Adventures in online dating, part two: My Coffee Meets Bagel experience

Oh hey! It’s been a minute. Anyone still there? Is this thing still on? I hope so, because I have SO much to share!

The past few months have been a wonderful whirlwind of starting my new job, reconnecting with friends, and settling back into the rhythm of life in Houston. After 3 years of nearly constant change, I can truly say that this has been one of the most joy- and peace-filled transitions I’ve ever made. I plan to dive more into that on the blog soon, but for now, I want to revisit the subject of online dating.

In my last post, I talked about why I finally decided to try it after years of loathing the idea, how I chose a platform, and how it all commenced with The Great Bagel Mix-Up of 2020. (And to think I ever doubted that God would be able to write me a great story. HA.) Today, I’ll share more about my actual experiences and what I’ve learned about myself, about this brave new (virtual) world, and about what I’m truly looking for.

Overall Experience

First, some basic stats:

  • I started by downloading Coffee Meets Bagel and utilized the app for a total of 8 weeks.
  • In that time, I went on 12 dates with 6 different guys (4 dates with one guy and just 1 or 2 with the rest).
  • I also messaged with a number of other “matches” that never culminated in a date, either because the conversation fizzled or I sensed a red flag. (For example, I asked one guy if we could postpone our coffee date due to a major headache, and he clearly thought I was flaking because he replied that he was a “catch” and I was “missing out” on his great personality. So I decided to let him miss out on mine. *sips tea*)

In general, I would say that my brief experience with CMB was a positive one. It seemed like the majority of users were, in fact, looking for some sort of committed relationship, and connecting with kind, funny, and intelligent guys who treated me with respect low-key restored my faith in humanity. I did endure some ghosting (which I expected), some gaslighting (which I did not expect), and one experience that can best be described as the Smelly Fish Market Saga (an evening for which nothing could have prepared me). But overall, I’m grateful to have connected with some solid dudes and confirmed that after a year off, I am indeed ready to date again.

And a note about dating during COVID: Meeting people during a pandemic might be a challenge, but I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of a fan of what it’s done for first dates. Instead of drinks in a dark and crowded bar, activities like going for a walk or sitting outside at a coffee shop are now go-to’s. Staying 6 feet apart really takes the pressure and emphasis off physical intimacy and shifts the focus to quality conversation. And although the conventional wisdom is to avoid tackling deep/controversial subjects on a first date, I think it’s a good idea to start learning about what your date truly values early on. And there’s nothing like discussing the tumultuous events of 2020 to help hone in on someone’s character. So tell me, Steve, how do you feel about wearing masks?

What Went Well

Despite having no idea what I was doing, I feel good about how I handled certain aspects of online dating.

  • I created a profile that genuinely reflected my personality. It was tempting to include only photos that showed me dressed to the nines or to list hobbies or personality traits that made me sound more “exciting.” However, I wanted to attract the right kind of guy, not just any guy, so I knew I needed to be honest. I chose a few “cute” photos as well as a no-makeup hiking selfie that I originally took to send to my family. I mentioned outright that I’m looking for someone who shares my faith. And I listed hobbies like writing and creating Spotify playlists so any potential date would know he’s probably not looking at a thrill-seeking party animal.
  • I filtered my searches by qualities that are truly important to me. Even though there were a lot of seemingly great guys who identified as “spiritual but not religious,” I intentionally matched only with guys who were Christian or Catholic. If I ever hope to marry someone who shares my faith, then it only makes sense to date people who do as well.
  • I stayed true to myself in conversations and on dates. I didn’t force my beliefs on anyone, but I also didn’t shy away from expressing them if the opportunity arose. This actually led to a number of great conversations about life, religion, past dating experiences, personality tests, music, food, travel, and more that went deeper than surface-level. And if nothing else, I helped at least a few guys identify their enneagram type. They can thank me later.
  • I kept my cool throughout the ghosting and gaslighting. It was tempting to take it personally when someone stopped responding with no explanation, but I quickly learned that the only way to survive online dating is to make like Ariana Grande and adopt a “thank u, next” mentality. Let people take themselves out of the running so you don’t have to.

What Didn’t Go So Well

Of course, CMB wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and mature decisions. If I had to do it again, I’d handle some things differently.

