If this is the End of Courtship, I enthusiastically welcome its successor: My response to the New York Times article
I finally read this New York Times article on “The End of Courtship,” and I’ve got to say, I think they’re putting a really negative spin on this.
Until recently, I had been out of the dating game for about three years. That’s not a terribly long time, but it sort of is in a culture that is changing so rapidly. Maybe it’s being freshly single, but going to “a romantic dinner and a movie” sounds repugnant to me. It sounds so forced and inorganic. Yes, the guy who texted the girl in this article to hang out with his college buddies at 10:30pm when they had plans for 10pm is a douche, but so is the guy on OKCupid who asked to “woo me over a romantic stroll and some stimulating drinks in a lounge.” Barfasaurus Rex. When I called him cheesy in response, he told me it was clear why I am single, so maybe everyone on OkCupid is kind of a douche. Only time will tell.
For the record, this is how my last relationship began: I worked with him on a freelance project and we learned that we were neighbors. I was reasonably comfortable around him from spending so much time at work together, so I started going out with him and his roommates. Once we went to a show and grabbed drinks together, but as friends. And in that laid-back atmosphere, one night he walked me back to my apartment, and we hooked up (details left to the imagination of the reader). This “hooking up” happened a few more times, coupled with activities. We went to the farmer’s market, where he held my hand in daylight on Sunset Boulevard, which I feigned horror at. And then he asked me to dinner. And we did more activities. And more hooking up. Until we decided we were the only people we wanted to do certain activities and hook up with. Which we did, for almost three years. Is it always going to go that well? Of course not. But I never had to sit through a boring dinner with him before I knew I liked him as a person. The pressure was so off that we joked that the time we hung out just the two of us was a “scam” – not quite a date until it’s in hindsight.
Perhaps my aversion to holding hands in public or surprise at being asked on a date is exactly what they’re stating here – my expectations have been so grossly lowered that these things were a shock. Well, yes. The people I dated in high school and college were pretty non-committal. LIKE MOST GUYS IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE.
My point is: what constitutes a “date” isn’t really the issue. Is what you’re doing really the main event? This whole time I thought the point was getting to know the other person and seeing the potential. I don’t want to go to a romantic bistro with a stranger that I might not even like. I want to do that with my BFF that I’m also sexually attracted to, which is what I consider each boyfriend to be.
Denise Hewitt, quoted in the article, is frustrated by the fact that a male friend told her “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing – going to an event, a concert.” I don’t know what Denise’s deal is since she’s 24 and lives in Manhattan; I would be shocked if she was trying to settle down with someone right now. But that sounds like a great date! A concert of some music we both like? An event that sounds interesting to both of us? What is so bad about that? The way it’s phrased – “I don’t like to take girls out” makes me feel like this is unattractive to girls because he doesn’t want to pay for them. Please tell me this isn’t true. I will be so disappointed.
The line in Girls when they talk about being each other’s “main hang” struck me as sweet. Because for me, part of what happens now is deciding whether you like each other best, or most. Of course it’s a bummer when they choose someone else over you, but that could have happened when we were all going on carriage rides and walks under a parasol on dates. (The guy Zosia Mamet talked about sounds like a tool who was using her for her family in any scenario. )
Donna Freitas, who has presumptuously titled her book The End of Sex, seems to be using a bit of hyperbole. Let’s not forget that sex is something humans will always want and need, so just slow your roll there, D-Freits. Hookup culture isn’t exactly new – remember the 60s? But those people found mates just fine. And had a ton of children, if I recall correctly. Donna says that hookups aren’t enough when you enter adult life. Unfortunately, it’s taking a lot longer for most of us to enter adult life than it used to. Considering we’re looking at a sample of people who graduated college between 2006 and 2010, are living in cities, and went into creative fields, I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention recently, but that life is a hard nut to crack. And it’s one that is the reality for most of the people this article is about. The reference to Girls alone proves this point – our most relatable TV show is about people who are “trying to get it kind of together.” We’re a mess, you guys! Our jobs are messes, and our relationships are going to be too. Maybe this makes me crazy, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We’ve been dealt a complex, if not totally crummy, hand. A crappy economy, a generation above us that is constantly criticizing us, a life expectancy that’s adding new phases of life, THE INTERNET. I don’t think it’s so wrong if our dating lives and personal relationships have become more about casually enjoying each other’s company than supporting each other financially and keeping the human race going. We have plenty of people, you guys. Everyone just calm down.
