The "meet cute" might be losing pole position among military couples. These days, we are becoming more MeetUp, Match.com and eHarmony. Are we losing something with online matchmaking?
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed a good military flavored "meet cute." If you haven’t heard that term, the "meet cute" is that bit of a romantic comedy where the main characters meet in some adorable, entertaining way so you know that they will be together forever. As Eli Wallach explains in "The Holiday:”
"Say a man and a woman both need something to sleep in, and they both go to the same men’s pajama department. And the man says to the salesman: 'I just need bottoms'. The woman says: 'I just need a top'. They look at each other, and that's the meet-cute."
In the military, our meet cutes are along the lines of "she spilled milk on me in third grade," and "he fixed my flat tire on I-64 in his whites," and "we both lived in San Diego but we had to go to Afghanistan to meet each other.”
Lately, though, I’ve been hearing fewer "meet cutes" among military couples and more "met onlines."
In the least scientific method possible (posting a question on Facebook), we asked our readers how they met. The most common response was that couples met in school. But the second most popular way for military couples to meet was not through family or friends or at work, but online.
It was silly of me to be so surprised. After all, we Americans live much of our lives online -- shopping, communicating, working, entertaining ourselves. Why wouldn’t we find partners online?
According to a new study out of Stanford, it looks like we should expect that even more military couples will meet online in the future because of the way military life is constructed.
The researchers found that the Internet is displacing other avenues to meet partners. This was especially true for Americans who are in a thin market -- one in which where fewer partners are available due to age (everyone is already married) or sexual orientation (fewer gays and lesbians in the population than heterosexuals.)
For those in a thin market for partners, the Internet is remarkably efficient at bringing to light possible partners. I’m wondering if that means that we should expect more and more military couples to form their bond online in the future?
Surely military members would qualify as being in a thin market for partners. After all, only 15 percent of all military members are female. So by the numbers, meeting at work is less likely. (In our unscientific survey, meeting at work in the military was the fourth most popular choice.)
Military members also inhabit a thin market because they deploy and are not in the presence of available partners very often. Their frequent moves mean that their local social networks are periodically broken. Even after we marry, military couples still conduct a lot of their relationship by cell and text and email and Facebook.
Is this the death of the "meet cute?" I doubt it. It just means the meet cute will start sounding like, “I knew when I got back from Kabul that I had to start dating other people, so I got on eHarmony. Right when I was ready to give up, her picture in this blue sweater popped up. And I just knew. ... ”