(The Root) —
"Did you see the New York Times article 'The End of Courtship?' over the weekend? Do you think dating is dead, too?" —Y.M.
Yes, I did see the article, and no, I don't think dating is dead, but based on that article, I do think common sense, basic standards and self-esteem might be on life support.
Frankly, all but one of the anecdotes in Alex Williams' piece read like a series of case studies for He's Just Not That Into You. The women interviewed seemed to conclude that "proper" dating is dead based on their interactions with men who were clearly and obviously not into them — hence why they got offers to hang out, hook up and stop by at wee hours for "whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese."
There has definitely been a shift in how people date and a rise in the casualness of it all, but even in this constantly evolving and confusing-for-most dating culture, I'd argue that there is no such thing as a man — one who is genuinely interested — not figuring out how to put his best foot forward when it comes to getting to know a woman. He may fumble and stumble, but an interested man will make some effort. If he's not making any effort, he's not all that interested. You shouldn't be dating him anyway.
The only person included in the article who seemed to get that was Cheryl Yeoh, 29, who figured out that the way to go on proper dates was to accept only proper offers. Yeoh goes to plays and fancy restaurants and receives red roses from suitors, all the stuff that the other women in the article would like to experience. Yeoh insists that guys schedule a date with her a week in advance, which is a little extreme, but clearly not unreasonable — and, more important, it's working. Don't ever underestimate the power of having standards, and don't engage people who won't or can't or just have no desire to meet them.
For all the dating and relationship articles about women needing to compromise more or lower their standards, I find that one of the biggest problems among my clients is that standards aren't high enough. Somehow, many women have been "okey-doked" into thinking that they should just accept any ole man and any ole treatment and just be happy to have someone kinda, sorta interested.
Women have more power than they know, and I wish they wouldn't be afraid to exert it. There isn't any obligation to engage in text-only communication or accept offers to hang out after the club or have sex with no commitment. "No" is a powerful word. Use it.
Women should also not be afraid to ask for what they want. Not every guy is a mind reader, and even the well-intentioned and actually interested ones won't always get it right up front (or down the line). Speak up.
He's always texting? Tell him that you prefer he call or that you two talk in person. He doesn't call enough for your liking? Tell him what you prefer. If he suggests that you "come by to chill," hit him with a counteroffer: "Actually, I'd prefer if we went out. How about _______?" will work just fine.
If he's genuinely interested in seeing you and not just bored or trying to have sex, he'll agree (or counter with a place or activity that is within his budget). It's not as if you're asking him to create an Eighth Wonder of the World. If he's remotely interested, he will try to meet your reasonable requests.
This was the case with my current significant other. He called one evening asking to see me and wanted to know if he could come over. I flatly told him no. (I don't invite strangers into my home.)
He then asked if I could visit him at his home. Again, no. (I also don't go to strangers' homes.)
"Well, can you meet me somewhere?" he asked.
I was interested in seeing him, and glad to know that he shared my spontaneous streak and that his primary interest was to see me. But … I didn't want to get back on the subway. "Could we do something tomorrow?" I suggested. "I can't do the train right now."
He offered to send a car to pick me up. When a guy is interested, it's really that simple.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.