Relationships

Hinge in the White House

Pete and Chasten Buttigieg’s other potential historic first.

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg, shown on iPhones displaying the Hinge app.
Chasten and Pete Buttigieg.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Hinge, Apple, and Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s common knowledge that Barack Obama met the woman who eventually became his wife, Michelle Robinson, when he came to work at her law firm as a summer associate. George W. Bush met the future Mrs. Bush, who was Laura Welch back then, at a barbecue and took her mini-golfing the next day. And we all remember that Bill and Hillary Clinton were law school sweethearts. The historical record is full of these president-and-first-lady origin stories: Harry Truman was just 6 when he met the woman he would go on to marry, in church. (She was 5.) The first time Calvin Coolidge saw his wife, she was reportedly spying on him shaving from a boardinghouse across the street.

So it’s only natural to ask how the current crop of presidential candidates’ how-they-met stories stack up. And when that conversation turns to Pete Buttigieg—who is now officially a presidential candidate, and a seemingly strong one for a mayor from Indiana at that—one realizes that Buttigieg could make history in this realm. Yes, Buttigieg has gotten a lot of attention for his sexual orientation—he is the first openly gay presidential candidate who seems to have a shot—but it would not be the only way he’d be a trailblazer: Buttigieg could also become the first presidential candidate who owes his marriage to a dating app. Reader, they met on Hinge.

Just a few months after his 2015 coming out, Buttigieg spotted Chasten Glezman, who was then living just under two hours from South Bend in Chicago, on Hinge. This is, naturally, the source of no small amount of pride for executives at Hinge. “Obviously it’s really exciting for us to think that we could have paired a first couple,” CEO Justin McLeod told me. Although several outlets have reported that Buttigieg swiped right on Glezman, this is a good time to correct the record: “We don’t have the swipe feature,” McLeod said. Swiping is Tinder’s thing; on Hinge, you send likes.

As with most online dating, there’s really not much more to the story of their meeting—despite Buttigieg’s best efforts to stretch the anecdote out. “As soon as I saw his pic, there was something in his eyes,” he said of Glezman in a CNN interview. “I said, ‘I gotta meet this guy.’ And then I did.” Even an unusually charismatic politician must face the truth that it’s hard to narrativize meeting on an app. The New York Times did a little better when the couple’s wedding got written up for the paper’s Vows column, alighting on a fried snack, the Scotch egg, as a romantic detail:

“He said, ‘You’ve got to try these,’” said Mr. Glezman, a junior high school teacher at a Montessori Academy in nearby Mishawaka, Ind. “It was a kind of magical moment. I mean, sure, it’s a fried ball of meat with an egg in the middle, but when it came to the table my little Midwestern heart leapt.”

The Scotch egg turned out to be an early indicator of compatibility for the couple.

Hinge, for its part, pushes back on the idea that meeting someone on an app is automatically dull. “I’m not sure that it’s any less of a meet-cute,” McLeod said. “I think it’s as romantic to meet on an app as it is to meet randomly because they happen to cross paths somewhere. They still have their first-date story, their first impressions when they saw each other on the app.”

In the case of Buttigieg and Glezman, one thing they won’t have to help them reminisce about their early days is their first messages to each other. “We’re so diligent about data privacy,” McLeod said. “As soon as someone deletes the app, we delete all their messages.” Future biographers, take note: The history books will be deprived of Buttigieg and Glezman’s initial messages to each other. “Not unless they screenshotted it themselves,” McLeod added. Somewhere, a fledgling presidential librarian is hopeful.

At 37, Buttigieg is in step with his generation, a group that is increasingly likely to meet romantic partners online. In 2016, Pew found use of online dating apps had tripled since 2013 among young adults, and nearly 6 in 10 adults of all ages said it was a good way to meet someone. It’s hard to imagine those numbers haven’t climbed since then, and along with all those connections have come a surfeit of marriages that began on an app or website. So while Buttigieg may be able to spin his Hinge story as a novelty in a field that includes candidates who got married before he was even born, as millennials grow up and run for office, it seems inevitable that more and more of them will have met their spouses this way.

Are the days of destiny-tinged first glimpses also gone? For the average couple, not having a charming origin-story anecdote to launch into is a small drawback, mostly just a passing thought. But in politics, stories can be currency. How a candidate met her spouse becomes part of the overall personal narrative, another potential soft selling point. The concept has never been tested on a same-sex couple, but as first lady historian Catherine Allgor explained in 2012, love stories have typically served to humanize presidential candidates—particularly a certain kind of love story:

One intriguing feature about these “love at first sight across a crowded room” stories is the idea that the man in question is obviously and immediately a man among men. Yes, American voter, what you see is what you get, they seem to say, and if you like what you see, no need to look further or deeper!

It stands to reason that meeting on Hinge is no “love at first sight across a crowded room” moment out of a movie. (The Obamas’ first date actually did inspire a movie: Southside With You.) But in Buttigieg’s case, maybe the story that will touch voters most won’t be the meet-cute but instead his account of coming out later than some and finding a partner not long after. Hinge may scream “millennial,” but the love-via-app narrative will prove less crucial than whether Glezman is able to help humanize Buttigieg, to help show a softer side of him. So far, at least judging by his Twitter popularity, he seems to be doing just fine.