I was one of the skeptics. Online dating sounded kinda lame to me. It sounded kinda like giving up. After all, I was living in New York, a city teeming with eligible bachelors. In theory. I wasn’t meeting any of them, but I was told they were out there. And I wanted to go on some dates. Grad school was calming down, I’d been single for long enough, and I wanted to check out some of those tiny, funky restaurants in the Village. I didn’t want anything serious. I wanted something to wear cute shoes for. I wanted the opportunity to flirt a little.
“Go online,” my beautiful and much more outgoing best friend said.
She had a dry erase board in her living room with a running tally of all the guys she was talking to and whether or not they’d gone on a first date. It was hard to keep track otherwise. She was having a lot of fun. She had hilarious stories to share from her dating exploits. One time she playfully asked a sort of boring guy, “What’s the most interesting thing about you?” on a coffee date, and he said, “I don’t have a spleen.” And then he went on to tell her why the spleen was really important. Immune system, I think. But there were sweet stories, too. A story about the really interesting guy she didn’t have any chemistry with, but ended up becoming her friend.
“Fine,” I said.
I signed up for OKCupid that day. I made a profile and put up a somewhat-flattering-but-not-even-close-to-sexy photo. I didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of guy. I didn’t actually know what kind of guy I wanted to attract. Someone nice and smart and funny and cute who knew about all the tiny ethnic restaurants I’d never heard of and also liked bagel sandwiches? I made sure to mention bagel sandwiches.
Two minutes after my profile went up, I got a message.
It said, “Hey- do you like casual sex?”
I stared at it for a few long seconds, shocked.
That was fast.
“Hey,” came another message. “What do you think about taking a bike tour of the city? Might be fun! Try something new! Take a chance!”
Wasn’t I already taking a chance by exposing myself to the virtual bachelors of NYC?
But within a few days, I was talking to some nice sounding guys, some of whom met the criteria for first dates. And then Bear wrote to me. He was obviously funnier than everyone else, and his grammar was impeccable. He had read Barbara Kingsolver. Or at least Googled her. He asked me interesting questions. He liked ethnic food and bagel sandwiches. I could already tell what he was like, just from the messages. We switched to email, which felt like a serious commitment. We became Facebook friends. Things were moving fast. He had an adorable smile in his profile pic. We decided to meet in person, and about two weeks after joining OKCupid, I went on my first online date ever.
I wore sexy boots and a cute skirt but a pretty normal top to the tiny, funky Village restaurant, because this was going to be the first of many, many dates with interesting, funny guys from the wide world of the internet. I saw it as practice. Bear seemed cool– and that meant there were about a million other cool guys out there. It was a good omen.
Bear showed up with a huge, ungainly sunflower and a bashful smile. He said he’d been practicing being awkward around me, since he was sure that would happen. I felt charming and clever and gorgeous around him. He was bigger than I’d expected, and when we stood next to each other, I felt like I was falling towards him, like his larger mass had created some sort of unavoidable gravitational pull. After dinner, he kept asking me if I wanted dessert.
Finally he admitted, “I’m just trying to get you to stay.”
He walked me home, and we hugged. And when we hugged some more, I did not want to let him go. It was the strangest thing. I felt stupid and obvious and suddenly flustered, but I held on for a few more seconds, and when I pulled back, I knew I was smiling too much. But he was smiling too much, too. He walked backwards a few steps, still grinning at me. And then I made myself turn and go into the building. I made myself get into the elevator. I found myself standing in my kitchen, holding this giant sunflower, which would never fit into a vase, even if I’d had one.
And then I married him.
Well, not right then. On our third date, he told me he wanted to be my boyfriend. I said I’d be the one to ask him out officially. I wrote a song to mark the occasion — in it, I asked him to date me. Yeah, a song. He said yes. We moved in together a month or so later. We got engaged five months after that. Nine months after that we were married, and now we’ve been married for a little over a year. Not to be all sappy and gushy, but I am so in love with this man.
And I’m stilled a little weirded out by our story. Online dating? Really? Married already? I thought I’d wait until I was 30. I thought I’d be a grownup by then. I thought everything about my love story would be much more … reasonable. I’m not sure I’m even a big proponent of online dating. Seems like an OK idea. Worked for me. My friends who are dating online want to know how it worked. How did I manage to find a husband after two weeks?
I have no idea. I have no real experience. I can’t explain or give advice. All I know is that sometimes weird stuff happens. Sometimes you randomly meet your soul mate on OK Cupid. It might be in a class or on a bike tour or at a bar or a party or online. You might miss out on a lot of seriously hilarious and possibly thrilling casual dating. But you might meet the person you can’t live without.