Dating as a grownup is uncharted territory. For most of existence, people married young, then made babies. Marriages were arranged around economics. Love was a fairy tale that had no practicality in the lives of peasants whose feet did not fit the glass slipper. The nobility could love whomever they pleased, but marriage was reserved for alliances because in reality true love’s kiss does little more than get you high off dopamine.
Over the past couple centuries everything changed, particularly in the newly conquered lands we now call home. Young people decided they wanted a choice in who they paired off with for the rest of their lives so there had to be a system in place. It wasn’t an immediate free for all. Courtship provided a means for parents to supervise the interactions of potential suitors. A young gentleman caller arrives dressed in his finest suit with fresh wildflowers set on the seat beside him in a buggy drawn by a white horse with a flowing mane. He and his hopeful bride to be visit in the sitting room where perhaps she will diddle a tune on the harpsichord. Flash forward a few decades and he arrives with his hair slicked back in a fiery red convertible to whisk her off to lover’s lane where they will make short work of fogging up the windows.
However, here’s the catch. Dating has always been about finding the one. Your soul mate, as in mating partner to sire children with. People made families, which is time consuming. Until quite recently divorce was considered taboo so the only cure to the drudgery was working long hours with some hot new young secretary or popping pills while waiting to catch a glimpse of the milk man in the morning. This was the life everyone aspired for.
With the rise of the 21st centuries, women have entered academia and the workplace and are putting off starting families, sometimes foregoing them all together. Also, people are becoming less likely to marry again immediately after a divorce. Hence, there are significantly more single adults, especially in their late 20s and beyond, compared to previous times.
Now, the male of the species swipes right and desperately awaits a few short texts confirming her right swipe was not a prank pulled by her drunk friend the previous night. Once they appear, he awaits again as the day of their meeting in a prearranged public location slowly comes and goes with not so much as a few pieces of punctuation we arrange as a substitute for the depth of human emotion to indicate she has found more suitable forms of entertainment.
Reducing dating to this quib distracts from the frustrations everyone is facing as we as a society muddle through what it is to have horny single grownups running a muck. There was no need for a conversation at the onset of a prearranged marriage to determine what the other person wanted in life because it didn’t matter. However, now we have choices.
What does it mean when dating is no longer about finding a life partner with whom to raise offspring? There is no blueprint, in case you were wondering. Meaningful romantic interaction outside of the monogamous road to marriage is a foreign idea, like a flavor of ice cream no one knows about. However, if you know what you’re looking for, and this is the key to everything I’ve found, you might at least stand a chance.