The New York Times recently ran a piece called The End of Courtship, where Style columnist Alex Williams interviewed Millennial women unhappy with the state of modern romance, know-it-all dating experts, and a handful of token men for the ever-important middle-class male perspective to ultimately surmise that the end of modern romance as we know it is indeed nigh. Amidst the commiserating, closer interviewee Cheryl Yeoh proffered that courtship is alive and kicking because, as she stated frankly, if a man really wants her, “he has to put in some effort.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Yeoh. I think that all of us, regardless of gender, have to put the work in—whether it’s with respect to our relationships, our jobs or our finances—in order to reap the benefits. It can also mean putting in the work to find a compatible mate, since the days of boyfriend trees, lush and ripe with emotionally-available men waiting to be plucked, have gone the way of of the 1950s housewife. Yet most of the women Mr. Williams spoke with seemed entitled, like they'd earned something for just showing up, which causes me to wonder if we've forgotten that a relationship is a privilege, not a right. It’s not that these women don’t deserve high standards; it’s that, I fear, they don’t know what their standards are. Almost all of the women Williams interviewed seemed particularly miffed by the lax communication style exhibited the by men they'd met online. The Internet is a breeding ground for casual conversation; its cousin, the text message, is about as noncommittal as chatter comes, with no rule as to who or what merits a reply, if any at all. Why the surprise? It doesn't mean we should brush aside our expectations for an iota of someone's attention. It means that if things just don't jive with someone, it's okay—and it's our responsibility to stick to our guns and hold out for something (or someone) more aligned with our wants and needs.
Me? I’m just fine being on my own, thanks, and I think it's a shame that the act of dating multiple people at once (versus hyperfocusing on someone early on to the point of scaring them away) is somehow lost on my generation. I can't deny that I like walking through a door held open by someone else, whether I'm entering a fancy restaurant or my office building. I appreciate it when a man has the gumption to ask me out, period. I even enjoy the act of sliding my arms into a coat that's been held out for me; it makes me feel feminine and even a tiny bit glamorous, like a catered-to movie star. These aren't acts of courtship; they're just good manners, easily reciprocated when the occasion arises. Yes, I prefer the asking to be done by the man—but I'll take the reins when I feel compelled. Call it a compromise, call it Dating 2.0: in the end, these gestures are nice, plainly and simply. They're certainly not a litmus test of whether a man is worth my time. (I can't say I've ever held out a coat for a guy, though.)
Mr. Williams' piece carefully omits the fact that the media—namely, gossip websites and certain women's glossies—plays a big role in the way we perceive whether a relationship has failed or succeeded, which is the reason why I think so many of us feel undue anxiety about being single. For women especially, the clock to find Mr. (or Mrs.) Right ticks loudly, and the alarm rings even louder once you’ve hit a certain age. That kind of pressure can make us do crazy things, like plan our fantasy weddings before we’ve made it past the third date; reply to texts from absentee men that say “hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” as Anna Goldfarb considered, or worse: we'll partake in an interview that makes us seem stodgy and self-righteous.
Courtship isn’t over. Courtship is the willingness to take a chance on the unknown, to give a bit of ourselves because we want to, not because we have to. Courtship, as it always has been, is a game. There are just new rules—and it's still fun to play.
When the mercury drops, the excuses begin: "I think I'll stay in tonight." "I'd love to go, but it's so cold outside!" "My new boyfriend's name is 'Grub Hub'."
No matter what the weather's like, there's nothing I enjoy more than slipping into sweatpants and a good book come Friday night, perfectly content with takeout and my own company. "Me" time, you might call it. It took a while to get here; my younger self had trouble resisting the hypnotic beckoning of bright lights and dark corners, even when my body (and bank account) said to stay put. Now, I'm apt to only give a quick glance at invitations to gather for post-clock-out cocktails—because what's the point, if all I want to do is go home?
The point, I think, is compromise. We can't complain about the fledgling status of our social lives if we're resigned to spend our time on the couch, declaring defeat against the elements as we dig in to another handful of French fries. (Ahem.) We can, however, define "going out" as we see fit, whether that means patronizing our local watering hole (and supporting our local economy in one fell swoop) for a quick bite to eat, throwing caution to the wind chill and strapping on stilettos—destination: dance floor—or taking a chance on a new-to-us musician performing at a venue we'd otherwise never frequent as I'll be doing tonight.
