Happy Monday! Did you read the country's leading publications over the weekend, or were you too busy sobbing into your eggs benedict about how Billy the bartender never responded to your texts, which meant you couldn't trap him in your Marriage Cage as planned? If the latter, let's get you up to speed: courtship is dead, and you'll never put a ring on it unless you pretend to be someone you're not.
In the Wall Street Journal, Amy Webb explains how she refused to let "some bubblegum-popping blonde steal the neurotic Jewish doctor of my mother's dreams" by using her background in data analysis to "reverse engineer" her JDate profile; she constructed ten different male JDaters and interacted with 96 women to figure out How To Please A Man. What she learned: keep descriptions cliché and ditzy, refer to yourself as a "fun girl" even if you're a 30-year-old woman, be short, straighten your hair, and don't talk about your job.
Conclusion: she got married, yay!
The New York Times has a lengthy report on what they're calling "the end of courtship," because this one woman had a really bad date on OKCupid:
MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid. But when the dark-eyed musician with artfully disheveled hair asked Shani Silver, a social media and blog manager in Philadelphia, out on a "date" Friday night, she was expecting at least a drink, one on one.
"At 10 p.m., I hadn't heard from him," said Ms. Silver, 30, who wore her favorite skinny black jeans. Finally, at 10:30, he sent a text message. "Hey, I'm at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?" he wrote, before adding, "I'm here with a bunch of friends from college."
Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations. "The word ‘date' should almost be stricken from the dictionary," Ms. Silver said. "Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret."
Eesh! Sounds shitty, indeed. But one clueless musician's interaction with a social media manager hardly means that "Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along." And why is it always up to men to set the dating tone? All of the anecdotes in these articles are from straight women, because straight women are apparently the only people who would be devastated about the demise of traditional courtship. But if you want to go to dinner and a movie, why not...suggest going to dinner and a movie? And if the person you ask would rather meet up with all his bros instead, you probably don't want to date him, anyway, and you are also probably on Millionaire Matchmaker.
Consider 25-year-old Lindsay's experience:
After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, "carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes."
She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?" (It petered out after four months.)
Some people — not just heterosexual men, but people — aren't interested in "traditional" dating or even monogamy. The bouncer in question sounds like one of those people. If Lindsay wanted to stop the "cycle of weekly hookups," why wasn't she like, "let's go sit down and eat some spaghetti in a restaurant sometime," or why didn't she move on? How was the bouncer supposed to know that Lindsay wanted more — and why does he necessarily owe her more — than Annie's Mac and Cheese?
Here's the thing: these trend pieces aren't really about social media. That's the news peg, but this is the exact same crap we've been fed for years, from The Rules to every mainstream women's magazine ever: men must be tricked into marriage/everything that leads up to those wedding bells.
It's a shame, because The Way We Date Now is changing, and there are so many other interesting angles to explore — some of which the NYT very briefly touches upon, like how student debt affects dating, and some of which it completely ignores, like what this all means for non-heteronormative relationships. Instead, publications continue to reinforce tired notions about how women can fool men into loving them — and wax nostalgic about antiquated gender roles.
Webb's story may end in matrimony, but it doesn't make me hopeful; it makes me sad. Sad that she felt compelled to lie about her height and hair and aspirations to find a husband, and sad that she's encouraging other women to follow suit.
Image by Jim Cooke.