2023 is winding down, the holidays are coming, and tons of people will head back to their hometowns for the celebration. Traveling home for the holidays is a funny experience. You’re headed somewhere you know intimately, but it’s different now that you’re not there. Are your old friends still the same? Did your favourite cafe survive the pandemic and all the economic weirdness after? Are your old hook-ups in town? Are there new people you haven’t seen before?
First: Just use Tinder
If you’re looking for a hookup, Tinder is your best bet, full stop. It’s quick, it’s straightforward, most people have it, and there isn’t a lot you have to do to set up a profile. “It’s bound to be incredibly depressing, extremely funny, or a straight-up good time,” says Don G., a 32-year-old Brooklynite heading back to Pennsylvania for Christmas who plans on using Tinder once he is back in town. He anticipates scrolling across at least one “high school flame” and seeing what they’re doing. With any luck, it’ll be him.
“Hinge and Bumble always felt a bit commitment-oriented,” he says. “If that’s your vibe, by all means, pop off, but I think Tinder is the standard for hometown swiping. It has a reputation for a reason, and it brings the least amount of messy pretence into any hangout.” Hinge and Bumble do have a reputation as more commitment-oriented, though Carmela, a 20-something New Yorker who heads home to Michigan a lot, adds that you’re less likely to encounter someone who’s already married on Hinge than you are on the others, at least in her experience. If you’re not trying to cause any familial drama, you might want to keep that in mind. All the major apps offer the option to declare openly on your profile what you’re looking for, so just be sure to indicate that you’re looking for a quick hookup and nothing more.
A good rule of thumb is to also stay away from specialty apps, as they’re not likely to yield many results. Some, such as Feeld, are really centred around urban hubs, so unless you’re returning to a larger city, you probably won’t have much luck.
Second: Be strategic, but kind
As mentioned, it’s important to be upfront about what, exactly, you’re looking for. Don advises you should “be as transparent about your intentions as possible.” That’s a good guideline for dating app use in general, so as always, be clear and honest about your intentions. Communication is key to ensuring both parties are on the same page and comfortable with the encounter.
Be mindful about how you set your preferences, too. As Don pointed out, you’re likely to run across people you used to know. Whether or not that—and the possibility of them gossiping around town about seeing you on there—bothers you depends on your own preferences, but you do have to accept it as a reality before you go in. Have a plan in place for if and when this happens. If you really don’t want to engage with anyone you know, no problem. Tinder now has an option for you to hide your profile from certain people in your phone contacts. If you don’t have their number, just commit to the old-fashioned way of swiping left on them. If you don’t mind possibly having a one-night stand with a former homecoming king or that shy girl who was somehow always your cashier at the grocery store, prepare what you’ll say when you meet up. Setting your preferences to avoid that altogether can work, but it brings a new set of problems. Carmela says she sets her age range to 34 and above when she visits home, but ends up seeing former professors and co-workers instead of old classmates. Something awkward may well happen no matter what you do. Just choose your awkward.
Still, don’t let this deter you. Even in the smallest towns, you may be able to find someone you don’t know and enjoy a holiday hookup. Be clear about your intentions and just have fun. As Don says, “Don’t take it too seriously… unless you want to. Even then, just remember you’re going back to your normal life three days later, and they will be, too.”
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