On The Improbability of Casual Dating
Kirk, Blender-Keeper

I've started being single this year, and one not-uncommon hallmark of newly-singledom is a reluctance to get too deeply involved in any particular romance. A silver lining to the grey cloud of a big breakup is that you're free for a while, able to live on your terms, come and go as you please, decorate the place the way you want it, and to generally have a more relaxed time. But of course... the old urges kick in, the twin desires for companionship and nookie, and often one looks to start dating. Casually. But is there such a thing in the modern world?

To me, dating after school (both high school and college) seems like a whole new ballgame. In high school, social circles tended to the large and stable. Your group of friends probably went to most of the same classes together and you could safely sound out a potential romance's availability and interest beforehand, via friend-of-friend enquiries. Once a romance established, there were simple patterns of boyfriend/girlfriend to follow, dates to be gone on, furtive caresses to be made, dances to be attended. College was a little more complex, but being crammed in buildings with hundreds of nubile people your own age never hurt anyone's social calendar. Plus, a typical college class schedule was ideal for getting to know someone: frequent enough to promote interaction, studying on the subject matter an excuse to see each other after hours. Roles were a little less well-defined than in high school, but still: it was all going to end in at most 4 years anyway, or get very serious before then, so why sweat it?

But now....well, things seem different.

Fig.1: Casual Dating Material?
First, of course, is the usual difficult of meeting new people. Social groups tend to be based on work, maybe church, maybe some activity, and if those are poor hunting grounds then you're back at square one. Although I haven't tried it yet, I'm a big fan of Internet Dating, and I hope it continues to lose the stigma it once carried. To me, it's much smarter to find someone who considers themselves available and then hope to find them interesting than to find someone in the while who is interesting and hope to find them available. Yes, it seems a bit cold and clinical and lacking in the spontaneous magic we'd all like our romances to have, but c'mon; this is the real world.

So once you gotten to the dating part, you have to find out...what are you trying to accomplish? Mid-20s seems to be a good age for the casual idea...older than that, and people start to hear their biological clocks a bit much. Younger than that, and you might be to na´ve to know what you're in for if you rush into a serious commitment and marriage.

I suppose people have to negotiate what a new relationship is going to become. Like that old Woody Allen line about the shark, it feels like a relationship that isn't moving forward, heading towards some goal, is risking stagnation and eventual collapse. So it seems like a dating relationship defining itself as 'casual' has a tough road ahead of it.

Similarly, it seems like a lot of people aren't happy with a person they're dating seeing anyone else around the same time. It goes against a lot of instincts we have, a need to feel special and unique within any given relationship. Jealousy tends to rear its ugly green-eyed head and hurt feelings are a likely result.

So is casual dating just a way of meeting people? Like a time of extended reading of personal ads? Or can it be something more? How do people communicate to each other it's time to fish or cut bait? What kind of self-absorbed (or self-confident and balanced) person do you have to be to want to remain in a casual dating mode?

I think these are some good questions...I hope I come up with some good answers. I'll let you know...

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