Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dating? Did anybody ever do that?

From the NY Times, another in the long series of things I have read complaining about the decline of dating. This one, by Charles Blow, blames the demise of dating on the rise of "hooking up":
Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.
Every time I read something like this, I wonder, when did people ever date? In the 50s? The 1890s? I know that dating exists, and I even went on a few myself, but the whole institution is horrible and I don't know anyone who thinks otherwise. Why would you want to spend an evening in the company of someone you don't know?

The facts of the world, as I see them, are as follows:
  1. Humans reach sexual maturity in their teens. In our society they marry in their mid 20s, or even later. They are not going to wait for marriage to have sex.
  2. Grownups have no part in the process of meeting and mating. It's all up to the young people themselves.
  3. Nobody has thought of a good way for young men and women to meet in a way that is conducive to eventual marriage. The current model is that men and women hang out together and work together and become friends, and then somehow, magically, you are supposed to get interested in one of your friends, who is supposed to get interested in you. If so, great. If not -- and a lot of people have trouble developing romantic feelings for their friends -- well, a lot of people take care of their sexual needs by hooking up.
  4. If you want to "date," that is, scout around for a mate among people who are not your friends, how would you find such people? Thus the huge rise of internet dating services. But everyone I know who has done that has hated the process, and most of them have eventually given up, still mateless.
  5. Dating stinks.
So if people like Charles Blow want to complain about how kids relate these days, they should suggest a model that might work better. And he ignores the role of the Internet, especially MySpace, Facebook, and the like, in how people get to know each other. You can learn more about a person from online encounters than you would learn on a few dates.

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