While home for the holidays in December of 2015, I found myself complaining about dating apps to my mom. “They're just so superficial mom,” I said while sipping red wine on our wrap-around porch. The one my dad built for my mom because it was always her dream to do just that: lounge outside under those Carolina stars, passing time with someone she loved.
That someone, just happened to be her daughter, who hadn’t been in a ‘real’ relationship in more than four years.
“I feel like it’s this hamster wheel experience: you swipe and swipe, meet people for drinks and it never goes anywhere. It never feels how you keep telling me it’ll feel when I meet someone who is actually good for me,” I continued. She nodded along, knowing better than to argue or contribute to a subject that often made me anxious and well, angry that dating had become so technology-based that it felt insincere. Grueling. Exhausting. More robotic than romantic.
To be fair, in the years I’ve been single — with micro, unofficial relationships here-and-there — I had some good experiences online. But the bad ones vastly outweighed and overshadowed them — leaving me with this pit in my stomach every time I received a notification from Tinder (or Hinge or whatever) letting me know someone sent me a new message, that frankly, would read the same as all the rest.
What I wanted to feel was what everyone told me I would when the right kind of person came along: something different. ‘Something will feel different’ — the four little words that my best friends, my parents, my co-workers, the experts I interviewed for the hundreds of love articles I’ve written, promised me, never being able to fully explain what that ‘difference’ was, but always promising I would know when it came along.
I really doubted if I’d ever know, truly, and I’m still not convinced it’s this magical, instant moment of total clarity, but I will say that when I caught my flight back to New York and imagined my seventh year living in Manhattan, I didn’t want all of the same things. I wanted something different. Even if that ‘something different’ wasn’t a partner. In fact, I burned myself out so much from dating (and wondering, wishing I would meet someone) — that I decided to stop.
To stop dating. And especially, to get rid of those dating apps, once and for all.
So January of 2016 was a healthy place to be for me: I wasn't against dating and I wasn't purposefully lying low, but I was focusing on myself. And on finding the daily joy in my life, which if I was being honest, definitely didn't include those mediocre dates. I signed up for more boxing classes. I booked a trip to Spain and Portugal with my mom. I worked harder at work. I pitched more freelance stories. I decided to send my sweet pup — who requires a lot of responsibility — on a three-month trip to my parents’ house so I could actually try new things. I caught up on all of my doctor appointments and exceeded my savings goals. I threw myself into the thrill of saying ‘yes’, and I spent more quality time with my friends, without the distraction of finding a date.
And I signed up for a five-week, intensive class at the Institute of Culinary Education in downtown New York.
I already knew how to cook — somewhat, anyway. But my meals were often dry, tasteless and ya know, enough to get by when I’m sitting at my desk at work — but not delicious. I wanted to learn how to season and flavor, how to dice and Julienne. I wanted to broil and bake and roast and braise and actually understand what all of it meant. After some gentle persuading from a friend who took the course already, I shelled out the dough to learn how to bake some.
As I clicked that ‘register’ button and pulled out some stored-away cash from my savings, I purposefully didn't invite anyone to do it with me. In an odd sort of way, the pursuit of ending the same ole’-same ole’ included letting go of anything that tied me to my everyday life.
There was such pleasure in being anonymous: I wasn't Lindsay the writer, the girl from North Carolina, the one with the blog, the dog mom or the one who had been single for four forsaken years... I was just a woman taking a class on a Wednesday night with a bunch of strangers.
It was liberating.
And so, on the second night, I became friends with a girl right around my age. Like me, she was there to have fun, learn some skills, but not take it too seriously. With a busy travel schedule at work, she didn’t have the time to go gourmet every night, but a foundational set of cooking skills would help her actually understand recipes. We were definitely on the same cookbook page, and instantly bonded over a raw chicken we had to roast and laughed along the way, not sure of what we were doing but savoring the experience. At the end of the class — where you finally get to eat the food you prepared and cooked for four hours — we talked about dating.
And that’s when we devised a plan to have a double date, each of us introducing each other to a single guy we knew. There were no expectations, no promises, just a fun night out for four people who happen to be on their own. We met for dinner before and I casually told her that I was oddly nervous, it was, in fact my first date of 2016... On March 8. She reassured me that my date was friendly and easy to talk to, and that regardless of what happened, we’d have a good time together as friends. And that’s when, over a bottle of Sancerre, I looked up to see a big smile walking my way, and just like that…
...something was different.
A double date turned into our first solo date, turned into a night out for live music, turned into showing off those cooking skills… turned into a relationship. As disgruntled as I was to believe that when it’s good, it’s simply just good, I was also relieved to know that my intuition was right...
Online dating isn’t for me.
I’m not sure if I would have swiped right on my new boyfriend’s profile or not, but I definitely know that I couldn’t have read two sentences on his page that would accurately describe how great he is as a person. Or the kind of chemistry we had from the get-go. Or how a text message from him midday can make me grin to the point my co-workers ask me what’s funny.
Sure, we might have figured it out if we met from an app, but in my heart, I like to believe that something organic, natural, and in person means more than it does from a screen. While online dating bummed me out, taking a chance on a stranger that I met through a somewhat-stranger was exciting. Like the cooking class, it forced me to take a step outside of my comfort zone to give something a chance.
A chance to be, something different.
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