Let’s face it. Online dating sucks. You spend your time pouring through pictures that look nothing like the person on the other end, you engage in text conversations that one side usually aborts halfway through, and when you finally do meet up with someone, there’s a 90% chance the date will be painfully boring. And the only consolation you have for your wasted night is your annoying friend-- who's probably also single-- telling you, “But at least you’re getting yourself out there!”
So I decided to turn to what the ancients called “dating someone you met in person.” I started doing research, observing what worked for my friends and what had, in the past, worked for me. My goal was to come up with a system determining what approaches give you the best chance at finding someone. Not necessarily someone you can marry, but at least someone you can binge watch Netflix shows with and who will go in halfsies with you on wedding gifts. Which, let’s be honest, is all we’re really looking for in life.
The culmination of my research was this: The Real-Life Coupling Viability Index (yeah, I know, the name needs work), ranking some of the most popular options out there. And now I’m sharing my findings with the world, in the hopes that if it can’t help me, maybe it can at least help you. As with all scales, one is the worst, 10 is the best…
1.0- Go speed dating
Conceptually, speed dating makes sense. Most of us know within five minutes of meeting a person if we want to date them, so spending exactly that much time with 12 different singles seems like an effective way to use an hour. Yet how many couples do you know who met this way? Zero, right? Yeah, me too. Throw in the fact that sessions usually cost $20*, and it’s just not worth it.
*- Most speed dating tickets actually cost $40, but 100% of people there got in for $20 because “my friend saw this on Groupon and convinced me it would be a fun thing to try.”
2.0- Get set up by a friend who is the same gender as you and also single
When your single friend tells you, “I know the perfect guy for you. He’s funny, he’s nice, and I would totally date him, he’s just not my type,” alarm bells should start going off. After all, she’s on the market just like you, so why is she giving up on this supposedly great find? Of course it’s possible that she and him just aren’t the right fit, but it’s also pretty likely that “he’s just not my type” is code for “he looks kind of like Steve Buscemi, he’s probably bad in bed, and I’m not desperate enough to date him. But maybe you are!”
3.0- Ask out your waitress, your barista or that girl offering free samples at Whole Foods
Men view pretty much any friendliness from the opposite sex as proof that they’re interested. Like, ready-to-tear-off-their-clothes- and-start-going-at-it-on-this-counter-right-here-right-now level interested. This can create some dangerous situations when men are interacting with anyone whose job it is to smile and laugh at their jokes. So maybe we can save the guys out there some time and the girls some discomfort: If you’re convinced your server is into you, she’s not. She just wants you to tip 25%.
4.0- Get set up by your friend who is the opposite gender
Most single guys have, at one point or another, had this interaction with a female friend…
Friend: I know a girl who would be perfect for you. She’s cool, she’s fun, and she’s super chill.
(After hearing their guy friends complain nonstop about girls who are crazy, most women think that all a man wants is a lady who’s “super chill.” But in reality, he only cares about one thing…)
Guy: What does she look like?
Friend: (pause) Well, I think she’s pretty.
And just like that, it’s over.
5.0- Meet someone at a bar
For many, this remains the most popular IRL option. And while we all know at least one couple that met this way, this is kind of like talking to a hundred people who went to a casino and taking encouragement because one of them won big. Look, I get it, if you want to meet someone in a room too loud for conversation with alcohol curbing your brain function, I can't imagine a better place. But while that makes a bar a fine place for finding a hookup, it might not be the best spot for making a real connection.
6.0- Get back together with an ex
You know that time you broke up with your boyfriend, then told everyone every little detail about why he was terrible? You know how you took the clothes he left at your apartment and gave them to the homeless guy up the street? You know how you changed your Facebook status to single, then, when your friends commented on it, you said something like “trust me. It’s for the best?” Well, I’ve got bad news, based on my observation, there’s a solid chance you two will get back together. This is kind of the opposite of speed dating: There’s no reason it should ever work, and yet it happens all the time.
7.0- Date a co-worker
One of the few universally-agreed-upon rules of romance seems to be that you shouldn’t date a co-worker. But there are a few reasons it’s not the worst idea. Working together is a great opportunity to get to know one another before you go out, and it gives you a chance to date someone who shares common interests. And, most importantly, if you do start spending the night at each other’s place, it’s an opportunity to save on gas money by carpooling to the office. Now that’s a relationship you hold onto.
8.0- Date someone who plays on the same ultimate Frisbee team as you
We all know people who play ultimate Frisbee. They are only slightly less intense in their recruitment efforts than someone encouraging you to join a cult. And they never seem to grasp the fact that for 99% of the population, there’s nothing fun about throwing a disc, then watching it turn sideways and careen into the face of a guy sitting on a nearby park bench. So believe me, I hate to write anything that gives them more ammo. But everyone I know who plays ultimate seems to be overwhelmed with opportunities for both casual sex and long-term dating. Usually with a partner who has a good body. So you should probably start working on your flick.
9.0- Meet someone under interesting-and-hard-to-replicate circumstances
But, if you can be that guy on the park bench getting beaned by the Frisbee, and the girl who threw it comes over to apologize, and you are both attracted to each other, then you’re in luck. Because having a great how-we-met story just makes your relationship seem more fun. When you tell it at a party, your friends actually listen. And it’s great fodder for the speech your best friend could make at your wedding. So if you start dating, and discover there are things you don’t like about each other, you have to ask yourself, would you really want to give up all that just because you two aren’t socially compatible?
10.0- Meet at a party
There’s nothing exotic or creative about this method, but it works. Ask your friends how they met their current companion, and “at a party” is one answer you’ll hear over and over. What’s interesting is that, in many ways, the dynamic of a party is the same as that of speed dating. You get to have quick five-minute conversations with a room full of people and see who’s interesting. Except that, in this case, everyone there has been pre-screened by your friend. And, contrary to what you might think after those few blind dates she set you up on last year, not all the people she knows are guys that look like Steve Buscemi who are probably bad in bed.