In two months, I’ll be watching my only cousin on my dad’s side, the one who is like a sister, walk down the aisle as the sun sets. With sand in my toes, I’ll be standing next to her as she vows forever and her future to her husband-to-be. Their love is as extraordinary as the way they met in today’s culture: through a blind date six years ago. It was the only one she ever had. “I knew I liked him from the beginning,” she says.
With Valentine’s Day here, I can’t help but wonder if their story could really happen in 2011. As I reflect on my single status, it makes me take stock in the relationships around me and wonder if I should put my relationship fate in the hands of the Bell family charm: blind dating.
It’s not just the beach bride – her parents, my aunt and uncle, also met through a blind date. Being paired up through my aunt’s sister and my uncle’s roommate in the summer of 1971, they went to a drive-in to watch “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” for their first date. She remembered thinking how much her father would like him because he was so tall, a towering 6 feet 7 inches. Her hunch was correct. Her father did like him and four years later they married.
Then there is the strongest case for blind dating, one filled with success and the closest, most influential relationship to me: my parents, who will be celebrating 30 years of marriage in October. They met on a blind date six years after graduating from the same high school, never knowing each other in those South Portland High hallways. It was my mother’s only blind date, and she, too, said she knew right away that he was the one for her.
My mother took to the original Facebook – her yearbook – to check my dad out before their first date. In 2011 it is hard to have anonymity or a truly blind date. Everyone has access to a digital camera and social networking sites. I was hard pressed to find anyone my age who has gone on a blind date and even fewer with positive experiences. You can research your dates, check out their online presence and have preconceived notions. People can be anything they want online, but you really don’t know someone until you meet them and get to know them through real interaction and not an online profile.
I think the closest things 20-somethings have to blind dating is online dating. There are also the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, video dating, phone chat lines and speed dating. There are online dating sites for all types, varying interests, backgrounds and beliefs. Some $500 million was spent on online dating and personals in 2005 and this year that number is projected to be more than $900 million.
Maybe it has something to do with the hookup culture, too. No one seems to date anymore. Our generation isn’t patient enough. We’re too busy and live in a world of instant gratification.
Then there are the online dating horror stories, not told through cheesy, sugary TV commercials. I dipped a hesitant toe once or twice in the online dating pool a few years ago, partly on a dare from the former Quarterlife Lessons writer. Granted, I wasn’t attacked and stabbed like a woman in Detriot who earlier this month met up with a blind date, but the first one was painful. I was matched with a guy with some similar interests, so I decided to be impulsive and adventurous and we arranged to meet. I drove an hour, met him, had awkward conversation, tried to be polite even after he spoke at great lengths about “American Idol,” and as fast as possible flew out of the parking lot with my sweater dangling from the car door. The best part was my avocado quesadilla.
I was proud for putting myself out there, but we never talked again. I knew he was all wrong for me and more dates wouldn’t change that. You can imagine my horror this summer, boarding a flight from Atlanta to Portland, when I saw him seated in the row behind me. On a plane with more than 250 seats, we were assigned the last and second-to-last rows, giving him ample time to see me slowly maneuver to the rear. My cat-like reflexes and stealthy moves saved up from “Alias” reruns served me well, and by some miracle of the eHarmony gods, he never saw me.
While I think it’s fair to say blind dating isn’t what it used to be when my parents met, or even six years ago when my cousin met her fiance, I can’t ignore my family’s track record and believe having a family member or close friend set you up is still a great idea. I have to trust a process that has served my family so well. However, I have created the following guidelines to try and avoid another bad blind date:
First, consider the source. It’s not as simple as, do they know you well. They need to know the little things. How is this person setting you up on a blind date as a gift giver? Second, keep an open mind. Not looking good on paper isn’t all there is to a potential date and life partner. My cousin and her fiance hated what each other wore on that first date but it didn’t stop them from a second. Third, take a chance and be adventurous. As my Aunt Susan says (she also met her husband on a blind date), “You can never have too many friends.” And finally, as a generation-specific requirement, there must be pause to give potential dates more than a fleeting thought. In our technocentric culture that leaves us wanting thousands of updates per second, we all could stand to slow down a little bit and not be hasty. Limiting online research would probably be an excellent suggestion, as well.
I guess this means I have to take my mom up on some of her matchmaking offers. Then again, this is the woman who bought me a book, “What is Your Cat Thinking?” for Christmas.
A RANDOM THOUGHT
Maybe Maine Women should follow in the London Guardian’s footsteps. The British newspaper matches up readers who “fancy a blind date” in a weekly bit, featured in their life and style section and are promised to be “fixed up with someone nice.” The two fill out a series of questions about how the date went and if they’d date again. Check it out at http://guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle