In Defence of Modern Dating

Written by Simone le Roux


If you spend any significant amount of time online, you have most likely seen several different articles lamenting that modern dating sucks. I respectfully dissent. Dating today is a million times better than it’s ever been before.

I say that not even including the fact that we live in a time when dating the person that you want to date - regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, gluten tolerance, and what have you - is legal in most of the western world. Remember that less than a hundred years ago you were risking your life by choosing to defy norms and be with the person you love. The bar for modern dating being better is already pretty low.

When I refer to dating, I mean spending time with someone to determine whether you are compatible with them. I am not referring to a casual hook up, because those have more or less been the same throughout history. Dating, however, has changed a lot. Gone are the days where you need a chaperone to accompany you on a date with a gentleman (or out in public). You don’t even have to get your parents’ permission to spend time with a new person! Yet, there are aspects of modern dating that people feel the need to complain about, such as…

People don’t Say what they Feel

You can’t just tell someone you like them and you certainly can’t ask them where you are in the relationship. That’s not cool. You must act like you don’t care that the incredible person standing in front of you might see you as just a friend. You have to pretend you don’t want to talk to them all the time (because that’s clingy). If you’re upset, send a passive-aggressive text but never open honest lines of communication. There are all these arbitrary rules; like not texting back straight away or pretending that you’re not crazy frustrated with the situation.

I almost didn’t include this argument because it’s absurd. This is nothing new. Look at these ridiculous dating rules and ways to keep your man from the 1950’s: Don’t be a whiner, make sure you cook well, don’t dress like a slut, don’t be a prude but don’t be a whore, let him order your meals for you, be cool if he cheats. These are all rules that tell people not to express their feelings beyond “Oh sure, I think you’re swell!”. Can you imagine going on a date and letting someone else order for you? Fuck off, I know what I want.

The rules of dating have always been weird and arbitrary. Do you know how you can start a great relationship with someone? Have a grown up conversation. Tell them what you feel and what you want, ask them how they feel and what they want. If they find this too “intense” then you don’t need them wasting your time. If they say that they don’t want anything serious, do yourself a favour and believe them.

Modern dating is great because there are so many ways to communicate. On tinder, you can let anyone looking at your profile know whether you want something serious or not. You can text, e-mail, skype, whatsapp, snapchat, DM and so much more. You can send someone a song telling them exactly how you feel with next to no effort.

Furthermore, you don’t have to take someone’s mysterious crap if you don’t want to. You can meet a new person in the next five seconds if you don’t like the current one. Fifty years ago if you wanted to meet someone you had never met before, you had to go to another town. That’s a real communication issue. Don’t blame modern dating for you being too awkward to act like a grown up or too stubborn to believe someone when they aren’t looking for something serious.

Dates Aren’t “Romantic” Anymore

Nowadays, the romantics of the internet lament, it’s all Netflix and Chill. People “hang out” instead of date, no one wants to commit to labels like “boyfriend and girlfriend.” A date now is - at best - going for a few drinks and a pizza. A good second date is binge-watching Game of Thrones or ordering a take out. This is something friends do, not couples. A real date, especially a first date, should be extra romantic.

Look, we’ve all seen the movies. The girl gets excited and dressed up, maybe while chatting excitedly to her supportive friends. The gentleman rolls up to her home with an armful of flowers, which the lady blushingly accepts. He greets her parents respectfully (if she still lives with them) and then whisks her off in to the night. They have a Nice Dinner™ somewhere fancy with candlelight and then they go to watch a film (an arthouse one if he wants to impress). Once the night is through, he drops her off at home and, if he’s lucky, receives either a chaste kiss or a steamy car make out, depending on the girl. The girl floats on a cloud through her front door and ecstatically phones her best friend to relay the night. She clutches the flowers he gave her to her chest, and keeps the ticket stub from the movie they watched. The gentleman air punches before stoically driving away.

Repeat ad nauseum until you get married.

