The End of Courtship, the Rise of Friendship

What does the ideal date look like? According to this New York Times article, it begins with a phone call from a stranger (initiated by the guy). A time is agreed upon (ideally a week or two in advance). The man shows up with roses, and he treats the woman to polite conversation at an expensive French bistro followed by dessert and a movie.

The article equates romance with financial expenditure. It views informality as a sign of indifference. It plays up the importance of gender roles and tradition. If that is courtship, then good riddance.

I suggest that we fill the void, not with the author’s much-maligned hookup culture, but with meaningful friendships. Viewed through the lens of meeting new people and establishing new relationships, a tardy “want to meet up for a drink or whatever” in the early hours of Friday morning, doesn’t seem so incriminating. A “hey, come join me and my bros at the froyo social.” doesn’t seem so dismissive. Spending time with someone in a casual setting (hiking, drinking, volunteering), allows you to learn about their values and how they allocate their time. Meeting their friends allows you to learn about the company they keep, which is one of the best predictors of their own personalities. Read the rest of this entry »


Just Friends

A friend of mine, newly in a relationship, posed this question: how do you maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex when you’ve left the realm of singledom?

A lot of times, the short answer I hear is, “You can’t.” Romantic relationships are tough enough as it is; there’s no shortage of potential stumbling blocks even before you add in the cute gym partner. Toning down the friendships that your significant other might see as a threat seems only considerate.

But I disagree with the view that relationships should be ascetic. Having a boyfriend might mean no more food fights at the Delphic and no more sleepovers with the convenient grad student, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and plead the fifth. Turning into a wallflower is the least constructive thing you can do because it makes both of you less interesting. Read the rest of this entry »


Thinking Ahead

The two of us were jogging past the MIT chapel today, so we dropped in to catch the tail end of the service. The priest was talking about sinning. The upshot was that rather than trying to fight temptation, we should simply avoid it. For instance, alcoholics probably shouldn’t go to bars. People in long distance relationships shouldn’t go to stoplight parties. A friend of mine who has the bad habit of ordering the most expensive entree on the menu, saves money by eating exclusively at Dunkin’ Donuts.

This is good advice, and it comes up over and over. A recent TED talk mentioned that people are overly-optimistic about their capacity for self-control in the future. If an individual is asked whether he would rather have a banana or a chocolate tomorrow, he will probably opt for the banana. But when tomorrow comes and he has to make the decision, he chooses the chocolate. The same is true in the context of saving money. We think we will save, but we don’t. The speaker’s solution then, was to get people to commit ahead of time to saving future income. Read the rest of this entry »


Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day. It’s about as emotionally mature as guys are going to get short of growing boobs and hyphenating their last name. And since it’s coming up on Tuesday, I’d like to provide some quick words of advice.

Do not buy her jumper cables. Do not buy her cable TV. Do not buy her anything that contains the words “Decline”, “Fall”, and “Roman Empire”. Valentine’s gifts aren’t mandatory. If you can’t think of something clever and specific, don’t get anything at all. A two years supply of hand lotion from The Body Shop on Mass Ave is not an acceptable default.

So what is acceptable?

The answer is something she can show off. Rather than expensive, it should be thoughtful. Whether you’re looking for gifts, flowers, or dinner reservations, keep that litmus test in mind. Read the rest of this entry »


Eligible Women

The lack of eligible females is a common refrain heard at Harvard (and everywhere else). Yet I look around and see plenty of girls who are beautiful, brilliant, and determined. Even assuming an overly-generous evaluation on my part, there still seems to be a major discrepancy between the supply of dateable girls and the male perception of that supply.

Some of that discrepancy can be chalked up to bitterness on the male end (as the women of Harvard will be quick to point out), but the result still seems surprising. If you’re a nerd, there’s no better place to find a girlfriend than a school where people enjoy debating the relative merits of Python and Ruby and the relative demerits of Livy and Cicero. Your chances for a meaningful emotional and intellectual connection should be higher. Your complaints, if any, should be over things like looks. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning Together

A friend recently said something that bothered me. And in some ways, it is depressing: all relationships end in break-up or marriage. Hell, a lot of marriages end in break-up. It makes romance seem futile. Yet in many relationships, there does come a point when the novelty has worn off and the nebulous idea of commitment is the only way forward. A lot of Harvard couples stall at this tipping point.

Why? We aren’t commitment-phobes. There are people here who spend more time planning Women In Business conferences than I would my wedding. If anything, we over-commit. What makes these Harvard relationships go kaput? What value do we place on these partners, who were lovers, roommates, pset buddies, best friends, all at once? Read the rest of this entry »


On Dating

The best way to improve your dating life is to stop thinking of dates as a means to an end, i.e. an expensive outlay of resources in exchange for possible sex. Instead, think of each date as a self-contained experience that would be well worth your time and money even if things don’t end up working out between you and the girl. I personally suggest Celtics games, strip clubs, and hiking. Be active. Be efficient. Specifically, don’t do things on dates that you wouldn’t want to do were it not a date. If you think a day looking at glorified silly string at the MFA with Hist&Lit girl is going to end with a blowjob, well, the blowjob would have to be fluffer caliber to compensate for the headache.

Dates should never be stressful. They should be exciting, energetic, creative, a chance to try something new and show off what an incredible person you are. That early dating stage is when you’re both still putting your best faces forward. Afterwards, the girl gains ten pounds and stops shaving her legs. You start reminiscing about your time on kibbutz and how at least then, love was free. No, but really. Dates are fun! Read the rest of this entry »