Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection
Over the past decade, the art of dating has evolved from making eyes at a cute stranger in a coffee shop until he comes to ask you what you’re reading (you can imagine that!) and on the screens. Most of us now find people to sleep with through one of the many dating apps on offer: Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, OKcupid, Feeling, or Raya. We create an impressive showcase of ourselves, then scan, judge, compare, maybe talk, and eventually, supposedly, meet. In 2021 alone, there were 250 million active users on dating apps around the world.
But not everyone has taken the path of algorithmic romance. There are outliers, people who chose to ignore the promise of unlimited cheap dopamine followed by overwhelming desperation and bravely persevered in a more traditional pursuit of love, in person and completely off. line.
How is such a thing possible, especially during a pandemic where access to clubs and bars has been limited? We spoke to three romantic visionaries to find out.
VICE: Hey Eileen. So you’ve chosen to stay off the apps – how do you find people to sleep with?
Eileen: Before the pandemic, I used to joke that UberPool is a dating app, and, really, I was only half kidding. This service is a distant memory at this point, but it still represents my general attitude towards meeting new people: every interaction is a potential connection. I’m lucky to be part of a fairly large music scene in the city where I live, and that’s where I meet the most new people… I have no problem walking up to someone who seems interesting and talking to him. One effective way I’ve found to kickstart rapport is to have tentative plans for the next block by the time the conversation is over. It seems much more natural to ask, “When do you want to try that sushi restaurant we talked about?” rather than “Do you want dinner sometime?”
Why have you refrained from using dating apps?
I guess you could call me a dating app truther, since I find companies cringe and think they’re stacking the odds in your favor. The most popular dating apps are publicly traded companies, and they publicly admit that people who form meaningful relationships using the platform pose a direct risk to their business. But mostly, I abstain because I find it encourages me to be less lazy and not treat people as superfluous. A few weeks ago, my roommate and her date asked me out for a drink with them and her friend, and despite being tired, I agreed – hot guys are always friends with other hot guys. If I had been on the apps, I probably would have said no and slipped on my own time.
Louise, 24 years old
VICE: Hello Louisa. How do you find people to date without swiping across a screen?
Louisa: I’m a serial dater – I recently realized that I haven’t been single for more than two months at a time since the summer of 2017. Each of these people have been friends with a friend or someone. one I already know, and somehow popped into my life randomly, usually via an in-person introduction.
Is it difficult to approach strangers?
I’m a stand-up comedian, so I have an extensive network of acquaintances and friends of friends who I have no problem hanging out with. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting on stage almost every night and basically saying why I’m an interesting and attractive person. I’ve also worked in a lot of public facing jobs, so I’ve generally seen and been seen a lot, and I don’t really feel nervous about just talking to a stranger, even if it means being reversed . In the smoking area of the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, I once listened intently to a Dev Patel lookalike talk about his doctorate in fly behavior for 15 minutes before his friend brought up his longtime partner.
How has your love life been affected by the pandemic? Is it harder to meet people?
I haven’t been single for much of the pandemic, but my dating philosophy is that I try not to go out of my way to meet people and just let things happen. I tend to find that when I just focus on myself and invest in my career and my friendships, people kind of gravitate towards that. A watched pot never boils, etc.
Why did you decide to give up dating apps?
I first realized that I probably had to give up on apps when I found myself using them specifically to find people I already knew. I think it’s because I feel like I need to get excited about the person I’m dating, and I find it really hard to get really turned on by someone I met on an app. I think a lot of my feelings of attraction come from seeing someone in their context – the way they behave, the way they relate to their friends, and how they fit into their own life. Unfortunately, I’m also a messy bitch who lives for drama and love being able to tell a friend I’m going on a date with XYZ, or feel a fun sense of camaraderie with the person who introduced us.
BERTY, 26 YEARS OLD
VICE: Has your usual method of dating been affected by the pandemic?
Berty: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily had an impact on the way I meet people – it’s just that I don’t really do a lot of things that I used to do before, like clubbing. It’s mostly thanks to my homies trying to hook me up with someone they know – which has happened quite horribly a few times if I’m being honest. I think I prefer meeting new people through friends… I don’t really put myself in situations where I would meet total strangers so often.
Was a romance born of your encounters?
Not really “romance”, but I did meet some fun people. Once I met a girl at a mutual friend’s house by chance, and she invited me to come back to her house. I woke up in the morning with no memory of what happened after drinking a bottle of tequila – all I knew was that my head was throbbing, and so was my butt. I crawled out of bed to the bathroom to inspect the damage, that’s when I discovered the bedroom floor was covered in an array of spanking equipment and of whip. My first thought was “not bad for a first date”, if you can call it that, but nothing really came of it and we never saw each other again.
Have you ever tried to use the apps?
I’ve always been against the idea of being on a dating app, because it’s much nicer to meet people in real life and find out if you were attracted to someone or not, or them by you. A mate of mine created a profile for me on one of the strength apps, but I had it for about six months before getting rid of it. I went there on a few dates, but soon realized that I much prefer meeting people in real life situations.