In an Atlantic piece last year exploring the rise of online dating fatigue, Julie Beck interviews a friend who floats a grim theory about apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble and Hinge, which purport to make dating easy and convenient, but can turn out to be exhausting and disappointing. “What if everyone who was going to find a happy relationship on a dating app already did?” Beck’s friend theorizes. “Maybe everyone who’s on Tinder now are like the last people at the party trying to go home with someone.”
If two stories that appeared on the internet this week from people who both claim they fell in love with and married their first and only match online are any indication, that sentiment may actually be true.
Exhibit A: On Friday, The New York Times’ Vows column, known for conveying stories of perfect love so quirky, lofty and aspirational that they’ve been called “gratingly ethereal” and “out of this world,” ran an installment headlined, “Against All Odds, Only One Match Was Needed.”
Inside we learn that true love is possible, at least for upper-middle-class creatives with disposable incomes and flexible schedules. “Once upon an algorithm, a widower in San Francisco who was an expert in online consumer behavior took to the internet to find the one,” it begins. Long story short: He did find the one. Like, immediately. One shot, straight to the heart. And, scene.
Sure yeah, there are details, if you need them: Bill Tancer and Erika Holiday were both looking for love, and thus, they created dating profiles on eHarmony, shooting them into the ether and hoping for the best. Bill was an expert on consumer behavior and a widower whose wife of 17 years had died of breast cancer not long before. Erika, a psychologist and professor, was an expert in human behavior who had hardly dated in 10 years.
Like most people, Erika received any number of matches in response. But Bill—who is either extraordinarily lucky, making this shit up or an expert on how to game a dating profile—hit the jackpot on his first try. Though he “fully expected” to receive dozens of matches, he got only one. “I didn’t know if there was something wrong with my computer,” he joked, “or if there was something wrong with me.”
From there, Cupid did his thing. Bill and Erika had all the right things in common: They both lived in California. Their career interests had a natural overlap. They liked each other. There was just one problem: Erika lived 300 miles away. Kidding! That was no problem whatsoever, because they were both totally loaded and had no problem finding the time or money to fly out and see each other as often as they liked. They had spontaneous dinners in exciting cosmopolitan centers, met each other’s families and fell in love.
No one was weird or grouchy, and he wasn’t still way too hung up on his recently deceased wife, and that whole 10-year-relationship gap on her dating resume was no big deal, and they didn’t fight over how many times he was paying for those flights and dinners versus her, because his car didn’t just break down and she wasn’t still paying off her student loans.
Instead, a few months later he simply sold his house and relocated to be with her. They married in the 15,000-square-foot mansion belonging to her brother in Beverly Hills, she in Louboutin heels, he in a Ralph Lauren suit, with a vegan wedding cake. (He’s vegan every day except Tuesdays!)
Then there’s Exhibit B: This L.A. Affairs dating column in the L.A. Times about Adam and Darlene, which is considerably less bougie: Adam had tried a bunch of dating apps and was kind of over it when he decided to give Bumble a try. He matched with a “beautiful brunette,” and they had a far more believable, awkward initial conversation they had to power through to set up a date.
“Ironically,” he writes, “I was her first right swipe, and she was my first and only connection.” Made up or not, wonderful. Unlike other Bumble/Tinder dates, where a Crossfitter shows up to meet a winded Goth smoker, these two figured out in advance that they were both into being fit and being vegan. That made the date planning easy: They were able to ride bikes around Long Beach and find a suitable restaurant for vegans, and one month later she moved in.
After a romantic getaway on Catalina Island just one year later, Adam proposed; they’re now getting married (and taking a three-month honeymoon!), and a baby on the way makes three.
So how can we make sense of these slam-dunk stories of needles in digital haystacks? Well, for one thing, they’re probably outliers. Current Pew Research found that only 5 percent of people who are married or in a committed relationship met online. We could consider that some people who met online still don’t want to admit it, but the same Pew research found that the stigma of online dating has decreased considerably. Currently, some 60 percent of Americans say they believe online dating is a “good” way to meet people.
In a sense, these one-match wonders are inevitable. The more comfortable we get with online dating, the more exhausting it can be to sort through all those digital needles, and the more we will hope that something in them stands out as romantic and inspiring as any worthy of a rom-com level meet-cute. It was only a matter of time.
Regardless of where you meet a mate, everyone still wants to believe in the magic. “It only has to work once, theoretically,” a 26-year-old woman interviewed in the Atlantic piece notes grimly.
If nothing else, Bill and Erika and Adam and Darlene prove that fairy tales really come true, at least if you’re loaded. Or vegan. Preferably both.