By Cecily Kellogg
My first date as an adult was in 1986. I met him through an amusing personal ad in an alternative weekly newspaper. I had to send a physical letter through the mail to respond. There was no picture, of course, and when we met I wasn’t attracted to him at all. This was my first proof that words weren’t an accurate profile of a person (personals were the first social media profiles, after all).
About six weeks later, I was sitting alone in a bar writing poetry. (I know; I’m just as embarrassed by that as you are.) However, a man approached me because he saw me writing.
Turns out he was also a poet, and we had a lovely conversation. A week later, he called me, and we went out on a date. We married in 1996 and are still happily married.
Everyone I dated before my marriage I met in a bar. Sometimes we connected immediately (here’s where I offer a disclosure: I used to be an alcoholic and my “dating” was often alcohol-infused; I’ve been sober for almost 20 years), and sometimes we chatted for months before going out.
My husband and I chatted at the bar once a week for five years before we fell in love. For me, it helped to do more than “see” a person; I needed to have a conversation to find out if they were smart, funny, or kind. I missed the mark plenty but I had several relationships, some serious, with men I met in bars.
I was chatting about dating in the digital age with my friend Melissa. She’s been dating guys she met through Tinder or other dating apps for a couple of years and is planning to quit. Why? Because it’s a waste of time.
“I don’t do meals with people the first time I meet them,” she says. “I do coffee or drinks. I can tell within ten minutes if I’m interested.” This sounds remarkably like the process I used to go through with guys at the bar.
I asked about the digital flirting that happens with messages, and she dismissed it as useless: “Messaging people you haven’t met creates an intimate connection that isn’t real. If you don’t end up meeting the person it’s like breaking up with someone you weren’t even dating yet.”
I asked her why digital dating wasn’t working, and she said, “Because recently, a friend reminded me that a two-second consideration based on one photo is so callous and inhuman, and it doesn’t make you more open to falling in love. It’s hardening us.”
Melissa is planning to go back to trying to meet people in person, and, yes, in bars. I don’t blame her.
I asked my Facebook friends where they met their partners, and over thirty people said they met in bars. There were a few outliers — a library, an online dating app, a street corner — but the longest marriages started in bars.
There’s just something about seeing the whole person when you meet in a bar. You can connect without pressure to date. You see not only a picture, but how they move. You can catch how they behave across the room before you chat.
Best of all, you can have a fast and easy conversation and find out if there could be a connection. And you do it while looking directly in their eyes.
It was my husband’s eyes that slayed me when we met — pale blue, crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and exuding kindness. Plus, he was funny as hell.
I wouldn’t have seen that in a Tinder photo.
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