Wait three days after your initial interaction to contact them. Don't talk about sex, politics, religion, or former partners/lovers/flings on the first date. You can take it to the bedroom once you've been on at least three official dates. Ask questions. Listen, then talk. Dutch Treat is not acceptable on the first date.
No. No, no, no. Excuse my French, but fuck these rules. These rules no longer exist. They're outdated and most of them are pretty misogynistic.
The rules of dating have changed. Thanks to social media and a whole horde of dating websites and apps, the number of available partners we have at our fingertips has exploded. The "One" is now "One of the Ones," because, frankly, it's statistically impossible for just one person to be the only person you could happily spend the rest of your life with. And OkCupid knows that. Match.com knows that. Plenty of Fish knows that. We are bombarded with texts, selfies, emojis, and more every single damn day to the point where we no longer fall in love while holding hands during a walk through the countryside under starlit skies or in the flash of city lights, but instead in the warm red glow of Tinder or at our computer screens at 3 a.m. We search for something that can't actually be found.
The modern rules of dating are not real. There are no rules. It's like Whose Line is it Anyway?: Everything is made up and the points don't matter.
We don't commit because we refuse to settle and we are unsatisfied because nobody fits the image we have in our mind of what our perfect partner is supposed to look like. We see a freckle or they're an inch too short and it becomes the only thing about them. We talk to our friends about "Raver Ryan" and "Awkward Amy" and "Stoner Seth" as if they are their epithets. People are adjectives to us. We swipe, swipe, swipe, like, like, like, favorite, favorite, favorite, and retweet, retweet, retweet and our fragile narcissistic egos love the attention. Bars, restaurants, and lounges no longer need mood lighting because they are lit up by people staring into their cell phones trying to find the next date because dating is no longer something fun, romantic, sexy, and irreverent; it's missed connections, mixed signals, broken hearts and broken plans, and a full blown addiction for some people.
If we do commit, we know that our buffet tray of options is still there, still just one simple swipe to the right away. So why would there still be any rules? We're attached to technology. It's our crutch, our simultaneous saving grace and destructive downfall, our Kryptonite. Shouldn't that mean texts or phone calls shouldn't go purposefully ignored as a way to seem "cool" or "aloof" or "above it all" to our potential partners? No, instead we are so numb to emotions and sentimentality that we still sit around an "appropriate amount of time" before responding so they will "miss" us and "want" us more. We want to be missed and we want to be wanted, but we don't want to miss someone and we don't want to want someone because then we will feel exposed and raw and real. And who needs realness when you have a social media presence and dating profiles to keep up? We measure ourselves in likes and favorites. Our lives are documented in filtered Instagram photos of food, drinks, people, and places. We don't see what's behind all that. The pain and torment is hidden below the surface, tucked away from the world so that we can appear constantly blissful and fabulous.
Asking questions over a warm cup of coffee or a stiff cocktail is no longer necessary to us; we can easily go home, check their Facebook and find out everything we need to know about them. One of the questions OkCupid asks its users is whether you would ever Google someone before a first date. To me, this not only seems invasive and creepy, but it takes away all the fun of getting to know someone in person. It takes away the joy in someone's eyes when they talk about their passion for road trips, or the nostalgic smile they get when they remember the treehouse that they played in as a kid, or the sullen mourning over a lost friend or relative. Do we care, though? Not really. We only care about the trivial things -- whether they like the same movies as us or if we enjoy the same restaurants. We're obsessed with how hot other people think we are or perceive us to be, which is a pretty damn good explanation for Tinder's popularity. Morals and values and ethical standards are second fiddle to somebody's worship for us.
Maybe we'll eventually realize how love, romance, and intimacy are evolving into something almost unrecognizable to older generations because of our behavior and our relationship to technology. When is the last time you actually went to up to your dates door to announce your arrival rather than send a text saying "Here," to them? When is the last time you didn't look at your phone once during a date? When is the last time you held sustained eye contact during dinner without flinching and didn't try to appear indifferent and cold? What happened to manners, politeness, and kindness for the sake of themselves? What happened to telling stupid and potentially embarrassing jokes and stories? What happened to sappiness?
Coolness happened. Oversharing happened. Choice happened. We happened. And now what? Where do we go from here?
I'm no expert on relationships or love, having only ever had one partner in my life so far, but I do know that love, relationships, courtship, and dating should not be about mind games or jealousy. Love shouldn't be painful or scary or elliptical and obtrusive. Love shouldn't be determined by an algorithm based on inane questions about whether you like grilled cheese or not. Love shouldn't be forced and limited to 140 characters. Love should be kind, gentle, compassionate, and freeing. Love should be exciting and invigorating. Most importantly, love should be a celebration of two (or more, if that's what you choose) people's lives intertwining into something inexplicably magical and almost unexplainable.
Ignore the rules. They don't matter. What matters is you. You matter. Create the kind of dating world you want. Nobody deserves to be a pawn in somebody else's twisted game of Chess. Everybody deserves to be with someone who will melt when they see you and get butterflies when they think of you.