I was chatting away to a friend the other day, both of us saying how grateful we are that we met our respective partners in our early 20s, organically, pre-dating apps, and don’t have to struggle along like our single friends who are dating and striking out on a weekly basis.
“If you broke up with your partner now, would you date again?” he asked me.
“No, I’d go full crazy-horse-lady and bunker down alone,” I said immediately, and I do think I genuinely mean that (with all the privilege of not having to currently test the theory).
Why? Because it looks awful out there, and I’m yet to talk to a single friend who enjoys meeting people via dating apps. The consensus seems to be that they’re a necessary evil because how else do you meet someone these days?
No, genuinely. How?
I can count on one hand the number of new connections I’ve made through work and hobbies who, had I been single, could have been romantic prospects. Workplaces are only really suited to meeting people if they’re big companies with lots of staff – dating a team member when you work in a small organisation is tricky and often too awkward to pursue.
As for hobbies, our work lives become more demanding as we get older. Most of my networks only have the capacity for the gym and potentially one other activity, and often those aren’t suited to meeting people either. For example, I have loads of friends in the equestrian community who are straight single women. If you find a man at any horse show, it’s like viewing a rare animal in the wild – everyone stares in shock, and nine times out of 10 they’re in a relationship and/or not interested in women.
If I go back to the gym for a second, my TikTok feed is full of women complaining about being hit on at the gym, and equally women gushing about their ‘gym crush’, so maybe that is a more fertile dating ground than I assumed. But also, what if it doesn’t work out? Is the gym now destined to forever be awkward?
Given the lack of organic opportunities the older we get, I can understand how dating apps become the obvious option, but as I listened to a friend explain a recent date to me, I wondered whether the clinical approach to ‘matching’ with someone online means the romance is officially dead?
“He was handsome and smart and really nice,” a friend informed me, “but I just don’t know if he was funny enough, and I couldn’t tell if he would get along with my friends.”
That seems like a lot to expect from someone from one date, I pointed out. Not everyone will be confident enough to show their full personality the first time they meet a stranger, and the more time you spend with someone the more accurately you can assess them.
“I just can’t waste time on second dates if it might not work,” she told me, and I can kind of get that too. Time is of the essence, especially when you’re in your late-30s and keen to start a family.
All this to say, I truly salute the single 30-somethings out there. It is undeniably tough out there, and only a limitless belief in true love can keep the optimism alive.