Student perspective by Neidin ’14
Boy paces around his kitchen, new-fangled cordless phone in hand, planning out what he is going to say. He finally musters up enough courage to punch in her home phone number, which he knows by heart. He prays her father doesn’t pick up. Girl, waiting by the phone, lets it ring three times before answering. Of course, she says. I would love to go to dinner with you. They both smile on the opposite ends of the landline.
This was how heterosexual teens dated back in the questionably ‘good’ but definitely ‘old’ days. There were rules (you can’t just call him; you have to wait for him to call!); formalities and obligations (I’m sorry, you didn’t ask her father for permission?) and a clear progression of how things should go down, so to speak (no kissing until the third date!). Flash forward 30 years or so. Third wave feminism. The invention of the Internet and the advent of social media. The rise of hook-up culture. Watch the courtship of Boy and Girl in the modern day.
Girl shoots Boy a quick text during a lull in a Facebook chat with Boy #2. He texts back right away, which she doesn’t expect because he usually takes upwards of three hours to respond. They talk for a while about school and weekend plans. Their messages are rife with grammar errors and winky face emojis. Do you want to hang with me and a few friends? Boy asks. Yeah, sounds fun, says Girl. She tells her parents she needs a ride to a friend’s house on Saturday. They ask who will be there. Just friends, Girl says, but she wonders if he is something else.
The entire process of getting to know someone romantically has been flipped on its head: more often than not, romantic interactions now start with the physical and work toward the emotional instead of the other way around. We hook up first and get to know each other later. We text all the time but only see each other a few times in person. In the midst of all of this, we still get hung up wondering what exactly constitutes dating nowadays.
Technology makes it easier to stay in contact with a crush virtually 24/7. But this increase in communication is somehow more casual and impersonal than in-person conversations. You might know all about his obsession with Odd Future and how much he hates his AP US History teacher, but how much do you really know about his personality, the way he carries himself or how many other girls he is texting?
The line between dating and flirty friendship has been blurred to the point where when Girl’s mother asks her if she has ever dated anyone, Girl’s brain nearly implodes going through all of her past experiences and trying to determine, in the span of a few seconds, if any of them have counted as “dating.” Does it count if we texted everyday for three months but only saw each other twice and we never DTR-ed (defined the relationship)? What if we hooked up but then lost touch a few weeks after, she wonders? What does hooking up even mean, for that matter?
The truth is, we are still trying to fit our relationships into strict and obsolete categories determined by those of a previous generation. The way you date may never be like the way your mother dated, and Jake Ryan may never stand outside your window holding a boombox because he has no other way of getting in touch with you. I urge you not only to accept this fact but also to embrace it.
The rules of dating have been entirely thrown away. While you may be confused, take comfort in the fact that everyone else is in the same boat with you. Yes, even that one guy. And that other guy. And that other one. Everyone. In this time of social upheaval, every individual in this generation has a host of opportunities to redefine and take control of our dating experience. It is what you make of it.