Sunday, May 15, 2005

THE U.S. DATING DEBACLE

I never cease to be amazed at the ongoing evolution of the dating/courtship ritual between people in our very confused country. Every day I see the plight that some of our single, recently divorced or widowed friends go through in that horror that is: DATING SCENE: 21ST CENTURY. It is a true wonder that anyone actually manages to make a connection at all. There are certain persons that would like to make the claim that gay marriage is going to bring down the institution of matrimony – I beg to differ.

Modern day American culture neither allows nor encourages one much opportunity to get to know one's neighbors or the people in their extended community. The extended American workweek rarely involves a yearly vacation where one might actually have the opportunity to go anywhere they might meet someone. Our particular current brand of government sanctioned self-involvement that puts Self above any and all other consideration, let alone interest in other people, is far more responsible for a nationwide inability to connect with our fellow man or woman.

I am old enough to remember when a “date” meant going out to dinner, to a movie, chatting about the movie over after-dinner drinks and if there was a lot of chemistry, perhaps going out again, or if REALLY attracted, maybe getting naked. If someone used the term “safe sex” it was usually interpreted to mean a padded headboard.

The person that did the asking out was the person who would be paying for the evening. It was considered beyond rude to invite someone somewhere and then expect the invitee to pay for it. Going “Dutch” was usually deemed appropriate for a blind date or something similar. The cost of going to dinner and a movie or an evening of theatre or music was not the financial equivalent to the cost of painting one’s house that it is now. There was a certain ritualized civility, air of mystery, excitement and anticipation of discovery over the whole process with of course a simultaneous degree of fear, loathing and nausea.

People were generally pretty into the ritual of the first date good night kiss and the slow build to that (hopefully) mind blowing evening of falling upon one another in the abandon born of the pent up energy from the kind of foreplay that is the waiting-but-not-quite-playing-yet kind. Of course there would always be, as there is today and has been for hundreds of years, some occasional idiot that thought that if they paid for dinner that it was an automatic entitlement to The Sex at the end of the evening regardless of whether or not the other party was interested.

Americans now have service institutions devoted to handling that ritual which seems to strike so many as an inconvenience to be passed off to someone else the same way they might take their laundry to Fluff-and-Fold. For a fee, the service will take care of all that pesky stuff that meeting at work, being in the same congregation at church together, introductions made between mutual friends or chance meetings where eyes connect across a crowded room used to do. With an in-depth and honestly filled out character-profile and current photo (uh huh) that lists likes, dislikes, sexual likes and dislikes, diseases, prison record, education, children, etc..., the service will separate the wheat from the chaf and determine via computer software program those individuals appropriate for meeting. That is all they determine. Whether or not it is a compatibility probability that two people should bother to meet - why waste each other's valuable time if the computer says they are incompatible? There is really no point in bothering with any sort of human-style gathering of information via actual speech because there is a software program for that. I actually know several couples that have met this way and are now blissfully into their first five years of marriage, having saved POT LOADS of money on traditional dates, presents, new underwear, flowers, bathing, etc. by paying one simple fee to an outside organization to determine compatibility.

There is also a new and trendy thing called “Speed Dating.” I want to know what mind thought of THIS. Even Churches are getting in on this one. One goes into a previously rented-for-the-occasion restaurant, coffee house, veteran’s hall, church parish hall, whatever, and in a “game” used frequently on corporate retreats for employees having communication difficulty – one group stays seated with a group of empty chairs across from each of them while the second group sits in the corresponding empty chair for five minute intervals until a bell goes off. When the bell rings, they move to the next person. The duration of this new and exciting meeting opportunity is about one hour. In this way, each person who paid the entrance fee (or "suggested donation") gets a 5-minute “speed date” with every “potential” in the room to determine whether or not they might want to see that person outside the structure of that five minute mini-interview.

After one decides through these various careful screening processes if they wish to meet further, one is now free to meet for “coffee” or “drinks” - preferably early in the evening so one can get back to work for that late dinner meeting, or to the gym, or home to watch the game or the latest creation in what is now called “the CSI franchise.” I’m still waiting for “CSI-Yuba City.” I guess the whole purpose of “meeting for coffee” is that you ask a few more simple yet guarded questions about each other which are responded to with equally simple yet guarded answers, none of which tell anybody really ANYTHING about each other and are really only a method of determining whether or not you want to get naked with that person if one is going to be truly honest about it - which for many people really doesn’t involve needing to know that much about a person. Meeting for coffee is a frugal investment. Movies are expensive and dinner can be iffy if someone has undisclosed food restrictions. Like chicken. Are you with me so far? Okay, so after paying the fee, consulting the software, conducting the mini-interview with the bell, deciding to "meet" and living through that portion of the efficiency process - if that first “potential date” seems to be somewhat successful, then MAYBE another frugal investment date will follow. Like “lunch.”

Of course, there is always the other tried and true alternative which can be promising. This method entails going to your favorite watering hole, drinking yourself silly on apple martini’s and going home with a complete stranger who turns out to be decidedly less charming and attractive the next morning than he/she was at 1:45 a.m. the previous evening. But hey, who can really complain when all you’re looking for is some temporary attention and warmth? It seems that’s all anyone is truly looking for, given the dehumanized trimming down of the traditional dating ritual to its present form – what I like to call the STARBUCKS ENCOUNTER.

