People who had boyfriends in high school are fascinating to me in the same way that people who can play sports are. I know that there are those who have had this experience or can do this task, but I’m not one of them. In high school I had tons of guy friends and crushes and little flings, but I never had a real, official boyfriend. Instead, we group dated. All the time.
On Fridays you could find my group of friends and me driving the waitress absolutely bananas at our local Pizzeria Uno as we asked her to split the bill 15 ways.
On Saturdays we’d be taking over the movie theater fighting over whether we were seeing School of Rock or the newest James Bond movie. Then we were jockeying for position in the row, with each girl friend fighting to make sure she got next to the particular guy friend who gelled his hair just right and smelled like Abercrombie Fierce. There were crushes happening in the group (and some drama as a result), but very few official couples formed.
In total, I went on one solid date during my four-year high school career. It was a coffee date to Panera. It lasted a half hour.
None of my friends were going on formal dates either. This group dating thing seemed par for the course.
In college and in the years immediately following college though, people did begin dating. A lot. Coffee dates. Drinks. Movie dates. Dinner dates. It was all happening. We were both coupling up and casually dating. My friends and I swapped war stories with both delight and horror.
But recently, it’s like the tide has turned again. Every weekend when we’re out with our group of friends, someone has a Tinder guy or a Hinge guy or an OkCupid guy coming to meet us with his friends in tow. We all sit around a table and make semi-awkward conversation until we have a few drinks in us and then it’s like we’re old pals who went to camp together. But the “couple” doesn’t really get that one-on-one interaction you need and enjoy during a first date. It’s better than exchanging text messages until the end of time, but it’s not really dating in the purest sense of the word.
It’s fun to rekindle that vibe we had splitting that amazing, warm, deep dish cookie dessert at Uno’s with a bunch of guys and girls hanging out together, don’t get me wrong. But I also think it’s doing dating and romance a disservice. How can you figure out if you actually like someone if they’re spending half the time joking with their friend or your friend? How can you ask the questions you want and need to ask if your attention is split between your “date” and your friends?
I get it. Dating this way is WAY more comfortable than showing up to a restaurant to meet someone you may or may not know in real life. That sucks. What if you don’t connect? How do you exit gracefully? It’s way easier to let your friends be the buffer. But, despite all its awkwardness and stress, real, old-fashioned dating is important if you actually think you might be interested in the person. Deal with the sweating and small talk and know that there are so many other singles going through it with you at various bars and restaurants and breweries all around the world.
On the other hand, if you’re like “Eh, whatever, they’re just someone to have fun with” then it’s cool. Have them bring their squad and you bring your squad and split a bunch of appetizers, but this time you can spend more than just the $20 your mom gave you for the night and it’ll be awesome. Enjoy it.