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Post-College Dating for Millennials


Yesterday, a good friend of mine passed on an extremely thought provoking and honest article from the New York Times called “The End of Courtship” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/fashion/the-end-of-courtship.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=general&src=me&adxnnlx=1358197281-jVnpD0hf7TPqIow7TTL9Kw)   While reading it, I couldn’t help but think, “YES! This is so dead on!” (Including the bit on how I’m spending my weekend nights drinking wine with my room mates watching Dance Moms.)  The article got me thinking about my peers and how we view DATING (gasp!) The writer, Alex Williams, touched on many issues that are common among us “Millennials”, such as the fact that we do not know how to date and intimate relationships are confusing to us.  Can you blame us though?  We all grew up learning how to communicate behind computer screens and through text messaging, and then got thrown into college where we had no curfew and unlimited alcohol. This is where the “hookup culture” comes into play.  Dating is more or less non-existent on college campuses (at least it wasn’t on mine).  You fall into one of two categories: single and VERY casually “hanging out” with someone or multiple people or you’re in a relationship (which probably started as a friendship, which turned into a drunken hookup, which then turned into a sober hookup, which finally turned into dating/ relationship).  Heaven forbid you hang out with someone sober one-on-one romantically if you aren’t already in a committed relationship with them.

We graduated and were thrown into the “Real World” where we have to pay our own bills, act like quasi-adults, and date (???!!?).  It seems that our generation has a better handle on how to make a stand-out resume, interview for a great job, rent an apartment, and pay our bills than asking someone out for dinner.  I remember the first year after college was a huge growing period for me, especially when it came to dating.  My friends and I would get asked out on dates by guys we met for 10 minutes at a bar or a party, and we’d reluctantly agree.  “It’s good practice”, we’d say to each other.  Sometimes, we did not even want to go.  I recall saying to some friends, “I don’t even know him!  I don’t want to commit to spending a couple hours with him.”  This is an example how our college “hookup culture” is affecting how we approach post-college dating.  It seems so backward to us to go on a date with someone BEFORE you sleep with you to see if you like them or not.

The word “date” no longer means what it used to mean when our parents and grandparents were dating.  As the article so articulately stated, “hanging out” is the new dating.  When’s the last time you went on a first date with someone, and you actually went to a nice dinner?  On one of my earlier polls, I asked you all what an ideal first date would be.  The majority of you responded with “casual drinks”.  It is difficult to say why exactly dating or hanging out as become so casual.  Are we more reluctant to settle down?  Are we all just totally broke and can’t afford to go out for a nice meal?  Or are we afraid to put ourselves out there that much?

HBO’s hit TV show Girls has highlighted our generation’s view of dating perfectly.  In Season 1, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, perfectly encapsulates most girls feeling on the subject of having a boy friend.  After many casual hook ups, her character is fed up with the man-child she’s been seeing and shows up at his door to officially end it.  She says to him, “I don’t even want a boyfriend. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me.”  I mean, isn’t that what we all want, to be in a mutually exclusive quasi-relationship?  If you’re not TECHNICALLY in a full-blown relationship, then you can get away with being more flakey and even cheating.  Are we just afraid to take on the responsibility of someone’s feelings besides our own?

Some of you are probably thinking, Oh crap.  I have a college degree from a top university, I have a great job, I can support myself financially, but how on earth do I date?!  Some of us Millennials have started online dating as a way to learn how to a date and meet people outside of our social groups.  In a world where many young people are online dating, the dating pool has expanded times ten.  This could be another reason why so many of us are hesitant to be locked down.  If you’re a relatively attractive male or female, employed, and have good taste in movies/ music/ books, you could line up different people to go out with every weekend through dating sites. This phenomenon has caused us to have dating ADD.   Why settle on dating one person at a time when I could date 5 at a time? Free dating sites like OkCupid and Plenty of Fish are turning into the post-college equivalent of a frat party.  We cast our fishing poles out blindly into a large pond and see what fish catch it.  Whichever fish is closest to our proximity and is an “easy” catch is the one we hang out with.  It seems that people used to turn to online dating when they were ready for a serious relationship or even marriage.  Today, many people, especially us Millennials, are turning to online dating for casual meet and greets and hang outs.  The NYT article puts it perfectly, “Online dating services, which have gained mainstream acceptance, reinforce the hyper-casual approach by greatly expanding the number of potential dates. Faced with a never-ending stream of singles to choose from, many feel a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out), so they opt for a speed-dating approach — cycle through lots of suitors quickly.”

It is quite the predicament we’re in.  According to the New York Times and many sociologists and psychologists, our generation is weird and kind of screwed.  What gives me peace of mind is that we’re all in this together, right?  It is OUR generation, and we’re all into backwards dating together.  I think we are all going to be fine.  I imagine these people studying our generation think we’re all going to be cyber sexing and sexting each other in our retirement communities before a big, drunken orgy takes place.  We are still capable of having intimate and happy relationships, I just think we need to be aware of our expectations and what we want.  Some of us 20-somethings are dating because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do.  If you want to go on actual dates, that is what you must put out into the world and accept nothing less.  If that totally scares you, then go for the more casual approach we have developed and have some “hang outs”.  It is an interesting time we are going through since gender roles are starting to blur, men and women are making similar amounts of money, and online dating is turning our small fishing pond into an ocean of possibilities.  If you get anything from this article, remember that you are not alone. There are PLENTY of people who spend their Saturday nights watching Dance Moms, drinking Two-Buck Chuck, and awkwardly tipsy-texting that bouncer from the hipster bar you ended up at last Thursday. From one Millennial to another, WE WILL BE OK.