This whole idea of dating only one person at a time seems to come so naturally to everyone in my generation except for me. The normal "how we met and started dating" for a college student goes like this:
We made eyes at a party and started talking. We exchanged [insert favorite mode of modern day communication] and then the next night we met up at a frat. We played some pong and then went back and hooked up. We had a pleasantly awkward breakfast the next morning. We e-mailed all week long and then met up the next weekend. This repeated a few times and then we were in a serious relationship. It would be considered taboo to flirt with anyone else. Getting dinner with a different person or taking a going to a movie with a cute boy/girl would be almost like adultery.
Notice how the casual hookup became a serious monogamous relationship in about two weeks without any traditional dates. A date is a simple thing -- it can be a casual lunch or a trip to the skating rink. At 21, I am still trying to figure out who I am and what kind of person I want to be with. In order to do this, I need to try out many different types of people and make mental pros and cons, and lists of characteristics until I find someone that is just my type and sweeps me off my feet. In other words, I, as well as other young people, should be dating lots of different people at once. I think the anachronistic term is "playing the field." Today, there is no such thing as playing the field. Dating as it once existed is dead. Now dating is synonymous with "going steady" and implies extreme loyalty and faithfulness.
Am I so amoral to think that until I have a ring on my finger I do not owe extreme amounts of loyalty to anyone? And that I should be able to date and flirt with multiple people at once until I find someone I am exceptionally compatible with? How did this generation of kids that grew up in overwhelmingly broken household become so neurotic about monogamy in dating? Perhaps we are turning against our parents' generation that got married early and divorced often.
The history of dating seems to provide some insight to how we got to this position today where a couple can "break up" even if they have never even been on a real date and friends can judge each other about "cheating." In the 1950s, young people dated. I envision soda shops and backseats of Cadillacs . They may have been some fooling around, but probably no sex. In the 60s and 70s, free love ran as rampant as white flowing skirts and tie-dye t-shirts. In the 80s and 90s, people grew more cautious because of AIDS and other STDs. Today, we have taken sex ed classes and attached a whole lot or morality to sexual activities. The result is that us college kids still do have sex, but only with one person at any given time. Hence, serial monogamous dating occurs.
I fear for my generation because there does not seem to be much of a difference between dating and marriage. Dating is a desert or a deluge. There is no such thing as casual dating or to date just a little bit. When it comes to relationships you are in or you are out. This sounds healthy enough, but I predict a backlash.
I think a lot of people are afraid to "experiment" with the dating scene for fear of becoming entrenched in something too serious and mucky to escape. No one develops game or skills, if you get my drift. People stick with a relationship even if it may not be working out because the world of not dating is as mysterious as Mars.
Some young people may be willing to commit now, but will this lead to happy marriages in the next decade? Jury is still out and I am still running away from relationships. I prefer to keep my options open and sometimes this means that I am alone on a Friday night writing about dating instead of experiencing it. Someday I will find someone I want to commit to and in the mean time, my laptop is an awfully reliable lover.