Saturday, 26 April 2014

Dating the Way of the Dinosaurs?

I had a poignant email from a reader who just wants to go on a date. She doesn't want a marriage proposal (from a relative stranger, anyway) or a declaration of love. She just wants to go on a "I'll pick you up at seven" dinner date. And I sooo understand this. And I know what she's thinking. She's thinking she'll get all gussied up, and a handsome man will ring the doorbell. She will appear, and his eyes will widen, and he'll say, "Hey! You look great!" And then he'll whisk her off to supper in his vehicle and open the door for her when she gets out and open the restaurant door and help her with her coat and pull out her chair, if the waiter doesn't get to it first. He'll order a bottle of wine, and then they'll have such an interesting chat, the waiter will start hovering so he can finally take their order. Et cetera. Et cetera.

That sounds very nice, but the fact is that this is no longer the societal norm. To get that level of male attention and care, you usually have to be in a romantic relationship with the guy already, or maybe in France. (I prefer to believe that France is still this legendary place of deeply attentive, if utterly unfaithful, woman-loving men.) I advised my reader to ask around and find a really nice hairdresser. If you want to feel taken care of, but you are not actually ill, to the beauty industry you go! Very nice men with no designs whatsoever on your purity will make you feel like a million pounds/dollars.

I still remember getting a massage at an Aveda salon in Toronto; I was expecting a lady named Ashley. My masseur was a handsome, muscled man named Slavko. How can this be legal, I wondered. Oh well. La, la, la! (Slavko, I am quick to mention was a complete professional, and it was all very registered, as in RMT.)

Speaking of hairdressers, it is my habit always to get my hair ironed out before I go to Poland. I look foreign as it is; I cannot imagine what sort of impression I would make if I appeared before my retreatants/publishers/journalists with my hair in its natural state. And I love hairdressers and beauticians in Edinburgh because they are natural students of human nature, having heard more than your average priest. So yesterday, when two young ladies, one slim and one curvy, were ironing my hair--one girl on each side of my head--I asked them if the date stil existed.

"I've never been on a date," said the curvy one.

"Nobody goes on dates," said the slim one.

"How do people have relationships, then?" I asked.

"We just go to clubs and meet people," said the slim one cheerfully.

The curvy one shot her a quizzical look.

"Well, you do," she said.

Between them they had two approaches. The slim one goes to clubs and bars and, naturally vivacious, has conversations with anyone and everyone. The curvy one has never had a relationship with someone she didn't know from school. She and her friends go out together, and she ends up in "relationships" with male friends.

They both thought the idea of internet dating was scary. The idea of meeting a complete stranger they met online alarmed them, although the slim one chats with complete strangers all the time.

"How can you tell which ones are nice and which ones are jerks?" I asked her.

"I can just tell," she said. Then she elaborated, "From the way they act."

Women do not come to the salon to get their hair done because they are going on a date. That doesn't happen. Women come to the salon to get their roots done, or to keep their cuts fresh, or, more rarely, to get an up-do for a wedding or some other glamorous event.

It would seem that, to these young Edinburghers anyway, there is no formal structure to romance and courtship. It happens naturally within the course of their friendships--either going with friends to clubs and bars, or just being with people at school, or hanging around with friends.

Thus, if you've never been asked out on a date, it may be because dating--except between complete strangers who meet online (and maybe in France and the American South)--is going the way of the dinosaurs. Not only is it not something the urban young seem to do these days (and my hairdressers aren't the sum total of my research, incidentally), it speaks to the changing roles of men and women.

First of all, women have the same work opportunities as men, if not better, and we certainly get paid the same amount for the same work. Thus, many men don't see why they should pay all that money on a date. (If they are already in love with the girl, they will, but if this is more of a "job interview"-style date, then they don't get it.) Personally I think that women spend so much more on their appearance that it actually evens things up when the man pays, but a man might not see it that way.

Second, many men are paranoid about being seen as breadwinners. Possibly I should stop thinking about the manosphere (or Taki magazine--not for the sensitive!), but many young American men seem to be terrified that all women want is their money, and if we get their hooks into their paychecks via marriage, we will divorce them, take them to the cleaners, get their paychecks garnishéed, and no other woman will want them, etc.