First, let’s acknowledge that this convention excludes the many shapes, sizes and genders that relationships come in. Can we also agree that it’s so unfair that men are expected to pay for dates? And finally, that letting a complete stranger pick you up from where you live and taking you to an undisclosed location is a terrible idea?

Secondly, that date is a terrible way to find the person you want to be intimate with. Personally, I am not the most myself when I’m dolled up, wearing uncomfortable underwear. Even less so when I'm eating ridiculously small portions because I feel guilty that the guy I’m with will have to pay for it all. We’re both hungry, and now we’re boredly sitting watching an arthouse film, unable to get to know each other. This is the opposite of intimacy. I would rather see how I interact with this other person doing activities that I do often, like cooking, bingeing a series, going for a hike or sloppily eating a pizza at 3am. That’s real intimacy: doing things you both like together and having an amazing time even if you’re just running errands. If someone is lots of fun while they’re in a fancy restaurant, but not while hanging out in pyjamas, they aren’t fun.

Thirdly, immediately wanting to label a person that you’ve dated a few times (particularly if it’s the Nice Dinner™ above) as your boyfriend or girlfriend is psychotic. Relationships are a lot of work and getting to know someone is a long journey. Pulling a 12 year old child’s move of calling the girl you just went on a date with your “girlfriend” is completely ridiculous. You had a dinner together and now she’s not allowed to meet other people? You can’t test the waters a bit further before deciding to commit? If anything, waiting before you label the relationship is more romantic because it shows the other person that you’re taking your potential relationship with them seriously. If someone has been dating you for a while and they still don’t want to define it, you can either have a grown up conversation with them or realise that this relationship isn’t going to happen. Either way, you get your answer.

Yes, hanging out, doing friend things together, and taking your time is exactly how you should date. It’s romantic because ultimately that’s what you’re looking for: someone to hang out with forever until one of you dies.

No One Writes Love Letters Anymore

Them darn kids with their Facebook statuses and snapchats and “baes”. Texting someone “I luv you <3” is the least romantic thing in the world, am I right? People used to compose epic poetry to the one they were wooing. No one writes love letters anymore and it is the death of romance as we know it.

Let’s be honest, if someone who you went on three Nice Dinner™ dates with sent you a ten-page love letter in the mail you would be creeped the hell out. There is almost no possible way this person knows enough about you to write ten pages. This means one of two things: either they wrote poetry about literally every part of you (especially your eyebrows; they look great) or they are projecting an ideal version of you on top of who you actually are. Whichever one it is, you need to take a step back.

My parents still have the long love letters that they used to send each other during my dad’s time away in the army. When I discovered this, I was desperate to read them and see the epic romance that resulted in my being born. What gorgeous stanzas did my father write? Did my mom spritz some perfume on to her heart-covered letters? Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to read any of the letters because they get quite inappropriate. No flowery language, no proclamations of undying love, just “I miss you and I want to do things to you.” It’s not exactly what I had pictured, but my parents have been married for almost 28 years now and they’re still going strong. My point here is that the quality of the communications with your love interest does not dictate the way your relationship is going to turn out. And if you think about it, don’t most epic romance prose boil down to “I miss you and I want to do things to you”? It doesn’t even act as a real indicator of your feelings. If you’re not a poet, please don’t waste your time trying to find pretty ways of letting someone know you’re thinking about them. Just make sure they know.

If the person you like adores the idea of love letters then sure, go nuts writing one out for them. If the person you like enjoys Game of Thrones, tag them in a cute Game of Thrones meme. Romance and intimacy can be as simple as a quick “Good morning” text before you start your day. There are so many more ways to tell someone you care for them than there ever have been. You can send someone a potato in the mail if you want to! Why on earth would you limit yourself to ink, paper, and crappy metaphors?

Modern dating is Awesome

With plenty of ways to meet new people and more ways to communicate, dating today is better and easier than it’s ever been. Gone are the days where you have to settle for the nice person your age who lives next door. Dead are the times when you have to put up with someone who insists on ordering your food for you. Don’t see modern dating as being lost in a world of social media, choices and people. See it as endless opportunities to find the perfect person for you and tell them you love them.

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