dating ATW #1: a social experiment
I haven't had much luck in the love department in over a year (more on that in an upcoming post). But as part of my travels, I will inevitably meet men of all nationalities and you can bet I'll be writing about it.
At first, I had the idea of going on/ writing about eighty dates which is a CRAZY high number considering I probably don't go on more than ten dates a year (TBH, I just really liked the play on "Around the World in Eighty Days"). After a bit more Googling, I found out a divorced woman in her late 30s already used that idea/wrote a book with the “Dates” title, so I can't use the same name for my series (guess I'm not that original).
However, my dates will be a little bit different from hers, as I have the *power* of online dating apps literally in my pocket. The purpose will be more for me to compare the dating culture in New York to dating cultures abroad. I want to find out if people face the same problems/frustrations in NYC as they do elsewhere. Allow me to give you some context.
Dating in NYC
…Is kind of a nightmare. Not just in my own experiences but with friends and acquaintances, too. The topic dominates brunch conversations, coffee catch ups, lunch breaks, subway chatter, happy hours. Why do we spend so much time dissecting the shittiness of NYC’s dating culture?
For one, people don’t move to New York to define their relationship status—they move to New York to define their careers. And, like your career, your love life can always be better.
You’d think a city of 8.4 million inhabitants would pose better odds for singletons, but it kind of makes things worse since. With dating apps added to the mix, we’re too aware of the possibility that someone better could be a few blocks away. This creates a dating paradox: the number of people you could date is limitless, so why choose one? Maybe you date several people at once, unequally distributing your time and energy among multiple individuals. Perhaps the person you're seeing is a great match in many ways, but the possibility of a someone else is all too enticing. Why settle for someone smart, funny, and good-looking when you could potentially meet someone smarter, funnier, and even better-looking? It all leads to a perfectionist/idealistic mindset: no one is good enough, not even you.
So…Why are We Dating?
People date for different reasons, but I’ve found that many people in New York date just to date because we’re “supposed to” specifically as 20/30-somethings. It's not to look for anything meaningful, but to adhere to a societal norm.
Of course, there are the people that genuinely want to meet someone and form something serious, but they are forced to sift through a dating pool of individuals who aren't seeking the same. This leads to a lot of ambiguity in relationships--no one wants to admit that they're actually dating someone exclusively because once they do, they're off the market: no more apps, no more random hookups, no more multiple dates in a week. But even being in a relationship doesn't stop some people from continuing to play the game, (which unfortunately makes sense), leading to a lot of ambiguity and mixed signals.
What happens when you start dating someone? Can you even tell your friends that you’re “dating,” or “seeing someone” or “hooking up?” Should you even talk about it? Have you met their friends? Have you had a conversation about your status? Is it too early for that? Is it juvenile to have to do that? What should you text or not text? How long should you wait to text? Maybe it’s not going well, but you think it could get better—should you break things off or wait it out? What if it happens to be going well and you are happy? How long will that last? Should you start dating someone else just in case things don’t work out? MAKE IT STOP!
I’ve seen friends who are attractive, confident, and smart questioning themselves and settling for relationships that they’re not actually happy in. Deep down, everyone wants to find a healthy and meaningful relationship (using the term “relationship” very loosely here), but the level of disrespect people willing are to put up with or impose is surprising. Sometimes dating just makes me feel like a terrible human (thank you, ghosting). However, it seems to be a situation that they have no control over. Even the ones that aren’t willing to put up with shitty relationships, will still spend days justifying to themselves why that person isn't worth occupying any more of their time. And yet, these conversations prove otherwise.
Digital Romance = Bad Romance?
Adding apps to the equation has made things even more confusing. Dating in the digital age is like playing Jenga, solving a Rubix cube, and looking at an M.C. Escher staircase all at the same time. You're building and experimenting and constantly trying to figure what feels like an unsolvable puzzle. You're reading and interpreting behind a screen, building someone up in your mind of what they could be like in person only to find that in person they're not as attractive or as tall, chew with their mouths open, show up in sweatpants to your first date (yes, this happened to me), or just straight-up suck. Maybe the conversation never even starts: you match with someone that seems perfect (educated, attractive, witty, etc.) and they just never respond. Apps and online dating leave lots to the imagination and little to substance and depth.
The upside of online dating is that no one is off limits. Dating apps and social media, in general, have made anyone and everyone available and easy to reach. If I wanted to, I could tweet at an A-list actor and ask him out, or persistently send Instagram DMs to a famous singer like this chick did. (Props, girl.)
If you made it this far, you can probably tell how jaded I am from dating in NYC, which is why for the last year or so, I’ve mostly avoided it. My itinerary is still coming together but right now, I don’t intend on spending more than a week or two in each place, therefore, dating to form a meaningful romance is unlikely and not my goal. Again, it is more for comparative research and cultural insight. I'm also excited to write about something different from a typical travel post as well as a topic that's very out of my comfort zone. If you want to learn more about different dating cultures and perspectives from people around the world, stick around ;)