I was telling a person younger than me about dating prior to the internet.
I explained how you might find yourself attracted to a colleague, friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger, and when this happened, you would patiently wait for the right moment to tell that person how you felt and ask for a date.
All of this took place in real life. Absent any assurances that the feeling was mutual.
My younger friend was horrified.
“A stranger?” she said. “You’d seriously just walk up to a stranger and ask them out?”
“Or ask them to dance,” I said. “Or if you could buy them a drink. Or if they wanted to take a walk.”
My friend had seen such things in movies, but she didn’t believe it could happen in real life.
I explained that over the course of my dating life, I asked out girls who I did not know many times, and the settings for these romantic requests were wide and varied:
Parties. An amusement park. Restaurants and bars. An arcade. A sidewalk. A playground. A parking garage. A school bus. A beach. Another beach. A baseball dugout. Through the open windows of my car into the open window of another car while waiting at a stoplight.
I had always found that asking out strangers so much easier than asking a friend, colleague, or even an acquaintance. When you get rejected by a stranger, you never need to see that person again.
The rejection stings, but the moment is fleeting and irrelevant.
When your coworker or friend rejects you, awkwardness, at least for a time, ensues. In some cases, the friendship can be placed in jeopardy. The working relationship can become untenable.
Still, I married my colleague. She taught in a classroom about 30 feet from my own. We first met in a faculty meeting, and about two years later, our friendship had blossomed into romance.
Most of my longest, best relationships, including my marriage, began as friendships.
I also explained to my younger friend that Elysha and I started dating nearly 20 years ago. Dating apps and websites did not exist when I last dated, so finding potential partners online, posting profiles in hopes of getting noticed, and swiping left and right are all things I’ve never done.
My romantic life has been entirely analog.
My younger friend compared the possibility of an analog dating life to a roller coaster:
Intriguing but also terrifying.
She’s also never ridden on a roller coaster.
While she’s not averse to meeting potential partners in real life and has dated people who she’s met offline, she can’t imagine all of her romantic hopes predicated on the need to meet people in real life, ask them out on dates, and hope they might say yes.
“I’d love to meet the right person in person, but I can’t imagine not having the apps to make sure I can meet people when there’s no one around the corner.”
My advice to her if she wants to meet her special someone in a more analog way:
Expand your life. Do more stuff. Find more corners to go around.
Ride a roller coaster.