Alex Williams at the Times is concerned. Very. Concerned. Alex is concerned that courtship may be over — young ladies don’t get asked on dates any more, they just receive 5am texts from nightclub bouncers saying, “sup.”
MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid. But when the dark-eyed musician with artfully disheveled hair asked Shani Silver, a social media and blog manager in Philadelphia, out on a “date” Friday night, she was expecting at least a drink, one on one.
“At 10 p.m., I hadn’t heard from him,” said Ms. Silver, 30, who wore her favorite skinny black jeans. Finally, at 10:30, he sent a text message. “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?” he wrote, before adding, “I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”
Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations. “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”
“It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five,” she added. Dinner at a romantic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of so-called “hookup culture,” millennials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.
Well, first of all, that dark-eyed musician is a dick and it sounds like he’s single for a reason. And it sounds like Ms. Silver has been on the receiving end of a lot of bad behavior! But as another 20-something woman who dates, her story doesn’t sound at all familiar. Have I encountered a few dudes who, after going on a few dates, will text me last-minute to hang out if they’re in my neighborhood? Sure, of course. But a first date of hanging out with him and his friend at a bar? Never happened. And I’ve gone on some terrible dates in my day.
Did you see what I did there? Where I mentioned that I’ve gone on lots and lots of dates? That’s because dating actually does still exist, and people do go on dates instead of texting each other incessantly. It happens! All the time!
Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.
I have never rendezvoused over text messages, Facebook posts and instant messages. I have used those forms of communication for communication, but I’ve never sat home on a Friday night Facebook messaging instead of going out with someone. And the only people I know who have done that are in long-distance relationships where they can’t get together (and they’ve had the good sense to use Skype).
Williams goes to blame “hook-up culture” (what else?) for the demise in dating:
That may explain why “dates” among 20-somethings resemble college hookups, only without the dorms. Lindsay, a 25-year-old online marketing manager in Manhattan, recalled a recent non-date that had all the elegance of a keg stand (her last name is not used here to avoid professional embarrassment).
After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, “carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes.”
She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” (It petered out after four months.)
So Lindsay hooked up with a bouncer in Williamsburg, went back to his apartment for what sounds like a fun dance party, and then hooked up with him on and off for the next few months. That’s not the demise of dating — that’s two people banging each other for fun. It doesn’t sound like Lindsay was looking to date this guy; it sounds like they had a couple months of fun and then moved on. If I had to wager a guess, I would bet that Lindsay was going on “real” dates with other people in that same time frame. But of course that doesn’t back up this journalist’s “get offa my lawn!” thesis.
And perhaps Lindsay was looking for something more. People have been known to get into “real” relationships under all kinds of circumstances — including going home with a bouncer at 4am. And sometimes people are just looking for fun. And sometimes one person is looking for something more serious and so your desires don’t match up. That’s not the end of dating. That’s life.
Online dating services, which have gained mainstream acceptance, reinforce the hyper-casual approach by greatly expanding the number of potential dates. Faced with a never-ending stream of singles to choose from, many feel a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out), so they opt for a speed-dating approach — cycle through lots of suitors quickly.
That also means that suitors need to keep dates cheap and casual. A fancy dinner? You’re lucky to get a drink.
Yes, the author of this piece just tried to make “FOMO” happen.
Dodgy economic prospects facing millennials also help torpedo the old, formal dating rituals. Faced with a lingering recession, a stagnant job market, and mountains of student debt, many young people — particularly victims of the “mancession” — simply cannot afford to invest a fancy dinner or show in someone they may or may not click with.
Yes, the author of this piece just referenced the imaginary “mancession.”
Further complicating matters is the changing economic power dynamic between the genders, as reflected by a number of studies in recent years, said Hanna Rosin, author of the recent book “The End of Men.”
A much-publicized study by Reach Advisors, a Boston-based market research group, found that the median income for young, single, childless women is higher than it is for men in many of the country’s biggest cities (though men still dominate the highest-income jobs, according to James Chung, the company’s president). This may be one reason it is not uncommon to walk into the hottest new West Village bistro on a Saturday night and find five smartly dressed young women dining together — the nearest man the waiter. Income equality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male-dominated dating structure.
Yes, the author of this piece just implied that women make more money and have more economic power than men, which is untrue if you actually look at things like “facts” and “numbers.”
Newsflash to olds: Yes, dating is different now than it was in your day. It was different in your day than it was in your parents’ day too. That is how things work. Communication is especially different, since now we have cellphones and social media — we do indeed use those things to communicate. And yes, changing gender roles mean that women don’t have to sit around waiting to be asked out, and that we get to pick what we order for ourselves off the menu. Certain aspects of dating are more casual, because people date for many more years before getting hitched. We tend to date many more people. We’re more mobile and often live away from our parents, which means we cultivate local “families” in our social circles. We don’t just want to see how well our partners get along with our biological families; we want to see how well they get along with our friends, and if we share the same values and social preferences.
It’s easy to look at that and conclude that because things are different, they’re worse. But I’m not convinced that’s the case. Are some things surely worse for some people? Definitely. Are other aspects of these changes really overwhelmingly positive? Yes. People who delay marriage until they’re in their 30s or later (and, one assumes, end up dating a wider variety of people) tend to have happier and more stable marriages once they do get married. Getting to try out lots of ways of dating — more formal dinners, first-date drinks, casual romances — can teach you quite a bit about your own preferences and desires. And a diversity of dating models means that you can pick and choose what works for you at any given time: If you’re focused on work and just want to have a little fun you can cultivate a consistent hook-up; if you want to party and meet a ton of new people you can do that; or if you’re relationship-focused you can do what the woman at the end of the piece does, and refuse to waste time with people who aren’t going to be similarly formal about dating.
Dating woes are as old as dating itself. But “dating sucks, has always sucked, can also be fun” doesn’t make a middling Times trend piece.