ESSAY: Meeting cute in an online world

By Ken Paglia

I’m thinking about giving up on the meet cute.

The meet cute, if you don’t know, is the plot device that romantic films use to pair up their leads in ironic or funny ways. Think when Harry and Sally were forced into an 18-hour car ride that left them hating each other.

It’s one of the things we give up with online dating, right? And it’s a pretty big sacrifice, because everyone wants a good “how we met” story. It’s only natural. We make sense of our lives through storytelling, and having a good story tends to validate our decisions.

Yet nearly one-third of Americans know someone who has been married or in a long-term relationship thanks to online dating, according to a survey last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. That represents a 14-percent jump in eight years.

I’ve thought about this recently because I’m about to meet Rachel—a woman I encountered through OkCupid. We’re both communications professionals who like to read and exercise, and we both have pit bull mixes. I’m excited.

Because Rachel is new to online dating, I want her first experience to be special. I keep thinking if I hold out long enough, the universe will give us our own meet cute. She’ll be playing kickball at Curtis Park at the same time that I’m walking my dog; her home-run kick will sail over a tree and hit me in the face. She’ll have to put the steak she was saving for the grill on my eye, and we’ll have a great story.

Or her dog will chew up her left-foot slipper, my dog will chew up my right-foot slipper, and we’ll run into each other at Target on Broadway, and decide to go in on a pair.

The truth is most people still meet at work, through friends or at a party. But online relationships are catching up.

If I want serendipity to befall us, I’m going to have to create it. One website suggested printing out pictures of each other, then using them to find each other by asking strangers, “Have you seen my date?” Or what if I told the story of Rachel and me meeting in one of Sacramento’s most widely read publications? Maybe this is our meet cute. The options are limitless.

Ken Paglia is a Sacramento public-relations professional working at the intersection of media and mental health.

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