Dating Apps Have Failed Me. Would a Socially Distant Singles Mixer Be Any Better?

One man I met was a math teacher in his mid-50s who loved traveling and watching old movies. I instantly thought about setting him up with my mom.

By Katherine D. Morgan

A month ago, I made the biggest quarantine mistake one could possibly make: I emailed an ex.

The saddest part is, he's not even an ex. He is a man I went on two dates with who texted me a week after that second date to tell me that while he thought I was awesome, he was super busy with work and couldn't give me the relationship he thought I deserved. I was devastated at the time, but that was in September. Do you realize how long ago that was? We have gone through almost three seasons since this man last messaged me!

When I sent him that email—around 2 am on a Wednesday night—I was attempting to open lines of communication that, truth be told, were never truly open in the first place. I didn't want to admit it, but I was becoming a little desperate. I needed to be brought back to earth. At the beginning of 2020, I made a resolution that I was no longer going to seek out love that wasn't coming back to me tenfold. I deserve to be loved greatly, but sometimes I forget that promise to myself when I look at the clock, realize it's 3 am and I'm watching happy couples confess their love to each other on back-to-back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. I concluded that after swiping, liking and messaging on these apps for almost a decade, and having less than stellar results, maybe it was time for something new.

Enter Jacqueline Nichols, the founder and owner behind Discover Love Matches, a Portland matchmaking service. We talked on the phone, and I asked her point blank if dating in Portland is as bad as single women, and especially single Black women, say.

"People think that Portland is terrible for dating because it's a small city, but there are some really great singles here," she said. When I asked where they all were, Nichols elaborated: "They're all around you. I think that the act of dating has changed. Now, there are so many apps, which has created what I call the 'shopping cart mentality.' However, I will say that people in Portland can be too passive when it comes to vocalizing what it is they are looking for in a relationship."

It's me—I'm people.

A week after we chatted, I deleted my apps and signed up for a three-month trial with Discover Love Matches. I had never been to a singles mixer—in person or otherwise—so I put on my nicest outfit, touched up my lipstick and logged on to Zoom, where I chatted directly with others.

The first one I attended was small and made up mostly of women. At 26, I was the youngest face on the screen, which made me feel fairly brave. Here were some incredible people: some never married, others divorced. One man I met was a math teacher in his mid-50s who loved traveling and watching old movies. I instantly thought about setting him up with my mom. Everyone was in good spirits, still looking for their happily-ever-afters. Their hope made me hope again.

After the event, I re-downloaded my apps, swiping into the void yet again. I matched with over 20 people. I sent about 10 messages. One person responded, and the conversation died after two messages. I curled up in a ball on my couch and sobbed, wondering out loud what it was about me that made me seem undesirable.

My second mixer was a lot more casual. I told myself to relax. Was I here to find someone? Absolutely! But would it I be OK if I didn't? I had to tell myself it would be. I made people laugh. I displayed my personality as best as I could, smiling at myself in the Zoom camera. One woman turned her camera around so we could all witness the beautiful sunset outside her home. Another told us about the hike she took on the trail by her house and how great it felt to be active after spending months in quarantine. I even got to see some dogs, the highlight of any interaction. When I logged off, I felt pleased with myself. Even if I didn't receive any messages, I still had a good time.

The next afternoon, Nichols sent out the profiles of the people who attended, encouraging us to take charge and message each other. I sent three messages and received two responses. One of the men I'm still talking to, which surprises me because I haven't gotten this far in a long time. I deleted the apps again. Maybe it's time to put away my shopping cart for good.

Related: It Is Possible to Date During a Pandemic. It Sure Isn't Easy, Though.

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