How to meet people offline: What it’s like to date IRL

With online dating now the norm, what’s it like meet people offline? Two writers answer that question by trying to find a mate the old-fashioned way: in person.

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Illustration: john S. Dykes

After living in New York for almost eight years, I have yet to find “the one” (or at least someone to split the rent with). But as a seasoned dater, I’ve used Nerve and OkCupid personals since before there were apps. Meeting people online has its perks—you can suss out your potential partner in advance—while IRL techniques are more ambiguous. Still, I was curious if an organic approach would get me out of the short-term-dating trap.


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While dog-sitting my sister’s Chihuahua earlier this summer, I couldn’t stop meeting men (although no one asked for my number). So since I don’t have my own full-time canine, I volunteered to walk one for an hour for Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC). Bennie, a three-month-old wheaten terrier, got his nose stuck in a cup on Bedford Avenue, and as I wrestled to get it out, guys smiled and waved. Unfortunately, they were in cars and I was on the sidewalk. Conclusion: This could work, but you need to commit to regularly visiting the same park or dog run.


My next move was to try meeting guys through friends. During an outing at Gotham Comedy Club, I bumped into a comedian friend who was performing. Before she went onstage, I told her about my experiment, and she suggested I hit on the comic going up after her. His tag line—“I look like a cop”—made me cringe, but she insisted he was a great guy, so I chatted him up. I felt hopeful until we exited at the same time—and our stuck-in-the-elevator chemistry was nonexistent. “Nice to meet you!” we both said…and I hoped he wouldn’t e-mail. 


Later that same night, I attended a movie premiere and bumped into a guy I had met earlier that evening at dinner. At the after-party, my new friend and I chatted all night; he gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me he’d call as he left. I heard from him a few weeks later—so at least one of my attempts became a success story.


The secret to meeting offline, it seems, is to find your matchmaker, whether it’s a cute puppy, an onstage friend or an offstage buddy. New Yorkers are friendly, so don’t be afraid to go out into the real world. And who knows? Maybe someday, we’ll get over online dating altogether, and everyone will meet the new-old way—face-to-face.—Alyssa Pinsker


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