Third, many men don't know how to date. If their friends date, then they date. If their friends don't date, they don't date. They don't read books about dating. There are no dates in the Hornblower series. Is there dating in Star Trek? No. And look at Han Solo and Princess Leia. No dating.

Thus it does not surprise me that instead of asking women out on dates, men hover around making Han Solo-like jibes and never get on with it, instead stammering things like "Hey, if you and Luke... I don't want to get in the way." They may actually blurt out how they feel before they're encased in carbonite, but actually, Han Solo didn't, did he? I belong to a generation of men who grew up thinking Han Solo was the ultimate guy, and probably so do you.

And that's it from me for a week. If you want to hear my words of wisdom, come to Krakow for the Redemptorists' Majówka retreat for women. My lectures will be in English, simultaneously translated into Polish, and Polish girls will be happy to translate other stuff for you because Polish girls are very kind, actually.

The contrast between kindly, sympathetic young Polish women and Polish-men-in-general is very striking. Polish girls are like gazelles, and Polish men are like bears. No wonder that Wojtek the Bear was accepted as a soldier in the Free Polish army. Other than the fact that he eats the cigarettes rather than smokes them, he seems very Polish in the Scottish play about him. I can't remember if Wojtek went to Mass, but he probably did. I used to make exceptions to this rule, but then I discovered that even really sweet, mild-mannered Polish priests have bear-like wills.

Hmm. Maybe I should not make such personal remarks about Polish men just before I go to Poland, eh? Otherwise, I may be in for some growling and roaring tomorrow.

But if you don't come to Krakow, I will be posting again on May 7. Until then, have a happy Easter season!


Julia said...

Yeah, my younger Single sister and I were chatting with our 50-plus beautician last week, and she was very surprised that men don't ask women on dates any more (she grew up in Serbia). 'How do people pair up then?' she wondered. Aside from telling her that people have 'hook-ups', I didn't really know what to say. But when I think about it, my friends who have boyfriends sort of had to tell them to ask them out in the end.

Have a good time in Poland! I wish I could go. I would if I were in the proper hemisphere.

Jam said...

"it just happens naturally" is what sends me into angry gusts of tears at least once a year. So what's wrong with me, then, that it never happens?! I don't much like this "natural" progression, I don't seem to be very good at it.

When I was in college "no one went on dates" - a date was the formalization of an exclusive relationship. There would be some level of fooling around and pairing off beforehand (sexual or not sexual I wouldn't want to guess or say but probably more so than not in most cases), and then dates were more like a married couple's date nights, happening after the commitment had been made. Nowadays the only people I know who go on dates are the online daters (and I've been noticing the rise of dating sites that try to take the emphasis off "dates"...).

Catherine said...

I do remember going on dates after college (boy calls, makes plans, meets the parents, tries to impress - all that jazz). I find online dating a bizarre concept, so I won't even go into that. However, I was asked out for the first time in five (six?) years this past weekend. It was quite obvious that the man had to use up all of his courage just to make the phone call, so he didn't bother thinking about the where/what/when aspect of the date. While I was flattered that someone (finally) wanted to take me out, I was seriously disappointed that no thought had gone into the plans and I had to end up making suggestions and deciding on logistics for him. I expected more from a man who's 15 years older than me!

I guess I'm just getting jaded in my old age. I should stop watching old movies and just remember that a girl's gotta eat.

P.S. I know this guy from my church - which is probably the only reason I've decided to give him three chances. Good baseball fan that I am.

Sarah said...

Oh, I am *so* relieved about the death of dating. Jam says that she doesn't like the "natural progression" way of doing things anymore, but I much prefer it.

Dates are so awkward and strange and I can be slow to warm up to people, and come off as very shy when I'm not really.

Once in a while, I moan to my friend about being single and he tells me that if I want a date, I need to go out more, or join more social groups, or even dip my toes into internet dating. And that's when I snap out of my single blues because I realize that it's just not worth it to me, and I would rather wait for a relationship than date around.

