Does the term “dating” make you as uncomfortable as it makes me? If it does, hello my fellow millennial. If it doesn’t, we can assume you are not of this generation.
Millennials can agree that dating is a word that needs analysis in and of itself. Dating to me refers to two people who hang out exclusively with one another. Each person would willingly admit that they are “in a relationship.” To my mother, dating references a period in her life when she was casually going on real-live dates with an array of men, many of whom she was far from serious about.
For the purposes of the here and now, we will go with definition number one of dating- the definition that holds enough weight to change your Facebook relationship status. In this world (the 21 year old college-girl one), dates are an after you’re in a committed relationship type of hang out as opposed to a preliminary to one.
The road to being “official” is a long one, or around three months I will argue. It is full of bar meet ups and snapchat selfies. Once you are official, your first fight will probably be over the very same selfies that brought you together. “She is in your top friends?! What are you hiding from me?”
So lets start from the beginning. Real life interactions don’t seem to occur anymore. Meeting someone in class is unlikely because if there is a pause in the lecture, everyone’s head is glued to his/her phone. Men won’t approach you in places like coffee shops because whatever is on their computer screen is far more interesting than you are. Eye contact with cute strangers that could spur a date proposition also no longer occurs. This is because eye contact is now a minor version of the plague- avoid it at all costs and use your phone as a shield.
So the golden question is- how do people meet one another?
As it turns out, the guy next to you in class was actually checking his Tinder profile during the lecture break. Meeting girls behind the comfort of a screen seems a lot easier for him than turning around and talking to you. The guy in the coffee shop was Facebook stalking the cute girl that sits next to him in class, who he does not have the courage to actually speak to. He is sifting through their mutual friends seeing if they have a common link. Then he is looking through her pictures to try and gather which bars she goes to so that he can stage a run in with the alcohol induced courage he does not have in class.
Whether Tinder, Facebook stalking or pure chance led two people to the same bar, the bar is the playground where prospective partners meet in person. Young 20s get dressed up, slide down a few shots, and finally start talking to one another. The one aspect of dating that hasn’t changed over the years is that at some point or another, real-live words must be exchanged. Good conservations mean that the two people have a new friend at the very least. What is more common is that numbers will be exchanged, and once numbers are exchanged the hook up phase can be initiated. The hook-up phase, if it lasts long enough, seems to dictate whether two people are right for one another in the dating sense.
Once numbers have been exchanged, the two people now have the platform to text, and texting is the tool to real-live meet ups. Texting can be considered annoying unless it is done sparingly, so for efficiency’s sake, the interested guy or girl will text the other person to inquire if they are going out. If they are both going out, texts will be exchanged throughout the night until they find a common location that both of their groups of friends would like to go. Once they have both arrived in said location, one of the two will hopefully be intoxicated enough to directly approach the other.
Each respective group of friends are a security blanket. Once a good conversation has been initiated between the guy and girl, the friends are discarded and ignored. They will certainly exchange a drunken kiss at this phase, however going home together is optional. This may be preserved for the next time that they meet up.
Whether they ended up going home together or not, they will more than likely not text for a week or two post bar interactions. To communicate with someone soberly on top of meeting up with them at bars signifies a level of interest that comes across as very aggressive after only two or three weeks. An occasional Snapchat might be sent between the two. Sending a snapchat is an in-between. It means: I am giving you attention, but still not taking the time out of my day to overtly try and talk to you.
Once the pair has gone home together three or more times, their status becomes more official. They are “hooking up.” This means that they can expect to be contacted when the other person is going out. While hooking up does not always mean exclusive, it does mean that they are giving the other person some level of priority over others guys/girls they may or may not be interacting with.
Texting is still kept to a minimum at this phase. If there is something relevant (an inside joke, a planning matter, etc.), mid day sober texting may occur once or twice a week. But by no means are these two people in a constant state of communication. They still don’t know each other very well because sex and sleeping are the shields for extensive talking into the deep hours of the night.
Snapchat once again fills the void that a lack of word-filled communication leaves. You can’t claim the other person isn’t contacting you if they send you snapchats. It’s the perfect scapegoat for those who don’t feel like putting in much effort, but still wants to hold onto a hookup. Snapchat can also give an odd sense of status to two people’s interactions. Because someone’s top three friends are available for everyone to see, it becomes pretty apparent who the other person is interacting with. If another girl is in a guy’s top three, then maybe you aren’t the only one. If you are someone’s top friend, clearly you’re being given priority. Being someone’s top snapchat friend during this phase is like a badge of honor. You can tell your friends you are his/her top snapchat friend, and suddenly there is a level of legitimacy to your relations even if you literally never talk or text.
Barriers start to break after about a month and a half of the hook up phase. The guy and girl have gone home with one another probably about once a week, and texting is finally starting to feel a lot less aggressive and far more welcome. If this is not the case, a month and a half is about the time it takes for the two people to realize they really are not interested in one another. They will most likely stop sending that weekly text trying to figure out where the other person is going that night.
Once two people have been hooking up for long enough, expectations begin to lace themselves into their interactions. This is inherent because a certain level of comfort is achieved after 6 or so times of hanging out with someone. True personalities start to come out and interactions are increased to perhaps breakfast the next morning. This is a trial run for how the two can interact soberly in a real-life setting.
If breakfast goes well, the two will hook up a few more times. Breakfast will start to become the norm. This initiates the constant texting and snapchatting phase. At this point, it can be considered strange if you are still battling random people of your same sex for a position in his snapchat top three.
At the 2.5 month mark, both people clearly care about one another if they have progressed along the spectrum I have just laid out. Hanging out becomes much more normal, and the two have probably even started sleeping over at one another’s sober. Dating seems like a monumental life decision, so despite the constant snapchatting, texting, and hanging out, the last half of a month is spent avidly avoiding the word ‘dating.’
Once this half of a month has passed, the two will most likely decide to enter into a real live relationship- one that includes going to dinner occasionally. It is a long somewhat complicated journey, and the two have probably genuinely liked one another since day one.
Coming on too strong is a paranoia of millennials, and we oftentimes literally do not know how to interact with one another without this prescribed framework for the road to dating.
So your phones and a couple of drinks are the crutches we rely on to get from Point A of singledom to Point B of dating. If this is what it takes now, there is no telling what arduous process young adults will be going through in thirty years. Whatever it is, I hope for their sake that it is not as exhausting as the three month plan, but only time will tell.