It is understandable that proclaiming the death of dating, as I did in last week's post "Why Everything You Believe About Dating Is Wrong," might incite confusion, frustration and even anger in those of us who are still looking for love. Didn't our ancestors spend millennia perfecting the art of courtship and seduction? How can our generation just come along and decide that we'd rather shoot out a "where u at?" text message than discuss our hopes and dreams over an expensive bottle of wine at a white table-clothed restaurant? By agreeing to accept romantic ambiguity, aren't we women just settling for an endless series of meaningless booty calls, unnecessary miscommunications and failed maybe-almost-relationships?
The short answer: no! The death of dating is a good thing. We should be celebrating.
Are we still confused? Sure. But are we in the process of figuring this out? Hell yes.
The Millennial reinvention of romance.
At this very moment, the fall of traditional dating - and the rise of gray area friendships, Facebook flirtations and equality-based workplace trysts - seems to have left a structural void in our love lives. What to do? Who to trust? How to interpret and analyze? When to open up? Where to throw away your old copy of The Rules?
Here's the beautiful thing. Our Millennial generation has never had trouble making up our own rules and systems as we go along. We feel the pressure to take that steady job at the tech company - but then we create our own start-up instead. We're willing to work 24/7 and pay our dues - but as soon as we come up with our own grand idea, we take a risk and explore it. We're not afraid to push professional boundaries, so why should we be afraid to innovate romantically as well?
Surprise! We're not. Even as we sit around, waiting for that guy to get a clue and ask us out, we've been forging ahead on instinct and creating our own romantic system. We've been exploring who we are, what we want and which type of guy we want to end up with. All while engaging romantically with the world and the guys around us - albeit, in a not-so-traditional sense.
So what is this new order? Simple: as a modern woman, you have been cultivating a gaggle of guys in your life. And the gaggle has replaced dating.
Right, but...WTF is the gaggle?!
A gaggle is the select group of guys in your life who compel you to put in that little bit of extra effort because they are, or potentially could be, romantic prospects.
Any moment of extra thought counts. Do you re-read the text that you're sending him? Then he's in your gaggle. Do you consider wearing heels instead of flats when you see his name on the Evite list? He's in your gaggle. Is there something that's just not 110% platonic about your relationship? He's in your gaggle.
As you take a mental gaggle inventory, don't solely think about guys who you might be dating or hooking up with. Think about any and all the guys who are in your life. There might be a guy or two with whom you are explicitly romantically involved - you should certainly include them. But also think about the guys who supposedly fall into other categories: friends, co-workers, acquaintances, exes, teammates, bandmates, classmates, the bartender at your favorite bar, your active Twitter followers...any guys who play some role, however small, in your life.
Note - having a gaggle is not about treating guys like disposable playthings or dating a bunch of them at once. We're not dating anyone, that's the whole point! Cultivating your gaggle is simply about engaging with a variety of guys who are already sitting under your nose, investing in them on different levels and communicating with them in-person and via all the modes that are available to us (phone, text, email, AIM, Gchat, Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger, Skype, MySpace, Twitter, snail mail...and face-to-face interactions, when there's time for that!).
The gaggle helps you find love and learn about yourself.
The gaggle is a way for you to learn more about yourself. You are at the center of your gaggle. So rather than thinking about how many guys there are in the world who just aren't that into you (and feeling judged and hurt in the process), you can now commit to living your awesome life while recognizing that, yes, there are actually men in it!
What's more, the gaggle forces you to stay open-minded about guys and helps you pinpoint the one who might ultimately be right for you, even if you haven't met him yet. You never know when a moment of romantic chemistry might hit - maybe you share a new experience, maybe you learn something new about each other - but when it does, the gaggle empowers you to explore that spark. And who knows where that will lead.
The key is to stop worrying about dating and start thinking about how to cultivate fulfilling relationships with the guys in your life. What does each guy offer? Which interactions feel most comfortable to you? When have you surprised yourself by being drawn to someone who you might not have expected?
Who is in your gaggle?
Here's a list of the guys who may currently be in your gaggle:
*The Ex-Boyfriend Who's Still Around
*The Ego Booster
*The Boyfriend Prospect
*The Hot Sex Prospect
*The Prospect You're Not Sure Is A Prospect
*The Career Booster
*The Super Horny Guy Who Happens To Be Around A Lot
*The Unavailable Guy
*The Guy Who Just Blew You Off
What do you think? Do you know any of these guys? Stay tuned next week (or go here) to learn more about each of them and figure out which ones are in your gaggle!
For more information and insight on your gaggle - and the post-dating world at large! - check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.
Follow Jessica Massa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jessmassa