On a long layover in the San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico, I was eating nachos alone at a bar, when I decided to go on Tinder to pass the time. After strategically setting my location setting to one mile away, the first person who popped up,of course, was the man sitting directly across from me. Ryan’s Tinder pictures were typical bunch. There was the classic selfie in what appeared to be his bathroom, a shot of him and his bros with a handle of fireball at a party, and a picture of himself without a shirt on in front of a pool. What sold me was a picture of him on a boat, wearing a periodic table of elements shirt in a fedora. How could he at least not be boring? His description read: “I’m in the airport until 12, let’s grab drinks!” I glanced at him awkwardly and put my phone away, pondering if I wanted to go through with this.
Taking a few more bites, I realized I had absolutely nothing to lose. I was already sitting alone at a seedy bar called “Margaritaville,” listening to “Livin’ La Vida Loca” for the third time. What could be worse than this? I impulsively swiped right before I would change my mind. We matched right away. I looked up at him through the bottles of rum and smiled. Appearing to be extremely confused, he darted his eyes to a poster of a cartoon map of Mexico on the wall. Ouch. A strong wave of social anxiety hit me, so I took out my laptop and distracted myself by starting on a writing project. Unable to really focus, I resolved that this would be the last time I would use Tinder in such a close proximity to a potential male. A few minutes later, I felt a hand on my back and a voice asking: “Are you Rachel?”
For the next hour or so we talked about our lives — the past, present, and future — in summarized tidbits. Ryan was born in Pasadena, moved out to Orlando when he was 10, took 5 years to graduate University with a Biology major, and was now going to medical school on the island of Saint Kitts & Nevis. Strewn into the conversation were funny stories and personal secrets. I learned that when he was 19, he snuck into a club and was charged with evading arrest after hiding from a police officer in a bathroom for an hour. Something that I had never heard of before was that he had self-proclaimed tactile issues towards aluminum foil. Apparently just thinking about its texture and crunchy sound made him shudder.
Near the end of our conversation he looked at me and said, “You know this is going to sound funny but I believe that us meeting is some type of fate. I have a strange feeling that we will see each other again.” With that he blushed and corrected himself, “ I mean this isn’t the best way to meet, but it was awesome regardless. We can just say we met in line at security!” I faked a laugh and told him that it was a pleasure to meet him. Following an awkward exchange of numbers and a hug, he ran down the terminal to catch his plane.
Left alone at the bar, I contemplated the dynamics of an encounter that my grandparents would have found shocking. Ryan’s words, “I mean this isn’t the best way to meet,” continued to ring in my ears, making me feel a bit shameful for using Tinder to meet someone new. However, at the same time I felt that our interaction was an impressive testimony to the revolution of online dating. Why are so many people reluctant to say that they met through technology?
As Millennials, we are so comfortable doing almost everything through our mobile phones. From ordering fresh and organic produce straight to our doorsteps, to monitoring our finances, to measuring our BMI indexes over time, we put an immense amount of trust in the usefulness of our apps. Yet, we still have qualms admitting — to ourselves and others — that we have made genuine personal connections through apps such as Tinder. Overwhelmingly, people continue to desire that kitschy fairytale love story, where they meet their partner by chance at a jazz concert or a coffee shop. Which, yes, sounds like a lovely conversation starter, but is it really more special to meet someone in that way?
At the end of the day, fate is fate. Maybe I am not so much of a romantic, but it seems that love is superficial from the onset. Whether in person or online, it is the cold hard truth that we as humans are wired to notice physical appearance first and personality second. It seems like dating apps are just like a bar in the 1970’s , with added features that make it easier to strike up a conversation if you are more on the shy side. Yes, these dating apps can appear to make the dating scene even more complicated but at the same time they open doors to a wide array of social experiences.
For me fate does not entail just one ideal person, it’s the entirety of that bumpy road up to that one person. Fate includes that rocky one year relationship in high school, that poorly-planned late Sunday night booty call, and now that one hour conversation with a guy from Tinder in the Puerto Rico airport. The way I see it, meeting someone through Tinder is a miraculous twist of fate, if you think about how many people you have to sift through, the likelihood that both people will enthusiastically message each other, and the reality that a meeting will indeed take place. So even though Ryan and I are most likely not written in the stars, our meeting is not one that I am embarrassed to share.