Dating Dissected

By Susan Deitz

March 8, 2012 6 min read

DEAR SUSAN: There isn't some magical new word for dating and not having sex that's different when you "cross the line" and then have sex with the person you are dating. That's just trying to invent categories that aren't there. Having sex with someone on the third date, for example, doesn't suddenly mean you are engaged or married or anything other than "dating." And it doesn't make you loose or immoral or mean in any way that you devalue sex. — From the "Single File" blog

FROM ANOTHER BLOGGER ON THE SAME ISSUE: Dating always includes the possibility of sex in the future, which is the important point. If there isn't sexual interest or the possibility of it, it's not dating; it's friends hanging out. Dating is the way we get to know people better, to see whether they might be "the one." Though it's not about sex exclusively, it must include sex at some point to be realistic. (It's not about swinging, either; that's irrelevant.) I'm not suggesting that dating equals sex on every date, nor am I saying that something is wrong if you don't have sex on the first date. But if you've been dating someone for many months and sex hasn't happened — and isn't even close to happening — and hasn't even been discussed, it's pretty clear you're in the "friend" zone. — From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGERS: The whole issue of "dating" may be from a bygone era. Young 'uns seem to hang out in clusters, thereby diluting the intensity of that old black magic for any one member of the group. They have invented their own style of courtship, building on friendship, and I, for one, am hooked. Why wait for a messy divorce or years of social pains to realize you should have married a good friend?

The closest thing to the group socializing of the very young is joining an interest group. It seems to me that being part of a group formed around an interest is a very good approach to a full, interesting life and meaningful companionship. These groups encourage dating without dating, if you get my drift. And their biggest plus — a humungous one — is the ease of conversation and the lack of opening lines; all that phony stuff has no place where interests are shared. No, this is a meeting place where everyone is drawn by the same thing. It follows logically, then, that the talk is good, smiles come naturally and, in general, everyone feels at home and free to be authentic. (Another plus is that shared tastes and values usually go with the shared interest.) They are the older generation's answer to cluster socializing, and I herewith propose a trial run in your life. The point may be that when it comes to all things sexual — and not — being in sync with your own generation feels the most comfortable in the long run.

The proof may well be the dating website, aimed at the over-50 generation. To each his own, agreed? I still remember the letters from unmarried women (and men!) agonizing over sexual advances in the early days of a relationship — and how to handle them, what to say, what to do. It was in response to those readers that I created the Sexual Bill of Rights, clarifying issues and making sense of freedoms that did more to confuse than liberate. For yours, written on parchment and suitable for framing, send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope. There is no charge.

From where I sit, sex without mutual caring — on the third or 30th date — reduces what could be spiritual communion to rutting. Strong words, but on this issue, they come pouring out onto the paper.

DEAR SUSAN: I saved a prior "Single File" column in which you stated, in relation to dating services, that "paying for a social life is an affront to human dignity — a crime that should merit punishment: something on the order of, say, being pushed into first dates with complete strangers. ... Dating services are unnatural, forced, contrived and usually unsuccessful." In a recent letter I sent to you about Internet dating, I lamented that it is basically catalog shopping. Yet you referred to a New York Times article extolling the virtues of online dating, which has expanded beyond the young. To me, Internet dating is on par with fee-based dating services, i.e., an affront to human dignity. Has your opinion changed? — From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: A loud and resounding YES. Dating websites seem to be a different phenomenon, aimed at satisfying the same yearning — loneliness — as dating services but on a totally different plane. First of all, there is more room for communication prior to the phone conversation that should follow the online beginning and, later on, the face-to-face meeting. The longer introduction is good for safety reasons and appeals to the less impulsive single. The user can surf before committing to the service, a very good thing. Online meeting seems to have outdone dating services, a good thing because of the promises made and money collected for failed service. Of course, this online world has its own pitfalls: married men surfing and lying, jokers with nothing else to do, who make surfing a nightly event to see what's available in the way of female need. But there are the truly lonely, and this new way of connecting can ease their needs — for a while. Loneliness may just be part of the human condition, to be recognized and understood and perhaps — just perhaps — met head-on. We all need to find our own way of handling existential aloneness. Once it is faced rather than run from, being with yourself and being comfortable alone can be the turning point of your life, making you more at ease in society in general. Any takers?

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