By Rachel Werner | Illustration by Ann Christianson
I don’t date…not really. Or at least not the way dating used to be when I was in my 20s, when the most efficient paths to the next crush, hook-up or significant other were the friends of my siblings, the siblings of my friends or a very intoxicated night at a European hostel. Because, as luck would have it, while I was busy burning through a significant chunk of my 30s getting married, birthing a child, getting divorced, single parenting and launching my writing career, the Internet doubled-down in its ongoing crusade to hijack the rituals of courtship by ushering in the dawn of the dating app.
Thus Match.com, Tinder, eHarmony and a plethora of other online romance-focused websites cropped up over the past 15 years, clocking in now—as tallied by Online Dating Magazine—to the staggering total of over 7,500 sites, each one seemingly improving upon the next with a new set of supposedly no-fail matchmaking tools, profile hacks and a near-infinite pool of eligible mates.
Although there are plenty of skeptics and still-lonely hearts out there looking for “the one,” studies indicate that online dating is becoming more popular. Some two-thirds of online daters have gone out with someone with whom they were matched, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center.
So where does this leave me? Firmly committed to finding “the one”—or the next series of them—without the Internet’s help. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve succumbed to temptation, or better stated, peer pressure, for brief stints and swiped left or right to whittle down a bevy of beaus based on their current location, low-res smartphone pics and descriptions of “the perfect date.” The most recent disheartening experience I can attribute to the five weeks in 2016 I spent on Bumble, a dating app in which the primary female user must indicate interest before another user is able to make contact.
Let’s just say I should have stopped with the first guy I met for drinks. He felt no unease whatsoever in divulging within the first 20 minutes that he was a criminal defense attorney and immensely enjoyed the lucrative payoff and ego boost he received from getting off his clients (many of whom he knew were guilty and were sure to become repeat offenders.) Uhhh…right. Next, please.
I’m also not the only BRAVA gal who has had sketchy experiences when it comes to soliciting love on the web. One colleague received this gem from a fellow on OkCupid: “I think you’re my appendix. You give me a funny feeling in my stomach and I want to take you out.” Big shocker, that one didn’t turn out to be a love connection.
And contributor Katrina Simyab’s “Tinder adventures” did not start on a high note. “My recent adventures in online dating started after I found out my boyfriend of three years had been cheating on me for over a year. One afternoon I randomly saw a text on his phone from another woman and that was enough to prompt a full admission from him,” she reveals. “He’d maintained a Tinder account and was sexting with multiple women per month. Although he claimed he never met up with anyone in person, the damage had already been done.”
But not one to dwell on the downside, and newly single, Simyab decided to check out Tinder for herself. “What started as an attempt to confirm infidelity, became one of the most interesting social experiments of my life. In my first week of being a Tinder Adventurer, I matched with a guy who had very similar interests and was super funny in our texts. After a day of bantering, he asked me to be his date to his boss’ wedding the next morning. The vibes felt right—I had nothing to lose, so I said yes,” she explains. “We talked, ate, danced, laughed and generally had an amazing time. By the end of the wedding, it came out we’d become acquainted on Tinder and we were surprised to learn the bride and groom had met the same way.”
I can relate to her willingness to be open to the spontaneity of human connection. I experienced it myself on a romantic wavelength with a gentleman I met at an event last summer. He said he felt “drawn to me” as I walked by his table and he couldn’t help following me across the room. I laughed when he recounted this idyllic rendition of our first encounter because that’s not exactly what happened. I’m not usually “the romantic” in any relationship. But I did submit to holding his hand for a whole block on one of our later dates.
The moral of my story is: When looking for love, it’s worth considering being less vigilant of the iPhone alerts and more attuned to what—and whom— resonates with your heart.