Back in the ’90s, when I was in my twenties, I had a friend who went on dates with men she met online. She was always telling me horror stories about these dates.
One time she showed up at a restaurant for a first meeting. The guy took one look at her and walked right out. There was nothing about her appearance to warrant such behavior. Besides, who would be so rude?
She went to Disneyland with another guy from the internet. He ditched her mid-date. He abandoned her at the happiest place on earth!
No, I did not want that happening to me.
I couldn’t understand why she was online. The technology was new and that scared me. Weirdos lurked on the internet — perverts. They would kill you if you weren’t careful.
Online dating was the stuff of nightmares. For many years, I refused to try it. I was well into my thirties, still single, when I finally did. Only then did I see the folly of my ways.
I now believe that online dating is one of the greatest inventions ever to be bestowed upon humanity. App dating is just as good.
Consider yourself lucky, young people. You have the means to easily meet mates — and more importantly, to quickly sift through the wrong people.
Worse, too many Gen-Xers like me resisted this technology at first.
And we stayed single.
Meeting people in the “real world” has always been difficult.
Meeting people to date in the ’90s was hard. Let me rephrase that — meeting quality people in the ’90s was difficult.
Basically, if you hadn’t already met your partner in college, you were screwed.
This was also the era when it was just beginning to become unacceptable to meet a mate at work. Trust me, I’d had at least one work tryst. It ended horribly and I definitely never wanted to make that mistake again.
I tried to meet men at parties, but they had to actually be available. Often, they weren’t.
Still, I refused to try online dating. I had it in my mind that the only legitimate way to meet a man was out in the “real world.” I would meet the perfect guy while I was carrying out my normal daily activities — say, while shopping at the grocery store.
No mind that I had never once met a man in a grocery store. I think if a man approached me in a grocery store, I’d think he was a stalker.
But I remained stubborn in my beliefs — and single.
I kept trying to meet men in bars.
One of those “natural” ways of meeting men was in bars. Had I ever successfully met a man in a bar? No. That didn’t stop me from trying.
You never know, tomorrow night, I might get lucky. A better male specimen might finally emerge from the drunken masses.
I told myself that if I just kept showing up to said watering hole, Mr. Perfect would eventually step out from the clouds of cigarette smoke (yes, this was when smoking was still allowed in bars). He’d open his arms and whisk me off to a long-term relationship.
I only found Mr. Goodbar in my dreams.
Because that’s all it was — a dream — a fantasy that if I just kept trying to meet a partner the same way I’d been attempting to for years, at some point I’d finally be successful.
The definition of insanity?
I thought posting a profile online meant I was trying too hard.
To complicate matters, I’d been taught that meeting the right man was a question of not trying too hard to meet him.
“You’ll have a relationship when you stop wanting one,” my friends in relationships would tell me.
That didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense today. Isn’t the whole point of meeting people actually wanting to meet them and actively going about doing so?
At the time, though, I believed these friends. They knew something I didn’t. They were in relationships and I couldn’t manage to get myself into one.
I followed their advice. I tried to act “cool.”
But I wasn’t “cool.” I was just single.
I was afraid of being alone for the rest of my life.
My mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was thirty-five. I saw my future unfurl before me. My mother would die and I would still be single.
Still, I refused to post a profile online, even when a friend suggested it.
I continued to believe that online dating was just transferring the bar scene into the ether. The guys online weren’t drunk (yet) but they were pretty much after the same thing the bar dudes were.
It’s not like this friend was having much luck online anyway. But in the face of my mother’s imminent death, the idea of unsuccessfully meeting men online started to sound better than not meeting anyone at all.
Once I tried online dating, I never looked back.
I broke down and posted a profile on a dating website. Suddenly, all these great guys started contacting me.
They were smart, good-looking men who actually wanted a relationship.
That’s why they were online. They were ready for something serious.
Of course, I didn’t have serious relationships with all these men — but at least the internet facilitated our meeting.
And that was the important thing.
Online dating has revolutionized the process of meeting romantic partners.
If there’s a moral to this story it’s that you have to try a different method if you want a different result. And just because someone you know has had a bad experience with the new method doesn’t mean you will.
These days when I hear Millennials disparage dating apps and websites, I want to pull them in close. I want to tell them I’m a Gen-Xer who can still remember what dating was like before the internet made everything from getting a new blender to getting a new mate easier.
I want to tell them that I can still recall when online dating was considered a dangerous thing that only foolish people did.
I was wrong. Online dating changed the world.
Young people don’t know how easy they have it. What Gen-X missed out on, a younger generation now gets to enjoy.
Photo by Danielle Reese.