  • I tried to juggle too many conversations and dates at once. Holy moly, y’all. 12 dates with 6 guys in 8 weeks might be fine for some people, but it was too much for me, especially when the dates were scheduled too closely together. But because CMB presented me with a dozen new “bagels” each day and I had just 24 hours to accept/reject them before they disappeared into the dating ether, I felt pressured to keep matching even when I already had more bagels than I could handle.
  • I didn’t have a solid plan for getting out of bad dates or turning down 2nd date offers. Sometimes you realize, after an hour or two of chatting, that you just aren’t feeling a connection — but the other person asks you out a 2nd time anyway, right there on the first date. I have a pretty solid text message template for politely turning down an offer, but in person, before I’ve had a chance to think it through, I tend to choke or even lie. I’m not proud of this and wish I had come up with a better exit strategy on several occasions.
  • I didn’t call my dates out when needed. I can think of several instances when my date said or did something out of line, and I didn’t react strongly enough. For example, when one of my dates made a few racist comments, I was so taken aback that I didn’t know how to respond. My tendency to be overly polite and non-confrontational kicked in and I brushed it off, but I so wish that I had spoken up instead.

What Happened Next

At this point, you’re probably thinking, Okay, Paige, enough with the recap — why did you delete the app? Did you find that special someone? Did you switch to another platform? Or was the Smelly Fish Market Saga simply too traumatic and now you’ve sworn off dating and are discerning religious life?

While the latter certainly was a date that will live in infamy, ultimately, my CMB experienced helped to crystallize something that I’ve always known but am often hesitant to admit, for fear of narrowing the dating pool too much:

I really, really want to date a committed Catholic who is on fire for his faith and shares my love of the Eucharist.

Obviously, faith alone is not enough — we need to connect and be compatible in many other ways as well — but without this shared foundation, it’s difficult for me to envision the kind of relationship and future that I truly desire.

So although I was meeting some nice Christian and even Catholic guys on CMB, it was difficult, based on the setup of the app, to determine who was really serious about his faith and who was Christian in a more cultural sense. The profile questions simply didn’t dig that deep, and more guys than not fell into the latter category. Long story short, I decided to do something that, in the 5 years since becoming Catholic, I swore I’d never do…

I signed up for Catholic Match.

(Cue horror movie-style scream.)

Obviously, Catholic Match is a reputable site with a number of success stories. However, from my own friend circles, I had also heard some pretty cringeworthy tales — from an onslaught of creepy messages within days of joining the site to dates with guys whose sole objective was to get married and have a small army of children ASAP. Plus there was a monthly FEE and I am on a BUDGET that doesn’t include “Catholic dating nightmares” as a line item. (However, Catholic Dating Nightmares is an excellent Instagram account that you should totally follow.) I just really, really didn’t want to do it.

But then I thought back to Isaiah 55:8-9 — the verse that helped me to get over my resistance to online dating in the first place — and realized that once again, I needed to get over myself. If I wanted to find a committed Catholic amidst a global pandemic, I needed to be more open to trying Catholic dating sites. So I rolled my eyes, set up a profile, and paid for a one-month subscription.

…And that’s where I’ll leave you for now! This post is getting hella long, and CM is definitely deserving of its own post. But before I go, I want to share two recommendations for my fellow online daters:

First, I have really been enjoying the Dating Sucks podcast, hosted by Ilana Dunn and Jonah Feingold, two millennials who met on Hinge, called it off after 4 dates, and then started a podcast together. I love how the show blends data-driven strategies and expert advice with relatable stories to help solve common online dating struggles, and the fact that Ilana actually works for Hinge contributes an additional layer of insider knowledge.

Secondly, when I was initially getting back into the dating game, I found it fun and helpful to watch a few episodes of Dating Around on Netflix, a show that is much classier than its name suggests. In each episode, one guy or girl goes on five consecutive first dates with total strangers before choosing one of these individuals for a second date. If you’ve ever felt discouraged by the awkwardness of first dates, this show will remind you that you’re not alone — and that awkward and awesome can still co-exist.

And don’t forget to check out my Someone New playlist on Spotify! From getting ready to getting ghosted, it’s a soundtrack for all your online dating needs.