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What Is Dating Today?


Let’s time travel for a second. It’s before Christmas break, right around Halloween, and I’m sitting at a local Mexican restaurant with my sister. We are sipping margaritas (okay, maybe I’d had like three at this point, but it was a long Friday) when I got a text from a boy. All it said was “What are you up to tonight?” Well, being as I’m a cliched 20-something, I immediately thrust the phone in my sister’s face and started “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN”-ing. I mean, it was like 5:00. I don’t know what the hell a text means at 5:00. After a few back-and-forths, this boy and I decided we’d be going to see a scary movie. If I was panicking before, it was nothing to how I felt after our evening plans had already been decided. Was this a date? What should I wear? Is it bad that I had already had three margaritas?!

That panic is something I feel is common with 20-somethings now-a-days. It’s getting increasingly harder to decipher what dating is. There’s “having a thing” with someone. There’s “talking to someone”. There’s the ever confusing “friends with benefits”, which by the way – if anyone in the world can pull this off please comment below because I don’t think this is a real thing, and you know there’s also actually being in a relationship. There’s different labels that we create every day to make sense of what ever it is we’re doing. And I’m pretty sure not a single one of us has it figured out. Or maybe I’m just really bad at relationships. Probably a little bit of both.

What’s strange to me is, as Editor Alex pointed out in her post about Valentine’s Day when you’re “kind of” dating, when did it become okay to toast at brunch and not reveal our feelings? We live in a world where we have to text — but not too much — and we can’t be emotionally “slutty” and reveal too much too soon, as Carrie Bradshaw would say.

In my world, it seems to me, dating kind of starts off the same for everyone. You meet. Preferably in an adorable way so that you won’t have to admit to an OkCupid profile because there’s still a stigma for online dating, and because everyone wants a romantic comedy meet-cute. It seems to signify the start of a beautiful relationship. He texts. You giggle. This happens for a week or so until you hang out. This should technically be your first date. It’s usually you meeting the boy at a bar for drinks, or he comes over with a case of beer to watch Family Guy, or you plan to meet up at a kegger.

None of these scenarios are typically romantic. He’s not wining and dining you or sweeping you off your feet. These types of meetings happen for a while, maybe you kiss, maybe you sleep together. You start hanging out more frequently, then you finally (maybe after months) have a conversation about being exclusive. Only then does it seem that 20-somethings are comfortable actually romancing their significant others. I mean, I know tons of people in relationships that still don’t think they’ve been on a real “date” like they’ve seen in the movies.

With text messaging as the main form of communication, you can be in constant contact with your significant other so the romance kind of dies. When you spend all day text messaging back and forth with someone about your day, there’s no mystery, no need for romance. All of that dies. Furthermore, when a text at 2am signifies a hookup, but one at 7pm might mean a real relationship, how are we to decipher the difference? So what is dating today? I honestly have no idea. If you figure it out, could you get back to me.

Molly is a senior Journalism/English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s not very good at small talks and has an unhealthy obsession with Matthew Perry. For more midwestern ramblings follow her on twitter @gwacamolly. She seems to think that pun is really funny.