The World Of Dating: Then & Now

Any time I’m lurking an ex on Facebook or freaking out about my crush not texting me back, I long for the simpler dating days—a time when you just had the telephone and you couldn’t really flake on someone because it meant they would be standing somewhere alone for hours. Technology has really turned everyone into a giant flake. We can cancel plans by simply pressing a button on our phone that says “I don’t want to hang out with you.” But back in the day, you were expected to have a certain level of accountability. At least I think you were. I don’t really know because I wasn’t dating or even alive back then. But you know who was? My mommy! So I called her up to ask her a few questions about dating in the ’70s. It was cute. My mom is cute!

Me: Hi mom! What are you doing?

My Mom: I was just brushing Roxy {our dog} and now I’m getting ready to make some dinner.

Me: Cute. OK, I have to ask you a few questions about dating now.

My Mom: Is this going to go up on The Blog? I hate those commenters, Ryan.

Me: They’re fine, Mom. Don’t pay attention to them! OK, so when did you graduate high school?

My Mom: ’73.

Me: So as far as our technology goes, you just had a home phone, right?

My Mom: Yes. There was no texting, no internet. Just the phone.

Me: Do you wish you had those things when you were a teenager?

My Mom: Well, I mean it would’ve made things a lot easier in a way. We spent a lot of time just waiting around because people were so hard to get in touch with. But from reading your articles, I’m beginning to understand that it’s more of a burden than anything else.

Me: It is! I just have this image of you talking on the telephone to cute boys in your room and then they would pick you up for, like, a malt or whatever, and all of your attention would be on each other. There would be no texting your friends, no checking in on Foursquare—

My Mom: What square? What’s that?

Me: Never mind. Anyway, you wouldn’t be tweeting about anything. Everything just seemed like it was more honest or something.

My Mom: I guess it was more organic in a sense but we didn’t think of it that way. That’s all we knew. But I will say this, people had longer attention spans. Whenever you come home, you’re texting on your phone constantly or on the computer. You’re always distracted. We weren’t like that.

Me: What were the drawbacks?

My Mom: Well, you talk a lot about going crazy if someone doesn’t text you back. My version of that was waiting by the phone.

Me: I remember that in middle school. It was torture!

My Mom: People would just stop by your house more often, which could be good or bad depending on the person.

Me: Yeah, no one does that anymore. I would be so excited if they did though.

My Mom: It’s not as fun as it seems, Danny [that’s my nickname]. I feel like you’re really romanticizing my era.

Me: You’re right. I just feel like all of this new technology is making us turn into socially awkward flakes. I want what you had!

My Mom: It’s life, Ryan. Certain things may change throughout the years but the fundamentals stay the same. Dating is still dating. People are still taking each other out to dinner and a movie, right?

Me: What do you think is the biggest change though?

My Mom: Um, when you broke up with someone, that was usually the last you saw of them. Keeping tabs on a person was a lot harder to do. I lost touch with close friends and boyfriends because they moved and changed numbers or whatever. Today everyone is connected to each other forever because of the internet.

Me: Do you think that’s a good thing?

My Mom: It’s good and bad. There are people I miss and I wish we had had the internet to kind of keep us together. But then there’s also some people who were meant to leave my life. I’m glad I don’t know what they’re doing.

Me: Wanna name names?

My Mom: No! I have to go actually.

Me: Mom!

My Mom: Sorry, honey. I have to cook this salmon now. Love you.

Me: Love you too. TC mark

image – Love Story

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • saritapatrice


  • Jordan

    Interesting approach here, kudos!  I agree there is a lot of romanticizing of the 'good old days,' maybe I liked Mad Men too much but I tend to think every relationship before the 80s wasn't June and Ward Cleaver.

    But overall yeah I'd say texting is a bane to making friends/relationships.  It's too easy and too removed from actual interaction.  Every year I make a resolution to stop texting so much but it's too damn easy (emotionally and logistically)!

  • paul the elephant

    i can picture myself typing this out (;

  • Guest

    you're right, your mom IS cute! & not all commenters are bad, ryan's mom! <3

  • Vanessa

    Haha Ryan's Mom is cute!
    Yeah I agree, so many people don't know how to have a serious face to face conversations. It is not ok to confront someone over facebook or texting, its just not! I have had so many people tell me they are upset with me over texting, or facebook. When I try to talk about it like an adult in person they blow me off. Ugh… its super frustrating. Is it really that difficult to tell me what you are upset about in person. Are you really THAT non confrontational!

  • Stephanie Georgopulos

    Cute. I forgot about people “dropping in,” seemed to happen a lot on like… Growing Pains. I feel like “dropping in” is time intensive and therefore, thoughtful & cute. I guess it could get creepy, though. I think dating is forever awkward, I just wonder what it'll be like for the generation after us.

    • mopey P

      I like it better in a non-dating sense.
       I just laugh if my friends come by and I happen to be wearing bootyshorts and a facemask and a headwrap and giant heels while cleaning the house and watching BSG. But if my crush stops by for that? Not as fun.

  • Vanessa Glenda

    I was in university when pretty much everyone had a mobile phone. But I still remember that my first boyfriend back in high school; he and I would write each other and meet during lunch break in the library to exchange love letters. High School ended 7 years ago for me. The most I've had since then are im conversations and emails. Oh, the occasional sweet text message. But nothing beats a handwritten letter – even if its in very bad handwriting on the back page of a school notebook!

    • Colleen Farrell

      i used to leave my boyfriend (now husband) little notes at lunch too. we had different lunch periods. He still has them all in a box. :)

  • Keli Anaya

    Ryan, you have the greatest mom! And your writing is phenomenal. Yep, said it.

  • guest

    You should tell your mom to check these comments, nothing but nice things to say about a lady  just tryin' to have a nice salmon dinner. Cute all around. Although I'd like to hear more. More stories about waiting by the phone, what happened when an ex stopped by or something. Maybe I'll call my own mom…

  • Donna Kristine Shaw

    i love your articles! :)

  • Donna Kristine Shaw

    i love your articles! :)

  • JulieSpira

    I really enjoyed this post Ryan. Thanks for sharing, and of course thank your mom for being such a good sport.

  • inflammatorywrit

    From my experience, which includes a 2 month period where my boyfriend didn't have a cell OR home phone, dropping in on people can quickly go from really cute and thoughtful to just mostly annoying. I was cooking dinner for one, and then all of the sudden my boyfriend walks in and starts telling me I'm overcooking the spaghetti. Hello, get out!

  • Luke

    this is a really complicated subject, and i appreciate the sincerity you approach it with. i think in most of your pieces you make yourself vulnerable in an honest way and people, including myself, really respond to it.

  • Andrew F Chen

    haha mom's are super cute.

  • yoshiboshi

    I'd love to see more posts that have your mom's thoughts! :)

  • Bantastic

    How is your nickname Danny and your name Ryan? Otherwise, I appreciated the post.

  • Sofi P.

    This is adorable. Danny, you should read my blog! It is about stuff like this.

  • jules

    I would never trust my parents' judgement on this. They got hitched at 19 and 21. But if you want to talk about clandestine affairs, and how much easier THOSE would be without the ability to trace texts/facebook messages/email etc., then I'm sure they would be a reliable resource concerning twenty-something lust during the 1970s/early 80s.

  • Geoff

    big shout out to ryan's mum :-)

    and don't tell her about grindr :-)

  • ginger luna

    i have a crush on you.

  • Writing Sample – Tory Darting

    […] O’Connell, Ryan. “The World Of Dating: Then & Now.” Thought Catalog. Thought Catalog, 24 May 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2017. […]

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