So bundle up, Boston—I'm nudging you to go out into that good night, even when the temperature dips below 30. These are a few of my favorite places where the ambiance is cozy, with plenty of space to stash a winter coat.
69 Bromfield Street (between Downtown Crossing and Government Center)
How do I love Silvertone? Let me count the ways. Between its nook-like, underground space that feels more like a private bunker than a basement, its incredible cocktail and food menus and warm, welcoming staff, Silvertone is a friend, indeed (if a bar could be a friend). I've ducked into Silvertone for brief reprieves between dinner and movie plans, and have spent entire nights here debating topics du jour over their famed macaroni and cheese. I recommend taking the T to Park Street; Bromfield Street is just a few blocks up Tremont, on the right.
Green Street Grill
280 Green Street (Central Square)
There aren't many places where you can score a seriously solid cocktail for $7. You can at Green Street, however—along with a host of other local beers, varietals and expertly-mixed libations. Or grab some nosh—small bites (like my favorite, the charcuterie plate) start at just $5. I like to visit Green Street at the beginning or end of my evening; it tends to get really busy between the hours of 7 and 10 P.M. If you're looking to test the waters before deciding on how long you want to stay, the staff will be happy to help you find a seat at the bar.
The Franklin Southie
152 Dorchester Avenue (South Boston, at Broadway)
I've said it before, I'll say it again—and pardon my juvenile vocabulary—The Franklin Southie is my jam. I've never once had a bad experience here, whether my intention is brunch, dinner or a late-night cocktail. It's a place where the staff just "gets it," be it the cheerful attitude of the bartenders and servers or the beautiful presentation of seriously delicious comfort food (exceptionally priced, by the way). Consider yourself warned: it can get loud, and packed—but you'll never have to wait too long for a table. Surprisingly, this is one of the best places in the city to get oysters—and the burgers aren't too shabby, either.
The Huffington Post invited me to speak on a panel about the virtues of "Dating Yourself"—or as I like to call it, taking oneself out for a night on the town. You can watch the full video here; you can read the tips I previously published on how to go out alone (and not suffer from a panic attack) here.
It makes me wonder, Boston: why, with all of our social progress, is it still taboo to do things like go out alone on a Friday night? We live in a notoriously cold city—both temperature- and personality-wise—and in my discussions with other people, be they female, male, single, attached or just looking to explore, there's an underlying desire to connect. Social media, I fear, isn't cutting it nearly as close as we want it to be. Can you imagine asking someone in your yoga class to grab coffee (or decaf tea) after the last 'Namaste' without feeling like a total freak? Or what it'd be like to go out dancing on a Saturday night—sans accompaniment?
Try it, I say. You might like it.
I tried to think of a clever title for this post—something like, "Let's Go Out—to free CrossFit!"—and realized it sounded reminiscent of the language used on the dating website HowAboutWe, which encourages users to fill in the blanks on their ideal dates, and decided on a more straightforward, less copycat-y approach.
So, CrossFit. What does it have to do with dating and nightlife? Well, I can personally attest that my confidence goes up when I'm working out on the regular; between a surge of feel-good endorphins and the fact that my clothes fit a lot better, I'm more apt to have a swagger in my step after a week of grueling spin sessions than when I've resigned my post 9-5 hours to snacking and cruising the Internet for Portlandia clips. I've never taken a CrossFit class, either—the idea of hauling tires and wearing knee socks has always been a bit, hmm, intimidating—but as I pointed out in yesterday's post, it's the things that scare us that help us grow. Plus, I've got friends from New York City coming to town this weekend, and I'll need the extra energy to keep up with them, making a Saturday morning class ideal. Who knows? Maybe I'll meet a few new people, platonic or otherwise. Either way, I'm excited to try something different.
The classes, which are an hour long and will run each weekend from now until the end of February, are being held at CrossFit's Back Bay location on St. James Avenue. Pre-registration is required, which you can do here. And if you're trying to find me, just look for the woman staring quizzically when the instructor shouts out for burpees.
