If only I’d read this Jezebel piece (which shouts out our site, for better or worse) before going on that non-date last night, I’d have known exactly what to do.
According to blogger Jenna Sauers, when it comes to romance, the setting and circumstances are arbitrary. The only important piece of information is whether you two like each other. She writes:
“If you don’t [like each other], then I think you know what to do. (Turn the experience into a laceratingly self-deprecating exaggerated tale of woe for your friends and mine it for laughs, duh.) If you did, great! Then do whatever it was that you enjoyed with that person again, maybe a bunch of times; stop and move on when it’s not so good anymore.”
So…is it REALLY this easy? Is Sauers the straightforward, easygoing woman of the future, while Becky and I are the blogging equivalents of Gigi, the over-analytical and overly-traditional girl from the “He’s Just Not That Into You” movie? Are we making mountains out of molehills?
I say no.
One look at the reader comments from the Jezebel piece shows that women are really, truly confused about our love lives, even if we’re embarrassed to admit it. We KNOW that it should be as easy as Sauers says – and we WANT it to be. But it’s just not.
I personally prefer the casual post-dating atmosphere to more formal scenes – candlelit boat cruises, restaurants with violins playing in the background, kisses underneath waterfalls – that are full of Rules and expectations. I think the post-dating world allows us all to get to know each other better before making commitments, and it saves us from the awkwardness of traditional dating and the focus it places on arbitrary labels and milestones.
BUT…it can all be fucking confusing. And saying that it’s not isn’t helpful. For someone who espouses female empowerment, Sauers doesn’t recognize the irony: now that women can do whatever we want, we often feel paralyzed…because we can do whatever we want! We don’t have to wait by the phone for a date. We can make a move. But we run the risk of making the wrong move, and it is our feelings at stake. Let’s face it – we’re pretty new at this!
No one is being hysterical here. We’re just describing and exploring a feeling of bewilderment that has become pretty common. It’s an anxiety that is striking, if you’re willing to take an honest lay of the land.
So here’s what Sauers is missing.
As love doctor David Brooks (ha!) once pointed out, technology makes everything ambiguous and unclear. Yes, maybe you had a great time hanging out with a guy. But what happens next? In the past, you would simply call each other up to make another date. But now, it’s more likely that one of you is going to follow up on that great hangout via text, email or BlackBerry Messenger. So who is going to make that next move to actually meet up face-to-face, and how is it going to be made? Every relationship is different, and it’s impossible to create a true set of rules or systems for navigating this period of a burgeoning relationship. But should we really feel pathetic and lame for questioning what we’re supposed to do next?
If the intentions of your first outing are ambiguous, then you can’t guarantee that your follow-up outings will be any clearer in purpose. You can spend time with someone on ten, fifteen, fifty different occasions, all under the guise of “talking about that work project” or “hanging out as friends” or “bringing your roommates to meet up at that party.” You can even hook up with someone and never address it again. At a time when everyone is afraid to own up to their feelings, when and how does your relationship become explicitly romantic?
If, in fact, you do eventually want to end up in a committed relationship (and I REALLY don’t think that I’m being anti-feminist by suggesting that this is a possibility, even for us girls who plan to take over the world someday), how does that happen if no one wants to have “the talk?” As New York Magazine noted back in October, the dating and sexual scene is now drenched in anxieties, including “The anxiety of appearing overly enthusiastic,” “The anxiety of appearing delusional,” and “The anxiety of appearing overly sincere.” Basically, no one wants to have “the talk” anymore, and they certainly don’t want to be the one to initiate it. An engaged girl-friend of mine spent over a year wondering if she and her future fiance were dating, hooking up, or just hanging out. She finally discovered that they were an official couple when everyone referred to her as “The Girlfriend” at his birthday party. It obviously worked out for them, but can you blame her for having been confused in the meantime?
Long story short: the post-dating world IS confusing, and believing so doesn’t make you (or us) desperate or insane. True, writing about this stuff on a daily basis may seem a bit obsessive and over-analytical. But that’s why Becky and I are here! We’ll keep doing it so that YOU don’t have to.
Jess is the co-creator of Dating & Hookup, alongside her childhood best friend Becky Lynch, and is the author of the book - yep! - Dating & Hookup. She never tires of hearing your post-dating stories. She wants you to enjoy your love life, and is full of advice on how to do so.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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