The great american dating experiment
Our phones and texts and apps might just be bringing us full circle, back to an old-fashioned version of courting that is closer to what my own parents experienced than you might guess.
But that doesn’t mean that men end up standing alone in the corner of the online bar. Take Derek, a regular user of Ok Cupid who lives in New York City. I asked my dad about this experience, and here’s how he described it: he told his parents he was ready to get married, so his family arranged meetings with three neighboring families. That’s how my dad decided on the person with whom he was going to spend the rest of his life. I am perpetually indecisive about even the most mundane things, and I couldn’t imagine navigating such a huge life decision so quickly. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages.Throw in the fact that people now get married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined, and you have a recipe for romance gone haywire.In the course of our research, I also discovered something surprising: the winding road from the classified section of yore to Tinder has taken an unexpected turn.What I’m about to say is going to sound very mean, but Derek is a pretty boring guy.
Medium height, thinning brown hair, nicely dressed and personable, but not immediately magnetic or charming.
The first girl, he said, was “a little too tall,” and the second girl was “a little too short.” Then he met my mom. Let’s look at how I do things, maybe with a slightly less important decision, like the time I had to pick where to eat dinner in Seattle when I was on tour last year.
He quickly deduced that she was the appropriate height (finally! First I texted four friends who travel and eat out a lot and whose judgment I trust. Finally I made my selection: Il Corvo, an Italian place that sounded amazing. (It only served lunch.) At that point I had run out of time because I had a show to do, so I ended up making a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich on the bus.
But dealing with this new digital romantic world can be a lot of work.
Answering messages, filtering profiles—it’s not always fun.
I learned of the phenomenon of “good enough” marriage, a term social anthropologists use to describe marriages that were less about finding the perfect match than a suitable candidate whom the family approved of for the couple to embark on adulthood And along with the sociologist Eric Klinenberg, co-author of my new book, I conducted focus groups with hundreds of people across the country and around the world, grilling participants on the most intimate details of how they look for love and why they’ve had trouble finding it.