As defined, the action of dating is the acceptable form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. Dating is the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity as a couple.
Since it is Sunday and the usual Sunday activities of making a mug of instant coffee, strap on the mulch covered jeans and wrap up in the stained sweatshirt to listen to “This American Life” and it’s theme for today was “Valentine’s Day 2013” so I started thinking.
The day is coming fast upon us and those of us who have little emotions realize it is time to go out and get a heart shape box of chocolates and flowery cards and flowers for that special person. How do we find that “special person”?
Dating was my way. Early on my parents set up “dates” for me to take one of their friend’s daughter to a dance or a debutant coming out or some other social event that wasn’t about us. We were just little pawns. Looking back I should have paid more attention because some of those chicks were cute and some have gone on to make good money.
But dating, to me, was the act of asking someone to go with you to some occasion and being accepted. It is a very bold move for a teenager with a high risk factor of rejection.
Now remember I am of the old school so most dating experiences were fairly harmless. Dances or concerts or chaperoned parties were the activities for most date request. Dates would start around 5:30 PM and would end before midnight with hopefully a peck on the cheek. I would be introduced to the family of the date with a few brief questions trying to get my intent before allowing me to remover their daughter from their sight. I tried to keep this session as brief as possible but learn a great deal of negotiation skills especially with the mother. The dads… not so much.
A “date” has certain expectations before it begins. Some dates didn’t go as well as hoped and others surprised both. Now remember the teenage hormones that are racing blurring rational thoughts. This is what made dating exciting.
Looking back at diary notes I think I was looking more for an emotional connection than physical wantonness. I had discovered that at an early age with someone who was more of a “friend” than a date.
When I thought there was an emotional match I would ask for more and more dates. It was like running down a hill and I couldn’t stop. When I didn’t realize the emotional need from the other, I just got confused and backed off. That was what dating was about for me.
Then there were double dates. When you wanted to go to the next level and start parking you needed a car. Since I had decided (with the help of the Commonwealth) that automobiles and driving was not what I should do, I needed to find someone with a car. A car provided transportation and a back seat to fool around on. Now the problem with double dating is once you found the right spot to park, both double daters had to get, oh shall we say, “lucky”. If the driver was striking out, the car kept moving or if the driver turned off the engine and stepped on the gas and the backseat was frigid, it became a long and uncomfortable date.
There was long distance dating with cards and letters filled with drawings and innuendos of what might be if we were closer. I say they never worked out but one became my first wife.
My friends started going steady. That meant they became a couple with every date was with the same girl. I never “dated” any girl long enough to be thought of as a couple or having a girlfriend, but they were much more the Romeos than I was.
Never having had a steady girlfriend I didn’t understand the emotional connection of the couple. The passing of items to each other, those secret glances each gave one another knowing only they knew what it meant or even when one name was said, another name slipped off the tongue as if it was all one word was viewed by an outsider as normal reactions to these folks in a steady relationship.
Now dating means that there is no commitment. Dating was only the promise to be at a certain place at a certain time with the opportunity to have fun together and get back home safely. Steady dating, on the other hand, was like a minor marriage. There was commitment and probably promises of only being part of one-another with the “L” word.
And when you are the third person in the party without a date, the matchmakers come out. This was very similar to what the parent’s set-ups were in earlier times and they never worked out. After awhile those “with dates” forgot about those “without dates”.
The dating game became more adventurous. Complete strangers were called and blind dates made over the phone. A ballsy chance a blind date might work out, but of course it never did.
Even reverse dating was happening, like a Sady Hawkins dance. When a young lady turns the aggressor things became interesting.
With the bad experiences of dating I didn’t attend the prom. By the end of high school I figured I would be single the rest of my life. Little did I know?
By the time college rolled around the dating scene had changed. Groups of people would gather to hang around and if there were more girls than boys the possibility was there for a “date”. About the same time everyone was becoming sexually active. Girls had found the pill and were being passed around very casually. The steady girlfriend was becoming a thing of the pass.
Today the dating scene is still full of establishments where possibilities are endless. Lonely people gathering together to offer some form of affection to another can be found on any corner in any city. It usually involves alcohol. If you are too lazy to go out, the Internet is full of websites willing to take your information and money to match you up with another. Any rational mind would realize whatever information you gave out could be true or false and whoever, for a price, this connection could be made would probably turn out to be a prisoner with time to spare.
Seeing some of my friend’s long-term relationships and even studying my own (yes, I’ve been married most of my life) I wonder how a change from “dating” to something “more” happens? Some have been together since the beginning of time and others have gone through multiple partners so the question is “why”? What makes this person the “significant other” and not that person? Is it the time of life or the peer pressure or just the last person on the list?
Is dating the adventurous journey of find the “right” person or just a filler of time? Is dating all about flirting or trying to find an emotional connection? Is dating a reason for physical contact or merely a companion for the night?
A date can be an excuse to find out something interesting about another human being and not knowing where the uncharted path will go. It can be disastrous or surprisingly amazing.