More on Dating

The topic of dating receives a lot of attention. People write books on how to do it. Websites design algorithms for it. Billions of dollars a year (in the form of rose petals and dinner bills) are spent in pursuit of it. All of this is misguided. All of this builds on the idea that dating and flirting and romance are somehow different from our regular everyday interactions, that we can somehow learn to date without learning to interact.

Ren and I have written a bit about flirting and dating, but we’ve spent most of our time reflecting broadly on personal growth and on basic social skills (conversation, honesty, decision making). There is a reason for this. Dating and socializing are the same thing.

For starters, the skill sets are the same. It is difficult to imagine someone who is a chirpy date but a lethargic conversationalist, or a bold flirt but a timid roommate, or a lively stranger but a monotonous friend (admittedly, it is possible to be simultaneously cute and dull).

Romance is just a heightened awareness of the minutia of everyday interaction. It is what happens when you are hanging out with your lab partner and you realize that he is kind of handsome. It is when you strike up a conversation with the girl on the subway because she is holding a math book, or when a stranger compliments your eyes and you write your number on her hand.

Such opportunities abound, and one need only have the right mindset. Unfortunately, the eHarmony mindset is wrong. Romance shouldn’t be something you do when you have free time to log into your account. Romance is not an alternative to socializing, rather, it is augmented socializing. As technology improves, we will see social networking eclipse online dating as a means for finding romance. This will happen because, by definition, social networking gets at the core of the issue: instead of addressing our romantic concerns, it enhances our social lives. When I walk into the coffee shop of the future, my contact lenses will show me people’s names and will point out mutual friends and common interests. And I will be more likely to start a conversation with the girl by the counter who is good friends with my college roommate or the guy at the table who grew up in my home town and who shares my research interests. Technology will erode the barriers between us and the opportunities surrounding us.

But while we’re waiting for the future, we need to equip ourselves to handle the present. If you want to be better with women, get better with men. Figuring out dating while ignoring basic social skills is like trying to find a cure for cancer without using biology. Don’t worry about learning pick up lines until after you’ve learned how to sustain a conversation. This way, when the inviting girl on the lawn chair makes a provocative comment about your lunchbox as you walk by, you’ll know how to respond. This isn’t date night where you get time to arrange your hair and rehearse your lines. This is one hundred percent in the moment, and it will be natural, because you’ll be doing what you always do, all the time, every day.