A NEW DATING MANIFESTO FOR 2015
It’s been two years since I first wrote about ghosting, and even longer since discussing the stigma of online dating. Since then, I've joined Tinder, quit Tinder, joined it again — and dated more than I have in years.
Throughout this span, I’ve met a lot of really great men both on and offline: attractive, funny, outdoorsy, and gainfully employed in interesting fields. What we'd call “good guys.” For the most part, these demi-relationships ended in various manifestations of ghosting. This fall, I did that thing where I hadn't heard from a guy in about a week, so I drank two glasses of wine and texted him a pretty benign question to remind him I was alive. About another week later, I realized he never replied.
There are two things that bother me about this: The first is that this guy barely knew me (we had met through Tinder and gone on two dates), he wasn't emotionally invested and still, couldn't bother himself to politely call it off. The second is that I am more or less desensitized to this behavior because I've come to expect it (and have dished it out a time or two, I'll admit). A potential romance ended for both parties with a definitive, “Meh.”
In the modern landscape of dating, indifference has become more than just the norm — it’s the goal. It’s always been cool not to care, but I'd venture to call our current attitude something like acutely blasé.
And here’s what really grinds my gears: Generally speaking, we're a bunch of good people — running around not being good to each other. Why? With something as important as our hearts on the line, why shouldn't we feel? Why shouldn't we treat people courteously and carefully?
In the time since I was writing about dating rather prolifically, I’ve changed my tune a bit. I wouldn't say I'm bitter — but jaded? Certainly. I actually love dating, and don't particularly mind being single. However, the pattern of meet, date, disappear is becoming tiresome and most disappointingly, boring! Dating has started to feel like a chore.
If you ask me, it should be a spicy mix of fun, exciting and emotional. Sparks should be flying! Our brains should be snapping and whirring and buzzing with activity. Our hearts should at least be present if not skipping beats. Dating should make you feel alive, not dead inside.
And so: Spring is here. It’s a time for renewal; a time for fresh beginnings and eventually, bare legs. Let’s shake off the weight of winter, let go of the lazy, apathetic attitudes that keep us glued to Netflix on a perfectly good Thursday night — and try dating with a little gusto.
SO HERE IT IS, THE NEW DATING MANIFEST FOR 2015
DATE WITH INTENTION. This is a loaded goal, and I think it covers a lot of ground — which makes it a great place to start. To me, dating with intention simply means that we should act in a way that reflects what we want. And in many instances, acting is as easy as just saying. I know it isn't truly “easy” to do this, per se, but it’s like that guy from The Fray said in 2005: Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.
Just looking for sex? Great. Trying to casually date around? Cool. Ready for something serious? Awesome for you. But like, once you know, why not just be upfront about it? Stating your intentions (or asking about the intentions of your current interest) gives everyone involved a platform to make their own calls. That’s just a decently human, adult thing to do — like using your turn signal or responding to an RSVP.
Don't act like a boyfriend to get sex. Don't act like you're game for casual sex if you're actually looking for a committed relationship. Ain't nobody got time for that. Let me say that no one should feel ashamed for wanting what they want — whatever that may be. But we need to not go around tricking people into things they didn't sign up for.
Again, I know this is not that easy to do in real life. There’s always a gray area, and there’s always uncertainty. It can take time to feel someone out; to see how you might fit together. But find your moment and then blow their mind with a bit of radical honesty. Now, I'm not suggesting we should all be having the DTR talk before the second round of drinks, but I do think that we should keep in mind that being honest is cool, and much more kind than being vague or staging a disappearing act. If you feel like you deserve that much, don't your dates, too?
BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOURSELF. Acting like a jerk is not a great way to date. Dating someone who’s acting like a jerk is not a great way to live. We should not be taking a passive stance in our own love lives — that is just stupid. Acknowledge your role in every relationship and take ownership of it — you are half of this thing. Like the ads on the subway tell us: If you see something, say something. When you clearly communicate what you do and do not like; what you will and will not tolerate — it will suddenly become clear if this person you're dating actually cares. They will either act in a way that reflects what you've communicated or they will not — and thus everyone is accountable. If you stick around through the stuff that pisses you off, that’s on you.
BE PRESENT. Sometimes it can feel like we're dating on auto-pilot, no? You show up on a first date that was arranged via smart phone, take a seat, and commence what essentially feels like a boozed-up entry level job interview that might end in a make-out. We ask the same standard questions, and spit out replies we've offered up a dozen times before. Yes, I'm willing to start right away. No, I don't have a felony record.
