PARIS — This is not news, but dating today is a completely different animal than it was even five years ago, as new apps keep arriving to create "matches" between people online who may have never come face-to-face otherwise. Personally, online or off, the whole "dating" thing has never really been my strong suit — I was consistently told in high school that "I would do better in college where people were more mature." But alas, here I am, heading into my senior year at Boston University, the same age my parents were when they first got together, and I have never been on a proper date. But I'm not alone.
After learning that many of her seniors were about to graduate without ever having been on a date, Boston College Philosophy Professor Kerry Cronin created an assignment that rewards her students for going out on traditional dates. Lisa Bonos of The Washington Post reports on Cronin, known on campus as the "dating professor," because she used to make the date a mandatory course requirement (she now gives extra credit for it). Students are encouraged to pursue a date set up under very specific parameters: They had to ask someone out in person, not over text (Cronin refers to texting as "the devil") and the person has to know it's a date. They have to stick a budget of $10 (the asker has to pay) and a time limit of 90 minutes. And they have to be sober.
The rules are meant to help the conversation bypass normal party chatter, as one of her former students, Erika Peña said: "It leapfrogged us into having an actual conversation that didn't revolve around a Jägerbomb."
Cronin says that a traditional date has become "a weirdly countercultural thing to do," while dates set up through the dating apps like Tinder or Bumble where immediacy and availability dominate over deeper connections.
Some are asking where we might find romance these days.
Sticking in the city known for both its universities and its many bars and pubs, Dugan Arnett writes in the Boston Globe that spotting these "manufactured" dates has become something of a pastime for Boston bartenders.
"The guys working behind the bar had just spotted yet another one: The young couple at the bar's edge were showing all the requisite signs. They'd arrived separately. They'd spent a long stretch wordlessly scanning the menu. And at the moment, they were nervously working their way through a first drink, struggling mightily to keep the conversation afloat."
Not only can bartenders identify these dating app dates, which Arnett describes as "essentially blind," but they are now so accustomed to them that they can differentiate which app was used to set up the date. "Tinder is notoriously the hook-up app, so you notice it's two people getting loose and really touchy-feely," bartender Greg Coote says. "Bumble is more like the interview process. It's like they're going through all these formalities."
The art of dating — Photo: Tinder via Instagram
With the digital revolution's warping of the sexual revolution, some are asking where we might find romance these days. Over here in Europe, where I'm in a studying abroad, a colleague spotted an interesting article in German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung about internationally known bondage artist, Matthias Grimme, who is in long-term relationships with two women, Andrea Grimme, his wife of 27 years and his bondage partner of 17 years, Nicole, who goes by the name "Ropecat." The, er, bond with Nicole, he says is "a very special form of tenderness."
Grimme, from the northern German city of Hamburg, defended his relationships in light of the #MeToo movement, and declared: "Sadomasochists are the last romantics." That's, well, interesting. Here in Paris, where the old brand of romance is still very much in the air, the dating world is nevertheless just as complicated (and virtual) as back in Boston.
Whether or not "romantic" bondage or dates for academic credit is your thing, dating and mating will no doubt continue to evolve. "Not everybody is called to romantic relationship, not everyone is called to marriage," Professor Cronin says. "But everybody's called to relationships — that's what it means to be human."
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