21st century dating*

In Ireland, anyways. Cork, at least, but I think it’s safe to say that the so-called dating etiquette in Cork is similar if not the same as that of the rest of the country too. Is dating even the right word for it anymore? It’s more like messaging. You’re not seeing someone, you’re messaging someone. It isn’t quite the same. People don’t say “So I’m seeing someone” or “I’ve been dating someone”, it’s just “I’m messaging this person”. Has technology changed the meaning of dating from that of face-to-face interactions to online messaging? The Oxford English Dictionary definitions of ‘dating’ in terms of romantic relationships defines it as; “A social or romantic appointment or engagement.” or “Go out with (someone in whom one is romantically or sexually interested)”. Does messaging someone you hope to become involved with in some way fit in under either of these definitions?

Even the Urban Dictionary appears to be falling behind in its failing to incorporate the phenomenon of ‘messaging’ in its extensive, somewhat pessimistic definition of dating; “Dating is where two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they also can stand to be around each other most of the time, if this is successful they develop a relationship, although sometimes a relationship develops anyways if the people can’t find anybody else to date them, or are very lonely or one person is only attracted to the other and pretends to be in love with the second unfortunate person who has the misunderstanding that they have found love. This occurs quite often and eventually leads to something called cheating.”

There seems to be a hesitation to call any sort of interaction a “date”, nowadays. People don’t really say that they have a date or that they’re going on a date anymore. Yes people meet up for coffee, or they might go for a spin or to the cinema or for food, but it’s rarely referred to as a date – at least from what I’ve been gathering – it’s all just ‘meeting up’. I could be completely wrong about this and just living in my own little bubble in which the more traditional customs of romantic relations is dead, I don’t know, but you have to admit there is something a little hopeless about modern-day dating, in comparison to the much more straight forward and clear cut custom of older, more simpler times. Just ask your parents or grandparents about it – once you agreed to go on a date with someone, you were dating until anything otherwise was made clear.

In todays world, it seems there are these rules to the progression of it all. A nutshell synopsis of my understanding of this progression is as follows;

First you’re just messaging. Simple as – just sending messages, either over Snapchat or Facebook messenger, back and forth, being all the usual necessary things, flirtatious, suggestive etc. Either the messaging back and forth started sort of out of the blue, you already kind of knowing each other and rekindling a somewhat distant acquaintance into something more out of curiosity, possibly, or perhaps a recent significant interaction. Or maybe the Snapchat was picked up after a shift on a night out that got the ball rolling – there are lots of different, admittedly unglamorous possibilities for the initial connect.

Then you might meet up; this might be admitted to be a date, it might not and just be carefully referred to as ‘meeting up’ so as not to make it a “big deal” – I don’t see how calling it what it is, a date, would be making it a bigger deal, but okay. You might continue just ‘meeting up’ for a while, and if all goes well you may, after a few months at least, agree to be exclusive.

So then you’re “exclusive”. The funny thing about this is that, up until this point you’ve technically had free rein to get with other people, and many do, but even if one or both people involved haven’t been ‘getting with’ or ‘meeting up’ with anyone else, they are still not ‘officially’ exclusive until it is said, until the question about it is brought up, and mutually agreed upon. One must be careful here not to confuse exclusivity with being officially together – that is not the case. It is only after you’ve been exclusive for some time that ‘the question’ might be brought up – the question that, finally, after all the previous stages, changes the relationship/interaction/connection, whatever you want to call it, into an official one – only then can you refer to each other as boyfriend, girlfriend, partner etc. (There are exceptions, of course; some very brave few skip the exclusivity step and dive straight into ‘officiality’)

Then, the question. So, now that you’ve been officially asked to be the boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, or you have asked your significant other to be your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, and they or you have said yes of course, only then are you ‘officially’ together. This is referred to as being ‘official’.

‘Official’. Congratulations, you’ve reached the final stage. You can now go on dates and actually call them dates, too.

*a mockery of – I am in no real way being strictly serious about any of this. While I do have a point, it is a lighthearted one.

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