Recently, I was intrigued by the golden age of television, and the era of the 90s sitcom. Most notably I was fascinated by their aesthetic, from the straight-legged Mom jeans, the plaid mini skirts, to over tweezed eyebrows. To be honest, I still see remnants of that era in my own wardrobe, and I can’t even count the times I’ve referenced Jennifer Aniston’s perfect golden locks to my hairdresser. I’ve seen these trends coming back within the clothing racks of Urban Outfitters and H&M, but what I presume will never go back in style is the way they went about dating.
Born in 96, my memories of that era are only fragments from having to dial up my home computer and listening to the Spice Girls on my walkman. The only real window to dating in that world was through shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and even Boy Meets World, and because I grew up with those shows, I expected that my life would replicate those images on screen. One solid group of friends that meets at the same cafe everyday, a steady career right out college, and maybe even marrying my high school sweetheart.
The genesis of Tinder was in 2012, two years before I started university. I knew by then that the images on television that taught me about dating could not be applied to this new reality. By then, it was no longer uncommon or looked down upon to have accounts on OkCupid or Plenty of Fish. In fact, that seemed to be the main way people met and interacted with people they might want to fornicate with.
I don’t like Tinder. I can definitely say with confidence after having an account off and on for just over two years. While I know people who have fulfilling relationships and adventurous sexual escapades, it has just become incredibly tedious to me.
However, what is the 90s sitcom equivalent? Would it be when Joey from Friends flirted his way with a girl in a public space to get her phone number? To which, later he would come home from work, pick up his curly-wired telephone phone receiver, and call her up. Assuming that she gave him the correct digits, the cute girl answers. There they would have to have a pleasant conversation that would usually lead to a nice dinner, and the cute girl, feeling obliged since he put his card down on the table to pay, would have sex with him.
Now, you swipe, you talk, and you meet up, and yeah.. The rest is history.
It’s like dating is the same puzzle, but with pieces rearranged. All first encounters are online, but people just want to see a similar picture in the end.
20th century dating is strategic, and I was able to understand it for the most part. I was able to select the right selfies and group photos that would enable a butt load of matches and superlikes on Tinder. In my first year, I took it too seriously, getting caught in the web of guys who saw me as disposable as my profile on the site.
But, I grew, and I learned to hold my own ground. It got to this point where I just kept swiping and swiping, thumbing through pictures of guys while barely looking at their name or age, and getting a rush to my ego whenever they already liked me and feeling temporarily disappointed when they didn’t. It was a game – like Candy Crush or Temple Run – and just a way to pass my time in bored moments with no actual thought to what it could lead to.
It started making me question why I couldn’t find someone, out of the hundreds of people who swipe on Tinder, there ought to be a perfect fit for me, right? Except, I haven’t actually formally dated anyone, or have been able to call someone my partner. Thanks to Tinder, I’ve had “things”, which have been extremely casual and not worthy of introducing to my parents; so after a while it just stops either due to our busy schedules or sudden lack of interest.
I’ve fallen into this growing category of millennial who have been single their whole lives. That makes us believe that there must be something off kilter, and that it can probably be found within ourselves.
This mentality used to plague me for a little while. But then, over the last two years, I realized that I actually haven’t been actively searching for anyone. I’ve been content growing and living on my own, finding fulfillment through many amazing friendships.
The whole “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” rhetoric is definitely not as apparent. Far more frequently, I message them first. I’ve offered to pay for my dinner, despite it being turned down almost every time. And in no way do I ever feel obliged to do anything I don’t want to do.
It reminded me of the first episode of Friends, and how the writers were hesitant to write a pilot where one of the main female characters, Rachel, forgets the name of the man she hooked up with the night before. They didn’t want her to be perceived as promiscuous. Now we literally have shows like Broad City, where the two female leads, Ilana and Abbi, openly talk about their sexualities like its the weather.
So, I think that’s where the main difference lies. It’s not just the way we go about dating, and the means to which we meet people, it’s that the social norms that came along with dating then have slowly melted away. Society is more open with everything, including sex, and I prefer it that way.
If someone asked me what era I would rather date in, I definitely would say today. While there are flaws in our current era of Tinder and casual sex, there’s flaws with every era. I’d rather be dating in the time where, to be a women and to be sexual, aren’t as negatively co-existing concepts. And, I’d rather on my iPhone restlessly waiting for a reply, than the landline, because well, at least I can see if they’ve read it, right?