Casual Dating Has Officially Died, I Think. RIP.

I’ve complained before, both on this blog and to anyone who will listen to me in person, about how no one dates anymore. “Dates” are meeting up after you’ve both been out doing other things or getting coffee or getting drinks in a very last-minute way. Formal, pre-planned dinner dates seem to have been a thing only our parents did. As we get more casual with our communication (hey, texting), we seem to be more casual with our “courting” too. I hate that word, but it’s necessary here.

So if we’re in a new, casual era of dating, what is the etiquette that comes along with it? What is the proper protocol? I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone else does either. The one aspect in particular that confuses me is the notion of casually dating multiple people at once. Is this still an acceptable thing in this day and age? Because it kind of feels like a dirty little secret, yet I know we’re all doing it.

When I hop on OKCupid and see someone I’m “talking to” (a phrase we all love) with a green dot next to his name indicating that he’s online, I quickly hit “x” because I’m afraid that he’ll see me browsing the site. Why? He’s online too. We’re not exclusive. Neither person should feel guilty. Yet there seems to be this notion that the person you’re talking to shouldn’t know that you’re seeing other people…even though you met on a dating site, or even though you’re both single so it’s kind of implied that dating is something you’re doing.

Before, I wrote that dating should be like Fight Club, and to some extent I still agree with that. I don’t want to hear the gory details of a date you were on last night. But I also don’t think that we should pretend that since we’ve been on two dates it’s now frowned upon to keep going out with other people. It’s not. It’s totally normal. Unless you have a conversation where you explicitly state that you’re exclusive, you’re not. Single until proven taken.

And yet it doesn’t feel this way. I present to you Exhibit A: I was on a date with a fellow we shall call Rusty, because I like the show True Detective. We had been out three or four times. As we walked back from a bar (of course) one night, he asked if he could hold my hand. I almost jumped out of my skin. You would have thought he asked if he could move in with me. Hold my HAND? I barely knew him! But more importantly, what if someone else I was dating saw us!?

In reality, a.) it was pitch black b.) hand holding is a minor demonstration of commitment and c.) WHO CARES?

And yet, I did care. Because I felt like I should care, mostly about running into someone else I had been talking to. Rusty couldn’t find out about these people, even though I knew for a fact he was talking to others too because he would often feel the urge to tell me about it.

I now present to you Exhibit B: I had been talking to Wilbur (Charlotte’s Web whattup) for a few weeks, but it was super casual. I happened to run into him at a bar (duh) when I was with my friends and he was with someone of the female persuasion. You would have thought I had caught him smuggling priceless artwork from the Met. He swore up and down it wasn’t a date later on via text, and was visibly uncomfortable when he spotted me. Me? I was mostly upset that he hadn’t returned texts I had sent a few days ago, and hadn’t initiated contact in a while. I had zero problem with the fact that he was on a date (or not), I was just miffed that he had been neglecting his connection with me with no explanation about what was up. And yet, had roles been reversed, I probably would have been nervous sweating too. For no real reason!

Again, what is acceptable? No one knows. To Wilbur, being out with another girl was scandal. To me it was mildly to moderately awkward and amusing, but I would have had no problem if things had been normal between us, or if he had let me know he wasn’t interested anymore.

 So I ask you this: what is 21st century dating etiquette when it comes to seeing multiple people at once? Is it totally okay or is it kind of sleazy? Do you have to make it clear that you’re seeing more than one person or is it implied? Help a sister out here. 

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  1. Did you want to hold Rusty’s hand? If you were really that into him, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, right? For instance, if you were with the guy you really wanted to be with – let’s call him Luke because I like Star Wars – then it wouldn’t have mattered if you happened to run into Rusty when you and Luke were holding hands. Right?

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