So I’ve tried to avoid writing anything about dating because there are entire blogs dedicated to it and generally I think there’s an unhealthy obsession with it (not to mention that posts seem to fall into two broad categories: giving advice and whining. Neither of which is my intent. Also, it feels a bit cliché, or perhaps passé…regardless, here are my thoughts).
It may seem odd and out of place for me to be offering some sort of extended insight into dating, given my personal dating habits. It wouldn’t be too far off to compare this to the soccer spectator that has watched and observed intently for years, while only playing a handful of pick-up games a year. He’s had a good time and was decently talented (as much as you can tell from an informal, low stakes game), but never went places. That’s me. Except my observations tend to lead to mockery and my self-appointed status as a connoisseur of human folly.
Perhaps the most important observation I have is that as the world changes and the way that we interact with each other changes, dating will change. That’s inevitable. Ignoring that fact will lead to problems. Now, I am not suggesting that our moral standards must adapt to the changing times, simply that cultural dating practices will and have changed. If we try to date like it’s 1950, it won’t work. Unless we create a 1950s-utopia (or dystopia. It’s all in your perspective…and how racist/sexist/generally bigoted you are) in Jackson County and relocate all young single Mormons there. Then you might be able to enforce ‘50s-era dating practices.
Part of the problem is that ‘dating’ is evolving and changing at such a rapid pace that no one is quite sure what it is. Is anything labeled a ‘date’ a date? Or is there a set of necessary conditions that must be met before it can be labeled as such (Elder Oaks’ three P’s—planned, paid for and paired-off)? If it wasn’t set-up with a phone call or in-person discussion, can it still be a date? What are the implications of a ‘date’? Should I go on dates with people purely for the sake of dating? Or should I wait until I think there’s some chance of ‘success’ (marriage? Steadily dating? Making out?)? Not to mention communication and technology and the myriad of complications introduced by them both.
I think hanging-out is here to stay and should be leveraged for the benefit of all us lost single adults. Wisely hanging out can allow you to get to know people better in a low-risk way. You can meet a wide variety of people without the complications of forced commitment. Also, the temptation to break the law of chastity is way lower when you’re hanging out with a group (mostly facetious, but there’s probably some truth…unless you use the group as cover so no one asks where you are while you get ‘intimate’). Hanging out can replace the older practice of dating around. I mean, how inefficient. Rather than going on individual dates with people, you can rule out roomfuls with a few effective hang out sessions. Yes, people act differently in group settings than they do individually, but that can be good and bad. One-on-one the person’s guard is up and they are trying to put on their best face, whereas if you are hanging out you can watch how they treat other people when they think no one’s watching.
Of course, the situation gets messy when you’ve been hanging out for awhile and then you decide you want to go out with a member of your hang out crew. The dynamic of the relationship is about to drastically change and may be irreversible. How do you move from being friends to dating? I wish I knew, given that I’m currently trying to work through the transition right now, aka navigating the infamous FRIEND ZONE.
Perhaps the friend zone would have less of a bad rap if there was more equality in the dating procedures than we currently have. I think there’s immense value in having friends of the opposite gender and therefore that the friend zone shouldn’t be demonized. One possible way of reaching some sort of equality is to de-stigmatize girls asking boys out. Sure, there’s some level of selfishness in my suggestion. I mean, gauging interest would be easier if girls also asked boys out. Also, there wouldn’t be as much pressure on boys (myself included) to do all of the asking and therefore to bear responsibility for marital status. But beyond the somewhat selfish motivations, I think it would create a healthier dating dynamic overall. Girls wouldn’t need to feel worthless if they aren’t asked out (which shouldn’t happen anyway—people’s worth should not be tied to the number of dates they go on…if it is I’m pretty close to worthless). There’s no reason to not make this cultural change—as it currently stands girls are relegated to the Austen-esque powers of acceptance and refusal and I love an Austen novel as much or more than the next guy, probably more if it’s actually a guy, maybe less if we’re applying ‘guy’ in a non-gender-specific sort of way.
I guess I view dating as one of those necessary evils. If I want to get married (which I do), I’ll probably have to date. I try and do it in my own way and time (yeah, I probably should date more or otherwise actively engage in the dating game, but it’s such a stupid game. Despite Queen’s encouragement, I just don’t want to play game). In the ideal world, something like this will happen:
I’ll meet an intelligent, witty and curious girl. We’ll become friends, chat about life, the universe and everything and one day we’ll turn to each other and say something like “what do you think about marriage?”
“To you, or generally speaking?”
[Smart-alecky remark about marriage generally, followed by a confession of love.]
Then we get engaged, elope (or organizing our reception to have cardboard cut-outs of ourselves there) and live happily ever after.
Yeah, yeah, I know…that’s probably not ever going to happen. I can dream though can’t I? In the meantime, I suppose I’ll make some friends, hang-out and on occasion participate in the evil, (necessary?) cultural ritual of dating.
 The point of this analogy is not to assert that dating is a game that is won or lost, or that girls are trophies/victories for boys to win, so don’t rage—at least not without reading all that I have to say. The point is that my insight comes from observation rather than extended active participation.
 I’ve lived most of my life in the friend zone. Why? I don’t really know. It’s just kind of happened that way. I tend to be the friend that listens and gets incorporated into the ‘inner circle.’ Maybe I’m just a trustworthy kind of dude? Perhaps I don’t flirt or know how to indicate romantic interest, so it’s safe to talk to me? Or maybe I’m over-thinking it and it just has worked out that way. To be clear, I’ve maintained a lot of great friendships this way, and don’t want to lose them. Yet, I feel like part of the reason I have those friendships is because I started them to actually be friends with people and not to get romantically involved, so when I end up wanting to, I’m not sure how without feeling sort of like I’m betraying the trust that helped build our friendship in the first place. Again, maybe I’m overthinking things.
 I’m using boys and girls throughout because men and women feels weird and I don’t know of a solid pairing for guys. I mean, there’s ‘dolls,’ but that’s all sorts of ugh.
 Until I help reform it, of course, with your help dear reader. Naturally.