Mm, go on, relationship experts.
In this article in the NY Times, Alex Williams tries to parse out the new dating landscape for the sweeping, broadly accessible generation of people under 30 working in tech and media in Philadelphia, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Moorsetown, NJ, San Francisco, and LA. What’s frustrating to me about this article is what is frustrating to me about Yelp reviews – just because you’ve eaten food doesn’t mean you should write about it. He does seem to be the one tasked at the NYT with explaining newfangled social trends to aging readers, like Sasha Frere-Jones when he writes about Rick Ross or EDM for the New Yorker. These examples make the institutions sound bleak and grasping. In this article, Williams doesn’t rescue himself from that association.
He fails because he sticks so doggedly to his thesis that this shift toward informality is bad. A woman describes meeting a bouncer one night when she was out and about and being invited back to his place with all of her friends, where they danced and ate macaroni and cheese with all of his. She spent the night, and it turned into a four month thing, and based on the article, it seems like they coordinated through text message. Williams takes this to mean that four months of fleeting texts (“hey babe”) are all anyone can hope for nowadays. I think the take away is that relationships still have to be based on sharing, and intimacy, and that is as likely to happen over mac and cheese with your friends in the same room as it is in the “hottest new West Village bistro”. Going out for dinner does not guarantee that anything worthwhile is going to happen. I know I am not alone in saying that.
Not to say that there isn’t evidence of laziness and flakiness masquerading as the realities of the asynchronous communication Williams talks about. But my bet is that the people who send half-hearted text messages are the same people who wouldn’t call you back, or even ask you out in the first place back in the day. Some people kind of suck. Others just aren’t right for you. Let’s not blame changing mores on that, right?
I think mainly, the people frustrated are frustrated at being single, and if we operated by super strict, gendered norms with formal dates, they’d be frustrated by that too. Connection takes vulnerability, and maybe our discomfort with that is what a story like this should actually be about.