St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper-Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald.
“Modern dating makes me want to punch myself in the throat.” The blog title was hard to ignore, given that the writer is only 22.
I felt my age, as I couldn’t fathom what she was talking about.
Dating, down the ages, has always been a raw experiment of hits and misses. Have things degenerated so much for singletons since I left the scene over a decade ago? Yes, says Melissa Moeller.
“As a 22-year-old single woman, I’m pretty much living in the thickest part of the modern hook-up culture – perfecting the art of getting the right guy to buy you a drink at a bar, crafting the perfect response to a text to make you seem just interested enough, taking the proper five seconds to adequately judge a person and determine whether or not to swipe left or right on Tinder (an online dating site).
“That’s the world I live in now and I have to confess: I hate it with every fibre of my being.”
If it were only Melissa opining about her attitude towards love and relationships in the 21st-century, I’d have sympathised and moved on. But her blog has popped up on the social media newsfeed of over a dozen of my friends and associates – all of them aged 25 and under.
The dating rules have changed
Clearly, Melissa has touched a sore point. The dating rules have changed – and more traumatically than we, the people who grew up doing it differently, realise.
Everything is more complicated these days, she explains. The mental, sociological and emotional driving forces behind seeking out a mate are so unutterably altered that, if you don’t understand the rules, you’ll not only stay single, but look like an idiot.
“Nobody asks you out on a date; they just ask you to hang out – so after you do, you can spend the next three days that you’re supposed to be ignoring them wondering exactly what it meant … I have a simple solution for those of you who struggle with these haunting questions: ask the other person. Oh wait, you can’t.”
Melissa explains that the world we live in today is one in which people are “afraid to feel anything genuine”, or are afraid to show it. Nobody talks face-to-face about their feelings, or motives; instead, they send passive-aggressive text messages.
Everything, she says, is done through texting. People don’t call each other to have a chat or make plans – that’s considered “weird”. Essentially, everything is “calculated to appear thoughtless” – and it is one of the most “exhausting games I’ve ever had to play.”
I’ve dated men who just weren’t that interested, but who played the game initially to get me hooked. I’ve also had rip-roaring arguments with boyfriends via text message. But I’ve never browsed a dating scene where, Melissa argues, apathy is more effective at getting someone’s attention, rather than genuine feelings – or where men and women learn, via the internet and Hollywood movies, how to manipulate each other with stock phrases, one-liners and false personas.
My twenty-something friends tell me that Melissa is right. They’re not finding it easy to connect with someone on the most traditional, basic and biologically sound level: two people having a chat, swapping numbers and mutually agreeing to see each other again.
Love has become a throw-away culture, they tell me. Singletons want what we want – the romance of a potentially permanent relationship; the promise of a possible match made in heaven – but nobody seems to know how to do it anymore.
I don’t know how to help them. And that makes me sad.