Entire Generation Chooses to Die Alone, Says NY Times

Sk8er Boi

Modern Dating

Good news, gang, New York Times has dispatched its team of world-class anthropologists to… I’m not sure where exactly–a bar in Philadelphia? In any case, you might be surprised to learn that young (and since our first subject is 30-years-old, I’m using the word “young” liberally here) people don’t go on formal dates with their schoolmates, then save themselves for the third date, then “go off to camp” during the summer and leave the shame baby to be raised by their parents with nobody the wiser, Bobby Darin/Jack Nicholson-style. Such, such were the joys of a rigid and formal dating system.

I should back up for a second here. The article I am talking about is this thing. It begins:

MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid. But when the dark-eyed musician with artfully disheveled hair asked Shani Silver, a social media and blog manager in Philadelphia, out on a “date” Friday night, she was expecting at least a drink, one on one.

“At 10 p.m., I hadn’t heard from him,” said Ms. Silver, 30, who wore her favorite skinny black jeans. Finally, at 10:30, he sent a text message. “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?” he wrote, before adding, “I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”

The great tragedy here is that unlike in past generations when musicians were well-known for their punctuality and unquestioning adherence to social mores, this artfully disheveled hellhound misused the word “date.” Sid Vicious would be ashamed.

Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations. “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

Oooh, good use of the action verb “fired”! In any event, I can’t really dispute the notion that blind dates (which online dates effectively are) are much more risky in terms of expectations than other kinds of dates, assuming that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were not the last two people to ever go on a date as this article sorta implies.

“It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five,” she added. Dinner at a romantic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of so-called “hookup culture,” millennials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.

Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Ah, the “hookup culture.” What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that people have casual sex with each other, sure, but what does it really, really mean? The narrative is that it used to be you were married to someone right after high school, and now, with that whole shame-complex dismantled, there’s less structure to dating. True enough! And indeed, people get married less than they used to. But the terrible news is that the ominously named “hookup culture” has been around since at least 2001, and yet we need to explain all that it entails in every single article that mentions it in a hilarious and inaccurate way. (Please go to a movie theater on a Friday night–you might just find some young people on dates! It’s true!).

“The new date is ‘hanging out,’ ” said Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape. As one male friend recently told her: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert.”

This really makes sense! Because once you leave a school setting, it’s harder to know who your potential romantic partner is in a normal social situation–doubly true if we’re talking about online dating or whatever. Still, if “one male friend” is doing this to the exclusion of normal dates that sounds more like the way you treat your other girlfriend than you know, your actual girlfriend.

For evidence, look no further than “Girls,”

[RECORD SCRATCH SOUND]

I shouldn’t have to say this, but “Girls” is fictional. It is fake. It’s made up. Fictional. Not real. A reporter’s evidence for a (supposedly) real-life trend piece cannot be a fictional television series. Just as the words, “An alarming trend of conflicted, decreasingly sympathetic antiheroes’ ever-expanding meth empires can be seen on shows such as ‘Breaking Bad,'” should not be said. But maybe I’m overreacting.

For evidence, look no further than “Girls,” HBO’s cultural weather vane for urban 20-somethings,

* grits teeth *

where none of the main characters paired off in a manner that might count as courtship even a decade ago. In Sunday’s opener for Season 2, Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), who last season forged a relationship by texting each other nude photos, are shown lying in bed, debating whether being each other’s “main hang” constitutes actual dating.

That…I mean…seriously? 78% of Americans identify as Christian. Just saying the universality of this might be in dispute.

The actors in the show seem to fare no better in real life, judging by a monologue by Zosia Mamet (who plays Shoshanna, the show’s token virgin, since deflowered) at a benefit last fall at Joe’s Pub in the East Village. Bemoaning an anything-goes dating culture, Ms. Mamet, 24, recalled an encounter with a boyfriend whose idea of a date was lounging in a hotel room while he “Lewis and Clarked” her body, then tried to stick her father, the playwright David Mamet, with the bill, according to a Huffington Post report.

Importantly, the Huffington Post report has her as saying, “If you slept in my bed and Lewis and Clarked my body … it might be nice for you to offer to buy me breakfast the next morning,” I’m confused how exactly this is is her faring no better in real life. Relationships no longer have to be considered a way  for men to trick women into having sex with them. This is an exciting feminist victory, no? Sex is not a woman’s weapon over a man. Being with someone is supposed to be fun! The “battle of the sexes” is over and everyone won! Hooray! And if you can get David Mamet to pay for your hotel fun, even better.

Blame the much-documented rise of the “hookup culture” among young people, characterized by spontaneous, commitment-free (and often, alcohol-fueled) romantic flings. Many students today have never been on a traditional date, said Donna Freitas, who has taught religion and gender studies at Boston University and Hofstra and is the author of the forthcoming book, “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

“Back when I was growing up, you’d go on a few dates to the hop, then he would go off to die in World War I and we liked it that way.”

