When I’m not writing about my many online dates, I work at an adult ESL academy. This means that I spend six hours of my day teaching various Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Turkish, and assorted other nationals how to make vowel sounds and choose between gerunds and infinitives. It’s pretty great.
One thing all of my students complain about is having enough opportunities to speak English. In addition to other, perhaps more academic sources, I recommend online dating to all of my students. Want to meet someone in a strange country? Get online. Want to find a way to get out of your house and get active? Go online. Want to practice your English in a realistic context? Go online.
Mesh is great for my students since, being primarily Asian, so many of them are the targets of prejudice and really, really gross dudes when they date on the Internet. The ability to filter for slurs and certain key words (“exotic”) means that the men who are messaging my female students tend to be of a higher standard.
None of them had met anyone so far, though, until Jeongyeon. Man, I love Jeongyeon. She’s been my student for almost a full year now, through Writing II and Pronunciation into our current Grammar III class. She’s sweet, outgoing, and determined. I taught my students the vocab word “sassy” so I could accurately describe this Korean-Chinese former policewoman. One day she casually referenced a boyfriend and I practically leaped around the classroom in joy. She’d met someone! Online!
Of course I immediately wanted to hear about her experience with the site and how her relationship was going. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do!
Note: I have changed Jeongyeon’s personal details (obviously) but I have also changed her speech, editing her grammar in an effort to avoid offense and represent her feelings/thoughts rather than her precise words. Other than verb tense and other grammar fixes, her words are her own.
Tell me about your new boyfriend!
He’s cute and sincere. Sincerity is the most important thing, not just having a good job. Tim is sincere, smart, cute, humorous, and caring. He asks how I am, how class is, how work is. He’s Chinese-American. I like that he’s Asian. I think he is very smart because he graduated from NYU, which takes skill. Also he doesn’t speak Chinese, which is good for me to improve my English. He is very honest and sincere. I like that.
How long have you been dating?
We’ve been dating for… about six weeks?
When did you start using the word “boyfriend?”
After the first date. That’s not American style? If I like him, I’ll use the word boyfriend.
What interested you about your Tim’s profile?
Haha – He had no profile. I’ll show you.
(Jeongyeon showed me: indeed, Tim didn’t have much of a profile: extremely bare-bones.)
I’m so curious – what about that interested you?
He messaged me so much. It was so funny! I didn’t respond for one month.
I think that would actually bother most women.
I thought it was funny.
What did you guys do for your first date?
Just walked around Brooklyn Bridge and park.
Are there ever language barriers?
Yeah. He speaks very fast – faster than you. I always tell him, “slowly, slowly.” We usually talk about work. I work in a nail salon and he works in construction so we talk about each other’s jobs and hobbies. My hobbies are exercising and hanging out. He has so many, but he doesn’t have time to do them recently.
Do you imagine a future with this guy?
I always think about that. If we get along well for a long time, I would like to get married. I want to get married to an American and stay in the United States.
If this doesn’t work, would you try online dating again?
You mean, if Tim and I break up? Yeah! Not bad.
What do you like about online dating?
I can meet sincere people who speak English – not just BS guys who want to play. I feel like I meet BS guys outside who just want to have fun – people who don’t study and have no education. I like that I can find out about their background before I meet them. I also really like the first stage of chatting.
How often do you guys talk?
Every day. We mostly text. I never call him. Never! (laughs.) I’m afraid that I won’t be able to understand his meaning – so fast! There’s so much linking, you know? Linking linking linking.
Do you think our pronunciation class helped with that?
Yeah. One day he asked me, “Diju eat?” I just heard the letter G. “G? What G?” So fast.
Is dating an English speaker helping your understanding?
Yes. Of course.
Would you recommend online dating to other people studying abroad?
Yes. I recommended this to (friend) and (friend). But they didn’t like to chat online.
How many dates did you go on before you met Tim?
None. Before I chatted with two guys but not anymore. Tim was the first guy that I met and the third guy I chatted with. I started back in May.
How is this different from dating in China?
The feeling is different, because I didn’t know about him already, and because of language. But I really like him.
Online dating certainly seems to have worked for Jeongyeon, for the moment. I think a lot of what seems strange to me about her experience – that she went for a guy with a minimal profile (red flag) who messaged her for weeks without a response (super red flag) – could be that she benefits from being new at this, and that she doesn’t have the same cultural awareness of what sucks about online dating. Could part of my own problems with this process be that I have such deeply ingrained low expectations?
Either way, they’d better invite me to the wedding. I’m claiming this one for Yenta Jessica!