Lindsay, also named in this article, danced at a guy’s apartment with his friends and hers after hours, which led to semi-regular hookups and ended after four months. The situation is presented as a disappointment, but that night that started it sounds super fun to me! The reason it ended was probably because they weren’t right for each other in the long haul, not because their first date wasn’t formal enough!
Technology is going to play more of a role in everything these days, dating included. I think the women of The Gaggle, mentioned in this article, have it right; it’s about adapting to the world around you and recognizing new opportunities instead of slamming them outright for not being traditional. Recognizing an ambiguous or organic situation as a possibility for romance means you have less pressure, and more opportunities. And honestly, maybe it requires a little more of an advanced degree of self-esteem to be the one to reach out. But it benefits females to embrace these less awkward encounters, because we no longer have to wait for a man to ask us on a date. We can DM him, and maybe even snapchat a few weeks in.
The sentence “further complicating matters is the changing economic power dynamic between the genders” seems like a positive thing. Part of the reason courtship is dead is because “courtship” implies a man pursuing a woman, and we have thankfully moved past that antiquated concept. But they are trying to present this negatively. Why are they so mad about it? “Income equality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male-dominated dating structure.” To me, this sounds like a cause for celebration. Grab your gender-equal paycheck and buy that cute dude at the bar a whiskey to let him know you’re interested! It isn’t different from what you want guys to be doing. I consider myself a feminist, as a lot of women do. But we can’t have it both ways. A guy will do nice things for you and take you out to dinner and do what you want to do because he is a good guy who is interested in you. But you can’t get upset because you didn’t initiate a meeting with that guy, so it never happened. If you want a romantic dinner, ask him to a romantic dinner. Cheryl Yeoh, quoted in this article, gets the traditional treatment she prefers because she demands it. If you want to casually hang, or hook up to get to know someone better with less pressure, that’s ok too. The power is in your hands, hear you roar, etc. The best thing about this is that there are more ways to find someone – what happens next is up to the individuals.
Part of what they are failing to wholly embrace is that the style of dating is affected by the way expectations of age have changed. We’ve added a whole new developmental stage of life. According to another New York Times article, people in their 20s are taking a lot longer to grow up. So what used to be “college style dating” is now extending past college because we are staying in that mind set. And the average age for marriage or children is becoming higher and higher. Thusly, the dating we’re doing right after college isn’t necessarily towards the end of finding someone to settle down with. And maybe it never will be. True, it’s easy to be a victim of “FOMO,” but what ever happened to “when you know, you know?” Can’t we just accept that nowadays, the age at which we “know” is going to commonly be a little bit higher?
Additionally, the traditional route of finding someone, getting married, and having children with them is kind of dissolving. This hellogiggles article (“When Boyfriend isn’t enough but Husband is too much”) actually touches upon evolving relationship labels, having children without getting married, and other “non-traditional” routes in a really insightful, timely, and accurate way. Shit changes, you guys. And way back when, courtship began when someone we had maybe never spoken to would haggle over our dowry with our father, but I think we’re pretty relieved we don’t do that anymore.
Maybe waiting longer to settle down with someone and get married will have positive effects – instead of partnering up with someone when you are barely your whole self, and hoping you grow up in the same direction, you will know yourself and each other and have a reasonable expectation regarding if you will continue to be in love forever. Isn’t love the goal? Why is it so important what activities we do to find it, and why are we mad that they have become more instagrammable? To me, the end of courtship gives way to equal opportunity to genders to spark a connection, less awkwardness and more organic initiations, a variety of new opportunities if you’re willing to embrace them, and a more genuine relationship in the end.
Or maybe this is just my never-ending optimism and belief that love prevails. Maybe this kind of dating just happens to be my style, and in reality we’ll all end up alone. At least we’ll all still be texting each other to hang out. Probably just using a chip in our brains and emoji.