By Becca Hirsch
I had just moved to Chicago with my two best friends after we graduated college. When fantasizing about my new life there, I imagined dimly lit bars with sexy businessmen sending a dirty martini my way, accompanied by a casual wink. I was 22 and ready to date. I had survived four years of college and embraced the casual dating lifestyle that is college, or as older generations call it, the “hook-up culture." But college was over and I was ready to be wined and dined.
What I soon realized was that the hook-up culture does not simply vanish after college, it is instead morphed to new bars with new bros and going to work instead of class. No one was sending dirty martinis my way. Needless to say, my friends and I were unimpressed with the guys we were meeting at the bars. We knew there were plenty of eligible bachelors in the city of Chicago, but how could we find them? Where were they all hiding? They definitely weren’t at the frat-tastic bars we were frequenting every weekend.
I remember sitting down with my roommates during a weekly wine night and discussing online dating. It was this new and scary unknown abyss that came with so many questions. What sites are out there? Did all of them charge? I just wanted to go out on dates with nice enough guys and enjoy being in my early 20s in a new and exciting city. Was that too much to ask for?
So I did it: I jumped on the strange and stigma-filled online dating bandwagon. I told myself at the very least I would get some good experience going on actual dates to prepare myself for the “real deal." In my first couple months on the site, I went out with two different guys. The first one was very nice, but kept talking about his high school glory days and how many chicks he banged back when he was quarterback. Not really my style. The second guy I went out with looked like he had just come from a Blink 182 concert, Vans and all. After a couple dates, he broke up with me via a nine (yes, nine) paragraph long Facebook messaging explaining to me in detail how he still was not over his ex, who broke up with him when he was 16 and there was no way his 27 year-old self was ready for a long-term relationship.
Just as I was about to put my dating life on the back burner, I got a message from someone who seemed nice, cute, and normal. He even had the decency to ask me how I felt about the crazy Chicago winter after moving there from California. After exchanging a couple messages, we learned that we had a lot in common. On our first date we chatted about everything from music, travelling, and school to thumb-wars and even how weird Arizona is. Date number one was a success. We started hanging out more and more, and continued to find new and bizarre topics to cover in our conversations. Labels were put on, parents were met, and “I love you”s were exchanged. We have now been dating for three years, and we still find odd things to talk about, including how weird Arizona is.
I recognize that my boyfriend and I were lucky that we not only found each other, but did so relatively quickly and painlessly on a free dating site. However, other people do not have such luck, and many of my friends struggled with the online dating scene. They joined a variety of sites, yet everyone had similar complaints: no questionnaire, no profile, and no equation could translate real in-person chemistry. In addition, the person you are meeting is totally random. None of your friends can vouch for them, and the idea of sharing romantic dates and moments with someone who exists so far from your social circle and network can feel very liberating, but it can also feel very scary. While online dating opens many doors that may not otherwise be opened or noticed, it also takes the personal aspect of dating out. It almost becomes a regimented interview process, instead of romantic and intimate.
The more online dating horror stories I heard from my friends, the more frustrated I became. I had been in Chicago for a couple years, and I knew so many great single guys and girls who had so much to offer in a relationship, but had the worst luck finding the right people to date. Since I have always had a deep interest and passion for understanding romantic relationships (I am currently in graduate school to receive a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy), and I watch way too much Millionaire Matchmaker, I decided to take the Chicago dating scene into my own hands.
In August of 2012, I started my very own blog showcasing my favorite single guy friends in Chicago who had the “Becca seal of approval.” That is how my brainchild and passion project, Not Your Average Bro, came to be. My site is more personal, since I choose and approve the guys on the site, and I am, “vouching” for my Bros. Girls started e-mailing me through my blog asking to get set up, and I started seeing myself as a modern day matchmaker.
I began writing articles about dating as a Millennial and even started an advice column called, “Dear Becca." This experience has opened more doors for me than I had ever imagined. One of the most rewarding moments I have had through this experience was when I received my first dating question from a complete stranger. It is a surreal and amazing feeling that random people trust you with their most personal dating insecurities and questions.
Online dating can be a great way to meet people, but can also be overwhelming. It is time that we Millennials take the dating world into our own hands and take what we want out of it. I was unhappy with meeting guys at bars, so I took a chance and tried online dating and it changed my life; I met my current boyfriend through it, and it sparked my interest in understanding the dating world for our generation. Working on Not Your Average Bro for the past year and a half has been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life, and I have online dating to thank for it.