It was bound to happen sooner or later: the New York Times' Sunday Style has discovered the online dating web site OK Cupid and it isn't pretty. Kids Today (TM) just don't know how to date anymore.
Reporter Alex Williams interviewed a series of urban women in their 20s and 30s about the post-apoaclyptic dating landscape in which we go back to a strange man's apartment in for "boxed mac and cheese and whiskey" because that's the best we can expect. I don't know if Williams found only the most incompetant daters, or the ones with the lowest personal standards, but it's probably a mix of both. (But not you Anna Goldfarb! Love you, girl! Buy her book!)
I'm an avid online dater, which is basically the 2013 version of arriving out West at the tail end of the Gold Rush and sifting through dust for any sparkler you can find. And I'm going to say something about heterosexual dating that makes me sound like I'm crotchedy and old and not a feminist, when in fact I am 28-years-old and staunchly feminist: Ladies, men will treat you the way you convey to them its acceptable to treat you.
The reason courtship is so confusing is because everyone, men and women, have loosened our standards. If what you want is traditional dating leading to a monogamous relationship, what you need to say in your profile—and back up in your behavior—is that you want traditional dating leading to a monogamous relationship. Potential romantic partners should be trying to make a good impression on you; show them how. It's okay to say in a profile that you want to go on a "date," in which one of you picks a time and a place. It's okay to delete messages from men whose idea of asking you out is sending their cell number and telling you to text them sometime. It's okay to set reasonable standards, like no going to meet up with a guy the same evening (i.e. lack of planning on his side) or no meeting someone after, say, 10 p.m. (i.e. strong indication it might be a booty call). If men are afraid of offending women with "old-fashioned" ways, as Hanna Rosin from Slate suggests in the piece, then you need to communicate with them that you won't actually be offended if he behaves somewhat traditionally on a first date, which, after all, is all about making a good impression. Setting standards doesn't make you a bitch, or unfun, or uncool. It makes you a woman who knows what she wants.
Hookup culture is fabulous for what it is: fun, no-strings-attached sex. Sexual independence is one of best things about being a 28-year-old woman living in New York City in the 21st century. But we are only deluding ourselves if we think that the template for hookup culture and the template for courtship-leading-to-a-relationship are the same. Reading through the Style section piece, I felt like I should have a red pen to check off all the red flags of Hooking-Up-Pretending-To-Be-Dating, starting with Boxed Mac And Cheese And Whiskey Girl. Really? She went back to a dude's apartment for boxed mac and cheese and whiskey and continued hooking up with him on weekends, initiating with a Thursday evening text message. There's no indication that these two did much else other than hook up on weekends and therefore they had no foundation for building a relationship outside of the bedroom; unsurprisingly, it "petered out" after four months. Dude had better have been damn good at eating her out because that is some bullshit right there. And these guys who say they want to keep dates cheap and casual so they don't have to "invest" anything in someone they're not actually interested in? First of all, I have a job and my own money and can pay for my own cocktail, asshole. And second of all, fuck off.
I found myself most empathizing with the 29-year-old San Francisco woman who is interviewed at the very end of the article:
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.
Strict? Yes. Perhaps too strict? Probably. (Does anyone really know what they're doing a week in advance?) But she's going on "dates"—in her case, it sounds like kinda fancy ones—which is what she wants to do. She's established her standards and men are meeting them. "She refuses to put up with anything else," writes Williams. Cheers to you, Cheryl Yeoh.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.