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Becky told me about a Marine she stopped dating after he told her he was “using a penis pump to get bigger for girls.” Now she sees him out and about all the time. “Unfortunately, New Bern does have that reputation,” says Natasha, a bartender, 29, “that most chicks in this town are trying to get pregnant to trap a guy.” Almost no one I met dates online, which makes sense: If you live in a small town, chances are you like a tight community where everyone knows your name, rather than internet strangers.From what I could glean, the local servers, bartenders, and chefs in town just sleep with one another.I settled on saying I was “considering moving” to each city; a white lie, but one that seemed to elicit much more respectful and normal interactions.I’ve changed all the guys' names.)The bar scene, on the other hand, was a blast, at least as the new girl in town. That’s the feeling that rises up in my throat whenever anyone asks me the totally non-condescending question of why I’m still single, which I’ve answered so many times in so many tones (“Just haven't met the right guy, I guess! There was the guy who kept taking calls from a number he’d labeled “Happy Happy Fun Time,” which turned out to be his drug dealer. I've met guys in bars, at parties, while snowboarding, through friends, and online via Ok Cupid, Match, Tinder, Hinge, Happn, Bumble, The League, How About We, Coffee Meets Bagel, and even Nerve.com, a site for “literary smut” that hosted online personals in that early-aughts dark age before smartphones.Had I not set a gigantic Tinder radius, I never would’ve met Jason, a smoking-hot 32-year-old who’d just moved to the area from England for work and had played semi-pro soccer back home.



I didn't want to come off like I was on a sex-cation — cruising Tinder for a vacation hookup — or attract attention-seekers who’d get off on the idea that I might write about them.There was the young Marine who did an exaggerated double take before telling me I was the most beautiful woman in the bar.And the also-very-young hero who swooped in to rescue me when a woman was rude to me and held my hand as we ran through the streets to the next stop. Now imagine that feeling multiplied times a tsunami and you’ll know what washed over me when called up to see if I would travel around the country going on dates to find out if location really matters when you’re looking for love.

And the bassist who insisted I listen to 10 minutes of his music while he watched me react to it.

Brittany, a 26-year-old waitress, tells me that when she joined Tinder, all her friends called her “Tinderella” because it was so weird to be on it. People love to blame Tinder for hookup culture, but Becky joined because she was looking for the opposite.