No Courtship, No Problem

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Why Casual Dating is Not a Bad Thing

It seems that 20-somethings are too much these days. According to a recent Times article, we are a bunch of stock Girls characters, technologically-addicted insta-memoirists stuck in the 90s. I love making fun of myself and peers as much as the next person and I understand that someday I, too, will chastise the next generation with “Back in my day…” speeches, but there comes a point where I draw a line. When I read the Times “The End of Courtship” bemoaning the effects of hookup culture and casual dating among Millenials, I couldn’t help but wonder what was so bad about courtship ending. Was it really that great to begin with, especially when Millenials are known as children of divorce?

Back in the day (according to the article) a fellow seeking the interest of a lady fellow would muster up the courage, strategically planning what he would say and his intentions to call up a girl and ask her out. I agree that there is something gut-wrenching about phone conversations only matched by actual face to face interaction. But to see the way Millennials communicate (Twitter, text and Facebook) as commitment-free is looking at the platforms superficially. The format is different, but the process is pretty much the same. I would even argue that asking someone out today is more hellish than in the past. It used to be that, if someone you were interested in didn’t call, you could blame it on the line being busy or you being physically away from the phone. But now you and your phone are siamese twins. And since there are so many ways one can be reached, there are also many ways that one can be rejected. But the real anxiety arises when contact is actually made. Since most Millenials communicate via text, everything is subject to a line by line analysis not even matched by a seminar on The Odyssey. Why did they only “LOL” at my joke? It was definitely worth a “LMAO!”

(Courtesy of Rachel Fico)

(Courtesy of Rachel Fico)

That being said, I prefer asynchronous communication to the traditional format. No three-day rule for this girl! Courtship used to be an arm wrestling match for power from the beginning, starting with that damn rule. Which meant that patriarchy usually won. Now the varying platforms act as equalizers. With the traditional format dying faster than print journalism, women are not afraid to make the first contact. Also, Facebook and the like has made stalkers of us all, making it easier to call people on their bullshit. Girls can never use that “I can’t go to the movies with you because I’m washing my hair” excuse when they’re checking into the Highline on Foursquare.

Granted, this article is not about me (a 20-something college student), but 20-somethings thinking about settling down. It’s about women who are portrayed as clueless daters, stranded in the pool of relationships without a paddle (that paddle being courtship) while men are portrayed as wielding the upper hand, “putting [sic] more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out.”

This is nothing new. Regardless of the culture, there is and always will be that group of people that messes it up for everyone. Think of the Fonz. As much as I admire and fail to emulate his jukebox wizardry, he was always putting in the least effort as possible for the biggest return of female attention. Or think of so-called pick-up artists. Technically, they are using the tools of courtship. But no one wants to hear the played out line of “Girl, are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all day.” In short, jerks will be jerks whether they are using cave paintings, telephones or teleporters.

As an awkward dater, I am grateful for casual dating. Now, first dates can just be “hanging out.” For some, that means going out with a large group of friends or watching episodes of “Freaks and Geeks.” No matter what it means, expectations are low and I’m not having a mini-panic attack every time I meet a new guy. And I don’t have to prepare myself for the job interview-esque first date questions. But I understand the fear of the new norm. Traditional dating is like the “Law & Order” series, comforting and reliable, while modern dating is like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” where anything goes.

This trend is a great step forward, especially in a time when we are expanding society’s view of relationships, straying away from focusing on just heteronormative interaction. With no one standard for dating, there are more choices and the absence of a need to define relationships. Yes, all bets may be off, but this is potentially a good thing. Like previous generations, we are just trying to figure things out, but on our own terms. And that’s something to look forward to.

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