I come from an age when romance blossomed through personal interaction. Eye contact, shy smiles, deliberately planned encounters and outright infatuation were how relationships developed.
Face-to-face evaluation was a great culling mechanism for love. Like car shopping, it gave a person the opportunity to gradually test whether things would work. And these were elements that required actual proximity.
Did the person have horrible breath? Was she shallow and vapid? Was he a bully? And/or did the other person have the personality of a narcoleptic tree sloth.
Back then, only desperate losers looked for romance in the want ads or lonely hearts correspondence. This, of course, was all before the internet.
So I confess to being a bit skeptical about meeting someone online, texting back and forth, finally arranging a meet, and having it develop into a committed lifelong relationship.
Note: I know, I know. Lifelong commitments aren’t exactly a given anymore either.
But the concern still stands. You may think you’re communicating online with a Prince Charming, but what if he’s actually Prince Alarming?
The recent number of online hookups going sideways should give anyone pause. Back in the day, all that was risked in physical wooing was a slap or being called a name. Online hookups risk much more.
Romancing from home allows someone to pretend more. Some creep in a squalid dump can pass himself off as his complete opposite just to arrange a meeting.
“Thirty-something neurosurgeon looking for the perfect relationship. Rich, ripped, world traveler and owns a Mercedes. Interests include romantic getaways, worshipping a goddess, and spending lavishly on a woman.”
Now, imagine showing up for a drink in a public place only to find yourself sitting across from a mama’s boy with lint in his hair, a basement complexion, and a Matchbox Mercedes toy in his pocket.
Since I married way before Al Gore invented the internet, I wouldn’t know how to cyberdate. I became interested in my wife the old-fashioned way — by having her dislike me first.
She told me later that she initially found me rude, inappropriate, impulsive and unpredictable. I’m not sure how we got past that. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure we have. But we’re coming up on five decades together. So there’s that.
We probably wouldn’t have gotten around to the marriage part if our initial encounter had been online.
See, while the risk in meeting the wrong person online seems higher, there’s also the increased risk in letting the right one get away.
It’s easy to dump a good prospect over something picky. You don’t have to stick around and get to know the person better. You just — click — block that person and he or she is gone.
But let’s not ignore the statistics. Online hookups are dicey, but then so are relationships between people who have been together for ages.
Just because you met your “one and only” the old-fashioned way doesn’t mean it’s less dangerous. Not when the amount of domestic violence and divorce in long-term relationships is taken into consideration.
Online or in person, the trick is being both careful and caring. It’s risky out there.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.