Image Credit: HBO Max

'Friends' Convinced Me I Could Find Love And Sex Off Of Dating Apps

To many people, the most unrealistic part of watching Friends is the luxurious apartment they supposedly afford in New York City. And while I am indeed watching out of a shoebox where I can touch both walls without moving, that’s not what irks me. It’s the way they get dates. I get that Tinder and Hinge weren’t invented yet, so they had to find other methods. But you mean to tell me that they used to just go up to someone hot and ask them out? Men used to approach them on the street and ask for their number? Urban myth if you ask this single (and very horny) gal.

But the apps weren’t delivering for me, so I swore them off like every other girlie out there. And not just for a week or two until I needed a serotonin boost. I was serious this time, like switching to oat milk for my coffee. I was going to get my jollies (and hopefully an orgasm) without swiping until my finger cramped. So, here’s how I navigated dating without dating apps.

How To Date Without Dating Apps: An Investigation

Rachel and Michael on a a date in "Friends"
Image Credit: HBO Max

No, literally, I’m asking! How do I do this?! I know there’s the whole friends-to-lovers trope, but my friend group consisted of straight women, gay men, and a guy I’ve known since I was six years old — we had tried it, and it was not for us. I wasn’t going to find the love of my life (or the spark of my pants) in this friend group. So, I decided to use what Rachel and Monica didn’t have: Google. 

I googled how people find dates, and here are some of the suggestions I got:

  • Friends. Apparently, some of the best relationships form from friendships (YEAH, BUT NONE OF MY FRIENDS LIKE EATING C*** GOOGLE!!)
  • Set ups. I’m supposed to ask friends and colleagues to set me up with people they think I’d like.
  • Look around. It’s good to date people with common interests, so my future partner might be at my gym, local coffee shop, or even on my street. Stalkerish, but okay.
  • Join a club/team/volunteer. In case the Love of My Life isn’t already near me, I need to extend my radius and try new shit.  
  • Attend a party. Okay, well, I know how to find hookups this way, but love? That’s going to be new.
  • Speed dating. Is this really a thing? I genuinely thought it was just a plot device for movies.

Maybe I needed to embrace my Inner Boomer© if I was going to manage this. I was certainly going to need the audacity of a Boomer in thinking that I was hot shit. What did I have to lose, right? (Dignity, time, reputation, hours I could’ve spent reading smutty fantasy books.) 

I Tried Being Set-Up By Friends

Double date on "Friends"
Image Credit: HBO Max

I don’t like to do things halfway, so if I were going to date without dating apps, I would do it all. First I confirmed that none of my friends had suddenly developed an interest in tits, as the lazy girl in me would love a shortcut. But the friends-to-lovers was off the table (for now).

Then I asked them if they’d set me up with someone. Here is when I thought they’d leap on the chance, maybe whip out a list they had tucked away for this moment. A childhood friend relented when I explained that whoever successfully set me up with my future husband/wife/spouse would get a shoutout at our future wedding. 

My friend arranged a casual hang to allow me to meet some of their colleagues, and I got a full low-down on the potential options. Additional buffers were brought along to reduce the sitcom potential. 

Unfortunately, one ended up being more into my wifed-up friend than me. (She used to be a model, so I am not taking it personally.) Another seemed very unimpressed at my job (lol, he works in sales), so I immediately made a beeline for the bathroom. The third was cute, very cute, but unfortunately, I realized she and I were getting on as friends rather than potential lovers (the sapphic struggle). I did become entranced by my friend’s work bestie and definitely sent out some feelers (total eye sex). But my friend disapproved of this pairing, and I assume he came in the way of our Romeo and Juliet love.

Friends = unsupportive of my love life.

I Tried Dating Business Cards

"Friends" double date
Image Credit: HBO Max

Nevertheless, she fucking persisted. 

An old colleague had once told me about the summer she and a pal made dating business cards with their name and number and was supposed to hand out twenty of them before autumn. She had given out only one, but I aspired to do better.

I spent too much time on a design, only to delete it all because it looked too try-hard, and went for a classic name and number. I made twenty cards and handed out all twenty within a month. 

Let’s be honest; I had drastically lowered my already low standards by this point. I also spent more time and effort on my hair and makeup than I had since high school. First impressions would be everything, and I couldn’t rely on a carefully curated gallery of photos and witty jokes. Keep in mind that I’m a writer, not a speaker.

How did it go? 

I got two messages from people saying they were unfortunately in a relationship, but one said they’d keep my number in case things went south — yay, I guess? Another two were in open relationships. One asked me to join them for a threesome, and the other was asking if I’d mind. Let’s say dates were planned.

Five single people messaged saying they were interested! Although one of them was immediately ruled out for absolutely atrocious grammar. Sorry, but I couldn’t imagine sleeping with them after they mixed up ‘their’ and ‘they’re’. So, four dates were planned. (God, my schedule was getting way too busy.) 

I Tried Non-Dating Apps 

"friends" bad date
Image Credit: HBO Max

My phone is filled with other apps, as it likes to remind me daily. Just because I was swearing off Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and Feeld doesn’t mean I have to go completely IRL, right? Recently, people have been turning to other apps on their phones to find love. Along with recruiters and life coaches sliding into your LinkedIn DMs, some single hopefuls are also. A dating ad for LinkedIn would read, “Bullshitters seeking Bullshitters, 401k only.” Maybe it’s the new version of a newspaper classified. 

Others are turning to less formal settings, ensuring not to mix business and pleasure (unless role play is involved). People are finding love on Strava, Duolingo, Yelp, and every other app. This method shows you’ve got something in common and allows for a sexy element of competitive flirtation.

But there’s something slightly icky about seeing people as potential suitors when they’ve never presented themselves as such. I’m on LinkedIn to prove to that bitch Melanie from high school that I peaked late, not to have some dude slide into my DMs. In a way, it feels the emotional equivalent of someone flashing you on the subway while you eat your sandwich. I’m only interested in one pickle right now, thank you very much. That’s the appeal of a dating app; both parties are interested.

I Lived It: Dating Without Dating Apps

"Friends" Joey on a coffeeshop date
Image Credit: HBO Max

The hardest part of dating without dating apps is the sheer audacity of it. You have to face rejection up front rather than hiding behind a screen. But surprisingly, I got over it quite quickly. It felt way worse than ghosting, but you hobble past it and try again. Because, for the most part, people were just flattered. You made someone’s day even if they were uninterested or not single. 

If you have more friends than me (or ones interested in your gender), then that route is easier on the rejection but has its complications. I’m still holding out for my friend’s colleague and manifesting that, but I guess I have to respect boundaries… blah, blah, blah.

I thought that dating without dating apps would wreck my confidence, but it strengthened it. All the screens and carefully chosen pics had allowed me to never believe in myself in dating, whereas now I had to be my own agent and sell this hot bod to future partners. 

I went on more dates than I had previously and had a LOT of Love Island to catch up on, but I also finally escaped my dating rut. I didn’t find love yet, but I did have some sleepovers and second dates on the books. I’m feeling very Carrie right now… and just like that, she deleted Hinge for good this time.

Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman, a European-based copywriter. She’s interesting (cause she’s from Europe), speaks multiple languages (again, she's from Europe), and is mentally unhinged (despite socialized healthcare). You can find her European musings on Twitter @ByFleurine and her blog, Symptoms of Living, both of which are written to the sounds of unhinged Taylor Swift playlists.