The death of dating

On my first day at the University of Toronto, I realized I was only qualified to take one of the five classes I had signed up for.

Cursing my mistake, I asked myself how I would possibly be able to cope with moving to a new city, living alone, and keeping up with coursework if I could not even understand ROSI. 

I rushed to the registrar’s office at 9:00 am to resolve this academic catastrophe. It turned out, the office didn’t open until 9:30 am, so I spent half an hour chatting with another student, Jack*. When I emerged from the registrar’s office, I found Jack waiting outside to ask for my number. Jack was in a band, and he wanted me to come see him play that weekend.

I grew up in a small town with a minuscule dating pool. I’ve known everyone that I graduated high school with since nursery school — and there’s nothing that turns you off a date quite like the memory of your suitor eating his own boogers.  

So when Jack asked me on a date just days after I had moved to Toronto, I was sure that I had reached the Promised Land. I looked forward to going to cool, new locations with cool, new guys every week à la Sex and the City. I could hardly have been more delusional.

The Friday after I met Jack, I assembled four of my newfound friends to accompany me to watch his set at a popular bar in the Annex. Upon arrival, we were struck with an unexpected realization: with the exception of Jack and the wait staff, we were the only people there under 50. Jack was onstage, jamming with four geriatric jazz musicians. 

“Which one is your date?” quipped one of my friends.

Although it was not what I had expected, I still enjoyed myself — I was looking forward to the party Jack had invited us to after his set. The “house party” ended up being a housewarming party that consisted of the new homeowner, his close friends, and us. 

As I spent the evening trying to get to know Jack, the other guests smoked copious amounts of weed and wondered who had invited five girls fresh out of frosh week.

I count this as one of my most successful dates since moving to Toronto.

Since meeting Jack, I’ve been on my fair share of horrible dates. Recently, I went out with a guy who took me out for a drink where he works — except it turns out that he does not work in a bar. Instead, he led me to his start-up’s office, where he invited me to sit on a bean bag chair while he poured Baileys into Solo cups for us — “At least he has a job,” I thought to myself. 

I comfort myself with the fact that I’ve had no shortage of “original” dates. A potential suitor once invited me to watch a movie and share a bottle of wine with him in a residence common room. 

I liked the idea of a casual date. I approved of buying wine ahead of time and in bulk instead of worrying about the dreaded cheque scramble, and I didn’t mind staying in our college residence for the evening. That was before I found out that he did not, in fact, live in residence; needless to say, I didn’t attend his proposed soirée of getting to know each other over wine and breaking and entering.

I don’t expect a lot from dates. All I really want is the opportunity to get to know someone better. But these days it seems impossible to see a potential suitor face-to-face and in public without tediously texting and Tinder-ing. Even then, dates are reduced to ambiguous “hangouts” and “meet-ups” so that either party can pretend they were never really interested if things go south. The date, I’m afraid, might just be dead. 

Despite the overwhelming evidence of my personal experience, I remain hopeful. Just this week a man invited me to join him for brunch. Not only was he willing to commit the entire duration of a meal to spending time with me, but during daylight hours to boot. We might even stay sober.

I look forward to this date and to any others I may venture on. I anticipate that I will continue to encounter some misguided venue choices, awkward silences, and people that I am simply not compatible with. But in dating, as in most things, perseverance is key. 

Personally, I will continue to root for good, old-fashioned courtship and chivalry — minus the chaperones, bustles, and patriarchy, of course.

*Name changed at author’s request.