Making lists is one of my favorite, if strange, pastimes. There's something cathartic about the process of putting pen-to-paper that feels oh-so right, whether I’m writing out a reminder to pick up toothpaste on my way home from work or scribbling a passage directly from a book. Maybe it’s the promise of the blank page, or maybe I secretly enjoy the challenge of deciphering my own handwriting while on the hunt for toothpaste? toilet paper? trail mix?. New Year’s resolutions, though: I can take them or leave them. I usually wave them off, offering a quippy remark like, “I resolve to not resolve!” with my midnight toast come January 1. It’s easy to check off a to-do list; resolutions, I think, can set us up for failure—we aim high, and then life, as it often does, gets in the way, and soon those resolutions are forgotten, along with our plans to make this the year we take over the world. I experienced a lot of changes in 2012, though—a new job; a new apartment; friends who had babies; friendships that grew stronger or apart; a string of fizzled romances—that made me rethink the notion of setting out intentions for the year ahead, starting with the way I rang in 2013: at South Boston Yoga’s celebration class, not a champagne flute or noisemaker in sight.
Here are a few of mine, whether you call them resolutions, goals, or just things to do. I like to think of them as leaps of faith into the great unknown. And cheers!
To move beyond my comfort zone—geographically. I live in South Boston, and though there’s a number of newly-opened places in my neighborhood that have created a buzz and that I've meant to check out, I often find myself back in my old stomping grounds—Cambridge, particularly Central Square—in pursuit of late-night fun. And even though it’s just a short cab ride (or a pleasant walk on a nice day), I rarely venture into the North End, an area you could stumble into blindfolded and find a place to eat and drink (and canoodle). I fully confess that I'm a creature of habit, but what's an adventure without uncharted territory? So, Southie, you’re on my list—same goes for Union Square, Jamaica Plain, and yes, the North End.
While we're on the subject: to use public transportation more often. There are times when a cab is warranted: when it’s (literally) too late to take public transportation; when I’m in unfamiliar territory and safety seems questionable; when it’s raining sideways and my umbrella has blown inside out. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen into the routine of getting ready at the last minute, receiving texts that a date has arrived at the restaurant; should he order me a drink?—while I’m still in my apartment, running around like an animal unleashed trying to find my left shoe, apply mascara and spray perfume at the same time, just as the number 9 bus conveniently passes by. (I'm not the only one who does this, right?) I now declare cabs the exception, not the rule. My wallet, not to mention the environment, is happy to hear it.
To try online dating—maybe. I’ve got friends who rave about online dating, and friends who share horror stories about guys who look nothing like they do in their photos, or who have questionable track records, that the idea of online dating has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm a sucker for serendipity (I confess my dark, secret fantasy of running into the perfect guy—literally—between shelves at the library, our hands bumping into each other as we reach for the same book), and think that choosing a mate by algorithm seems highly unromantic. Since starting this blog, though, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers and dating experts alike, asking for my opinion on the matter—and I can't give one without the experience of being in the trenches firsthand. I'm intrigued, if a bit intimidated, and so this resolution is flagged as yellow: proceed with caution.
What are your resolutions? How will your dating life take shape in 2013? Are there new places you'd like to check out—or old ghosts you'd prefer to leave behind?
Why is one of the simplest words in the English language sometimes so hard to say? Whether we’re riding the subway, walking down the street, or waiting for a drink at a crowded bar, we’re constantly surrounded with the potential to spark a conversation with strangers, and yet we hesitate, unsure of the outcome, and we pass on, nestled into the familiarity of a book, our own solidarity, a cocktail. And when it comes to matters of the heart? Those first words can be even harder. This is Boston, after all; we’re known for our (mostly) cold temperatures and cold shoulders alike.
But we know it feels like when a ‘What If?’ turned into a ‘Wow!’. We’ve all taken many first steps in our lives; it’s the only way to move forward. As one of my yoga instructors would phrase it: we have to empty out in order to fill again. (Or something like that.)
I’m not perfect, but I have a long-term relationship with adrenaline. I love the thrill that accompanies a first date, even if it ends in disaster. I like exploring different neighborhoods and the delight that comes with discovering a new-to-me restaurant. I’m a travel bug, for sure. I even enjoy going out by myself, as I chronicled in a recent story. Most of all, I enjoy sharing my experiences with my friends—and now, with the Boston.com community.
So welcome to Let’s Go Out, a place where I’ll share insider tips from my own after-dark adventures in the city, stumbles and all—and, in turn, I hope, encourage you to take your own. Sometimes, our adventures begin with a first step. Sometimes, they start with a hello.