When I lived in Germany, my German peers often questioned me about "American-style" dating as they call it. It utterly perplexes them, these odd little "steps" we take in relationships. As one put it, "We are friends, and then one of us says they want to be more than friends, and if the other agrees, we are in a relationship."

As for paying for dates, I have no problem paying for my own half of the date, and I agree that the man paying for the date is a little archaic now that I know several men who are not the breadwinners even in their marriages. I think it's nice, and impressive, though, if the man offers. The only thing I find truly helpful and pragmatic about it though is that it helps me determine whether it is, in fact, a date. Or even signal to the guy that it is *not* a date if I insist on paying for my share.

Sarah said...

And in spite of Han Solo's puttering around and stammering half-confessions of love, I still consider him the perfect man. *swoon*

And to be fair, he didn't get a lot of positive encouragement from Princess Leia until near the end of the second movie.

Jam said...

Why do people assume that "dating" has to mean 1950s style formal dinner dates where the man pays? Ok, there's decent historical grounds for that, but, surely we can think just the teeniest bit creatively. If I think of a dating culture all I mean is that if a guy is interested in a girl he invites her to spend some time with him one-on-one. On a date. He doesn't just hang around being pally forever, he doesn't try to get in her pants first, he doesn't establish a pattern of daily texting for months on end. He just owns up and the girl knows where she stands. I know this sounds pathetic but when I wish I could just go on a date I'm not thinking "I wish I could get my hair done and eat an expensive salad!" - more often it's "I wish a guy liked me enough to want to spend time with just me."

I just feel like if you take "he'll ask me out if he's really interested" off the table, it's a lot harder to know when you shouldn't get your hopes up. (I'm speaking from recent and still sore experience here. Our relationship/friendship and my feelings were "naturally progressing"... right up until he announced that he's officially with this other girl. I had held back for months initially until I read yet another article about how no one goes on dates anymore, and then I thought maybe I should just encourage it. Womp womp. Anyway, I was a fool and am just not the person to ask about this subject right now. So I will stop commenting.)

Julia said...

Jam, I agree with your comments.

Dates don't really happen unless the pair concerned are already exclusive.

The problem with the whole 'it has to happen naturally' thing is that me spending enough time with any one guy in order for a relationship to develop 'naturally' is pretty much impossible, and wouldn't be 'natural' at all. I'd have to plan to run into the guy or he'd have to plan to run into me, and that doesn't scream 'natural', does it? While I do socialise, I don't have time for unstructured 'hanging out'. My time is pretty stretched as it is, and while I'd make time for a guy who asked to spend one-on-one time with me (i.e. a date), I'm not inclined to make time to just 'hang out' with a guy or text him around the clock. I have female friends. I don't need close male friends - is that weird? The male friends I have are friendly acquaintances, but I have zero interest in treating them like they are girlfriends and having deep-and-meaningfuls with them. I don't text them, because I stick to the idea that 'if he's interested, he will initiate'. Now, I realise that a guy not initiating doesn't prove he's not interested, but that knowledge is still not enough to make me assume that he is interested or might be interested.

So I don't know. I think my mother is quietly resigning herself to never becoming a grandmother (sorry, Mum!)

Online said...

I'm online these days because there are no men available where I live. (I have my own reservations about online dating, but what can you do?) Lately I've noticed that the men, especially the never-married men, do lots of talking without asking anything about me. I realize that even (especially?) if a man is interested he is going to talk a lot to sort of "sell himself," or play up his good points to get me interested, but at what point should he be indicating some interest in learning about who *I* am? My grandmother always said, "You have to be interested to be interesting," but lately it's seemed that I haven't met any guys that fit that description. Thoughts, ladies?

Julia said...

Online, are they not asking you questions about yourself but still giving you a chance to add to the conversation (e.g. via pauses) or are they bombarding you with mind-numbing stream-of-consciousness detail about their favourite movie?

Online said...