Going on dates just for the sake of doing it is really easy — as Matthew Kassel brilliantly illustrated in his New York Observer piece last summer. Thanks to OkCupid, Tinder, Hinge, etc, finding someone to go out with has never been easier. (In my experience, way easier than finding a job.) But to what end? Romance shouldn't feel like a routine. I don't think online dating is the enemy, but I do think that the amount of options we have is so overwhelming that we're reducing the experience of dating to a seriously forgettable series of interviews for jobs we don't even want.
So what’s the answer? Should we be dating less? Should we be more particular? Yes and no, it seems. If you're the kind of person whose boundless optimism allows you to saddle up to every first date with a clean slate and a fresh perspective — by all means date with abandon. However, I think the more cynical among us could stand to dial it back in quantity, and more readily share the quality (meaning your genuine personality).
Ask weird questions. Be a flirt. Talk about traveling. Argue over the best pizza in New York. Brush up on your current events and then make an off-the-cuff comment about net neutrality. Like my childhood soccer coach always used to yell when the ball was coming down field in my direction, “Look alive!”
ONLINE DATING AS A SIDE DISH, NOT THE MAIN COURSE. I've shared my thoughts on online dating before, here. But since writing that post — I joined Tinder. For the better part of a year, it was my primary avenue for meeting new guys. Still, I struggle to draw conclusions. I met a handful of really excellent men, and a handful of duds. I also communicated with an additional handful of guys I never ended up meeting, to say nothing of what must at this point be hundreds of silent matches. I can't really discern how different this result is when compared to dating the (relatively) old-fashioned way, except to say there was just more. I met people I never would have otherwise, and — at the core — isn't that the point of online dating? In that way, I get it. But, I'll defer to Kassel here, who summarizes my feelings exactly:
“The bar is simply much lower than it used to be. Unlike asking someone out in person, you don't have to muster the strength to walk up to someone, or even just call them, and possibly get rejected. The vulnerability — and the spontaneity that goes along with it — in romantic connection is diminished; online dating may make you a more active dater, but it also turns you into a more passive romancer. Instead of going out with someone you already know you're attracted to (the old way), online daters now use first dates to find out whether they like someone at all.”
I'm not discouraging online dating — because meeting new people is good, and most likely, you know at least two people who are in great relationships that started online. And I won't deny that I've met (and continue to meet) some really great men via the world wide web. But, I think everyone could benefit from treating the Internet like an enhancing side dish to an essential main course. Putting your ego — and your heart — at risk out in the real world is how you know you're not a robot. Or dating one.
ENDING IT? END IT. Together we can put an end to ghosting, I just know it. If you're ready to exit a relationship or “dating situation,” you need to not be a coward. Uncomfortable conversations are proof that we are all humans with beating hearts, tender egos and actual feelings. We need them. Last year I ended things with a human man in an actual, sit-down conversation. He told me it was the most honest conversation he'd had in ten years, and I felt electrified with pride in my bravery and calmed by the sense of closure. We kissed goodbye, he put me in a cab and we never spoke again. It’s almost poetic, isn't it?
If you need the distance of a text message to be straightforward, fair enough. (Everybody has to start somewhere.) It’s lame, yes, but a text is infinitely better than “Sorry, I’ve been really busy with work stuff,” followed by radio silence.
BE A FRIEND FIRST. Forget the power dynamics for a moment and ask yourself: Would you be friends with this person if romance and attraction were out of the equation? Do you see them as an ally, rather than an adversary? All it takes to start being better to each other is to keep one simple thing in mind, and it’s this: Treat this person the way you treat your friends.
I don’t mean revealing intimate details too soon and farting in front of them — but rather exhibiting respect, honesty, kindness and humor. Be yourself. Be silly. Be a little vulnerable, I dare you. These attitudes are the foundation upon which the best flirtations, sexual encounters, and romances are built.
And hey — what if we applied The Golden Rule to dating? What would happen? Would we all text back? Would we all end things definitively rather than ghost? Would the world explode due to all that human decency and politeness?
Each of these ideas hinges on our individual behavior, and our willingness to act differently and against expectations (and perhaps even our intuitions) in hopes of creating a new dating landscape. Imagine an atmosphere that rewards the risk-takers, the text-backers and the politest of them all. Then again, maybe it all just boils down to this: Don’t be a dick.
Originally published at www.shutupilovethatshirtonyou.com on March 5, 2015.