Dating is weird. Most interactions I have with the opposite sex are digital—which, for a sentimental softie like me, is Bad News Bears. What do I have to show for my past loves? Usually just a few emoji-riddled text messages and a blurry Instagram, if I’m lucky. My grandma has every love letter my grandpa wrote her while he was away at war. Me? I have a ticket stub to Gravity IMAX 3D and photo-strip of us making goofy faces when we got wasted at a dive bar during his best friend’s birthday party. That’s it. These ephemera are the only evidence I have that we even swapped spit for a year.
There’s a shoebox in my closet where I keep every love letter, scribbled note, or snapshot from dudes of yore, and ever since I signed my first cell phone contract, my contributions to my shoebox have dwindled. Coincidence? I think not.
And you know what? That makes me miss dating before the Internet, smartphones and social media took over the way I communicate. Everything seemed so much more organic back then. Am I gonna be old in my rocking chair cackling over our hilarious text messages referencing Jax’s terrible tattoos on “Vanderpump Rules”? No, because those texts were erased when I pushed “delete all” by accident.
I don’t begrudge dating nowadays, but I do miss the way we put effort into certain rituals that have gone by the wayside. For instance:
1. I miss memorizing his phone number.
Right now, I couldn’t tell you my best friend’s phone number if my life depended on it. My sisters’ phone numbers? No clue. The art of memorizing phone numbers has gone the way of the dodo bird and VHS rewind machines. In the ’90s, I had this shit on lock. I could rattle off everyone’s phone number. I called my high school boyfriend so much that I even memorized the way the tones sounded when I dialed him up on my landline. Now I’m lucky if I remember a dude’s area code. Everything after that is a crapshoot.
2. I miss coming home and receiving my missed phone calls written on scraps of paper.
My sister: Hey. Tommy called for you while you were out.
Me: Which Tommy?
My sister: I don’t know. He just said his name was Tommy.
Me: Well, how did he sound?
My sister: I don’t know; like a boy?
Me: Would you describe his voice as being *raises eyebrow* lilting? Or *lowers chin* gruff?
My sister: Leave me alone, you freak of nature.
It was always exciting to come home and see who called for me while I was out. And, it was a thrill when the dude I was hoping to call had, in fact, called me. I’m getting butterflies just thinking about how awesome that feeling was. Now, when a guy calls or texts, it comes directly to my device so I miss that feeling of anticipation and the elation when I saw his name on that scrap of paper.
3. Long live the candid photo.
Remember when we had to go to a pharmacy to develop our photos? Was it inconvenient? Yes! Was it expensive? Hell, yes! Was it always a total crapshoot what the pictures would look like once we got them developed? Oh my god, yes. But now, a decade-ish later, those candid photos with my gentleman suitors make me happiest to revisit.
I have stacks of pictures from high school and college. They’re all blurry, taken at weird angles, and I have a dumbass expression on my face in 99% of them. And you know what, they’re priceless to me. I guarantee you if I had taken those same pics on my iPhone, I would’ve deleted them in a heartbeat. I’m the harshest critic on the planet when I see photos of myself. If I detect one shadow of a double chin or my jowls are especially jangly or I see any other perceived flaw, I delete the photo faster than you can say “oof”. Thanks a lot, smartphones. You’ve basically turned me into Anna Wintour.
Now, the only time I get my picture taken is when I’m at someone’s wedding and I was too slow to hustle out of the frame. I don’t even give myself the opportunity to be in a bad photo with a paramour, much less pay for one to be developed and moon over it in ten years time. And that’s a shame because those bad photos with my exes are some of my most prized possessions.
4. I miss making plans and sticking to them.
I don’t even know how people made plans before texting, but I remember him having to call my house, make plans with me verbally and STICKING TO THE PLAN. There weren’t any last-minute “Actually, I’m just gonna stay in tonight. Cool?” texts to send because we didn’t even have cellphones yet.
5. I miss tracking him down.
There was also excitement about running into a guy while you were out because you had to actively find him; he couldn’t just text you, “I’m standing by the merch table.” You had to run your ass around the venue and find him. It was like I was on my own little Zelda quest to track him down. And the bear hugs when I found him? Such good bear hugs. Seriously, the best bear hugs.
6. Call the waaahmbulance because I have no freakin’ clue what his handwriting looks like.
The only time I see a guy’s penmanship now is when he signs a credit card receipt. I don’t even know how he makes his “z”s. It’s like I’m dating a stranger.
7. I miss going to a video store with him.
Now I just browse Netflix or the on-demand options on my TV to watch something with my dude. But before, back in the olden days of flared jeans and crop tops, we had to physically take our bodies to a separate location to find entertainment. There was a feeling of discovery, like what new movie will we find? And there was excitement when the movie we wanted to watch was in stock. “Rev up the popcorn machine, we’ve got a copy of Clerks up in here.” – something I probably said.
8. I miss learning about him by talking to him.
I hate that I can just scroll through his FB page or his Twitter feed to see what his deal is because I’m quick to write dudes off for minor things like bad grammar or even inactivity. (He tweets too much! What gives? Or, he never tweets? What gives?)
Back before Google was at our fingertips, I had to hold discussions with boys to unearth their passions. He had to tell me that he liked the Smiths and Top Gun or obscure Italian disco, it wasn’t just listed on his profile like a pound puppy’s stats on the side of his box.
I’m not trying to sound like a Luddite, I’m just trying to honor the effort we used to put into getting to know someone back in the day. Besides, my shoebox still has more room and it’d be nice to fill it with something other than a movie ticket stub or a restaurant receipt, you know?