Pulsing lights cast shadows across a crowded dance floor. Music blasts while a shimmering sea of bodies dance and throb under a glittering disco ball. A woman waits to order a drink at the bar, the bartenders, too busy with other guests, ignore her. Then, she catches eyes with an attractive somebody down the length of the bar. They smile and look away, embarrassed at making such a fast, intimate connection. Why does it seem anytime a couple meets on television or in the movies this is what the scene looks like this?
Alcohol and settings where alcohol is consumed is a common thread in some of our favorite film and TV moment’s meet-cutes, a phrase describing when the two romantic leads first meet. In popular entertainment, we see drinking and dating everywhere, especially in purportedly romantic scenes: At prom and its after parties where dreams of young love are set à la American Pie, at night clubs where “girls night out” is the priority but somehow unexpected romantic relationships blossom à la Knocked Up, and at well-intended blind date dinners where wine is a common accompaniment à la Silver Linings Playbook.
Dating while sober is hard, but no matter where you are on the sobriety spectrum, everyone is worthy of finding love.
This isn’t to say the best meet-cutes, in film or real-life, include alcohol. They don’t, but to deny the cultural association between drinking and dating is to deny reality. Dating while sober is hard, but no matter where you are on the sobriety spectrum, everyone is worthy of finding love. And, thankfully, there are plenty of sober meet-cutes to draw real-life inspiration from.
Here we detail some of our favorite non-alcohol related meet-cutes in the movies and offer suggestions on how to incorporate the themes into your own life.
In Serendipity, Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) meet when they both pursue the same pair of cashmere gloves at a department store during the pre-Christmas rush. In the shot, we see their hands graze each other’s as they grab for the single set. After the characters uneventfully engage a persnickety sales lady for a second pair and fight off another rabid holiday shopper, the enchanted strangers continue their meeting and go for equally as charming frozen hot chocolates.
No, I won’t recommend shopping for gloves all winter as you hunt for a mate. But I would suggest that if you casually meet someone out and about who you think is cute, ask them for a date right then and there. If you’re in NYC and as hopelessly romantics as I am, I’d suggest Serendipity 3, but any spot would do.
There are more meet-cutes than I can count in Love Actually but there’s only one that matters. And that’s the one where Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz) first meet at his writing cabin in France. After Jamie learns his “sick wife” was boning his brother, he leaves London for a quiet respite. Aurelia, who is Portuguese and doesn’t speak English, joins Jamie at the cabin as his temporary housekeeper. One day, Jamie is sitting on the pond’s deck when Aurelia replaces Jamie’s tea with a fresh cup and causes his loose manuscript pages to lift with the breeze and scatter into the murky brown pond. Aurelia feeling guilty jumps in and tries to save each page. This moment bonds them and us as an audience to them.
The next time someone you like shares a hobby, jump in (I had to) and ask how you can support them in their craft. Even better, suggest a date in which you try a hobby you or they enjoy — together. Trying something new on a date can be quite the bonding experience.
Sleepless in Seattle
It’s not until the end of the movie when Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) and Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) meet atop the Empire State Building in all its Valentine’s Day glory. After Annie falls in love with Sam while hearing him on a Delilah-esque radio show, she turns her life upside down trying to learn more about him. Sam, a recently widowed father, is doing his best to live and take care of his young grieving son. When Jonah (Ross Malinger), Baldwin’s son, fails in trying to encourage his dad to meet Reed in New York, he devises a secret plan and sets off for New York to find her himself. Roadblocks establish, but the three characters meet in a magical moment just before Sam and Jonah leave New York City for Seattle.
If you’re a fellow fate-believer like me, follow your gut instinct when new meeting people (just don’t stalk them like Annie). This could mean be open to meeting people when you’re traveling or even take a chance on dating someone outside of your comfort zone (like Annie did, since Sam has a kid).
You’ve Got Mail
Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) star as enemies turned lovers in this Ephron classic. Kathleen owns a bookshop on the Upper East Side of New York and Joe is about to open Fox Books, a chain of bookstores akin to Barnes and Noble around the corner, effectively crushing Kelly’s business. When Joe’s kids pass by The Shop Around the Corner, Kathleen’s shop, and see storytelling in play, they want to go inside. Joe is smitten with Kathleen immediately and wants to know her name. When she asks for his in response, he’s quick to only give his first name, concealing his relation to Fox Books. They end up meeting online and falling in love, their identities initially concealed by their screen names.
As a writer, I have to confess bookstores are the most romantic place to meet new people. Follow your interests, explore new ones, and attend author talks, but be respectful if someone doesn’t want to chat. Make sure you also browse the aisles of your favorite genres and notice the people who are also checking out the types of books you love.
The romantic constructs the entertainment industry would have us believe can influence us. Their tropes of dating and drinking can make us feel alone even when we know it’s crap. We can’t let the onslaught of alcohol-as-the-only-means-to-date themes stand in the way. Re-watch these movies and remind yourself there are many ways to meet new and interesting people without involving alcohol.
For more dating inspiration, make sure you follow our Sober Dating Guide for tips on how to find a date, non-alcohol date ideas, and more. We want to know what your favorite movie and TV non-alcohol related meet-cutes are. Have a real-life story? Share it with us on Instagram!