A truly modern love story
There’s no shame in having met your long-term partner on a dating app any more
My nan and granddad, may they rest in peace, had a traditionally romantic love story. Nana, ever the working class hero, was waiting tables in a little cafe in West London. Pops, then a teacher at a local public school, spotted her one day and for months ordered his lunch there while hiding behind his paper, spying on her (in a way that, if told correctly, could lend this story a more stalker-like quality than a romantic one). Finally, he mustered up the guts to ask her out after a perpetuity — and she turned him down. And yet, as was the wont of young men of a certain generation, he didn’t give up, returning regularly to the cafe and asking her out, presumably taking her way to be indicative of success, even if her words weren’t. Persistence, then, won the day, and it’s persistence, we learn from love stories old and new, that is the essence of romance.
The love story I have with my girlfriend isn’t quite comparable, though my nan and granddad did end up divorced. We each decided the other may be a decent choice through Tinder, the dating (read: casual sex) app. Weirdly for Tinder, we exchanged weeks’ worth of messages before actually meeting up. And our first date almost didn’t happen, either: a friend of hers actually had to convince her into replying to me because of an existential Tinder-based crisis she had while at home over the Christmas break. (‘Tinder never works out for me, all my dates are shit, men are wankers etc etc etc.’) Our first date was spent drinking cheap beer in a very hipster bar in Wedding, Berlin, the main selling point of which is that it’s been claiming it’s getting shut down for the past two years.
My partner has in the past lamented that we don’t have a more romantic story of how we first met. It’s true: the fact remains there is a higher-than-0% chance one of us was on the toilet when we first swiped right to the other. But we only entertain the notion that first meetings are especially important because we’ve been told they are. I’ve felt extremely connected to plenty of women I went off of quite soon after the first date, and my feelings for others — my girlfriend included — have grown exponentially over time, while not being revelatory at first sight — or in this case, first swipe. Moreover, true, Sophia and I may not have locked eyes across the bar or in a crowded street and felt compelled to make a move, but we did talk (and laugh, a lot) for eight straight hours perched on top of two bar stools in a bar the first night we met, and that’s not something you can take for granted when you’re essentially going on a blind date. (Let’s face it, Tinder photos are rarely accurate.) How many mates do you have you can do that with, let alone doing it with a stranger?
Why are stories of first meetings so important anyway? The whole ‘love at first sight’ culture is a Hollywood myth, made up, presumably, by lonely singles whose idea of a healthy relationship is based on gendered cliches and tactical dishonesty. Nobody can be certain they’ve met the correct person before having gotten to know them, and everyone has doubts. The Boomer generation and their parents before them have managed to promote this myth because it wasn’t culturally acceptable to give up on your relationships in those days, so people by and large didn’t. Now, though, people are allowed to leave their relationships when they realise they aren’t working out. That being said, I get the impression many relationships fail because people give up too easily, precisely because people have these cliches of relationships in their head, that they just ‘work out’, that you know ‘from the first moment you met’. You think someone who has been with their partner forty years has never had doubts about whether the relationship is right or not? Anyone who tells you so is surely lying.
So forget about first meetings, and meet the love your life wherever and however you can — and that includes Tinder. One of the biggest problems with online dating and dating apps was that they were seen as desperate, lame, and socially unacceptable, right up until we all started using them. Slowly, that perception is changing, as more and more people use these apps, the industry grows, and success stories abound. The popularity of online dating has only been increasing, and the proportion of (at least American) people who think it has a negative impact on dating, or find it outright desperate, is shrinking. Soon, we’ll be hearing the first real success stories from apps like Tinder and Bumble — people who met through the app and have made it work for years, in the face of a lot of obstacles: a blind-ish date, the disconnect between the digital and real-life persona, a sense of guilt or lingering feeling of desperation that one is using a dating app, the knowledge that you were one of many dates and even more swipes, the feeling that Tinder can never be for anything serious; the list goes on.
As long as the trend continues — and it undoubtedly will — first meetings won’t matter; what will is whether your relationship works out, rather than ingrained cliches of dating that suggest you should know whether you’re going to get married from the first time you see someone across the university campus. And appreciating your relationship separate from the cultural norms we build around them, indeed, using your relationship as a way of breaking them down — that’s what makes a truly modern love story.