Prizm News / February 1, 2019 / By Laura Newpoff
More of our stories start online these days, but they still share the same happy ending.
By Laura Newpoff
After ending a long-term relationship in 2013, Cindy Morris found herself single for the first time in 10 years. She was in her early 40s and had no desire to hit the bar scene, so she did what many people do these days and began looking for companionship online.
After several years on Match and PlentyOfFish, she found no long-term connection. She decided her final stop would be the swiping app, Tinder.
After several months, she became frustrated again. It seemed to be a pattern: You find someone and get elated about a date, only to come crashing back to earth when it’s obviously not a fit. She started the steps to terminate her account, including deleting all the written personal information that told other women about her passion for house projects, her love of painting and a zeal for progressive politics.
But before she pulled the plug for good, she took one last chance at swiping right. Rachel Hesler, it turns out, had swiped right, too, Cindy’s missing profile information be damned.
“I normally wouldn’t want to match with someone who didn’t have that information, but I could see we had a mutual Facebook friend, and she was beautiful and had a magnetic smile,” Rachel says.
Ironically, Cindy was drawn not only to Rachel’s looks but her written words as well. Rachel was philanthropic, loved books and shared the same left-leaning political interests and a love of dogs.
A match was made. After a few texts, the pair was ready to plan their first date and, later, a life together.
Cindy and Rachel and the stories of others who have found love online show how important these matchmaking tools have become for a community that previously had to rely on friends, bars, lounges or even print ads to find connections.
There’s no stigma surrounding dating sites and apps these days. They’ve helped create families and friendships, strengthen communities and transform lives. They also provide a feeling of safety for people who’ve often felt estranged from mainstream society.
“Without meeting (my husband Chip) on Grindr, I wouldn’t have moved to Columbus where I now work in HIV- prevention,” says Matthew Ellwood, a program manager in Equitas Health’s prevention department. “We are foster parents and are adopting a baby boy in 2019. So I wouldn’t have my son or my friends, who have been a huge support system. I wouldn’t have the life I have today.”
Online dating has exploded in recent years, fueled by the convenience of apps and websites and advancements in technology that make them entertaining to use.
They’ve been strongly embraced by the LGBTQ community. According to an international Sex & Tech study in 2017 by education website Clue and the Kinsey Institute, 55 percent of queer people, 49 percent of gays and lesbians, and 44 percent of bi/ pansexual people have used an app or dating site. The figure for straight people: just 28 percent.
Julie Lingler, a psychotherapist who runs her own practice in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, encourages both straight and LGBTQ clients to try the various apps and sites. She’s using Tinder, Bumble and Match, too, now that she’s single.
“It opens up your world and opens you to people you wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with,” she says. “There are perils to it (like being stood up), but there are perils to anything you do. You could be stood up by a guy you meet at a bar. It’s a really good way to meet good people. Not the only way, but an increasingly good way.”
Rachel Hesler was new to Columbus when she and Cindy Morris started their journey in the summer of 2016. Morris had lived in the city for more than 20 years and wanted to show it off. She planned their first date on a sweltering Monday night at a hip farm-to-table restaurant in the Short North arts district. When they arrived, it was closed.
Making small talk about growing up in small towns in Ohio, they walked south on High Street to another restaurant and it was closed, too. The third time was almost a charm; they found the next place open, but it was 95 degrees, the air conditioning was broken, it smelled like sulfur and was too funky to tolerate.
They ended up at a bar where they sipped vodka martinis and noshed on a gluten-free veggie pizza.
“It was an amusing first date,” Cindy recalls. “This place is closed, and this place is closed. Rachel had just moved here and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is so embarrassing.’”
But those best-laid plans didn’t go awry. The pair has been inseparable ever since that first, five-hour meeting. They removed their Tinder profiles within a week and went on dates to listen to live jazz or stroll hand-in-hand along the Scioto River, where Hesler says they shared their first kiss.
