My husband and I met in class at the University of Toronto, and it was whatever is the opposite of a whirlwind romance. He looked like a frat boy, with his puka shell necklace and baseball hat, and he was just my type: dark curly hair, broad shoulders, and big strong arms. When I would get into class after him, I would sit next to him so that I could flirt with him. And in the process, I found out that although he was every inch the frat boy that I had suspected, he is also super smart and studious and gentlemanly. The next school year, he joined the student newspaper I worked on, and we got to know one another through our editorials about politics and community. And when we finally had our first one on one drink, we only knew that it was a date when a very drunk stranger came up to us and straight up asked if it was our first date so that we were forced to make an answer.
It’s a classic meet cute, but one that is increasingly uncommon. It seems much more common for someone to tell me that they met at the grocery store as a poorly coded way of saying they met on Tinder. And it is a very weird feeling to be missing such an important cultural touchstone with my peers. I’ll ask them a question and they’ll respond “definitely swipe left”, and I won’t know whether left is the good one or the bad one. I’ve tried to remember which one is which, but the expression relies on a kind of sense memory that I just don’t have. A lot of people older than me seemingly have a lot more in common with my age group than I do, simply by virtue of the fact that they have a common experience of online dating. By contrast, I feel like the woman telling her grandson to take the neighbour girl to the malt shop.
For example: my friend asked me the other day if she should Tinder (“be on” Tinder*? is Tinder a verb?). I had no useful advice. I couldn’t even begin to understand what might be the pros and cons. I could imagine that it might be awkward if you ran into the profile of someone you work with or if a potential employer stumbled across your profile. I could imagine that it might be a chore to scan through the profiles of dozens of people in search of viable options. And I’m not sure what the payoff is – whether there’s a higher or lower proportion of creeps and philanderers than in the real world. I was told that the more serious guys are on Bumble, and I couldn’t even begin to understand why that might be true. Is it something about the way the platform operates, or is it like the digital equivalent of a bar where people know to hangout if they’re looking to get married?
My biggest concern is how little help I’ll be to my youngest brother when he gets outside of the high school dating scene. He’ll have access to way more information about a person when they first “meet” in some ways than I ever could have hoped to have, and yet they’re likely to get to know one another in ways that are much more filtered (pun fully intended) than would be possible when getting to know someone in real life. What qualities should he *pause while I google* “swipe right” on? I find comfort in that I could at least answer my brother’s question about how to tell whether or not he was on a date: pay a drunk man to barge in and say that he could tell they’re on a first date because it’s his special skill. Works every time.