All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy. All Trump and no play makes Dan a dull boy.
I’m sorry, but for the sake of my family I think I need to write about something else today. Let’s try … dating in the 1990s.
For reasons that are mysterious to social media, a Medium story by Shani Silver titled “I Wish I was Single in the 90s” popped up all over my feeds this past week. Technically, Silver was single in the ’90s, but she was also a pre-teen, so I don’t think that counts. Her memory of what dating must have been like in the ’90s was like sounds pretty idyllic though:
Back then it was considered rude to be broken up with over the phone, with the worst offense occurring via answering machine. You were broken up with in person. Those were the days of men. Now a guy simply stops speaking to you without warning, leaving you to wonder if he was hit by a bus on his way to meet you or if he left you sitting alone at a bar entirely on purpose and without regard for your feelings. And that’s only if you had plans to see each other again. In today’s dating world, you literally never know if your first, or fifteenth date will be the last time you see or hear from someone. Both are just as likely, percentage wise.
I’m of the last generation that will ever remember both. The world with the Internet, and without. But what the generation above me has that I don’t is the fact that they were single, and dating, in the 90s. What was it like? When you made plans with someone, you actually had to show up, as the text flake-out was not a menu item available to you. Maybe people were more cautious about making plans, knowing they’d really have to keep them? Maybe the quality of a night out was improved by people being more selective? Perhaps women were simply stood up more? I want to study this like an anthropologist. It’s baffling, and also I feel like we need to preserve these stories for generations to come.
Now as it turns out, the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts is in the generation above Silver. I was single and dated people in the 1990s! And Silver is absolutely correct, those were the days of men. We stood astride the dating scene like young, virile, sexy-but-honorable beasts of the wild kingdom and — I’m sorry but I could not finish this sentence because I’m laughing too hard to hit the appropriate keys on my laptop.
Seriously, have millennials ever listened to the lyrics to the “Friends” theme song?
So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke
Your love life’s D.O.A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year….
Your friends will be there for you. Not your dates!
My actual memory of dating in the 1990s is that while there was a lot of good, there was also a lot of bad and a fair amount of ugly. People were more conscientious about following through on plans, but sometimes they fell through anyway. Guys totally broke up with people via the answering machine. The lack of cell phones also enabled guys to break up in an elongated fashion by simply not calling, then ignoring their answering machine, and finally having an awkward coffee explaining how busy they were going to be at work. Meeting people was occasionally difficult — even in my twenties, I remember thinking “GOOD BARS ARE VERY NOISY. I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW TO TALK TO PEOPLE WITHOUT SHOUTING AT THEM.”
Silver might be on firmer ground in discussing the ways modern technology have made more traditional forms of flirting — like, you know, talking to people — more challenging for her peers:
A good friend of mine, slightly older and one of the first to really utilize online dating (with success) told me I had to stop the texting and demand that a guy call me. Person-to-person connection and attachment development couldn’t happen via text, voice had to be involved. I resisted, but she was married to a guy she met online, the girl had clout. I went out on a date with a very nice, funny, charming guy, who then texted me nonstop, never really asking to see me again, but not leaving me alone, either. She said I was not to write back to one more text message, I was simply to say:
Hey, I’m really busy at work right now. Why don’t you give me a call tonight and we can make plans?
And he did! He actually called me on the phone and I heard his voice. This was a triumph, a success. Except for the part where he didn’t know how to speak on the phone very well or even form coherent sentences and it was the worst and most awkward 2:13 of my entire life. We didn’t make any concrete plans, and I never heard from him again, via phone, text, or carrier pigeon. I haven’t asked a man to call me since. This was three years ago.
There may be some truth to this. When I’m at a restaurant, the thing that continually surprises me is the number of people on dates who keep their cellphones on the table so they can check if a text or status update flashes on their phone. Why do that? There’s a living, breathing human being siting across from them!
Let me suggest that the overlooked difference between the 1990s and now is that, paradoxically, expectations were lower back in the day. In the 1990s, you couldn’t Google someone you just met. You hadn’t already read their social media. You had no expectations about what they might be like (unless you were set up by a friend who kept telling you how great their friend was, and those set-ups almost never worked out). You literally got to meet people face to face.
That’s not how it works now. Social media facilitates colleagues, acquaintances and friends of friends to meet one another more efficiently than the mythologized bars of yore. Indeed, the reason you might want to meet them in real life is because you are charmed by their Twitter feed or Instagram captions or Facebook comments or online dating profile. A sparkling online personality creates hopes and expectations that can be dashed in the real world. None of us are exactly like our online avatars. And it is possible that real-life interactions with someone that you’ve crushed on the Internet might be underwhelming.
This is just a hypothesis. The important thing, however, is that I didn’t have to write about Donald Trump today.