Hookups may be fine for college students, but what about after, when they start to build an adult life? The problem is that “young people today don’t know how to get out of hookup culture,” Ms. Freitas said. In interviews with students, many graduating seniors did not know the first thing about the basic mechanics of a traditional date. “They’re wondering, ‘If you like someone, how would you walk up to them? What would you say? What words would you use?’ ” Ms. Freitas said.

Cam’ron, can you explain how to approach a woman?

Seems easy enough!

That may explain why “dates” among 20-somethings resemble college hookups, only without the dorms. Lindsay, a 25-year-old online marketing manager in Manhattan, recalled a recent non-date that had all the elegance of a keg stand (her last name is not used here to avoid professional embarrassment).

Oh God. Did he hit on her friends and waitresses? Did he grope her? Did he show up drunk and then vomit all over her?

After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, “carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes.”

Worse! He was a poor person! Nooooooooo! Food from a box! A tiny apartment! Why didn’t this NIGHTCLUB BOUNCER invite her to his massive, sprawling penthouse and sip wine as they eyed each other from the opposite end of a long dining table? Well, good thing she realized she didn’t like being treated this way (sounds like they had fun to me, but whatever) and moved on with her life.

She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday ‘night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” (It petered out after four months.)

Or not.

Relationship experts point to technology as another factor in the upending of dating culture.

Relationship experts are above television psychics on the credibility scale, but barely. Let’s back this claim up with another anecdote from a blogger!

Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

“I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J. A typical, annoying query is the last-minute: “Is anything fun going on tonight?” More annoying still are the men who simply ping, “Hey” or “ ’sup.”

One of the chief ways that someone whose primary profession is listed as “blogger” (and now we have two such cases) is vastly different from say, most people, is that they don’t have to actually report to work. So, there isn’t that network of co-workers, and so in the dating arena, to borrow a phrase, they must depend on the kindness of strangers. And these “annoying” behaviors must exist for a reason. Maybe that story about the HORRIBLE POOR BOUNCER being sent a clear message that his having fun with her (but in a POOR way) would not be tolerated, and by “not tolerated,” I mean he would have the option of regular casual sex for a few months and then not have to deal with an awkward break-up, aka every guy’s worst nightmare. MESSAGE RECEIVED.

“What does he think I’m doing?” she said. “I’m going to my friend’s house to drink cheap white wine and watch episodes of ‘Dance Moms’ on demand.”

Is this trying to be a parody of a romantic comedy’s “I don’t even need a man” sequence?

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.

FOMO?!?!??!?

That also means that suitors need to keep dates cheap and casual. A fancy dinner? You’re lucky to get a drink.

Ok, and so…? The thesis of this article is: young people are voluntarily doing a thing and they ALL hate it. So, um, who actually likes this trend?

“It’s like online job applications, you can target many people simultaneously — it’s like darts on a dart board, eventually one will stick,” said Joshua Sky, 26, a branding coordinator in Manhattan, describing the attitudes of many singles in their 20s. The mass-mailer approach necessitates “cost-cutting, going to bars, meeting for coffee the first time,” he added, “because you only want to invest in a mate you’re going to get more out of.”

Manti-Teos-Girlfriend-Does-Not-Exist-ObviouslyOh, it’s this asshole with his listserv of hoochies! I assume he has some sort of weird spreadsheets to keep track of everything. But really, clauses like “describing the attitudes of many singles in their 20s” is the kind of bullshit that I wouldn’t be allowed to baselessly claim in a middle school expository essay, and yet, here it is, in the New York Times.

If online dating sites have accelerated that trend, they are also taking advantage of it. New services like Grouper aren’t so much about matchmaking as they are about group dates, bringing together two sets of friends for informal drinks.

The Gaggle, a dating commentary and advice site, helps young women navigate what its founders call the “post-dating” landscape, by championing “non-dates,” including the “group non-date” and the “networking non-date.” The site’s founders, Jessica Massa and Rebecca Wiegand, say that in  a world where “courtship” is quickly being redefined, women must recognize a flirtatious exchange of tweets, or a lingering glance at a company softball game, as legitimate opportunities for romance, too.

THE LAST THING IS EXACTLY WHAT DATING HAS ALWAYS BEEN!! IS THE POINT OF THIS ARTICLE REALLY THAT WOMEN HAVE NOT ADJUSTED TO THE RISE OF CO-ED SOFTBALL? WHAT AM I READING?!?!?

“Once women begin recognizing these more ambiguous settings as opportunities for romantic possibility,” Ms. Massa said, “they really start seeing their love lives as much more intriguing and vibrant than they did when they were only judging themselves by how many ‘dates’ they had lined up.”

