Callin' all singles

Gaby Kretchmer (right) and her boyfriend, Taylor Witt (left) met online through Tinder. Patience is the key, Kretchmer said, to online dating.

The single scene remains mainly the same, just with the help of technology

Being single is just not the same as it used to be. Or … at least it doesn’t seem to be.

Stereotypically, movies display the act of courtship through a snarky girl denying the advances of an over-confident man at a bookstore. Something silly happens between them, the girl begins to fall for the guy over time. They end up together. Y’know. The usual ‘90s romcom schtick. It’s classic.

Though, we all know that movies don’t always — if ever — display an accurate depiction of life. Especially as the world experiences a global pandemic with an incredibly aggressive virus.

COVID-19 has been shown to be extremely contagious — sneezing, coughing or even breathing within a close proximity can cause one to become infected.

However, some things don’t change — basic courting and dating elements remain mostly intact, even in the technology/pandemic realm.

Mankato’s single and dating scene isn’t much different than other places in the world. Many singles (and at times non-single) look to technology, such as the popular application, Tinder.

Released in 2012, Tinder has become one of the most common avenues to find a significant other. The application had an estimated 50 million users as of 2018 (this is the most recent statistic.) About 45% of those users average 25-34 years old.

But … not everyone is on Tinder, much like Mankato native, Benjamin Jay.

Jay, 38, considers himself a bit of an introvert.

“I have always been a little lucky. … I have a lot of social hobbies and music,” Jay said.

Jay’s a local DJ and heavily involved in Mankato’s music scene. Heading to local shows or performing at them had been an organic way of meeting people and dating.

That’s not to say that Tinder, or other dating applications or websites don’t work.

“I have friends who got married off of Tinder,” he said. “It’s worked for some people.”

And for people like Jay — a goal driven person — sometimes dating can be pushed aside. Relationships will happen if they happen, he said, even when one inadvertently blocks out opportunities to pursue a relationship.

During time of isolation during COVID-19, Jay hadn’t pursued the dating world, especially in a time where there aren’t live shows happening.

“I assume that more people have a hard time being lonely,” Jay said. “For me, because of the music, that’s my therapy.”

It’s a constant that Jay had fallen back on, especially during these interesting times.

He’s experienced that over time, most relationships have come through tight knit communities, whether that be bars, coffee shops or the music scene.

“There are a few places that, you know, ‘This is a safe place, for all people,’” Jay said. “New (Bohemia) was that place.”

New Bohemia, bar and restaurant, closed its doors two years ago. But for Jay, New Bohemia was a place where people from all different backgrounds could go to and relax. And, hey, maybe meet someone too.

The hotspot — which has been around since 1999 — is Blue Bricks. Gaby Kretchmer, a previous server at the establishment for about three years, had firsthand experience witnessing the scene downtown.

“I would say it was interesting to just watch the dynamic of the dating scene downtown — other than Tinder,” Kretchmer said.

Most people around her age, 24, usually find dates or relationships through school or the popular dating application. Blue Bricks, and other downtown establishments, added that sense of organic meeting, as Jay had mentioned.

“You could tell from regulars that frequented Blue Bricks and who they were seeing, and when it was ending,” Kretchmer said. “It was always interesting when different relationships were ending.”

Mankato, Kretchmer said, is a small enough town where it seems like everyone knows everyone — and sometimes their business, too.

“The person that you’re trying to have a relationship with probably knows numerous people that they’ve been in a relationship with,” she said. “I can not tell you the depth of overlap that I have seen.”

She’d also seen Blue Bricks as a neutral spot for first Tinder date meetups. Atomic Star and Pub 500 had also been hotspots due to the establishments’ open, and less crowded, spaces Kretchmer said.

“(Downtown is) definitely a big part of the culture in Mankato, I feel like,” she said. “People that live there are part of the community in one way or another. “

Kretchmer, like many in the age range of 25-34, took to Tinder, Hinge and Bumble to search for a relationship in 2018.

In her experience, Tinder was the application that allowed a little more freedom. “It has the least rules,” Kretchmer said.

Hinge only allows a small amount of personality information and six pictures. Bumble, on the other hand, requires that the woman must reach out first after a match.

“(Tinder) is all encompassing of the three.”

Kretchmer set up her profile in interest of men and women between ages 23 to 35. More commonly than not in her experience, Kretchmer said that men would usually look for “hookups.” Frequently greeted with vulgar language.

“And pathetic requests to see naked pictures of yourself,” she said.

Slightly less frequently it was guys making a half-way attempt to talk, then shortly after resorting to asking for nude photos or hookups.

“Less often, (men) were there to find someone to hang out with and build a potential relationship,” she said. “Those were the relationships I went after. .. That was my intention — to hangout with someone and get to know them.”

At times, Kretchmer said, it would get frustrating, especially in the beginning. “It just felt like a waste of time for a long time,” she said. “I think that the concept is great in a way.”

But as users start to narrow down their options, from the vulgar to not vulgar, to ages and personality and distance, things start to slim — even with an estimated 50 million users.

“It was definitely like going for something on Amazon and you get 140 results and then you add two filters and only 12 pop up.”

The key, she said, is to be patient with the process in finding someone. Kretchmer found her current boyfriend and moved in with him in December in New Prague.

“A lot of those conversations that are a waste of your time, and your intentions don’t necessarily align, it’s going to feel like a waste of time,” she said. “If you’re persistent, it definitely does serve its purpose. … A lot of people have met their partners that way.”

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