As I sat at my office desk on Monday morning swiping through more nonsensical, shallow, meaningless images on that stupid, godforsaken Tinder app, I developed a sickening knot in my stomach.
Looking around at my co-workers (the majority of whom are in their 30s and 40s), I see that most of them are married, and if not, engaged, and everyone is buying houses and having babies and brimming with joy and happiness. While I understand that this is all still way, way ahead of me, I can’t help but be aware of the fact that none of them met their beloved through online dating, Tinder, or any of the other “enablers” of the millennial age.
What has happened to the traditional means of meeting someone? Would young’uns like us even know what it was if he walked up to us in the street and asked us out for a coffee there and then? God be with the days when that was considered romantic and not dangerous or creepy.
My parents met when they were 17 at a squash club in Co. Waterford. For their first date, they went to the local cinema on Patrick’s Hill to see "The Deer Hunter" (excellent choice, Dad).
In typical small-town fashion, my mother’s older sister and her boyfriend (now husband) were sitting two rows behind on their own date, and began throwing popcorn at them throughout the movie. Afterwards, they all bundled into my dad’s battered Ford Fiesta in fits of laughter and went back to Nana’s for a cup of tea.
It was then, while my dad was teasing her sisters and charming Nana around the old kitchen table that my mother knew he was the one.
Every time I sit at that table – which is inexplicably still standing – I think of that story, and imagine my parents, aunts and uncles getting to know each other on a Friday night over a strong brew of Barry’s gold blend.
So now, as I sit alone swiping left and right, judging faces at lightning speed, I find myself wishing there was no Internet, no cell phones, no apps and no quick fixes to life’s modern day “problems.”
Since the dawn of time people have met, wooed and loved without the aid of Internet facilitation – but now that we have it, will we ever go back?
Just as I was about to give up and delete the app forever, someone popped up on my screen with a simple “hello.” (Cue bad movie reference).
Tired and bored of the whole façade, I didn’t offer much back. However, as though by some divine intervention or realistically, a technical fault, we could no longer see each other’s pictures or names. It simply read “(null)” above the message window.
For some unknown reason, this led to an exchange of numbers and four days of messages back and forth. Founded on nothing more than a picture neither of us could remember, it took me back to the days of Cilla Black’s Friday night show "Blind Date" and all of the comical questions that would be fired from behind the safety of the screen.
We just had fun, and never spoke about where we were from, where we worked, or any of the other usual “getting to know you” small talk that feels stale, rehearsed and an awful lot like a job interview.
As a member of the generation that has grown up with a cell phone in hand day and night, I have come to understand the skill of expressing oneself via text. My mother is very in touch with the times, so to speak, but is still baffled by young peoples’ ability to text each other for hours at a time.
“Would you not just pick up the phone and have a real conversation!?” she asks.
While this is obviously the more sensible means of communication, texting is flirtatious, and when you’ve grown up with it as your primary means of communication, it becomes second nature.
So, bearing this in mind, after four days of consistent messaging, you feel like you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what this person is about. I was sufficiently impressed by his confidence, intelligence and sense of humor – let alone his ability to convey this through an engaging series of brief, intermittent messages throughout the week.
After we agreed to meet, we both admitted a fear of real-life disappointment and a simultaneous defiance of that possibility. We met at a bar (because I am a truly unimaginative dater) and instantly clicked.
A native New Yorker, a little older, a “mad man” and refreshingly honest about the city’s dating scene, I was in good company.
Naturally I grilled him about his Tinder usage, but came up with much of the same: “I don’t have time to meet people during the week” or “I work mostly with other men” or “It’s like a fun game” – which, to be fair, it is. Especially when you get it right.
This brought me back to that same issue of manufactured meetings. The following night was an unexpected and semi-accidental female-only soiree. Usually accompanied by our male companions, this was the first time we had been without them in any kind of social setting since we had arrived in New York.