That last quotation is ridiculous–not that she said it, I mean, it’s a reasonable thing to say–but that this writer felt it was important to include the article. I can’t wait for the NYT’s chilling expose about how young people no longer use dance cards.

THERE’S another reason Web-enabled singles are rendering traditional dates obsolete. If the purpose of the first date was to learn about someone’s background, education, politics and cultural tastes, Google and Facebook have taken care of that.

Wrong wrong wrong! Say you share a common interest with someone, e.g. a love of the song “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”. Wouldn’t you then want to discuss how “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” has really creepy lyrical content? How your friends all think it’s weird that you like “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” so much? What it’s like to be someone who really likes “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and how the song has affected your life? I use this stupid example to demonstrate that “shared interests” are not an end, they are a means to starting a conversation (i.e. the hardest part of meeting any new person, date or otherwise). And a one-on-one conversation is what a date is. So, the reason dates are obsolete is because dating is now easier? Color me unsold.

“We’re all Ph.D.’s in Internet stalking these days,” said Andrea Lavinthal, an author of the 2005 book “The Hookup Handbook.” “Online research makes the first date feel unnecessary, because it creates a false sense of intimacy. You think you know all the important stuff, when in reality, all you know is that they watch ‘Homeland.’ ”

But you can learn about that person from their opinions on Homeland! On a date, might be a good place to do that, for example. Contrary to alarmist New York Times stories, most people don’t post all their opinions on everything online.

Dodgy economic prospects facing millennials also help torpedo the old, formal dating rituals. Faced with a lingering recession, a stagnant job market, and mountains of student debt, many young people — particularly victims of the “mancession” — simply cannot afford to invest a fancy dinner or show in someone they may or may not click with.

I was totally with this point until “mancession.”

Further complicating matters is the changing economic power dynamic between the genders, as reflected by a number of studies in recent years, said Hanna Rosin, author of the recent book “The End of Men.”

A much-publicized study by Reach Advisors, a Boston-based market research group, found that the median income for young, single, childless women is higher than it is for men in many of the country’s biggest cities (though men still dominate the highest-income jobs, according to James Chung, the company’s president).  This may be one reason it is not uncommon to walk into the hottest new West Village bistro on a Saturday night and find five smartly dressed young women dining together — the nearest man the waiter. Income equality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male-dominated dating structure.

Well, good thing in order to capture the trend of women out-earning men we interviewed some bloggers and called it a day.

“Maybe there’s still a sense of a man taking care of a woman, but our ideology is aligning with the reality of our finances,” Ms. Rosin said. As a man, you might “convince yourself that dating is passé, a relic of a paternalistic era, because you can’t afford to take a woman to a restaurant.”

Well, isn’t it? Maybe it’s a relic worth saving, but, that warrants an explanation.

Many young men these days have no experience in formal dating and feel the need to be faintly ironic about the process — “to ‘date’ in quotation marks” — because they are “worried that they might offend women by dating in an old-fashioned way,” Ms. Rosin said.

This legitimately makes no sense.

 “It’s hard to read a woman exactly right these days,” she added. “You don’t know whether, say, choosing the wine without asking her opinion will meet her yearnings for old-fashioned romance or strike her as boorish and macho.”

It’s ALWAYS been hard to read a woman exactly! And choosing the wine without asking (or at least explaining) is a dick move.

Indeed, being too formal too early can send a message that a man is ready to get serious, which few men in their 20s are ready to do, said Lex Edness, a television writer in Los Angeles.

“A lot of men in their 20s are reluctant to take the girl to the French restaurant, or buy them jewelry, because those steps tend to lead to ‘eventually, we’re going to get married,’ ” Mr. Edness, 27, said. In a tight economy, where everyone is grinding away to build a career, most men cannot fathom supporting a family until at least 30 or 35, he said.

“So it’s a lot easier to meet people on an even playing field, in casual dating,” he said. “The stakes are lower.”

Ding ding ding! None of these people were asked about the pros of the newfangled dating scene, but yes, there is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy that if all your friends are doing something more casual, it makes a statement to regularly be going on fancy dates. But seriously, enough of writers/bloggers’ opinions on this. No trend piece should have three people in effectively the same profession unless it’s about that profession specifically.

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.

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.

So the point is what? That if those whiny ass bloggers would just stop banging these dudes they’re complaining about, someone might take them to see South Pacific or whatever? Or is it that if you run in rich people circles (tech entrepreneur > blogger) you do rich people things? Or just that maybe Cheryl Yeoh has a better personality and as such people want to take her to things.

“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”

THE END. What just happened?

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One thought on “Entire Generation Chooses to Die Alone, Says NY Times

  1. sbg says:

    1. I don’t think that 30-year-old knows what the Cold War is! Kids these days…
    2. Someone with the name “Joshua Sky” should certainly be able to get a date..right?
    3. Why are we okay with “Lewis and Clarked” being a term?

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