Wednesday , February 28 2024

Dating in the Age of #MeToo and Time’s Up


Dating is difficult – at least based on my personal experience which was a long time ago in a galaxy not that far away – I always faced going out on a date with trepidation. On a date night – especially a first date – I felt nervous and anxious mostly because I perceived that I had a responsibility for planning the night and would blame myself if it did not go well.

I am told that it is still difficult, but also it is exacerbated by the implications of #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Men with whom I have spoken indicate that they are a bit confused now about going on dates or flustered when trying to meet women.

Some of the feedback from men who are actively dating (all names have been changed to protect identities) is interesting, and I can see the difficulty they are having but also find some humor in the tales they tell. This is, of course, not to trivialize the importance of the movement to call out sexual abusers or people who use positions of power to undermine or exploit others – mostly men victimizing women – because these are worthy causes and their efforts are necessary and compelling.

Still, all things have causes and effects, and, judging from what I am being told, men believe that dating has definitely been affected by what is happening in these movements. We also must face the fact that dating can be an arduous process even in the best of times, and this had been true going back to when my great grandfather picked up my great grandmother for their first date in a horse and buggy 120 years ago.

I spoke to a 50 something friend who likes to use online sites to meet his dates. Apparently, he engages in a good deal of online chatting and sharing of photographs before a real physical meeting takes place. “Frank” says he uses pictures from when he was 42 and had his hair and it was not gray – but he feels this is fair since the ladies apparently do similar things with their images.

“The online stuff is the easiest part,” Frank says. “In fact, in some ways I prefer it because there are long discussions and we learn so much about one another. It’s when you actually meet that things start to go downhill.

“Going out now is awkward,” he says. “We’ve spoken online for weeks or even months, and I try never to bring up politics or this Time’s Up stuff. But then we actually meet and invariably these topics do come up and then I feel weird. The last time this happened we struggled to talk during the rest of the dinner. To be honest, I struggled to talk and mostly listened to her. Later, I drove her home, walked her to the door, and then after a few long seconds I reached out and shook her hand. We both knew there would never be another date. Talk about awkward.”

A relative who is in his early twenties said that he is still meeting lots of girls, but “Tony” thinks that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have done something to change them. He complains, “Now they have higher expectations. They want to go out to the most expensive places, and, then when the check comes to the table, they either excuse themselves to go to the ladies’ room or just sit there sipping wine and smiling.” Tony asks, “What about friggin’ hashtag MeToo when the check comes?”

“Rick,” another young relative, tells of how he goes to bars and wonders if he should approach girls, but he is not sure anymore of how to go about it. He says, “If they are wearing a Time’s Up pin, I’m not even going near them. One of my friends went up to a beautiful girl wearing a MeToo T-shirt and asked if he could buy her drink. She makes a weird face and says, ‘You’re not serious, right?’ Then he came back to our table and we just talked to each other the rest of the night. It’s really hard to meet girls right now.”

Another friend of mine in his 40s and I went out to dinner recently, and the rather attractive waitress was wearing a Time’s Up pin. Now, I know how people can harass waitresses, so I have always felt they deserve to be treated respectfully and given good tips because of all the crap they have to put up with from customers, especially men.

As I am sitting there I remember “Jack’s” shtick – he once said he always could get a date with a waitress – but this young lady was having none of it. He flirted and flirted and then she finally pointed to the pin on her blouse and said, “I guess you don’t get the message, huh?”

As she walked away Jack leaned over and said, “I suppose she’s spitting in my food now, right, buddy.”

I laughed and replied, “And that’s well deserved, Jack, considering all the waitresses you’ve annoyed over the years.” He chuckled, but I know that he didn’t get it that his comeuppance was long overdue.

Jack is the type of guy who has never grown up, but that is no excuse for him or for anyone’s behavior. Jack’s probably never going to change, even if he could go for training, and I do think that training is not such a farfetched idea at all. Men – and even more essentially boys – need to have some sort of instruction because it is obvious that many of them are sorely lacking in knowing how to treat women respectfully.

After speaking to these fellows, I sought clarity on the topic and went to visit the local coffee shop where Manny, the old Brooklyn Dodgers fan who still thinks they are coming back to town and building a new Ebbet’s Field, sat dressed in head-to-toe Philadelphia Eagles gear.

I motioned to his clothes and asked, “What’s up?” because Manny is the biggest Jets fan I know.

“My loathing for the Patriots, my complete and utter disdain for the team, its quarterback, and its coach, has brought me to this. I have no choice but to root for the Eagles, and they are going to kick Belichick’s butt.”

After some more back and forth talk about the Super Bowl, I got to my question. “Manny, what do you think about dating in the age of #MeToo and Time’s Up?”

The lights of the shop glared on Manny’s thick eyeglasses as he folded his newspaper, placed it on his lap, and lifted his steaming cup of joe for a sip. He looked up at me sideways and said, “Women have always been mistreated by men, so now it’s their turn to make men know they’re not gonna take it anymore.”

“Yeah,” I ask, “but what about dating?”

Manny had a slight smirk on his face – he was thrice married and twice divorced and is now a widower – and said, “Dating has always sucked and always will suck, but probably now it seems like it sucks a lot more.”

As always, I can count on Manny for his honesty. As I made my way home from the coffee shop, I thought about what everyone said and wondered if they are all wrong. Maybe #MeToo and Time’s Up isn’t bad for dating at all. Perhaps it is creating a unique opportunity for discourse about dating and how these movements can create a climate that is better for everyone.

I have always remembered how difficult dating was for me, but I never really thought about how hard it is for women too. Unless accompanied by a chaperone, a woman definitely has to be somewhat nervous about getting into a car – or the old horse and buggy – and being in a position of vulnerability.

The current atmosphere is one that has forced a conversation that no one had been engaging in for far too long. This open dialogue – especially with women speaking out about their harrowing experiences – should lead to better understanding between the sexes, and hopefully it forces men to come to terms with the inappropriate behavior of many members of their sex and makes them search for tangible ways to examine past wrongs and find a path to prevent new ones from occurring.

As for dating, maybe Manny is right and it has always sucked, but perhaps it doesn’t have to anymore. Hopefully, #MeToo and Time’s Up will cause dating to evolve and rise to a new level where men and women have nothing to be nervous about because the playing field has changed and both people on a date are totally relaxed and can enjoy each other’s company with no worries or pressures.

Who knows if that day will ever come, but I think #MeToo and Time’s Up are providing an opportunity for it to happen. These movements are going forward and have so much momentum that nothing is going to stop them, and in the end that will be a good thing for women and men.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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