Are you in the dating world? I'm not a fan. I'm one foot back in it, thrust in unwillingly, and I find it daunting. I know others find it exciting. They can't get enough.
The last time I was in the dating world, I was in high school back in the big hair 80s days. (That photo is me at 16.) Getting ready for school took a couple of hours to get the hair big enough to have the courage to enter the building. Peer pressure to follow the trends. Acid wash jeans, contacts, make-up, and enough hair spray to open that hole in the ozone another Dobson Unit was key to looking good. Big hair was a priority much like the days when my mother wore a beehive hairdo when she was in high school and had an active dating life.
The guys weren't any better. In the 80s, they had to wear those loose jerseys with the tight jeans. Nice butts, though, unlike the super loose pants in the decades that followed. A little reverse sexism for a chuckle here seems apropos. At some point in human history, survival of the fittest from prehistoric ages had become King of the Male Specimen as time flowed. Mullets, cool cars, a high gaming score on Tetris became the standards for male sex appeal.
All of this show stemming from the innate need to propagate the species. I look back now and think, "Good Lord! What were we thinking? Oh, that's right. We weren't thinking with our brains."
We were vying for life partners at a time when we should have been striving for financial survival in an age when the perfect vision of success and happiness included a 1950's version, or the stone age for some, of the perfect family where everyone is living the dream. But that dream was slowly decaying. If you ask me, due to rampant ego and feelings of entitlement. But that's a topic for another blog post.
I thought that life was real. I had it. I was happily living it for a very long, time. I won over the love of my life in high school. Married him. Had wonderful children. The children are still wonderful, but the marriage died a painful death. Guillotine, with my husband as the executioner. And I got thrust back into the world of a single woman, a place I did not want to be ever again.
I did date a guy for a few months after my husband was gone a while. I wasn't looking for anyone, but he found me. I was dressed to look nice enough for public view in jeans, a sweater, make-up, etc. And he looked nice. Slacks. Shirt. He smelled good. He was nice. A gentleman. Being a gentleman is important to me. He was. I assume he still is. I hope so. Possibly something good could have come from this, but timing was wrong. I wasn't comfortable dating while divorce wasn't finished.
I am looking around at people in the dating world, and the generational lines are clearly evident. The older singles are back to the standards set way back in previous decades of dressing up, looking good, advertising the goods via hair styles (sometimes implants or weaves), nice clothes, and spending money to impress. Money they often don't have. I don't do dating sites, but I do keep my eyes open. My impression is there are lots of quick judgements based on unrealistic appearances and expectations of putting out. I wasn't thrilled about putting out right away in high school, and I'm not thrilled about it now.
I have two Gen Z children, one of whom is single and eligible for dating. Attractive, intelligent, a good conversationalist, but not really dating. She is only somewhat interested. I look to my other Gen Z child who is married, who did some dating before he found the one, but not in the way previous generations did from my own observations. Neither did the young woman he married. They found each other in high school much like I found my husband, but their dating interactions were different than in my day. When I asked my single child why not really dating, she didn't have a reason. She simply shrugged in indifference and made a vague comment about the dryness of the Sahara Desert. I think she meant not many of them go on dating hunting expeditions like the rest of us.
I have an older child who is a Gen Y, also married to a Gen Y. They dated more like I did in high school. He had an image to uphold while on the hunt. After they married, he stopped dressing nice on a daily basis and when out with his wife. I haven't asked, but I don't think he feels the need. After all, he got her, and his career is in manufacturing. He has no need for a suit on a daily basis. I believe she sticks with shorts and a tshirt when at home. Understandable as a mom of very young children. Parenting is a full time energy draining endeavor. It was for me, anyway, even though I loved it.
When my husband and I married, we gradually stopped dressing nice for watching a movie on TV together. We stopped worrying about brushing our teeth first thing in the morning. That was an affter breakfast task, not for giving a kiss hello first thing in the morning. We stopped shaving every day, his face and my legs.
I took another look at my Gen Z kids. They hardly ever dress up. They practically live in sweats or pajamas. The one finds it impossible to wear a t-shirt without cutting off the sleeves. Tank tops aren't good enough. Doesn't like the structure of most tanks. Prefers the shape of regular shirts with cut off sleeves. The other one would wear pajamas to church if he was allowed, and his wife is constantly in simple cotton dresses. She looks great, but she rarely varies the style. It's acceptible enough for the office.
I always chocked these wardrobe preferences to the desire for comfort and personal style in these technologically driven times. After all, they spend most of their time sitting around with a computer in front of them for both work and play. What's the point of dressing up into uncomfortable clothing when one doesn't have to leave the home any longer? And if they do work out of the home, the desire for comfort has become the fashion trend anyway. Nothing wrong with that. I have been embracing that mentality more and more myself, and it's pretty great.
