Like many other twenty-something year-olds, I’m no expert on dating. I’ve only had two boyfriends my entire life (two that counted, that is; I refuse to count middle school), and while that might not give me the authority to stand up on a stage and give my advice on dating, I will say maybe my methods/views on the practice might not be so naive.
My second/current boyfriend and I met during college, a place which is usually the playing grounds for casual hookups and the culture that derives from them. Our how-we-met story is simple, even cheesy, to hear: mutual friends of ours began dating and because of all their alone time, we ended up spending more time with each other. Nothing super fancy or fairy-tale like circumstances brought us together. However, I know for a fact that the way we carried out our “courtship” made all the difference, more specifically was the way we mixed old-fashioned techniques with modern, 21st-century know-how.
When I think of “old-fashioned” dating techniques, my mind for some reason drifts into the era of the 1950s “courtship.” I envision a scenario involving a handsome, young varsity jock asking a peppy cheerleader out to get milkshakes at the local diner, carrying her books to class, asking if she was going to the sock hop, taking off his letterman’s jacket and placing it over her shoulders.
What I take away from these older styles of meeting and dating are tips that take the exhaustion and confusion out of the equation.
As I said before, my current boyfriend and I met because mutual friends of ours decided to date. When things were heating up between them, we didn’t have much else to do but hang out with each other. Eventually we exchanged phone numbers and requested each other as friends on Facebook, as typical people of the modern, technological world would do with someone they were being friendly/flirtatious with. However, instead of waiting around to figure out who was supposed to text first or what “hanging out” meant, in small ways we disregarded the modern rules of dating and did our own thing, and to me that made all the difference.
Sometimes in a way I consider myself an old soul when it comes to love. I have nothing against the hook-up culture of today or with people who choose casual dating over the more old-fashioned way of meeting, dating, falling in love and getting married. “Soulmates” is an unrealistic thing in my eyes, but I do think there are people you’re meant to have in your life, whether romantically or platonically. My boyfriend is one of those people, and because of the way our relationship started, we’ve managed to grow even closer together as both friends and romantic partners in the near two and a half years we’ve known each other.
The first main difference between how we started dating versus the modern culture was that we disregarded the “rules” that go along with dating. For all the years before I dated and the brief in between period before BF #1 and #2, I asked myself and occasionally friends a lot of questions about dating. Why do I have to wait a certain amount of time to text or call someone back? Why can’t I use this (or too many) emojis? What’s the difference between “hanging out” and a date? Can I text him or her good morning, or is that too needy or pushy? Through all the confusion and nonsense, I took away an important piece of advice: Ignore all the b.s. Why the hell does it matter how I text or call someone, or what I call our outings?
The first time I messaged my boyfriend, which was about an hour after we had exchanged Facebooks and phone numbers, was showing him pictures of mountain cats, hoping that he’d love them as much (or as close) as I did. After that our communication was nearly constant, both via tech and in-person. It was a good way to talk when we couldn’t meet up and honestly kept things light and comfortable, helping us get a good feel about the other person.
The great thing about meeting in college is that dates can literally take place where you live. There’s not awkward show-your-date-your apartment/house-hoping-to-impress-them routine. All of us know the struggles of living in a cramped dorm, and we endured these struggles together.
The first few weeks my boyfriend and I were trying to know each other it was Snowmageddon up at our college, where classes were cancelled for almost an entire week and there wasn’t much to do outside of a dorm. So what did we do? Netflix (with the chill), both alone and with girls who lived in my hall. It was a great way to get some quality time in, something that is really rare in today’s dating world, while also getting the chance to express our interests. We got to spend more time together, in close quarters and during a time in our lives when weren’t trying to be impressive. We were just trying to be ourselves.
Above all, we have always valued direct and honest communication. So much of the time younger people who are putting themselves out there to date, whether online or in-person, are scared to do so for many different reasons. Maybe they think they don’t know how to date or be in a relationship, maybe they don’t know what kind of relationship works for them, or maybe even they’ve been hurt before and aren’t so willing to let someone back into their heart. Because of these fears, it seems like so often people don’t want to be up front and direct about how they feel or what they feel when they’re out, or even before they go out, with someone.
Both of us had been hurt before, and both of us had had our hearts broken. Therefore, what better way to protect ourselves from getting hurt again than just telling each other how we really felt? Though we were scared, both he and I were honest about what we were looking for in a partner from the beginning, even though a lot of time it seems to be taboo to talk about the future when you first date. At the time it was a little scary to leave my heart out on the line to dry, but I realized that in the end he did the same, both of us in the end relieved that the other person was interested and willing enough to give the other person a chance.
Though it doesn’t seem like much on paper, ditching the trendy dating rules, communicating and just being honest from the beginning about what you’re looking for are a few big differences from what it seems like people are doing in today’s dating world, at least from what I’ve seen. Matters of the heart aren’t simple, but what can be are the ways in which we find people that are able to tug on those heartstrings and make them sing. I found both my best friend and my boyfriend all at once by doing those things and disregarding how people might find a partner nowadays, not because I think those ways are stupid. I believe when it comes to love, you should be honest and forthcoming with who you are and what you want.