Julia, sometimes it's the mind-numbing stream of consciousness detail, and sometimes it's just saying things that don't pave a way for continued conversation. An example of the former: "I was watching the Olympics, did you watch any of the Olympics, and..." and when he stopped talking 10 minutes later he was on another topic and never did find out if I'd watched the Olympics. An example of the latter: "Tonight I planted alfalfa seed. Tomorrow I will go turkey hunting." Both of these were phone conversations, and in both cases I asked questions about their interest in these topics. But neither of these men, nor many other men, seem to know how to carry on a dialogue. Of course sometimes that just means that you have nothing in common, or maybe it's nervousness, or maybe they just don't have the necessary social skills. But it comes across like they just don't want to know me. If I'm missing something here, I'd love to hear it.

Jessica said...

My relationship with my now-fiancé (wedding in August!) began with him asking me on a date. We met at a bar (I know...) where alumni from our university gather to watch the football games. I thought I was meeting a friend there that day, but I hadn't confirmed with her and she ended up not coming. I stayed to watch the game (because, why not?) and this cute guy came to sit next to me. :) I asked him to walk me back to my car after the game (because it was dark at that point) and he asked for my number. We saw each other at two other alumni events in the next few weeks (we both might have been attending those events a little more regularly than normal after we met haha), and talked on the phone/texted a little bit in between, before he asked me to dinner. I think we had the "defining the relationship" talk a week or two later - it was about 4 weeks total from when we first met to when we started exclusively dating.

The moral of the story is that the classic "first date" does still exist!

Julia said...

Well, I'm stumped, Online. Very few of the men I know are like that.

Midwest Miss said...

Erm, just for the record in the US women don't get paid the same amount for the same work--they get paid about 76 cents on the dollar.

Also, when you add up how much women spend on new frocks and cosmetics, the time doing their hair and shaving, and all the rest of it...the amount spent's pretty equal.

Belfry Bat said...

Dear Online,

There is always a reason a person ends up member of an online dating site; sometimes (as in your case) that reason is a local absence of available opposites, but sometimes it's because the poor fellow hasn't twigged to his being {not ready for|called to} courting and marriage.

B. Bat


On the other side of things, all my invitations to date-type-outings so far have been turned down. I say this not to complain: I rather see the hand of Providence in it, actually. Nonetheless, ye ladies who lament for want of chivalrous attention, you are not alone.

Amused said...

Online, I've obtained good results by simply telling men frankly (but as kindly and charmingly as possible) that they are monopolizing conversation, that I'm actually not particularly interested in economics, that I don't care to hear any more quotes and plotlines from the Simpsons.... I was very loathe to do this, at first, because I was brought up to believe that the only polite thing to do is to feign interest and unflagging patience, and do no more than give subtle hints in order to change the subject. Now, I realize that many men (and many women, actually) do not pick up subtle cues. That's why it's a kindness to make the cues far less subtle, as long as they are still pleasant. Now I do say, laughingly (after hearing a gross guy-story) "You know, no thanks for that visual! I'm going to change the subject now." Or, "I'm sure you enjoyed that movie, but since I haven't seen it, it's not enjoyable for me to hear you describe every scene. I'm going to change the subject now. My favorite movie is--"
I don't generally care to talk about myself, but if somebody asks me a question and doesn't wait for the answer, I will sometimes interrupt him firmly and impose my answer on him.... I also tend not to ask questions that might encourage them in further pointless ramblings.
It still feels kind of brutal to me sometimes, but it's the only way to deal with some people, and it's certainly not as bad as being defenseless and bored to death.

I will say, though, that I can never feel the slightest romantic interest in guys who exercise my social skills in this fashion.... If men only realized how boring conversations kill their chances!

Seraphic said...

Ah, the women paid less for the same job thing. This figure usually fails to factor in the circumstance that women do less paid work because they take more time off for family. It's not like in the old days when men were automatically paid more than women for the same kind and AMOUNT of work. But I do agree that women pay more on preparing for a date. I think a good rule of thumb is that whoever invites should pay, and that women should not ask men on dates. When a man and women are in a sustained dating relationship, then the woman should at least offer to pay at least half, or at least for coffee afterwards, etc.

Never paying for anything can lead to bitter ex-boyfriends, alas! How I wish my ex-bfs all thought well of little me. Really, I was a thoughtless young lady, as I will probably have to ponder in Purgatory.