And it isn't just covid. My Gen Z kids were dressing like this well before the pandemic. I repeatedly asked my kids, "Are you really wearing that to school?" I got eye-rolls in return. I think the pandemic simply spread the comfort thought process further to other generations.
However, when I look at the world of dating and romantic relationships, I think something deeper is going on. I could be wrong. This is my observation, and if there is any feedback, I would prefer it come from Gen Z directly as they are the ones who really started it and are living it. Maybe some Gen Y or a few Gen X, but not Boomers or beyond.
My observations have me wondering if Gen Z has been looking at our divorce rates, our two-hour long hairdo morning sessions when we were young, and the John Hughes movies that raised us in many ways; and, maybe they are thinking, "That was false advertising about who you were within, wasted effort, and we aren't going to do it."
I was thinking about this as another man has attempted to come into my life. I met him at a nearby coffee shop when I looked pretty bad. I had a spark of thought I needed to get written out as quickly as possible before I lost it, but I didn't feel I could write it properly at home. Time was of the essence to get it out of my brain and into the laptop. So, when I got out of bed, all I did was throw on sweats, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and ran to the coffee shop with my laptop to get it done.
As I was finishing the writing, a man came up asking me if I was Sophie or Sophia or some name I can't remember. Took me by surprise. He was fresh off his motorcycle from a long drive looking to meet up with a woman he met online. We ended up having a brief conversation and exchanged numbers.
We met up again. This time, I did myself up some. Not entirely. Some. My Gen Z child at home at the time made a comment about how I was dressing for this meet up and whether or not it was a proper date.
Huh. I am a deep thinker. Yes, too deep at way too many times.
I looked at her and the way she was dressed prepared to go out with a friend. Sweats and her typical cut-off sleaves. I've been contemplating all this ever since. No wonder both the marriage rates and divorce rates are so low for this generation. They learned from us an important lesson we have yet to get. They aren't false advertising themselves when they date. At least, not as much.
They wear their hair like they want. They wear clothes that make them feel comfortable, not necessarily based on fashion trends. They might wear make-up or not, and if they do, they do it to express themselves not simply to follow a trend.
What I am trying to point out is that it is easy to fall into the pit of false advertising when dating. Dating app photos that are photo-shopped. Getting that perfect angle with the perfect lighting. Either a written bio on a site, or even exuding it when meeting in person.
"Yes, I love hiking in the forest and cooking a four course meal over an open fire even though in reality I've only done hotdogs twice, and once got so miserable from the mosquitoes that I left two days early from the three day camping trip. You love the Getty Museum? I love the Getty Museum too! Except I have only been once and got so confused at why anyone would think that abstract was worth $10,000 that I quietly swore to myself I would never come here again. You're a Christian? Me too. I am a deeply believing Christian except I have no clue why they put that guy on that cross. But I'm not going to tell you any of those facts. You can find out after we walk down the aisle."
On the flip side, there is an important lesson from the older generations that would benefit the younger ones about putting your best foot forward for your significant other, especially as time goes on; otherwise, your life partner may easily feel like you don't care about being attractive to them and feel taken advantage of. "Think I will always be here no matter what? Not so fast. How about putting in some effort to be as interesting as you advertised as being when we were dating. That would be nice once in a while." There is real reason for dressing up at times and looking good. It does affect behavior and creates a level of respect important in any relationship. But that isn't what the post is about.
Let me pull this back to my current topic. My impression is that Gen Z sees through the holes in the previous generations' dating techniques that seem to fall into the category of false advertising beginning with attire and going from there. They pulled away the wool jackets from their eyes that we continue to cling to while they ask us, "How is that working for you?"
Gen Z, I admire your realism. Thank you for the lesson.
For me, I already wasn't thrilled with the concept of dating. I'm not on any apps, and don't want to be. I did look at them and then deleted my accounts. If I am going to date, I will let God handle it. Let something happen organically if anything happens at all.
Cause here is another lesson to be learned from Gen Z, and from older generations who found this truth and live it - no one needs a life partner to be happy. Happiness comes from within, not without. It is more than possible to be alone and not be lonely. Sure, I would like to date and have fun. But life isn't about having fun. Life is about life.
As Jason Reynolds said, "That all the air you'll ever need is in the boredom of your life, that the magic is in the minuscule, the mundane." I concur.
I still like to dress up. I still like to do my hair up. I want to do it when I want to do it. Not because of some societal pressure of how I should present myself with some sort of facade to cover over the real. I want to do it now and then to add a little shine to the real. Alone or with someone.
I hope us older generations don't squash Gen Z. And, I hope Gen Alpha keeps realism going strong.
Have you learned any unexpected and important lessons from another generation?
Thanks for reading!
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Humor In Chaos
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