Dating Don’ts: How The Meet-Cute Is Ruining Your Love Life

Let me set the scene for you. One day you’re at the grocery store, dutifully squeezing all the avocados until you find the ripest ones, then moving them to your basket. You have your headphones in, you’re concentrating very intently on the task at hand, and you’re really not thinking about anything other than the guacamole you’re going to consume while watching “True Detective.” As you continue your thorough work of squeezing and replacing the avocados, your hand touches something warm, something tangible, something human — the calloused, strong hand of your dream man, a tall man-bun sporting, flannel wearing carpenter, a Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” meets Jared Leto’s hair with a dash of McConaughey’s Foghorn Leghorn swagger. [Dream man. — Amelia] You drop his hand, you gasp, he smiles. Numbers are exchanged. Drinks are had. You share this improbably cute story with everyone you meet, and are greeted with a variety of emotions ranging from derision to laughter to misty-eyed joy. You marry under a canopy of Etsy-sourced mason jar tea light holders and gingham and drive off in an old convertible, the “Just Married” sign bouncing against the bumper. That’s your life under the spell of the meet-cute.

For the uninitiated, a meet-cute is common trope in film and TV. It happens when two characters meet and fall in love under coincidental circumstances — a chance meeting at a grocery store, or knocking into each other as they both try to get off an elevator. When Sandra Bullock saves Bill Pullman from getting hit by the the train in “While You Were Sleeping,” and then falls increasingly more in love with his brother through a series of events that fall just shy of plausibility — that’s a meet-cute. It makes for great entertainment, and it’s easy to be swayed by its influence, but heed my words: it’s a real bummer for your love life.  

The allure of a meet-cute is that how we generally meet romantic partners is relatively banal. A cute meeting story imbues your relationship with a sense of whimsy and wonder from the start. A relationship may seem that much more sun-kissed if the two of you happened to meet while reaching for the same heirloom tomato at the farmer’s market, or knocking heads as you both inexplicably lean towards the water fountain to get a drink at the gym, because it implies that an unseen force takes the upper hand when you’re looking for love. Which effectively absolves you from taking full responsibility for your own love life. And wouldn’t that be the ultimate relief? To sigh and blame it all on fate? A relationship that blooms from a chance meeting in yoga class, or from an adorable mixup in the bathroom line might sting just a little less when it ends, because the circumstances were so fortuitous. It was completely out of your hands! It was fate that you ended up together, but a sadder, darker fate, when it ended.

It’s not to say that the meet-cute isn’t possible. Life is vastly unpredictable, and every once in a while, two hands brush the same avocado by chance. You can try to replicate these chance meetings, to engineer a possible spontaneous scenario to encounter that special someone. You can linger in the bulk foods section at Whole Foods and plan to bump into your dream man as you both reach for the quinoa scoop. You can become very clumsy in elevators. You can carry a bag that just does’t shut, creating the perfect opportunity for you to spill everything in the lobby of your office building, just as the hottie from the 8th floor walks by. See how easy it is? Meet-cutes can happen to you, too!

The reality is, trying to force scenarios in which you might trip, stumble, fall or otherwise “bump” into that special someone is extremely silly and kind of creepy. Real adults don’t do things like this. Real adults who want to meet other real adults take it as it comes — on the internet, through mutual friends, through awkward set-up dates that you don’t really want to go on. Real adults grin their way through a lot of un-cute meets with the hope of actually finding someone they like and would want to spend time with. We watch movies to escape, to remove ourselves briefly from the drudgery of daily life, but also because we seek out the tiny nuggets of hope. If you’ve been entertaining a string of lackluster suitors during the long cold winter, seeing floppy-haired Hugh Grant spill orange juice on Julia Roberts’ shirt in “Notting Hill” and watching the tentacles of movie love set in, is a nice reprieve from unsolicited dick pics and online dates you really don’t want to go on.

The fantasy of a meet-cute is fantastic, because that’s all it is — a fantasy. Meeting a suitable suitor takes work, but not nearly as much work as keeping a successful, romantic entanglement going for a sustained period of time. There are other ways to imbue the whimsy and the magic in a relationship, and there is no shame in telling people that you met on OKCupid. To chase the dragon of the meet-cute is to sabotage your own success in love. Leave the avocado grazing to the fictional characters in the movies.

The Frisky Dating, Try Something New