Three Times I Wish I Had Happn: A Bookworm’s Guide to Dating in NYC

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by Laura Crawson


I moved to New York after graduating college for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most exciting prospect of all was constant access to people who loved what I loved: books. Of course there are bookworms in every corner of the globe, but I was starry-eyed about finally living in a city known for countless fiction and poetry readings, a thriving publishing world, and a seemingly unlimited supply of attractive, bookish potential suitors.

During my new life in New York, I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time kicking myself for missed connections. If only I’d known a solution existed: Happn, an app that’s taken off in cities as far-flung as Paris and Berlin and Buenos Aires.

While other dating apps present faces of strangers I usually have nothing in common with, Happn promises an almost unfathomably ideal alternative: people I’ve already crossed paths with, popping up on my screen. If only I’d thought to download it sooner!

Three times I wish I had Happn:


I spotted a tall, blonde, broad-shouldered dreamboat on the Chipotle line. We both ordered bulging burritos in to-go bags and then, to my surprise and glee, ended up sitting across from each other on the subway home. I attempted to make eye contact, but Dreamboat put on a pair of reading glasses and dipped his head down to read the side of his takeout bag. Looking down at my own, I realized it showcased short prose by George Saunders. The last sentence read: “Hope that, in future, all is well, everyone eats free, no one must work, all just sit around feeling love for one another.” I snuck another glance at Dreamboat, wishing I could muster the courage to ask him if his bag featured Saunders, too.

When the train doors pinged open at 59th Street, Dreamboat rose to leave. Right before he stepped off, he glanced over at me. I held his gaze, and then he was gone.


I don’t look forward to rush hour on the local 1 train; I don’t find cozying up to strangers appealing. Being short, I normally end up tucked under someone’s smelly armpit. However, my luck soon changed when I found myself mere millimeters from a well-sculpted bicep tattooed with the sharply sad line: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

I took a deep breath, caught the man’s eye, and said, “Good decision with the Hemingway.”

He chuckled. “Thanks for noticing! Not enough people know where it’s from.”

I didn’t know how to respond. (Let’s continue this chat when I’m not wedged underneath aforementioned bicep? What’s your number? Marry me?)

We launched into an awkward silence until he sighed (perhaps with longing?) and wove gracefully through the throng and out the train doors, disappearing into the world aboveground.


On my commute one day, I noticed that there were only three people reading physical books. Most commuters were occupied by their iPods, heads bopping to private soundtracks. More often than not, that observation saddened me. I was reading Aimee Bender’s short story collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, for the second time; the second person was a woman rapturously reading Fifty Shades of Grey; the third was a man reading Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March. The book somehow looked small and delicate in his large, callused hands. I wanted to tell the man that he was reading one of my favorite books of all time. I wanted to ask what page he was on, if he’d been introduced to Thea’s eagle yet.

Maybe he was also a fan of Aimee Bender.

I considered imitating the character in Bender’s story, “Call My Name,” by following the man off the train and inserting myself into his life — but I didn’t, of course.

What if he was the bookworm who got away?

As I climbed the stairs out of the subway, I couldn’t help but lament my inability to initiate meaningful conversation with attractive, cultured strangers. New York throbbed with potential for serendipity, for happenstance, but no one knew how to take advantage of these opportunities. No one knew how to approach the objects of their desire. By using Happn, we’re finally awarded a second chance.

Happn is available on iPhone, Android and Windows phone.

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