Dena and Paul stood at their wedding altar, framed by the breathtaking mountains and the fresh scent of pine trees. Surrounded by many of their friends and family, they were eager to finally proclaim their love for one another. Sitting next to my parents in one of the many rows of rustic log benches, I listened as the wedding officiator talked about how not only fate and friends, but Bumble, had brought this beautiful couple together.
Bumble, really? At a wedding, the pinnacle moment of love and hope for a couple, the bride and groom thanked a dating app for bringing them together. As they stood before me, professing their enduring love with their vows, I could not shake the image of them, hunkered in bed, using this weird dating app technology. I pictured them both swiping through hundreds of photos of complete strangers to find each other. I was baffled at how this app had worked so well.
Heading to the reception, after all of the lovey-dovey wedding stuff was over, I thought that I was free from hearing any more about the magic of Bumble. But as I busted a move on the dance floor that night, I was proved wrong. From all angles, I was surrounded by divorced Ladera Ranch moms grinding on their wedding dates — dates who, my mom assured me, they had met through dating apps.
How was this possible? I thought that dating apps were meant to further the insanity of hook-up cultures on college campuses, not connect 45-year-old divorced women to their midlife loves.
Returning home, after being surrounded by bundles of Bumble love, I was curious about how Bumble was working for people in my generation. Talking to my close friend Paris, dipping our toes into the bubbling water of my Jacuzzi and sipping on ice-cold coconut La Croix, I got my answer. She told me about how she had met a lovely man through Bumble while she was going to university in Oklahoma. Could this app really be a cross-generational matchmaking miracle?
Between Paul and Dena’s wedding, the grinding Ladera Ranch moms and Paris’ new boo, I could not deny the power of Bumble any longer. In that moment, sitting in my Jacuzzi, I had no doubt that dating apps must be the only way that I could find love in the 21st century.
So that night, sitting in my bed, I pulled out my phone and began to swipe through the limitless photos of men — as the game of dating apps requires. Within minutes, my 6-by-3-inch iPhone screen had presented me with more viable dating options than I had seen in my entire time at UC Berkeley.
In my time playing this game of dating apps, I matched with a few people, but when I went to message them, I found myself wrought with anxiety. Taking the next step to actually talking with someone, someone who I decided I was interested in based on 10 seconds of looking at their photos, felt wrong. As someone who barely looks at Facebook, the entire digital setting bothered me. Exiting the app that night, I was left not only dateless, but with my newfound concern that I would die alone.
I was so anxious about my predicament that I actually brought it up to my counselor, Toni.
I told her that I needed help getting over these fears because, surely, I would need the endless dating options that the app could provide. But, kindly, she reminded me that people were still falling in love and getting married before Bumble — a thought that I believed, even though it contradicted my countless examples of dating app success.
So, back in Berkeley, on a tantalizing Tuesday trivia night at Kip’s, I decided to try out another way of connecting with people that did not require me to rely on a technology that made me feel so awkward. While sitting at the bar, I pursued a conversation with the bartender, who was quite attractive. As we talked about sports and the evil of plastic straws, I began to feel a connection. Without thinking too hard about it, I asked him for his phone number. To my surprise, he turned around, grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote it down for me.
I had done it! I connected with another human being without needing an app to set us up. In addition to our bar conversation, we shared a short string of messages in which I proceeded to ask him out to coffee. His response: “I am very busy and will have to let you know when I am free” – yeah, that was a no.
Despite the tragic result of my real-life dating attempt, I felt better reaching out to this random stranger in person than I did swiping through photos from behind a screen. In that moment, I realized that not using a dating app did not sentence me to an eternity of loneliness. Everyone has to figure out what their dating style is, and whether fate or an algorithm brings people together, all that matters in the end is that they find each other.
Jessica Redden writes the Monday column on finding freedom from overconsumption.