14 Ways People Met Their Partners Before Dating Apps Existed & These Stories Are Precious
First, let me be very clear: yes, I understand that people met and liked each other before there were dating apps. Yes, I know that people fell in love before there was an internet. I know that from experience — shout out to my kindergarten crush! (If there was an internet in 1992, I did not have access to it because I was four.) Color me millennial, but I'm curious about exactly how people met their partners before dating apps.
My initial hypotheses are pretty basic: I assumed every Baby Boomer met their partner between Home Ec and free period because it was the 1960s. But Home Ec turned out to be a little bit sexist, and obviously not everyone married their high school sweethearts. What other meet-cutes were popular back in the day? Anything that might work out nowadays? Asking for a friend.
My parents met working at the same grocery store in high school in Northport, a town on Long Island. My dad was low-key obsessed with my mom and finally got up the courage to go in while she was working and he was not, buy a lottery ticket, and ask her out. They stayed married until my mom passed in 2017. Some people have all the luck.
College relationships are also certainly still a thing, but with dating apps in the mix, there's just no denying that within the next decade, there will be many more partnerships that started with "I swiped right." It's awesome to meet someone on a dating app — shout-out to my current crush! But in the spirit of nostalgia, here are 14 stories from millennials about how their parents met back in the day.
1. This One's My Favorite, So Let's Get Right Into It
My parents met sometime in the 80s, when my mom was 28 and my dad was 19. (Yes, my mom could get it, but their ages are also important to the story.) The pair of them met at a nightclub, hit it off, and made plans to meet there again next week, since this was before cell phones. Which was great, except for the fact that sometime in the intervening week, my still-underage dad got his fake ID confiscated because he — wait for it — couldn’t pronounce the Polish last name that was supposedly his. Of course, he still wanted to meet up with the cute girl from the club, but he couldn’t talk his way in past the bouncers. So, knowing my mom was a regular, he called the bar from a pay phone outside and asked to speak to my mom. My mom laughed her ass off before going outside to escort him in and the rest is history.
— Lilli, 30
2. This Is Reason #114 I Want To Go To The Matzo Ball
My parents met at the first-ever Matzo Ball in 1987, which is the Jewish singles' dance held every year on Christmas Eve (because what else are Jews supposed to do that night?). My mom was 23 and her parents actually paid her younger sister to go with her as a wing-woman. She spotted this guy across the dance floor, recognized him from around her college's computer science department, and marched right up to him to say, 'Don't I know you?' They spent the rest of the night getting to know each other in a booth on the side of the dance floor. Exactly a year later, on Christmas Eve 1988, they got engaged. Of course, after years and years of hearing this story — and the story of my cousin meeting her husband at the dance in the 2000s — I wound up going to the Matzo Ball when I was 22 and 23. The second time, I actually wound up meeting a guy who became my boyfriend for a time. It didn't work out, but I thought it was cool that we met in the same place my parents did.
— Hannah, 25
3. Being A Terrible Driver Actually Worked To One Person's Advantage
In high school, my mom hit something with her car and dented it, went to the shop class for help, and my dad got the dent out.
— Jen, 30
4. This Is Why There's A Fine Line Between Being Creepy And In Love
My parents met at work in New York City. My dad used to work a couple of hours late on purpose every day so he could leave at the same time as her and take the same train as her. It wasn't until years later that he finally told my mom that that wasn't his train line and dropped him off several stops away from where he lived. He just wanted the excuse to spend more time with her and make sure she got to her stop OK.
5. This Is Why Nightclubs Should Never Die
"At a nightclub. My mom was the best dancer there and my dad was smitten. He was the only one she let slow-dance with her."
— Kristina, 30
6. This Needs To Be A Teen Rom-Com, STAT
"They weren't friends, but they had a mutual friend that threw a potluck dinner party and invited a ton of people. My mom, who is totally a good cook, made some type of meatball dish that my dad spent the entire party absolutely ROASTING in a joking way that made everyone laugh, but still. He didn't know whose it was until after the party, at which point it was way too late and my mom completely hated him. He apologized at school and continued to flirtatiously tease her for a month or so before she asked him out on a date. They were from totally different 'groups' too, so she says her friends had no idea who he was. They didn't go to prom together because he was too shy to ask her, which is hilarious to me because my dad is terrifying."
— Tor, 23
7. This Is Exactly What I Feel Should Always Happen
My dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse, they met at the hospital cafeteria.
— Elana, 30
8. This Is Why Long-Distance Relationships Are Worth It
My mom was working at the library while finishing a Masters. My Dad was studying for his PhD. He creeped on her a while then built up the courage to talk to her. She moved back to Mexico and he courted her long distance for the next year, until they decided it was the real deal and they were going to marry. I recently found out that my dad initially wanted to live with her in Mexico but couldn't find work (hiring-wise, the policy there is to prioritize Mexican citizens first), so she — the only of her seven siblings — moved to the U.S.
— Natalie, 30
9. This Is Why The Bar Was The Old Tinder
My parents met at a bar. My mom was sitting at the bar waiting for a friend and my dad kept sending her drinks which she kept refusing. When my mom’s friend arrived, she pointed out the creepy guy across the bar who was trying to pick her up, and the friend and my dad happened to be old friends! Fast forward a few decades and that bar is now a restaurant where my sister met her fiancé!
— Taylor, 30
10. This Is Beautiful
Blind date. They got engaged after one month of dating.
— Katie, 30
11. This Is Real
My parents had an affair at work — both were married. It's no wonder why I'm such a romantic!
— June, 30
12. This Is Also Very Real
My dad stepped on my mom's foot on the bus in Chicago and was really rude to her. Then they randomly got set up on a blind date by mutual friends. She remembered him. He had no idea what she was talking about.
— Elizabeth, 30
13. This Is Amazing Because I Would So Be This Woman
My grandfather was an electrician that worked at my mom's house, and my grandfather wanted my parents to meet. So my dad took [my mom] on one date and then didn't call her for a year. Then, he saw her at church and asked her to go to the beach that same day.
— Christina, 30
14. This Is Serendipitous
My parents met at a wedding where my mom was supposed to be set up with someone else, but he got sick and didn't go. Enter my dad.
— Lucy, 29
Aaand now I have faith in meet-cutes again.
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