What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing on a Website Like This?

Column Teaser
Photo provided by Amanda Tonoli/ The Jambar.

Life is a funny thing isn’t it? From birth to the grave, everyone is yammering about what a miracle life is and how it is all beautiful and elegant. Meanwhile, here I am, blithering through this miraculous gift and trying my best not to literally light myself on fire on a day-to-day basis.

Joking that I suck at life is the most embarrassingly truthful thing I have ever admitted. Recently, I dropped my cellphone in the trashcan, tried fixing it with a bowl of rice and managed to push rice into my phone through the charger port. If that’s not bad luck I’m not sure what is.

In the same day, I came home — nearly $200 later — and walked into the open microwave door, splitting open my forehead. I promptly gave up on life that day and went to bed, forfeiting anything else I had set out to do. So there it is. I will repeat myself once more: I am absolutely atrocious at this whole living thing.

Of course, life is a fairly large category to be terrible at. Really I suck at several facets of life that amalgamates into the perfect storm of sucking. For example, I am, without a doubt, completely oblivious to the nuances of dating or, really, anything at all concerning dating. Dating is a mystery to me, and what I thought to be true has turned out to be cataclysmically incorrect. It has become plain to me, probably long after everyone else found out, that I have no idea what I am doing with dating.

So the standing questions are, what exactly does it entail? Am I as lost as I think I am? And am I the only one that sucks this much at something that humans have probably been doing before they figured out agriculture?

Maybe it is a matter of evolution. Love, dating and relationships have evolved over time, and perhaps some of us just survived the strong hand of evolution and are now flopping around in the dating pool until we just ram into a fellow fish that will put up with our nonsense.

In “American Dating Culture,” on eHow.com, Amanda Stovall describes the progression of dating through the last couple hundred years and how it has changed.

“American dating culture has a long, storied history that is closely related to the history of marriage in America,” Stovall said. “In the 1700s, a couple’s union was still staunchly guarded by parents … in the 1800s, young men and women began to have more autonomy in their choices for a mate.”

This autonomy came in the form of marrying for love, the gushing kind they read about in “Romeo and Juliet,” rather than stability and trading of livestock.

Cliché as it may be, that transformation was one of the most romantic that American dating culture has ever experienced. Who wouldn’t want to be with someone they actually, dare I say, love?

Stovall moves forward in her progression of dating through the times, bringing it to the era of courtship in the 1920s.

“Exclusive couples often shared letter jackets and rings with the expectation that the relationship would lead to marriage,” Stovall said. “As couples began to date younger, starting in junior high and high school, the age of marriage dropped to the late teens and early twenties, with many couples marrying before a husband, or a husband and wife, began university studies.”

Couples began marrying younger after WWII, Stovall continued, but in the 60s feminism slowed all of that down. Females began to feel stronger, became more educated and less pathetic for not marrying right away — perhaps even more respectable for waiting longer.

Times have changed even more with the onset of Internet dating.

“The digital age of dating has ushered in dating websites, matchmaking tools and personality assessments to help couples find each other in an era that often lends itself to feelings of disconnect and isolation,” Stovall said. “While many people, especially women, will act ashamed of having met a date on the Internet through an online dating service, the rapid growth of dating websites demonstrates that they are in high demand, whether or not people are willing to talk about it in public.”

The problem with the dawning of this infamous “digital age” is that despite quick responses and the depletion of gender roles — the Internet has opened up the pathway for women to be just as forthcoming as males — we are still so slow to get involved with one another. Why?

Distraction. Joe Kraus said he is convinced distraction is destroying the once sacred friendships and relationships alike in “We’re creating a culture of distraction,” published in May 2012.

“I want to ask people a simple question: are you happy with your relationship with your phone?” Kraus said. “Do you think it’s a healthy one? I don’t think I have a healthy relationship with mine. I feel a constant need to pull it out – to check email, to text, to see if there is something interesting happening RIGHT NOW. It’s constantly pulling on my attention.”

How relatable is this? How often does anyone actually set their phone down for an entire day? How much are we actually missing? How many times do you have to ask someone to repeat what he or she said because you were staring at your cellphone screen?

Kraus discusses the age of the Internet changing to a more mobile form — a more readily accessible form — increasing the amount of times we can, and do, check our messages, emails or social networks. We are training ourselves to have short attention spans, so how can we possibly focus on one thing, or person for that matter, for an extended period of time?

Beyond this lack of focus, if people cannot look at their phones, they become anxious — I know I do. If my phone dies and I left my charger at home, I have to go home and get it. I simply cannot go without, right? How did I even survive before?

The anxiety with the Internet age is overwhelming, and the focus of something as delicate as a relationship, or potential relationship, added into the mix of distraction as well is a recipe for disaster. My advice? Take a technology break and reevaluate your priorities.

Regardless of being slowed down by the anxiety-inducing and distracting age of the Internet, there are still reasons why dating is worth it.

On a personal level, Rachel Emerson, a third-year student at Youngstown State University, has been in a long-term — four-year — relationship. Emerson said we have evolved the entire idea of dating into the deep connection that marriages used to seek, by bringing that into the dating scene.

“I think we date because we want to feel important, needed and special, uniquely to one

person on earth, whomever we choose to date,” Emerson said. “I think we date because we are lonely. I think we date because we like the idea of commitment. We commit to a lot of things in life — religion, our parents, our jobs, our hobbies, etc.”

Emerson also said she thinks we date because we want to share our life struggles with another person that we want to fully understand us, in the close way that people in relationships do — both mentally and physically. Another aspect she mentions is that of possession — of being one another’s.

“We date because of all of those things,” Emerson said. “If the person we date satisfies all those reasons we are dating them … we marry them. If they don’t, we continue the search.”

So what does this mean?

If you are still stuck in the era that boys court girls, get over it. Gender roles are less prominent; feminism dealt a significant blow to those a while ago. Walk over those disintegrated lines and ask someone out. Be courageous.

Put the phone down. How important is your message-less phone anyway? How much time do you waste aimlessly scrolling through Facebook anyway?

And finally, don’t forget that even though communication has changed and so have the traditions and customs of dating, we still date for a common purpose — to find the one person we simply can’t live without; the one that you share your whole self with; the one that understands you on a deeper level than you ever thought imaginable. It’s definitely not the one your parents promised to you when you were sixteen in exchange for a cow.

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