By Ashley Edwards Walker
In 2018, Christine made her annual road trip to North Carolina to spend Christmas with her parents. It was a 22-hour drive each way from where she lived in Austin, Texas. But she enjoyed stopping to visit friends along the way and listening to books on tape. “It also gave me a lot of time to reflect and think about what I wanted,” says Christine. She knew what it was like to be in a fulfilling relationship, and, driving back to Austin that year, it dawned on her that she missed having that kind of partnership. She decided: by next Christmas, she was going to meet someone to make the holiday trip with her.
Christine had been dating around casually for about a year, but found the prospect of looking for a partner “a lot scarier” than continuing to meet people for fun. Christine works with startups and entrepreneurs, teaching them to use data to determine their metrics and inform their business. “Everything can be measured,” she says. So Christine asked herself: “How can I set metrics for myself so the process becomes less emotional, and…more about meeting my goals?” That’s when she got the idea to channel her professional experience to develop her own formula.
Christine started crunching numbers based on her past experiences using dating apps and quickly zeroed in on a pattern of thirds; She estimated one out of every three men she liked would also swipe right on her, a third of those matches would lead to a conversation, and a third of those would turn into first dates. Ultimately, she would need to find 81 profiles she liked enough to swipe right on to get to one second date. “And especially when you’re dating online, it’s really about getting to that second date,” says Christine. She created a spreadsheet to track everything and pulled up the Bumble app.
On December 28, 2018, the first day of her experiment, she matched with Chris. His profile described him as a “former starving artist-turned-data analyst, easygoing, proud uncle.” Christine thought they’d have a lot in common, and she was right. Chris had recently done his own love life analysis and determined Bumble was the dating app for him. “I never made a spreadsheet about my dating life,” he clarifies, “so we definitely differ there.” But the data was compelling enough to get him back on the app on the same day he matched with Christine.
Christine messaged him an opening question: What was the last thing you purchased online? “I begrudgingly had to admit I had just purchased a few Dungeons & Dragons books,” Chris recalls, fearing she’d think him too nerdy. But Christine liked that he had “his own stuff going on.” As Chris scrolled through Christine’s profile, he was also impressed. “I liked that it was about her, with descriptions of the things she liked and descriptors of who she was,” says Chris.
They arranged to meet up for coffee the following day. Both agree now there wasn’t an “instant spark,” but they enjoyed the conversation enough to confirm date two. Chris suggested mini golf and dinner. When he walked her to her car at the end of the night, kissed her, then walked away, Christine was intrigued. “He also gives really good hugs,” she says. “I know that sounds silly, but that was something I was curious about.”
Christine and Chris went on a few more dates before things between them briefly fizzled out. Coming from the intense startup world, Christine wasn’t sure what to make of Chris’s laid-back personality and was intent on seeing her dating plan through. “I’m settling into this really comfortable thing with the first guy I went out with,” she recalls thinking at the time. “I’m not supposed to fall into anything until at least guy number 15. I just was expecting [finding a partner] to be so much more difficult.” They parted amicably, agreeing to be friends. But in late February, when the temperature dropped, Christine couldn’t stop thinking about Chris’s hugs and asked him to hang out.
They started seeing each other regularly, cooking dinner together and playing Scrabble. In April, Chris invited Christine to be his date to a wedding and, later, on summer vacation with his family. Christine decided it was time to define the relationship. “That conversation took us from, ‘This is the dude I’m dating’ to ‘this is my partner,’” says Christine.
Christine made her deadline. For Christmas 2019, Chris joined her on her road trip to North Carolina. A week later, they celebrated the holidays with his family. This spring, while most of the country was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris proposed, and in September, they eloped with a “cosmic cowboy” themed pop-up wedding. Next year, they’re planning a big wedding with family and friends to celebrate.
As for how Chris felt when he finally learned about Christine’s dating plan? “I thought it was hilarious,” he says. “I was like, ‘Of course you did. Of course you have a spreadsheet for this.”
(Main photo credit: Cory Ryan Photography)