I love “how we met” stories. Not only do I enjoy the content, but I adore the mechanics of storytelling that will unfold between two people who shared a special moment in time. Those in love will most likely recall this story on anniversaries or loved ones will pepper it into their speeches at rehearsal dinners after the story about that one time you were asked to leave a museum for inappropriate behavior. I tend to savor the reactions of the two people, who, when faced with this question, tend to gaze into one another’s eyes longingly at the mere mention of that kind of magic. We’re talking Frank Sinatra sauced up in a New York night club kind of magic.
Then there are those same moments when you ask two people the inevitable question, and panic manifests itself on their faces, and they silently search for the story that sounds the least depressing. Pleading to one another with their eyes, they hem and haw until one of the duo speaks up.
“We met on OkCupid.”
Ah yes, online dating. My generation’s version of “I know so and so, and I think you two would totally hit it off!” I think we’ve all seen “When Harry Met Sally,” (RIP Nora Ephron), the ultimate ‘how we met’ love story that paints us a picture through growing up, and falling in and out of love. I find myself unequivocally drawn to this film. Maybe it’s the witty dialogue. Maybe it’s Meg Ryan’s fashionable high-waisted pants. Or maybe it’s the realistic relationship of a hetero man and woman who can’t actually be friends, which causes me to I always ask myself out loud:
“Why don’t friends set friends up anymore? Even Princess Leia* is set up and finds love.”
* I’m aware that Carrie Fisher had other roles outside of Star Wars. Regardless, she will always be Princess Leia to me.
But back to online dating. Two years ago, you couldn’t have paid me to join on an online dating website. When I heard about friends who were using it for dating, I rolled my eyes and scoffed with disbelief. “Online dating? Seriously? Have we all just given up on real life romance and become too dependant on technology, that even finding love is coldly calculated and right at your fingertips?” Over a year ago when my sister told me she met her current boyfriend on EHarmony, I actually laughed at her on the phone and continued to make fun of her for a good two weeks. Looking back on my judgmental reaction, besides the assessment of me being a terrible person, I’ve realized that maybe I was too hasty in judging digital matchmaking.
Now a few years later, and a little less judgmental, I can say that I’ve tried online dating. Has it been successful in matching me up with my future husband, similar to those commercials where the two people are laughing in slow-motion and frolicking in park? Not necessarily. Has it provided me with opportunities to meet cool people and explore Boston in all of its splendor? Yes, it has. Did it provide me with free dinner on week nights when I was making under the livable wage of Cambridge? Absolutely. But most importantly, it struck down my previously held stubborn stigma.
I no longer mentally illustrate OkCupid and Match users as desperate women and men who are socially inept, or secretly plotting to throw me in the back of an unmarked white van after a nice dinner in Harvard Square.
So maybe we don’t all meet in classic romantic comedy ways anymore. Maybe when a gust of wind blows your hat from your head in the park, it doesn’t roll onto the feet of your future partner, but rather into a puddle of urine. Maybe instead of him holding the door open for you at your favorite coffee shop, you met him on Grinder and you realized he made you laugh. Modern love is complicated, and provides us with an increasingly deflating amount of instances to be rejected. But just because the game has changed, doesn’t mean you should stop playing. For all you know, that cute guy you winked at on OkCupid lives down the street from you, and you two will accidentally spill beer on each other at Bukowski in real life. If that’s not a story for the kids, then I don’t know what is.