life; he suggests a pricey wine bar, wherein you order two glasses of the fabulous, pricey red that he recommends; and then when the bill comes, he doesn’t offer to pay or tells you “what you owe,” swipe left! He’s cheap, insensitive, or a “narcissist”— just like your ex.

The other option in the “who pays” conundrum is to . . .

2. Go Dutch.

Dutch treat |ˈdəch |ˈtrēt |


A saying indicating each person participating in a group activity pays for him- or herself: therefore letting you off the hook if you never want to see said dude again, or worse—feel you owe him a blow job (BJ) if the restaurant is really nice.

Going Dutch is very acceptable in online dating where every first date is a blind date. Communication is key and will make for a more relaxed meeting. Be casual. Be nice. Be up front. If he asks you out for a glass of wine, you say, “That would be great. Dutch treat!” [smiley-face emoticon]

Note: If you are on date number four—having already gone on date number three (aka the sex date), and on these previous dates he brought you to Tender Greens, Chipotle, and a cheap Thai restaurant that he loves—and there is a tiny voice in your head saying, I wish he’d pick up the bill for once because he’s posted pictures of himself all over Facebook taking all sorts of women (primarily young, blonde, and with big tits) to all sorts of five-star restaurants and resort vacations, and I’m feeling a little put off by this, then please, swipe on! Your turkey bacon–filled gut is always correct. He is using you as a “backup plan.” He is using you for sex (and, I imagine, not good sex). In short, he’s a d-bag.

No matter whats

  • Do not date men for a free meal.
  • Do not expect a free meal.
  • Do not run up the bill if you know he’s paying.
  • If you suggest something beyond what he’s planned (e.g., dancing at an expensive new club), you pay for it.
  • If you absolutely know you will never see him again, insist on paying your portion of the bill (karma).
  • Do not conveniently go to the restroom when the bill comes.
  • Do not conveniently grab a phone call and “need to step outside” when the bill comes.
  • If he pays the bill, offer to buy him dessert, or tell him you’d like to take him out in the future.
  • And, finally, if he manages to pay the bill without you even knowing, leaving you with zero awkwardness—grab on, hang on, and consider giving him a BJ in the car. He’s for keeps!

Always let the dude have the last text

I know it’s tempting to keep typing, to send that one last kissy face or flower. “But he’s so darling, P. Charlotte.” You are crazy about him. “I think he’s the one, P. Charlotte.” I know you are having SO much fun. “Oh, P. Charlotte, I could totally text with him all night.”


Make sure you are the first one to sign off. Do NOT send that one FINAL “Night night.” [No kissy-face emoticon. No sleepy-face emoticon. Not even a noncommittal half-moon emoticon.]

Because if you do, in his mind he will hear you say, “Gosh, golly, gee, I am so in love with you! I want to keep talking to you 4-ever! I am needy! You can walk all over me. PLEASE treat me like a doormat.” [sleepy-face emoticon]


Never answer the phone on the first call

Let it go to voice mail.

It tells him you are busy. You aren’t waiting around for some dude to call you. You’ve got things to do, empires to conquer. You are Sasha Fierce. You are P. Charlotte Lindsay. If he wants you, he’s going to have to leave a message, stand in line, and wait his turn. You will get to him when you get to him. (Which is generally, and unfortunately, in about an hour, but really should be 24 hours.)

(Note: This stimulates the onset of Jessica Alba Syndrome, except this time you are Jessica Alba.)

If you DO pick up the phone on his first call, in his mind he hears you screaming, “Gosh, golly, gee, I am so in love with you! I want to talk to you 4-ever! I am needy! You can walk all over me. PLEASE treat me like a doormat.” [kissy-face emoticon]

Do not screw him in his car on the first date

You’ve had way too much to drink because you are lonely, and this is the only night you can get a sitter for the next month, and you haven’t had sex in a year, and did I mention you’ve had way too much to drink?

If you do screw him in his car, in his mind he hears you ROARING, “Oh gosh, golly, gee, I am so in love with you, you sexy beast! I want you SO much, even though you have a butter stain on your pants. I am needy! You can walk all over me. PLEASE treat me like a doormat.” [fingers-into-fist emoticon]

But if you do happen to screw him on the first date, and you feel ashamed and a little whorish the next morning—which you aren’t—delete!

It’s as if it never happened.


Swipe on!

P. Charlotte Lindsay is a middle-aged Solo Mom. She shares her newfound expertise as a user of a dating app that can help you meet guys, get laid, and maybe even find love. She is a real person, though her name has been changed to protect the innocent, namely her children and parents. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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