We tend to do a good job at romanticizing the past. We think about the “good old days” when things were simpler, people had more mature mindsets and men and women both exemplified class and chivalry when it came to dating.
We use the term “old-fashioned” to describe people who employ seemingly traditional ideals of morality when it comes to dating, like treat a date with respect and act as though no one else matters. Alternatively, the “hook-up culture” apparently serves to destroy all of the beauty and reverence that traditional ways of dating established so long ago.
We forget, however, that while many things in society change, humans have remained to be more or less the same since the beginning of our existence, when it comes to primal biological instinct.
I recently had a discussion with an 85-year-old woman and her stories were nothing short of mind-blowing. I would characterize her perspectives as traditional and typical of her conservative, elderly demographic.
While I was discussing my trials and tribulations in the dating game, she interrupted me to say something remarkable. She noticed that younger people are now interested in exclusively dating one person, as opposed to dating multiple people at one time. She said that “in her time,” women and men would simultaneously date multiple until eventually settling down.
She then told me a story about how during World War II, when the amount of guys in the area were limited, she and her friends would go up to local Army offices to meet men. She said many of the men would date local girls, knowing full and well that they wouldn’t be stationed there for long and would often have girlfriends back home who were waiting for them.
I began to see similarities between yesteryear’s dating landscape and today’s hook-up culture.
In a world where information and data are so easily and efficiently attained, one may conclude that hooking up and temporary affection are on the rise.
But, as an epidemiologist, I believe we must contemplate whether or not this is just the result of being able to know so much about people without actually knowing them, via social media and technological advancement.
This is similar to how when we think a disease is on the rise, we start screening for it more aggressively and learn how to diagnose and treat it more efficiently. Improved systems mean speedier processes.
We’re simply dating quicker to weed out bad matches. It’s too hard to believe that the mechanics of human courtship are much different than they have been throughout time.
There has never been a clear distinction between dating generations or evidence that one era is superior to another. I’m the kind of guy who enjoys giving courtesies, like opening doors and paying for dinner.
I’m also willing to cut off a relationship immediately if I realize it’s not for me. This is no different than how things transpired in our grandparents’ generation.
Perhaps the only difference now is how open and comfortable we have become with expressing our feelings and how transparent we are about dating mechanics.
We cut out some of the sugarcoating, but that’s probably for the best. Today, people are less willing to compromise their happiness and will move on if the alternative is being miserable.
None of this is a bad thing. Explore multiple people (in a responsible, respectful way) if you want. There’s nothing wrong with figuring out what you like, as long as you’re honest and forthright. These same things happened in the “good old days”; we simply didn’t discuss them.
Overall, I think we give the past too much credit and the present not enough credit. Monogamy and temporary affection exist today just like they did in the past.
Ultimately, our experiences in dating are and will remain the same as they have always been during modern and “old-fashioned” times. We’ve just given them new labels.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It