This past Friday, the New York Times all but declared that dating is dead (though they hedged with a question mark: “The End of Courtship?”). You’re probably familiar with the territory of this well-worn trend story: We’re now living in a “hookup culture” where women are lucky if suitors grace them with a booty call text message before 10 p.m., much less show up with flowers, much less pick them up, much less ask them on a proper date at all.
Dates may have suffered a beating, but it’s crucial that we save them from further harm. (And let’s be clear: a “date” can be anything from a seven course dinner at a five-star restaurant to a free museum tour; it doesn’t have to be lavish in order to count.) But dating is absolutely necessary; its importance cannot be overstated. Here’s why dates are so critical to the beginning (and duration, but that’s a separate story) of a relationship:
Sexual chemistry – do you have it? A date isn’t the only way to tell, but it’s the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way. Five minutes in a coffee shop can cancel out two months of IM-ing about the shared interests on your profile.
Who is this person? Can she keep eye contact in a one-on-one situation? Is he able to keep a conversation going past “Hey, how are you?” Is she surgically connected to her phone? Dates let you find out, and find out fast.
Dates create a clear and unambiguous context. Having a defined setting where you both get to look hot, flirt, and do something fun together is the tried-and-true best way to launch a relationship.
Dates provide a necessary barrier to entry. If he can’t even commit to meeting you for a specific period of time in a specific place, it’s pretty likely he won’t be up for committing to anything serious.
Dating is a little uncomfortable (at first, anyway) for a reason. It extracts you from your comfort zone and puts you in a new situation with a new person. From there, you two have the opportunity to build something new together. Or not. But at least the opportunity exists.
Going on dates = the perfect chance to practice (and flub) all the social skills you’ve been working on since high school. Now’s the time to exorcise that fear of making a terrible joke, or accidentally snorting in public.
Even bad dates are the perfect opportunities to learn something new (see above).They also make good stories – far better than, “Yeah I hung out with this guy last night and he made mac ‘n cheese…”
Dates force the money issue in early. Whether you have dinner, take a walk in a public park, or hear a band, the chances are high a monetary transaction will arise at some point. You’ll get to feel each other out, and learn plenty about this person in the process. Does she reach for her wallet? Did he even bring his? Does she tip? Well? Does he pay for everything, then act resentful? Plenty of intangibles that will tell you volumes.
By definition, dating involves doing something. Which is truckloads more fun and rewarding than waiting around for a text message that may or may not indicate an interest in eventually doing something.
A great date feels like an accomplishment, a true moment of triumph. Say that about a great “hang-out” (whatever that is).
Next: Millennial Women, Rejoice: It’s Our Hookup Culture, Too.