courtship

“I blame Steve Jobs and the invention of the smartphone!” That’s what my dear friend, E, shouted as we discussed the latest in my personal life during Scandal’s commercial break. I’d shared with her that a new guy, whom I’d named the “Texting King,” had fallen into the Black Hole of Dating after one too many iMessage exchanges without phone calls or dates. The last thing I need is a text buddy.

“Technology has killed courting (or as my mama would call it, “coatin’”), Alisha,” E said, “It’s not the same, and you need to write about it.” I took her up on the offer, but Alex Williams, New York Times writer, beat me to the punch (Ah, the struggle of writing in an online world).  In yesterday’s edition, he wrote, “The End of Courtship?,” which took a deep dive into the slow demise of traditional courting and dating through the eyes of millennials. Mr. Williams, you obviously know my life, except I’m not a millennial anymore.

Professional twenty-somethings, mostly women, gave their perspective on dating, suggesting that the days of “dinner and a movie” are long gone. They’re receiving invitations to “hang out,” rather than go on a date … and via text message and tweets.  He writes:

“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.”

How dreadful. Thankfully, I’m fortunate, and apparently, old enough to have grown up in an era where real dates are normal. I’ve been on a range of dates: to the movies, dinner, outdoor concerts, out to shoot pool, long walks, etc.. They were formal, planned, and carefully thought out and some were spontaneous. As we become more inundated with technology, however, I’ve also come across some men whose idea of getting know you is engaging in heavy text conversation ONLY to delay spending real-time. When and how did that happen?

In my mind, too much e-communication in the beginning of any ‘ship is a no-no. That text you send me in the middle of the work day meant to be funny and sweet means nothing when I don’t know you well enough to know your humor or “get you.” It can cause confusion and sometimes “LOL” isn’t a cure-all.

After finishing Williams’ story, I had to answer his question. Is courtship dead? No, and neither gender “killed” it. We both play important roles in what we attempt to deem as appropriate in courting and what we are willing to accept.

What courtship is, though, is lazy, lacking creativity, and afraid.

We’re hanging out, instead of dating because “hanging” sounds less intimidating, as if a first date is a marriage proposal, instead of a starting point. We’re shocked when “hanging out” leads us to the Friend Zone. We haven’t seen people in our lives date properly. Real dates only happen on TV. We think that knowing someone via social media is the same as knowing who they really are, so we dismiss the value of face-to-face interaction. We are too busy, supposedly. We don’t have enough time to spend even an hour to have a meaningful conversation with someone we’re interested in.

We’re afraid of rejection and would die on the spot if a request for a date was denied over the phone, so a crummy text will have to do. We don’t want to come off as “thirsty” when we suggest to guys the proper way to initiate, so we text back, “Sure, what time?” We think courtship and deep pockets are one in the same. We’d rather have expensive dinners where we check our phones constantly than quiet time at a coffee shop or bookstore. No way he’s spending a heap of money on you when he doesn’t even know if he really likes you. Yes, it costs to date seriously, but we forget that getting to know someone is priceless.

So considering all of that, we’ve all got some work to do, internally even. While every person does not partake in this new culture, it’s very easy to unknowingly follow suit. Dating shouldn’t become the floppy disk of relationships. If you’re uncomfortable with something, speak up for change. And if change doesn’t transpire, there’s always that “moving on” thing.

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  • Nolan Voyd

    Can we please stop bemoaning the passage of a “golden era” that never was? We forget that courtship has its origins in times when women were not allowed to access property, education, employment, etc as men could. We conveniently forget that courtship existed in a time when women weren’t supposed to want or enjoy sex. And a time when marriage for women was a career.
    Some of the practices (men planning and executive producing the date) make sense for me. But if people connect through group dates, “being friends first” hanging out, just “vibe to see where it goes”and form a connection for a lifetime, a few weeks, or 5 years without the use of a rigid set of rules set by people they never met, then I don’t see the harm.
    This is such a “moral panic” non-story. Culturally, these things happen in cycles. And even still, if dating/courtship is dead, it will rise again on the third day…people can only handle so much change at once and need SOMETHING to help them feel comfortable. Let’s move on to something else.

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  • billy ben

    what is a floppy disk? idk

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