For the first time in a long time, all of my female friends are single. As a result, even in spite of my recent nuptials, I too feel like I am single. And while historically, absolute singledom is a tragic statistic, we live in an age when sites called “The Man Repeller” can gain considerable traction therefore inferring celebratory circumstances in matters of female independence.
Last Sunday, I was sitting at The Smile (an awesome smoked salmon haven on Bond Street for the uninitiated,) with a dear friend (friend #1) when another one (friend #2) walked in. After exchanging hellos, friend #1 told friend #2 that she and her boyfriend had recently broken up.
“Congratulations!” Friend #2 powerfully remarked before taking her seat at a separate table.
Friend #1 proceeded to explain the perils she does not want to face in resuming the dating game. I sympathized with her concerns but consequently wondered, what is dating anymore?
In trying to answer that, I came upon an overtly formal definition as explained by renowned dating guru, Wikipedia. It looked like this:
Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several meanings, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple.
Hasn’t the mutual aim of assessing suitability become skewed by the rise of online dating though? I for one, have a female cousin who uses J Date to have sex. Her intentions are liberating but certainly not sincere–her profile says, “looking to spend happy days with someone.” What she means is quite simply, drunk and frivolous nights.
In matters of the defined “social activities,” are they of the media variety? That should be explored and expanded for the sake of clarity. After all, the internet may or may not have extincted the principals on which dating was founded. There is virtually no such thing as serendipitously meeting a mate anymore. Background checks by way of Facebook are devastatingly commonplace and herein lies a fundamental problem.
You find someone’s Facebook page, notice ambiguous photos or a weird interest in classical music and you’re turned off. But what if he was being ironic? What if you don’t know it yet but you too thoroughly enjoy classical music or at the very least turn out to enjoy that he enjoys classical music? Beethoven is badass, that’s hard to combat.
While I was still single, I didn’t know why meeting good men rendered so fucking difficult. In the early stages of my marriage, I think I’m starting to get it. Back then, I did what I thought might put me on the fast road to companionship and tried to mirror the interests of my potential suitors with my own. In doing so, I turned out dating myself over and over again. One of me is enough, I learned. Too much, even. Way too much.
And when I did like a guy? Third party hosts like twitter, Facebook, text messaging at large expedited the death of those charming fleeting butterflies. What was he doing in the thirty five minutes he didn’t reply to my really, really cute text? Who was the girl he was posing with in his pictures on Facebook? What was up with the cryptic words and open-for-interpretation wink-face emoticons that he was tweeting at obscure handles like @angelface @toohot4you? Ostensible rejection via multiple public social outlets is gut wrenching, depleting and in isolated cases, capable of inducing suicide contemplation.
I remember so vividly longing for a story like my parents. They met the old fashioned way: at a mutual friends pool party. My mother had just arrived from Italy and knew a respectable five words of English. My dad had been here two years. He asked her what time it was and she said “7 and half.” The rest is, as they say, history.
Just kidding, nothing happened until they met again two years later and she proceeded to deliberately give him a wrong number but failed to divulge synonymously fake details about her work place. He showed up the following day with flowers in hand and said this, “the next time you give a guy your fake information, don’t tell him where you work.”
But shit like that doesn’t happen anymore. And even though subjectively, the story of how I met my husband (a combination of Facebook and Halloween) seems romantic, sounds romantic, still plays a Coldplay song in my heart, there was certainly no chase to my workplace. In fact, I chased him, really, really far.
I conclude with a question. While digital dating only becomes more and more prominent, how can we expect chance, romantic encounters to manifest anymore? In searching for even just the sliver of an answer or perhaps the affirmation that it can still exist, I offer this new column: More Modern than Modern Love chronicling the really good, really bad (and therefore better) circumstances of dating in the 21st century as told by my wildly sage, awesomely single girlfriends in New York City.
Illustration by Charlotte Fassler.