I do not believe we have reached The End of Courtship, as The New York Times has just posited. I have been wooed by far too many emoji-riddled late-night text messages and been the recipient of too many deeply thoughtful gestures on the part of the guys in my dah to think we are living in the end times of romance.
Courtship is just different now.
Our generation has changed and evolved. As Ryan O’Connell pointed out (admirably withholding “duh” from the discourse), wouldn’t it be strange if everything in dating had stayed the same? In fact, given the over 50% divorce rate of our parents’ generation, we would be doing something wrong, nay, insane, if we were meeting and mating exactly in their way and expecting a different result.
Our current post-dating world, as we call it here at Dating & Hookup, has long been alive and well. In fact, we welcomed The Wall Street Journal to this modern romantic landscape in August of 2010. Traditional dates are no longer the norm. They’ve been benched on the sidelines for years as people connect and fall in love through all kinds of other ways.
Still, it can be hard to shake the notion that we should be dating. Guys should be asking us out, and bringing us flowers, and riding into our lives full-armored on white steeds. Right? Right? If he really liked you, if he was just that into you, if he was worth your time, he would date you right?
Alas, or rather, Hooray! People are falling in love every day. The journey to love and life-partnership could – should – be exciting, dynamic, and leading to amazing relationships (see: Dating & Hookup Book). We just all need to dive into our new romantic reality.
I got my post-dating wakeup call four years ago when, in an explosion of awkwardness, I inadvertently met the ex-wife of my (then) Boyfriend Prospect on our first date. Or, “date” I should say, because I’m pretty sure by any traditional definition…you DON’T meet ex-wives on dates.
This sweet, WASP-y Book Cover Designer and I had met over sushi months earlier. We had been e-introduced by a mutual contact and had gotten together to talk business. But we ended up comparing notes on our parents, our love of hiking in the Adirondacks, and oh I can’t remember what all else we had in common (everything) – for over two hours.
I’d followed up on this networking-non-date politely but charmingly, praying that maybe this attractive though slightly-older man would ask me out for a drink. He wrote me back a strictly professional email. I felt disheartened and a little crazy – was the connection I’d felt between us completely in my head?
Then our mutual contact (who apparently had been hoping we would hit it off in more-than-professional ways) told me that the Book Cover Designer had a thing for me. He just wasn’t doing anything about it because I was younger than he was, and also he was newly divorced.
What did I care that he was divorced? I was sure it couldn’t impact me in any personal way, at least in the early stages of any relationship we might have. And he was less than 10 years older than I was. Who cared?
So I took this intel from our mutual contact to heart, and even though it had been a few months since we’d last been in touch, I emailed the Book Cover Designer again – I sent a cute-but-not-overtly-flirtatious email congratulating him on a book of his that was on the bestseller list. We went back in forth in a fun, work-time-wasting exchange at the end of which he tossed off – This Brooklyn Book Festival party is on Saturday evening, if you feel like coming, here’s the RSVP info.
I was completely stumped. Was THIS a date or not? Did he want me to come, or was he indifferent? What was I supposed to do with this non-invitation…?
I RSVP’d figuring I might as well keep my options open.
When Saturday rolled around, I felt extremely nervous about going to the party. I wouldn’t know anybody, and I didn’t even have the Book Cover Designer’s phone number, so how would I get in touch with him? Would I be wandering around alone, looking out of place and bizarre? My mental verdict as of the late morning was that going was a bad idea.
Then I indulged in more than one margarita at Habana Outpost in my neighborhood, my friends and I having taken it upon ourselves to enjoy the unseasonably warm weekend at the lively outdoor bar. By the end of the afternoon, going to the cocktail party seemed like a GREAT idea. All my friends said so! After all, I liked this guy! Why NOT go? At the very least, I could make some publishing contacts for work and impress my boss.
I went home and slipped into my favorite cute black skirt (from the Gap), a sheer black Elie Tahari top, and my favorite Icon heels. I then walked my way up to the Brooklyn Public Library and proudly entered the cavernous foyer, where assorted publishing types were mingling. Immediately, I felt small and lonely, but if there is something I truly love it is libraries, so I forced myself to feel thrilled that I was at in this dramatic, cultural, bookish place.
It wasn’t long before I saw the Book Cover Designer (publishing really is a very small world), and we both instantly grinned. We chatted like old friends and stood there, amidst the crowd, beneath the majestic arches, talking and connecting as if we were the only people in the world.
Then these two ladies sidled up to us. The Book Cover Designer greeted them and introduced me. I didn’t catch their names, but I didn’t really care who they were, and I was slightly miffed that they had stepped into our intimate conversation.
“I’ll go get us some drinks,” the Book Cover Designer suggested, and he took off with one of the women.
The other woman stared me down. (Or, was she staring me down?) (Why did I feel like she was staring me down?)
She proceeded to ask me a battery of polite but somewhat prying questions. Where did I live? Did I like it? What did I do? How long was my commute? (?) I felt like I was getting the third degree.
Yet, it was even more strange because it didn’t seem to me that this woman was particularly interested in any of my answers. She seemed to be examining me like an X-Ray machine (sheer top = mistake), trying to see through my edifice into the truth of who I was. I was like a museum artifact, to be scrutinized, analyzed, and judged – possibly – to be fake.
Or, was I making this all up? Maybe she was just a nice, slightly awkward, lady? Why did I feel so violated? Why did I feel insane? Why had I drunk all those margaritas??
The Book Cover Designer returned, and the ladies beat a hasty retreat on some pretense. Once it was back to being the two of us, and I felt the flushed happiness of safety and connection, it was as if nothing had happened.
“Should we go get some dinner?” I finally proposed, feeling at this point he was sure to say yes and not caring by now if it was too forward of me to actually precipitate a DATE. As we held hands and walked down the steps of the library, the Book Cover Designer said to me, That woman you were talking to just now? She’s my ex-wife.
I felt both vindicated and terrified.
As it turned out, the Book Cover Designer and I had a wonderful evening that ended in a romantic kiss. Traditional it was not, but as a romantic, post-dating step into my future, it felt pretty great.
Thanks Blackangel for the photo.
Rebecca Wiegand - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds co-created Dating & Hookup and co-founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about modern womanhood, love poetry and her post-dating escapades.
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