Thank heavens Manpants and I met the good old-fashioned way in the waiting room of our psychiatrist.

16 Comments:

Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

That was great. Maybe your best post yet.

Depressing as hell, but really great...:}

16 May, 2005 09:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Speed Dating: not fast enough

Decisions are made in the first 10 seconds, maybe in the first two seconds.

Strt yr own Hi-Spd Dtg Svc

16 May, 2005 11:56  
Blogger Laura said...

heh heh heh... great post. I have to disagree with anonymous above. Stranger things have happened than falling in love with someone you were not initially physically attracted to. The speed daters are selling themselves, and their potential dates, way short.

I know inter-office dating is supposed to be a big taboo, but personally, I think you really get to know people well when you work with them. Personally I've done better when I've gotten to know people BEFORE going out on a date. Then again, I've been out of the dating loop for 20 years, so what do I know.

16 May, 2005 15:07  
Blogger Jet said...

Millicent, compared to you, I can't write my way out of a paper bag.

I've not dated for 15 years, but I think I'd stay home and read if this was how I had to do it. Part of the meaningfulness of building a relationship is the steps towards vulnerability to another person. Sounds like that takes too much time these days.

Hmmm.

16 May, 2005 17:05  
Blogger R said...

I just drugged the cutest guy at the bar one night and took him to Vegas. He woke up with a headache and a pregnant stranger next to him. I told him he had amnesia and that we were actually celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. He apologizes to me daily for "forgetting" our past. I'm still finding ways for him to "make it up to me" Hey, sometimes ya gotta take matters into your own hands when that clock starts ticking. Is that so wrong?

16 May, 2005 20:54  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for visiting my site. I'm sure I have been here before, but this is one of those sites I keep losing.

I like your setup.

17 May, 2005 10:42  
Blogger Catharine said...

Speed dating... the one thing I haven't experienced. Sometimes, though, five minutes with the wrong person could seem like an hour.

I did do an experiment two years ago, because I hadn't dated in a while. I signed up with Match.com, and decided I'd arrange as many "coffee dates" as possible in a month. I got through about 22 in three weeks before I called the whole thing off. I had 22 first dates, 3 second dates, and one third date.

That's three whole weeks I'll never get back again. What a waste. At least I know never to do it again.

Lesson learned.

17 May, 2005 10:48  
Blogger Catharine said...

P.S. to Rhonda... you're a sick, sick, depraved little Southern woman...

This is why we love you so.

~C~

17 May, 2005 10:49  
Blogger BaxterWatch said...

Loved it - have done the internet thing, but you know, nothing really beats it for me - that first eye contact, "hmmmm... you're kinda yummmy....wonder if you're a convicted felon, ah who the hell cares - its been too long." and then realizing later - "man, that was my boss? this can't be good." :) (Rhonda, you kill me, girl.)

17 May, 2005 11:07  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

A great read, then your last line ~ BANG! What an ending!

I just have to share my experience from almost 20 years ago. I put a personals ad in The Isthmus (alternative paper in Madison, WI), and received 27 responses. I asked respondents to include a photo, and I got some doozies!

One guy sent a photo of him with his mother... sweet. But She was showing cleavage and dangling a cigarette. Ick.

Another guy sent a photo of himself shirtless, with a description of: "Here I am just after having my back shaved. Come and feel it, quick!"
(Homer Simpson shudder...)

The guy I ended up going out with sent me a photo of his cat, perched on the bench next to his piano, across the room from a roaring fireplace...
Unfortunately, he hated his mother so much, I had no choice but to opt out of that one.

I met my husband through my brother; they were law school students together. Fourteen years and going strong!

18 May, 2005 16:42  
Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

Too, funny. I have a bunch of new terms to use in my arsenal of "wit."

Gawd do I feel so sorry for Rhonda's hubby, lol :)

25 May, 2005 12:59  
Blogger R said...

Patcam! Do you need to be beaten senseless? Let me know..cause I can do that for you. Millicent! Good luck on your exams! Study hard, and show some ass if you have to. Just get it done girlfriend.

26 May, 2005 15:26  
Blogger frstlymil said...

Rhonda - Since I'll be doing a little nude art modeling over the weekend (long story), it appears that ass will indeed be shown.

26 May, 2005 16:15  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Loved this post.
Dating for me is 'ugh'. I won't do it unless there is some chemical undercurrent.
There are two horrific ends of the dating spectrum. Going Dutch is totally unchivalrous and I've experienced it over coffee. Going OTT to the tune of a few hundred dollars, where an entree price can sponsor a child in Uganda for a month is totally unpalatable. At times think (in regard to my date) 'What on Earth is going through their mind?' and I go awol for a while.

28 May, 2005 08:47  
Blogger alena said...

Nice Blog!!! It looks like you've spent a fair amount of time setting it up and keeping the content fresh. I'll be sure to come back.

I have a online dating blog. It pretty much covers christian single dating related stuff.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

30 September, 2005 15:44  
Blogger freestuff2 said...

Hi I was just blog surfing and I found your blog and I love it!
I also have a american singlesblog/site. It a american singles site thats perfect for someone looking for that special someone!
You should check it out when you have time.

01 October, 2005 17:14  

Post a Comment

<< Home