While sometimes I feel like the times of getting “set up” and meeting people out in the real world are behind us, those days are definitely NOT behind us. If they are then how are middle schoolers still falling in love with their classmates? (Trust me, they are. I get the DMs.) Meeting someone in person is definitely more difficult than swiping through an inventory of potential loves on Tinder or Bumble or whatever new app has popped up promising you love, but that doesn’t mean we should disregard it as an old school practice.
A lot of people argue that the benefit of dating apps is that they are fast and easy, and they are. To me, this is their greatest flaw. They are extremely convenient to the point of nauseam. I was helping a friend get ready for a Tinder date last week and she was getting more and more flustered until she exploded in an anxiety-induced flood of questions.
“What if he doesn’t think I look like my photos?”
“What if he thought I was taller? Or shorter?”
“Do you think this photo makes me look fatter than in my profile pic?”
“I don’t want to wear an outfit he’s already seen, but that’s my favorite dress and I don’t know what else to wear.”
Meeting in person eliminates all of these questions. I have been on several Tinder dates and I’ve also had several guys ask me out in person. I promise you, being asked out in person feels better than a swipe right. And when asking someone out in person their faces say it all: it sets you apart.
While there’s nothing wrong with using dating apps and I know a few people who have met long-term loves, hookups, and every shade of relationship in between the two, dating apps are definitely not for me. Here’s why: I value the rapport of meeting in person too much. When you meet someone you are instantly making calculations about them, learning more, and taking in how they make you feel. Do they hold eye contact? Do they respect your personal space? Are they easy to talk to? Are they slightly reserved? You get a preview of who they are in a way that a curated profile and awkward online chats cannot provide.
To me, that first meeting, eye-catch, and who speaks (actually speaks) first is everything. I don’t want the first impression someone gets of me to come from an app profile, I want them to get and want the real deal.
So where do you get this magical interaction? You get it every time you walk outside your apartment and look up. Are you reading this on your phone right now? Are you in public? Put the phone down and look around. You can’t meet someone when you are wrapped up in the world on your phone. And if you think this will be like a rom-com where he taps you on the shoulder when you have headphones in just to break the ice I can promise you that won’t happen. No one (worth your time) is going to kick things off by disturbing your boundaries. When I leave the house and don’t want to be talked to I put on my sunglasses, headphones, and a hat. I refer to it as my “subway armor”, essentially what I wear when I don’t want someone to talk to me. They literally act as a barrier. Removing those pieces of “protection” is how you open yourself.
Another way to meet someone sans-dating apps? Interject yourself into the community a little bit more. I’m not going to beat this one to death, it’s pretty simple. No, this doesn’t mean you need to join a group for singles, it means finding groups or activities that you genuinely relate to and becoming more intertwined with those communities (ex: The November Project is a great group if you’re into fitness and it has chapters in several cities).
The last, and biggest one is to initiate the “meeting”. How many times have you been out with a friend and nudge-slapped her arm when a hot guy walks by. We all do it. When I worked in a bar we’d half-drag each other into the server station just to go “My god. The guy at 12? So fucking hot.” Granted, at work you shouldn’t be hitting on patrons, but if you’re out with a friend and see a hot guy, what’s stopping you from saying hello? You are the only thing standing in front of yourself. Swallow that little brick of self-doubt and put yourself out there. What is the worse thing that happens? He says no? Shrug it off and keep walking. Two blocks later, do it again.
These probably seem like very small suggestions, but they aren’t. They are how people meet without a digital device between them. Stop using your phone as a social crutch and be open to meeting someone. Join groups that will enrich your life and give you the chance to meet someone with similar interests. Stop waiting for someone to come to you and make the first move.
Make your own luck and make your own love.