Online dating has offered us the promise of solving the supply-and-demand problem, making it more efficient to match those looking with those available. I downloaded the app onto my phone on a Wednesday night, and with a glass of wine in one hand, I spent an hour swiping left and right with the other, wholeheartedly enjoying the ping of adrenaline when I got a match.
But most people talk about Tinder, Grindr, Ok Cupid, Match.com, and others in the context of a city, with endless choice, infinite swipes. In Boston, before Greg, I had turned to online dating, using Ok Cupid, and it basically worked. It seemed oddly closer to the experience of meeting someone in, say, a bar–all context beyond gut feeling and fast-track aesthetics removed–despite the fact that I was at home in sweatpants on my couch.
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What I loved most, however, was that when a date was over, it was over, if I wanted it to be. And the flip side of that: They would recognize me. The first person I dated after my breakup I actually met IRL. “There’s no one new around you,” the little red words pulsed on my screen. I was disappointed in myself for being so narrow-minded. People tend to live upstate in towns like Hudson for a few reasons: to escape, to find the space for creativity, or for an unfettered love of the land. I chatted with a law student in Albany who lived with his parents. I briefly dated a tall, tattooed man who worked at an art gallery in Chelsea when he was in town for a week on a job. (We didn’t.)Toward the end of June, I met a man who worked as a freight train conductor. We took them to the patio, to sit in the humid dusk of an early August evening. Later, I glanced up to see the tattooed art gallery employee, who had returned to town for another gig, across the room. I swiped for five full minutes but I didn’t run out of men.
God knows I don’t have much trouble sharing my life with the general public. I’ve even freelanced about online dating before, an article that was the reason Greg and I met, a year and a half earlier, in the first place. We were introduced at the party of a coworker; we drank whiskey and chatted late into the night. I expanded my search to include men from anywhere 10 miles around me. It wasn’t a stretch that these stories resonated: I love a good getaway! I exchanged messages with an insurance salesman just passing through town. With him, I felt that tingle of possibility, one that I had forgotten could exist. He lived in the next town over, in a log cabin he had built himself in the woods. He took me to his favorite restaurant, a tiny spot that served both Thai food and sushi. Because it was summer, the bar was crowded with strangers.
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