Can Love Be Blind?

ONLINE DATING ADVICE FOR A “SUPER MARRIED” WOMAN

 

It’s hard to imagine falling in love with someone you’ve never seen—not knowing the color of their eyes nor ever holding their hand—but for the couples on the new Netflix dating show Love is Blind, it appears that some are able to make very deep connections by simply just…talking. 

In our current world of dating apps and social media, when most of what you see of someone is just their picture, it’s not very often that we get to know someone intensely—like the sounds and inflections of their voice when they’re happy versus sad. On the show, many couples demonstrate this odd ability to go deep and be vulnerable seemingly just because they’re not being seen. It begs the question, can you be your most authentic self when you don’t feel like you’re being judged by your appearance? Can love really ever be blind?

It was not too long ago when I was visiting my friend Serena in D.C., that we asked ourselves this very question. Serena has had month-long relationships, live-with-someone relationships, casual hook ups, and everything in between. This particular visit, she was fully invested in the dating app scene. 

“So! How’s the dating going? Are you still on Tinder?” I asked with glee.

“Well, I’m only on Bumble now,” Serena said. “It’s like the more serious Tinder. I’ve had a few good dates but I’m just so over it. It’s so hard knowing who’s worth swiping for.”

To say I don’t know anything about dating, especially online dating, is fact. I met my husband when I was 13, started dating him at 19, and married him at 27. We’ve been together now for 13 years—and in Serena’s words, I’m who you’d call “super married.” 

As we sat on her couch, she opened up her Bumble to show me successful messages from guys she’s dated. As we passed the phone back and forth, the idea hit us. With intrigue and delight she squealed, “MAGGIE, just take it! Control my Bumble this weekend! Find me someone different and FUN!”

“So we’re basically just judging if they’re hot or not?” I asked, defeated.

Maggie Trela

As I took her phone in my hands, agreeing to this ‘experiment’ of our own, I initially felt a huge responsibility. My first couple of swipes were made with pause, “I swipe right when I like them, right?” I was thoroughly fascinated by it all, reading every detail in every profile, very deliberately debating whether to swipe right or left.

Some guys had pictures with their shirts off, at the gym, rock climbing. Many didn’t even have words in their bio, just photos of their bodies. “Why do they always tell you how tall they are?!” Swipe left. Some had photos with family and friends, or made a funny joke. One especially made us LOL with his singular bio line, “If you haven’t watched Spice World you’re too young for me.” Swipe right.

My introductory calm, constrained matchmaking lasted all of 5 minutes. As my swiping quickened, I realized just how surface it all really is. “So we’re basically just judging if they’re hot or not?” I asked, defeated. “Like maybe this guy [faces the phone to Serena to see an average looking male] is actually super sweet and funny, but we’ll never know because he made a pouty face in a selfie.”

After swiping at least 50 guys, I started getting notifications of matches. There was a small sense of joy each time we got a match, but then the most tedious portion of the game came next: the messaging. 

I was stumped at what to say when Serena came swooping in, “I have a line that works every time.”

 

Hey! You seem cool! 

 

And like a moth to a flame, every single guy reacted with genuine interest and appreciation for the compliment. For most men on the app who obviously think it’s important to show off their bodies and feature their tall stature, being complimented for everything but seemed to be refreshing. 

Conversing with a stranger that you’ve connected with purely over their face, or a one liner in their profile, is hard, especially when there are over 40 million registered users. But according to many articles, and anyone who’s single, online dating is often regarded as the most likely way to meet someone. One third of marriages even start online now

But this old marriage gal? I wasn’t a believer. I’m still not. I was having fun, lots of it. But each time we’d get a notification, my immediate excitement was quickly worn down to disappointment. The guys never seemed to make a great effort; the lines and questions weren’t that captivating. It all just felt forced. 

One afternoon though, things started to look up as Serena and I found ourselves at a Belgian beer hall. We found seats in the middle of a long communal table and were interrupted by a Bumble notification that our Spice World fella had messaged us back. As we giggled handing the phone back and forth, a guy sitting one empty stool next to me leaned over. 

“Are you helping her with her dating app?” he asked. 

“Oh! Yea!” I chuckled, insisting that it wasn’t a game, just a married friend helping her single friend find love. 

The guy introduced himself as Keith, and introduced us to his friend across the table, Jake. For over an hour, the four of us sat, ordered another round of beers, and had an open discussion about dating apps. 

“So why do guys always put their height?” I asked Kevin. “And why so many pictures of your bodies?”

“Because girls want a tall guy,” Keith said matter-of-factly, to which Serena and I simultaneously replied, “We do not!” 

“But aren’t we all only judging on looks anyways?” he asked. Our laughter faded to sighs, because it was true and because it was sad.

Most people have a lot more to offer than their height and biceps, and for a generation that is now considered the loneliest in America, who prioritize being busy rather than investing in meaningful connections, we all need reminders.

Maggie Trela 

We live in an evolving world where we’re encouraged to accept our natural bodies and faces, encouraged to go without make-up, and wear what makes us feel good. It’s hopefully becoming a world where we’re seeing ourselves beautiful as is. But the dating app world? It seems to be going so far backwards. It’s all so superficial. Studies even show that “a majority of men and women pursue partners who are ‘out of their league,’ reaching out to people who are 25% more desirable than themselves.” We’re very literally just choosing who’s the best looking. 

After our beer glasses emptied, Keith and Jake thanked us for the impromptu chat and tugged on their coats. As we said goodbyes, Serena had a feeling it was now or never—she’d actually met someone she liked in real life! 

“Hey, if you ever want to hang out…” she said to Jake, and quickly they exchanged numbers before he wished us a good night.  

Serena and I were both stunned at how much we enjoyed these strangers’ company. It reminded us how little we make the effort to connect with people, especially strangers, in real life. Most people have a lot more to offer than their height and biceps, and for a generation that is now considered the loneliest in America, who prioritize being busy rather than investing in meaningful connections, we all need reminders. 

Dating seems hard, even after one weekend on Bumble. And when we base our impressions on photos and dms, I don’t think we get the opportunity to add up all the little things that make someone attractive outside of their physical beauty. Like how when you really know someone, you can tell their mood by the way they hold their silences, or how a certain laugh means they’re really laughing. Maybe that’s why Love Is Blind is the most talked about show right now, because connections are being made based on who we are on the inside, instead of the ever-changing nature of one’s physical appearance. I can say that while I’ve been with my husband for over a decade, it’s rarely his physical appearance that makes me feel butterflies. It’s the way he makes me laugh with stupid faces and dance moves while he’s cooking dinner, and his sing-song joviality at 6:30 every morning. 

When I asked Serena if she would’ve swiped right on Jake, she admits she isn’t sure, “He was just so sweet in person. I mean, I really don’t know! I’m honestly just excited to even be his friend.”

LET'S TALK: do you judge someone based on appearance? can love really be blind?

 

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