Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Modern Dating

My husband and I have begun to notice something. Too many times, when out to lunch or dinner together, we've noticed a man and a woman at another table who were not talking to each other, not in between conversations in pleasant silence, not looking interestedly at their surroundings (all normal things to do in a restaurant), but typing and scrolling away on their phones. The first time it was pretty shocking. We were in a cute pizza shop and a young couple walked in, ordered, and for the rest of their lunch they were both staring straight down at the phones in their hands. We actually didn't see them say a thing to each other. It was fascinating, and strange.

Another time, we were in a very nice French restaurant on our recent trip to California and a very attractive couple, probably in their late 20s or early 30s, sat down. They weren't wearing wedding bands (I notice that sort of thing) but it definitely appeared to be a date. What happened was even more sad than the pizza shop story--this time both of them didn't immediately begin tapping on their phones, only she did. I was sneaking glances at him because it really was shocking, and he looked so lonely--he was forced to gaze around the restaurant and feign interest in the decor while his date was absorbed in her email or texts. Eventually, after minutes of silence, he took out his phone too.

Of course, we've all been guilty of being on our iPhones--which always seem to be calling to us--when we should have been paying attention to something, or someone else. But on a date? At a restaurant? For extended minutes at a time? To me, that kind of behavior is the height of disrespect and only adds to my worries about the direction modern dating is heading. Last week's New York Times story, "The End of Courtship?" provides further cause for concern. The article talks about Facebook, and how a search of someone's profile can take the place of a first date and provide a false sense of knowledge and intimacy. How so many recent college graduates have no idea how to relate to the opposite sex outside of the hook-up culture. How casual, non-committal text messages and group outings have taken the place of sincere requests and planned dates and honest effort.

This "dating" culture isn't something that's been perpetuated by men or perpetuated by women. It's something that most young people of my generation are entrenched in and both men and women play a role (as well as many other things). And as my stories above indicate, it's not just men who have become less romantic and thoughtful and serious when it comes to dating. However, I do think that there are probably many more women who are disheartened by their experiences with young men than the other way around, and the final few paragraphs of this article point to a powerful alternative:

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.
Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.
“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”

Not all women want traditional romance and marriage and families, but so many women do. And so many women are having a hard time finding it. I feel for those women, but I don't think that their situations are hopeless--far from it. Women have this wonderful ability to inspire men to be their best selves. Many of the women interviewed for this piece were disgusted by the way they were treated by men. Yet this woman quoted at the end, Cheryl Yeoh, was the only one who seemed to realize that if she wanted something different it was up to her to request it and, more importantly, that the men worth seeing would live up to that request.


  1. i'm so glad you wrote about this - it is something that's been on my mind a lot as of late.

    a lot of times, when my husband & i go out to dinner, we will have our phones sitting on the table, face up. and sometimes, when there's a lull in conversation, we will both retreat to the silence & scrolling you've described.

    lately, i have been seeing a lot of opinion on this, & it has really made me realize how disrespectful we're being to each other. it's something i am going to be more mindful of, & i hope we can revert to the pre-iphone pleasantries of focused conversation & blissful, uninterrupted silence.

  2. I completely agree with you! If I had a pet peeve, this would be it. You see family and friends scrolling away on their phones around each other too, not just dates. The same could be said about laptops. Ever noticed how many people look at their phones as they walk down a block or stand on a corner? It's like their phone is their friend, even when they're surrounded by people. It's disrespectful and I think people are forgetting how, or choosing not to be present in the moment.

  3. My husband and I notice people doing this in restaurants too, and we're both usually fascinated like you... but it's also a little sad to think this is the direction humanity is headed.

    It's not just couples but also friends. It's one of my biggest pet peeves when I'm with a friend who won't get off their phone while we're together. I don't have a smart phone, so maybe I can't relate to the need for them at all times.

    I deleted my facebook account about a year and a half ago. This past summer I visited my hometown, and I was shocked at how many more meaningful conversations I had with people I hadn't seen in a year or so. I think the fact that they couldn't snoop my facebook made our time spent together more effective, and they didn't already know what was going on in my life.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)


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