In November 2017, the couple married. They describe it as a “simple and sweet” ceremony. They wrote their own vows; the last line of each said: “I see these vows not as promises, but as privileges. I’m so proud to call you my best friend, my partner and, from this day forward, my wife.”
They both now carry the last name Morris and share a home in the Old Oaks Historic District in Columbus.
“This worked for us because we share the same values,” says Rachel, who works in account sales for a large company. “We both grew up in a small town, love the outdoors, and we’re both creative. I was raised in a religious family and Cindy is agnostic, so there also are enough differences to keep things interesting.”
They liked Tinder because it was easy to browse through profiles and didn’t take up much time. Cindy, a director of business development in the financial services industry, also liked that she wasn’t being contacted by people she’d have no interest in.
Worth the Wait
After a long-term relationship ended in the summer of 2017, Emily Stein wanted to meet new people. Her previous partners were connections she made through her sister, and this time she wanted to cast a wider net.
On the queer app, HER, the social worker from Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood found local artist Briden Cole Schueren, a transgender man who has been transitioning for more than 10 years.
“When I first came out as trans, I was trying to figure out how to date in general,” he says. “I couldn’t just go to a bar as a woman looking for a woman.”
He’d have better luck on a dating site finding an open-minded woman, he thought.
Briden and Emily talked online for a few months before meeting for their first date. He invited her to the Scioto Audubon Metro Park for a picnic in his hammock, something Emily thought was extremely intimate for a first meeting.
But something unexpected helped put them at ease.
“I was extremely nervous when I first saw her. I was shaking,” Briden says. “She’s so beautiful and cute and, shit, now I have to talk to her. Then this guy randomly stops us in the middle of the park and asks us to model his watches and hold hands. I had just met her.”
Briden and Emily have been together ever since.
More Love Stories
Some people who have found love online actually have dating histories that predate the digital age.
John Sherman Lathram-Brungs found one of his former partners from a Columbus Alive personal ad. As technology evolved, he embraced more options like Manhunt, where he created a profile 15 years ago.
That’s where he met Tom Brungs, “a good-looking man, and the dude has a clean apartment,” John jokes. “When I’d look at a profile, I’d look at what was in the room. If there were piles of clothes or garbage, it was a definite no.”
Tom, on the other hand, was looking for someone who was honest. He was drawn to John’s openness about his HIV status. John, vice chair of the North Linden Area Commission, and Tom, an assistant manager at Walmart, got together after talking for about a year.
“I fixed a candlelit dinner at my place,” John says. “I remember I made pork chops and squash. He had never had squash before and was kind of hesitant to eat it. Once he tried it, he never looked back. It’s one of his favorite things I make now.”
Tom and John, who have four poodles, two cats and two parakeets, got married three years ago in a beach wedding in St. Augustine, Fla.
Justin Schickler is another gay man whose life was changed by dating technology. Five years ago, he downloaded Scruff, the app that helps 12 million gay, bi, trans and queer guys connect. He lived in Cleveland and wanted to broaden his network beyond the city’s gay scene.
“I started talking to this guy Tyler from Detroit,” he says. “He told some really funny jokes in his profile. One of the quickest ways to my heart is food and humor.”
On Tyler’s profile there was a section where he described what he was looking for: “Guys who can joke with me like, ‘I’m bananas about you, let’s never split.’”
“We were probably friends for three years, and both in and out of relationships,” Justin says. “Two years ago, we were finally both single at the same time, so I drove up for the weekend.”
Justin and Tyler spent their first date at bars and restaurants in downtown Detroit and then took turns traveling to each other’s city every other weekend. They married this past August.
Justin, a job recruiter, recently moved to Detroit with Tyler, who is going to nursing school.
“We had similar interests: cooking and traveling. It wasn’t just all about sex,” Justin says. “I went on a lot of first dates, but there was something about him. I feel like I am one of the lucky ones.”