Compared to the morass of modern human dating, the simplicity of the humble groundhog’s mating routine sounds quite appealing. Groundhogs don’t have to go to bars and socialize to get laid. In fact, the only time they leave their burrows is for sex, just to scurry back afterward to enjoy their own company once again. In short, if groundhogs could use smartphones, they’d be delighted by Tinder.
And for a little while, a very famous groundhog was on Tinder: Punxsutawney Phil, the furry prognosticator who is encouraged out of his burrow every February 2nd to tell us whether to expect six more weeks of winter.
I first stumbled upon the wooing woodchuck — yes, woodchucks and groundhogs are the same thing — on r/Tinder, Reddit’s premiere repository for flirting fails, funny interactions and straight up trolling. Phil’s game fell somewhere between the latter two — determined to stay in character, with a penchant for predicting more winter:
After wondering why Molly decided to confess something that private to someone cosplaying as a cuddly critter, I decided to find out who was behind “Phil,” who, for the record, scored 23 matches and offers of nudes in his first day on the app alone.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the answer I expected.
Andrew (aka Phil) — I’m not using his surname for obvious reasons — is a 15-year-old kid from Philadelphia. He spends most of his time on Reddit trying to get answers for high school assignments and discussing the haunted video game YouTube series PetsCop. Somewhere along the line, he also got intrigued by r/Tinder.
For a teenager with no intentions of actually meeting anyone, the dating app basically becomes a kind of role-playing game. “I’ve always been interested in Tinder as a whole. I think it’s a hilarious concept,” Andrew explains. “You swipe right, you chat a bit, you go, hoo-hah, the world works! But I’m a tad younger than the intended demographic, and there’s not much for me to gain from the system. That’s where the internet personas come in.”
His favorite Tinder conversation as Phil is a particularly thirsty one with 23-year-old Grace:
Phil: Two more weeks of winter, Grace.
Grace: We should meet up 😉 my roommates are out of town this weekend.
Phil: Oh I’d love to but 2 miles is quite a lot for a burrowing rodent and I’m afraid I’m not allowed on the subway. I’m starting a petition to stop them from discriminating against groundhogs though!
Grace: That’s okay… I can pick you up.
Phil: No, that’s okay… every time I go outside winter gets longer and I’d really like to have strawberries in season again.
That chat is a perfect example of what Andrew likes about playing weird characters on Tinder: That people on the app who are there to use it seriously don’t — or won’t — accept that his profile is a joke. “The responses I like best are the ones where people don’t play along — or even when they’re really determined to pursue a seduction,” he says.
The groundhog wasn’t Andrew’s first Tinder persona either. That was “Boar, 19” — 21 matches in its first week — a choice with an even weirder background than Phil.
Back in 2016, the Etruscan Boar Vessel, a ceramic sculpture of a boar that’s part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection, became a meme. A redditor submitted an image of the artifact combined with a conversation in which a girl rejects a guy by saying, “I only date Boar Vessel 500–600 BC Etruscan Ceramic,” and a star was born.
As for Andrew’s intrepretation of the boar: “It started as a little gag to post on my Snapchat story and r/Tinder every once in a while,” he explains. “But soon, folks started matching with me on a daily basis and it became a hobby.”
He adds that he’s understandably surprised that the Etruscan Boar and Punxsutawney Phil had such appeal to the women of Philadelphia. “Both of them have been a lot more successful than they should have been,” he says. “I’ve chatted to some folks for upwards of two weeks, only to be finally blocked when they suspect I’m a bot. It’s way longer than I anticipated.”
The Etruscan Boar stuck around on Tinder for two months, until Andrew deleted the profile as he’d grown bored with the joke. The groundhog’s reign as Tinder’s king of rodent romance lasted even less time — and for a rather embarrassing reason. “I was only Phil for a week or two before I dropped my phone in a Porta Potty at a music festival in the woods.” (His joke, it seems, had gone to shit.)
But Andrew’s quest for Tinder lols isn’t over. He’s moved on to his next character, and this one’s even less concerned with love. He just wants to sell your town a monorail. You know, like those really successful ones in Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook.