Saturday, January 12, 2013

The End of Dating

Any feminist who is living in mortal dread that her son might grow up to be a gentleman can breathe easier this morning.

The New York Times is reporting that courtship and dating are dead.

One does not understand why it took the Times so long to figure this out, but, as they say, better late than never.

Anyway, count this story in the category: You couldn’t pay me to be 24 again.

The story shows how modern courtship goes awry:

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.

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.

Many people probably agreee that the millennial generation is “subverting the rules of courtship” but that is entirely too optimistic.

The younger generation is dazed and confused, not knowing what is expected, what to do and what any gesture means.

Someone or other, we have created a dating culture where everyone is following his or her bliss and no one knows what the rules are.

One professor sagely points out that young adults do not go out on dates because they never learned how to do it. Given the confusion over gender roles, no one knows who is supposed to do what to whom. And no one knows what counts as an expression of interest and what counts as a grievous insult.

Some blame the problem on social media and iPhones. Sagely, the Times also suggests that the problem might be a lack of character. One does not often think of it in these terms, so it is worth underscoring the point.

The Times writes:

Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

Yes, indeed: dating requires courage and risk-taking. Among millennials these are apparently in short supply.

Dating requires you to make an appointment and to show up. When it comes to their dealings with the opposite sex millennials seem not to know how to do this.

Dating requires strategic planning: where are you going to go; what are you going to do? Worse yet, dating requires you to provide advance information about the evening’s activities so that she will be able to prepare. It’s called respect. Apparently, millennials lack this level of social skill.

And then, of course, there’s the economic recession. Dating costs money. When men invite women on dates they often pay for the evening’s entertainment. This requires a certain level of solvency, something that many millennials simply do not have.

And then, of course, in our gender neutered time, men do not know what is expected of them. They do not know whether if they start acting like a gentleman a woman will take offense or whether she will write them off as effete. Even if a woman says that she wants a man to act like a gentleman, she probably has very little experience dealing with gentlemen and so will feel that there is something strange about it.

Of course, there are still a few brave souls who defy convention and refuse to accept invitations that are less than dates. They used to be called “rules girls.”

For example:

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.

Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.

As you know, if you ever dare to say anything positive about “The Rules” you will be ridiculed mercilessly.

It may not be a pretty picture, but it’s the world that millennials live in. 


Anonymous said...

3 cheers for Cheryl Yeoh! As the saying goes, "You get what you put up with"

JP said...

"Anyway, count this story in the category: You couldn’t pay me to be 24 again."

I've found that life gets progressively more unpleasant and feels more like a prison over time.

With the exception of my time in college, I would love to be in my 20s again.

I spend much more time just waiting for my life to finally be over now than I did back then.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that Cheryl Yeoh likes being romanced, but doesn't like committing. I hope her dates regret being used and learned their lesson.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Boomer. Being a conventional Gentleman is instinctive to me. It's not appreciated anymore. It's exploited.

In the 90s, dates started giving me The Lecture. Her Demands, my Duties.

My nephew, a bank branch manager with my standards, just got divorced. Tall, dark & handsome, his wife treated him as a virtual Slave. Poor fellow, he's Unable to live alone like me. -- Rich

Kath said...

Wow, I wouldn't want to be dating now.
Does it make sense to find a mate by meeting someone in your everyday life?
At least you will have more of a chance of recognizing each other as fellow human beings. Speaking with someone in an everyday situation may be the best way of getting to know each other and to show mutual respect.
I am so far removed from the dating scene that I wonder if I sound hopelessly naive or something.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I too am very far from this scene. Not just in terms of years, but in terms of experience. Thus, I am consistently amazed to discover the kind of world that young people are trying to navigate.

Lastango said...

Folks might enjoy this interview with Kerri Cronin:

She's a professor who required students to go on actual dates to get credit for the course. Some students even signed up for the course just because they knew that was the only way they would ever muster the wherewithall to actually ask someone out.

It's fun to read, but there are signs the date desert may have serious social consequences. Here are some snips from "Standup Guy" by Michael Segell:

"According to Arthur Levine, the president of Teachers College in New York and director of a recent survey of college students, "Their short-term behavior doesn't coincide in any fashion with their long-term goals."

Based on nine thousand interviews, focus groups on thirty campuses, and surveys of three hundred chief student affairs officers, Levine's study found that young men and women are hooking up more, but making fewer forward-looking commitments to see each other -- what was once quaintly referred to as dating -- than any previous generation. "They have extremely high hopes and aspirations for a successful, happy marriage," Levine says, "but they're doing nothing to work toward that goal."

"...Understandably, the children of divorce say they plan to delay marriage because it's vital that they choose well. They're loathe to have their own children repeat their painful experience But how long are they willing to wait?

What you can't know at twenty-five but learn, unhappily, by thirty-five is that, like the brief but critical period during which a mother and infant can form a deep, mammalian attachment, the life stage during which it's possible to adjust to the foibles and weird habits of someone who may want to sleep in your bed for the rest of her life may not last long, either.

Sam L. said...

Last I heard (maybe 5 years ago?), The Rules were a set of instructions for how women could manipulate men.

rogue wolf said...

I'm going to keep saying it till it sticks. I'm 28 and in the trenches. Most women I know personally say quite loudly they don't want kids. Most are quite mercenary with men (I know one woman that has a different man take her out to eat practically every day). Most have little to no respect for men and in fact are quite surprised that you don't laugh at jokes that have the punchline, "all men are worthless."

So Cheryl Yeoh will accept nothing less than expensive dates and flowers. ...Why would I want her again? Why would I waste my time with such nonsense? Someone who expects to be taken to expensive whatevers and given tokens like flowers is someone expecting to be bought. And quite frankly I HATE Whore John style relationships. Oh yeah, what other "old traditions" does Cheryl Yeoh follow? Is she a virgin? Will she happily cook for her man and keep house? Will he always have the final say? Will she love and support her husband till death do they part? Yeah sure she has respect for herself. Ferraris are priced with respect to their market value. Still doesn't change the fact that they are unreliable and have little to no practical value despite the price.

Here's the real deal: Most women I know don't whine that men aren't gentlemen. No, they whine that most utterly refuse to take charge and are basically too nice to even touch them. Perhaps, it has something to do with early childhood training teaching boys to always have deference for girls in such ridiculous nonsense like who goes to the bathroom first.

Once again, hyper nerd Eugene will tell his love exactly what he feels and why. Will take her where she wants. Will shower her with gifts. And in the end will be utterly ignored.

Bad Ass Griff will never call. Will never take her any place special. Cheats on her with her best friend. Yet she stays with him and hopes that he'll change into someone more like Eugene.

Anonymous said...

@rogue wolf: That's depressing.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for a view from the trenches, Rogue Wolf.

It reminds me of a remark that James Taranto made last week: it's difficult being a gentlemen when women have no interest in being ladies.

Apparently, they also have no interest in being wives either.

So they have defined themselves as hookups and concubines and are wondering why men don't respect them.

Being a gentleman means taking charge. But that assumes a set of mutually agreed upon rules-- holding the door for a woman is taking charge.

Most men by now know that they should not do it. They know that showing up on time sets them up.

Whatever you think of the old rules or the new rules, a situation where there are no rules is clearly not working out very well.

David Foster said...

I'm currently reading the novels & short stories of Edna Ferber...a fine writer, sadly neglected today...right now I'm in the middle of "So Big." The heroine, circa 1890, has moved to a small farming community and is invited to attend a church social which is intended to raise money for a new organ. It works like this...

The girls are all expected to pack box lunches, and the boys bid on them. While the auctioneer emphasizes the delicious contents of each box, everyone knows that what is *really* being bid on is the opportunity to have lunch with the girl in question.

Think of all the ego at stake here...most obviously, for the girls (imagine being the girl who gets only a 75 cent bid for her lunch, with the media bidding running at $2.00) but also for the boys who must publicly confess their level of desire for a particular young woman, as modified to some extent by their financial resources.

Pretty stressful for those with fragile self-concept, I would imaging.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Great example... thank you.

Dennis said...

I have never worried about opening a door for women. My grandmother taught me to be a gentleman. That said I was not above opening doors for feminists and basically daring them to say something when working on my undergraduate degree. Sometimes they would open the door for me and I would thank them for their kind courtesy.
In a long life I cannot remember a woman not graciously accepting my manners and attempt to be a gentleman. I suspect that it is all in the way one handles themselves. One has to accept who they are an to HELL with anyone who doesn't like it. I like being a male and love women who love being women. All the others are NOT my problem and will eventually destroy themselves. They have miserable lives and want to make others miserable.
One would be surprised at how powerful one can be by just being proud of who they are as people. No matter how bad it seems there is always a woman who will be a perfect match for you. Don't waste your time on the others for all you do is bolster their miserable personalities. Know when to cut your losses.
Just look around and they are there. Most women are just as desirous of a partner to fulfill their lives. I suspect that most of this silliness is a product of the "blue model" of existence. One has to learn to like/love themselves in order to be liked/loved by someone else.
No one ever stated one had to let women walk over them just by being a gentleman. Give what you get. Respect is reserved for those who deserve respect!

DeNihilist said...

Hey Stuart, not sure where to post this so you can peruse it. Has it all, cuckoldry, betrayal, turning kids against, etc. But it seems in Britian, a father has the right to test the kids DNA.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the link. It's an interesting story. I'll post about it, probably tomorrow.

Dennis said...

n.n said...

The progress of irreconcilable differences.

CatherineM said...

Dennis - I agree with you. I think articles like this over-sell. I am older, but I work with enough smart young women who have enough self respect not to be mistreated/disrespected, but are not "demanding." I tend to think that people who like eachother and want a relationship still end up together.

I do think texting has changed communication of all of the under 30's, not just romantic communication. I see teenagers walking together, but they aren't inter-acting. They are ignoring the people in their prescence in favor of those they are texting. I think there will be long-term consequences.

CatherineM said...

P.S. I listen to a radio show where the men - all over 40 - favor younger women because they don't expect a date/courtship and have no problem texting pictures of their private parts. Apparently women over 30 who decline are prudes. According to these men, not hooking up and sending sleezing pictures is "why you're (women over 30) not married." Of course these are men who, over 40 and one is 50, have never been in love or had a significant relationship. While I know it's just a radio show, I think a lot of young men listen and think their outlook is reasonable.

We live in a bizarre age indeed.

Anonymous said...

I am just glad that, as a woman over 40, I have enough self-respect to make sure a man follows proper dating protocol. A lot "drop off" after I don't respond to "what are you doing tonight?"
Bit those are exactly the ones I want to drop off. I don't want money spent on me, just patience and respect...
Women who give it away or men who try to get it from multiple women confound me.. Did they not have parents??

Dennis said...


Dennis said...

For any woman who is confounded by the actions of men. One sows what one reaps.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I think what we are dealing with today, is that there are now as many female sluts as there are male sluts.
In the past, we relied on the 99% of the girls to keep our legs closed, our mothers taught us, our mothers' mothers taught them.
Now, it doesn't seem like any teenage or college-age boy or girl cares to keep their virginity.
While the 50s had the "bad-boys" and taught the girls to avoid them, the 90's had "Sex-and-the-City" and taught the girls that they could be just as bad as the boys.
If you've ever watched it, you will see that there was a range there as well. There WAS a good girl still. But there was also the "James Dean." Equivalent. Daredevil. Sex with everyone.
As I watched, I could not imagine myself ANYTHING like her. My mother taught me as her mother taught her. "Keep your integrity, your virginity."
I was "confounded" by the actions of that woman (just as I am confounded by the actions of the loose men. I don't give men any more moral leeway than I give women)
I am very glad I am not in this dating sespool, as I do see women who give it away too easily, and men who are looking for an easy give-away..
Catherine, I have seen exactly what you describe! I mentor a lot of young women, and sometimes it spills into mentoring on personal-behavior.
(Because, (a) they ask for help, and (b) I have seen way too many professionals damage their careers by how they act on business (drinking too much, flirting with office mates or doing worse, or showing disrespect to their spouses while on business trips, just because their spouse isn't there to see. WE see, and WE instantly lose respect for them when they do it...
This is a strange era, indeed. I think we can turn it around. Worlds usually crumble, then rebuilt. Honey-boo-boo and Jersey Shore is proof-enough that we have crumbled. I am ready to help rebuild, one girl and boy at a time!