[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Kristin Rockaway guest post on the site today. Take it away, Kristin!]
In the opening scene of my latest book, How to Hack a Heartbreak, Melanie Strickland is sitting alone at a bar, staring at the bottom of her empty cocktail glass, waiting for her date to arrive.
She’s never met this guy before. All she knows about him are a few filtered facts he entered into his profile on the fictitious dating app, Fluttr. She’s not really sure what he looks like, either; the selfies he posted were flattering, but maybe the guy just knew his angles. Right now, he’s twenty minutes late, and even though she’s scared he might be blowing her off, she tries to remain positive, deciding to order another drink and wait it out.
There are so many variables, so many ways for her night to go horribly wrong, but she still holds out hope that it could end in a happily ever after.
Like Mel, I’ve been the woman sitting alone at the bar, waiting for an internet date to arrive, wondering if he was gonna sweep me off my feet or stand me up. In fact, when I wrote this scene, I was thinking about my very first date with the guy who’s now my husband.
Yes, I met my husband on the internet.
This was fourteen years ago, pre-App Store, when most people still carried flip phones in their purses and the word “tinder” was rarely uttered unless you were actively trying to start a fire. Back then, internet dating required a computer and a mouse and a keyboard and, usually, an ethernet cable. There was no swiping involved.
Our love story began on an old-fashioned website. The site doesn’t exist anymore, in any form, but it was similar to early versions of Match.com. You filled out a profile, posted a couple of not-terrible photos, then searched for potential love interests who met your criteria – in my case, guys who were at least six feet tall and lived within a 10-mile radius of Downtown Brooklyn. When you found someone who seemed promising, you could send them a message.
The catch? Messages weren’t free. To establish contact with someone for the first time, it cost a dollar. In today’s world of ubiquitous free messaging, that may sound bonkers, but there were actually a lot of benefits to this system. First of all, the quality of interactions was generally pretty high. If you were spending a buck to contact a potential date, you needed to hook them with something more charming than, “Hey.”
Another perk was that the messaging system was text-only, so guys weren’t popping into your inbox with random dick pics.
The pay-per-message model also encouraged you to spend a bit of time evaluating a person’s profile before you decided whether or not you were interested. Even though the monetary investment was small, it still raised the stakes. You were thoughtful about who you contacted, and when you received a message, you were more inclined to give the sender a fair chance. After all, they must’ve seen something they really liked in your profile to spend the buck on you, right?
Contrast that with swipe culture, where every flick of the thumb is free, and it’s not uncommon to make split-second decisions based on the relative attractiveness of a single selfie.
Which leads me to believe that if my husband and I had been dating in the time of Tinder, we never would’ve met. Because I’ve gotta confess something: when I first saw his profile, I wasn’t so sure about him. In today’s world, that would’ve meant a left swipe. (Sorry, babe.)
See, this was a guy who did not know his angles. The answers to the questions in his profile were fairly generic, and though he’d uploaded three photos, they didn’t properly showcase his face. In one of them, he was posing with his arm around another woman. (Clueless!) In another, he had clearly cropped a woman out. If it hadn’t been for the action shot of him playing rugby in teeny-tiny, ultra-flattering shorts, I probably would’ve deleted his message unread.
Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t.
Instead, I messaged him back, and then we chatted online for a couple of days before deciding to meet up in person. Nothing serious, just a casual Thursday night drink at one of my favorite spots on the Lower East Side, Verlaine. I slid into a barstool at our agreed-upon meeting time of 8PM, then ordered a half-price lychee martini and waited for him to arrive.
Twenty minutes later, and I was staring at the bottom of my empty cocktail glass, just like Mel. No word from my would-be suitor, but I remained positive, holding out hope for a happily ever after. I’ll give this guy ten more minutes, I thought, then ordered another martini. I sipped it slowly, staring at the front door, willing him to appear.
A moment later, he did.
And he was way better looking than his photos.
In How to Hack a Heartbreak, Mel’s date never does show up. It turns out to be a blessing in disguise, though, because in walks Alex Hernandez, her secret office crush. They strike up a flirtation, and suddenly, Mel’s plans for the rest of the evening take a hard left turn. Alex is there, in the flesh. To Mel, that’s so much better than a virtual Fluttr match.
There are still so many variables, so many ways for her night to go horribly wrong. (Spoiler alert: The night goes horribly wrong!) But through it all, Mel never gives up hope for her happily ever after.
Besides, if things don’t work out with Alex, she figures she can always go back to swiping for love
About the Author:
Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker and recovering corporate software engineer. After
working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and
chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories
instead of code. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son,
browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation.
Her second novel, How to Hack a Heartbreak, will be released from Graydon
House/HarperCollins on July 30, 2019. Her debut, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the
World, is in stores now.
Connect with Kristin:
How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway, out now!
Swipe right for love. Swipe left for disaster.
By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers–“Hatchlings”–who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.
But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.
Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez–the only non-douchey guy at Hatch–has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.