Romance is dead.
It died the day a gangly technology whiz with coke-bottle glasses who’d never been on a date in his twenty-odd years of life sat down at a laptop, punched out a string of code, and created a dating application he’d later sell to Silicon Valley investors for billions.
Tinder. Bumble. OkCupid. Hinge. The League. Coffee Meets Bagel. Match. Happn.
Trust me, I understand the concept — hundreds of singles at the tips of your fingers. Dating apps are virtual, veritable matchmakers, taking the guesswork out of crossing a crowded bar to talk to a stranger or — heaven forbid! — actually making eye contact with someone at a coffee shop as you sip your six-dollar caramel frappuccino.
Now, you don’t have to put yourself out there. You can “date” from the comfort of your couch.
See photo. Swipe right if sexy. Swipe left if snaggle-toothed.
And, thus, the complete, total antithesis of everything that makes falling in love so terrifyingly, gut-churningly wonderful. Call me old-fashioned and cynical, but… since when was love ever supposed to be convenient? Simple? Something to be squeezed in between your forty-minute elliptical session and half-hour nightly news program?
Swipe, swipe, swipe.
We’ve never had so many options… And we’ve never been so miserable.
We are waiting longer and longer to settle down into relationships that begin with the flick of a fingertip. Courtship has been usurped, eradicated. Fuck flowers and old-fashioned wooing; we declare our interest by staring at pixelated profile photographs and exchanging stilted text messages. We go out on awkward first dates and have nothing to talk about because we’ve already engaged in thorough virtual stalking, gleaning information from web pages and Internet searches like detectives digging up clues.
Oh, look! He likes dogs. And he’s got a photo with his niece! He’ll make a great father for our kids one day.
We have no idea what to do with our hands or where to look or how to behave when confronted with someone without the safety of a screen between us. Because we are never quite as polished in person as we appear in our photographs, never quite as witty or charming as we pretend to be when we have four hours to craft the perfect written response to a text message.
There was no spark, we tell ourselves as we walk home alone. Something was missing.
He was different than I thought he’d be, we tell our girlfriends over margaritas, shaking our heads as though mystified that a total stranger failed to live up to expectations we conjured out of thin air. I don’t think I’ll see him again. Plus, I have three dates lined up next week with new matches that seem promising.
And on we swipe, until we are so fucking exhausted by the prospect of another awful first date, we settle down with a guy we aren’t even all that sure we like, but stay with because the idea of faking an orgasm every now and then isn’t quite as daunting as swiping on into oblivion.
I watch friends settling down into lackluster relationships that will morph into loveless marriages and eventually disintegrate into bitter divorces, and wonder if we are all just playing an endless game of musical chairs, wandering round and round in different social circles until, abruptly, you turn twenty-eight and the music stops and whoever you happen to be sitting next to winds up being your spouse.
Call it timing, call it dumb luck… Call it anything except romantic.
It bears repeating: romance is dead.
I know for a fact it’s not just me who feels this way.
I know because I have a dozen twenty-something single friends who spend most every night lamenting their lack of eligible partners over shitty, eight-dollar bottles of wine they bought at a pharmacy on their way home from day jobs they hate. I know this because the divorce rate still hovers around fifty percent, yet we rush headlong into marriage as if it’s ever a good idea to throw yourself into anything with a higher failure rate than the pull-out method. I know this because there are a million millennials still living at home with their parents, who are full-grown adults and haven’t been out on a real date since they moved back into their childhood bedrooms post-college.
And yet, perhaps the saddest part of all is, even if you do defy the odds and meet someone who makes you feel giddy and sort of nauseous, like you’ve just stepped off a roller coaster on a ninety-degree day after consuming too much cotton candy, it’s almost certain you’ll fuck it up by doing what we all do — asking those pesky, persistent two words: what if.
What if there’s someone better out there?
What if there’s another match I’m more compatible with?
What if I go on just one more date, just to see what it would be like…
Swipe, swipe, swipe.
We have never been so connected.
We have never been so alone.