When I was in my twenties and had a date, this is what I would do. I would wake up early like it was Christmas and wash my car. Hand wash. None of this driving through a machine bullshit. Then I would hand pick the the songs I wanted to play and load the CDs into my six disc changer in the trunk. Then I would go workout so I felt good about myself. Then I would drive to the movie theater to buy the tickets in advance so we wouldn’t have to wait in line (this was before the internet). And of course, dinner reservations were already made. After getting ready, I would pick her up from her apartment. I would park my car, walk to the door, and knock. I would compliment her appearance and mean it as we walked to my car. I would open the door for her. And if there was a spark and things went well on the date, she’d get flowers or a note or something she can actually hold in the next few days.

If you’re a male in your twenties, you may read this and think, “Wow, what a loser.” Well, okay. But this process is what made dating fun, exciting, romantic, and fulfilling. It made the date a mini event, something to look forward to. It wasn’t just about the person. It was about the whole date experience. But more importantly, It gave two people a real chance because effort was put into it. Today, a date is a coffee or a drink but not dinner because what if they don’t look like their picture. Today, a date is “I’ll meet you there”. Today, a date is a thirty minute Skype call. Today, a date is a general meeting. Today, a date is not really a date because there’s no such thing anymore.

I get that we meet people online now. I get that there’s false advertising. Yes, I’ve been catfished before and it sucks. Instead of creating a space for romance, curiosity, build up, foreplay, and flirting, we just want the punchline. We want to check the boxes as fast as we can. Because we have options. And no patience. We know we can swipe and find another prospect while our date is in the restroom. So dating just becomes a bunch of lottery balls boucing in the glass box. Except the lottery balls are faces and the glass box is our phone.

So how do we change this?

I’ll give you a step by step play.

I’m going to speak to men because hopefully, men are still taking the lead these days. If not, this problem is no longer salvageable. I’m not saying women can’t take the lead. But women generally want to be asked out, and who ever asks the person out takes the initiative, makes the plans, and sets the tone. Or if you’re gay, I’m talking to whoever takes the lead. Because someone has to. Or there is no dance. Only two people stepping on toes. And that’s why dating is dead today. No one’s fucking dancing. We’re all just swiping, crossing fingers, and pissed off the person we met on our phone two hours ago is not our soul mate.

Okay, let’s start with actually using our phones for what they were invented for. Yes, call them. Stop hiding behind your fucking phone. Quick note. There will be a lot of F-bombs and I mean every single one of them. A fucking real conversation is the first step to get to know someone. If someone is asking you out via text, text them to call you and if they won’t, they don’t deserve to go on a date with you. This isn’t junior high. Man the fuck up. Call them and exchange voices. Texting is a conversation as much as smoke signals are. Talk. Hear them. Feel their energy, vibe. Discover. Dance.

Once you’ve seen them, and by seen I don’t mean in photos, either in person or Skype or Facetime or any live video platform, ask them out. Literally. Say “Would you like to _____________ with me.” Not, “Hey, me and my friends are going to be ______, wanna meet us?”. I understand you may want to keep it casual. But hiding behind your friends just screams insecurity. Take a fucking chance. Grow a pair. Also, you’ve already seen the person live via webcam / phone and technology is pretty fucking good these days so even if they’re really photogentic, they won’t be that far off. If they look like Drew Barrymore on Skype, Drew Carry won’t show up. Promise. And you’ve already talked to them on the phone so you already have a feel for their personality. If you’re not feeling it, then don’t ask them out. Stop there. That’s fair.

Now the date. Don’t treat it like it’s a fucking business meeting or something that just happened by chance. The intention isn’t to be friends or strike a busienss deal. You’re looking for a fucking lover, correct? Then act like it. Plan something. Set an intention. Put your best foot forward. Because they are too and it’s your job to set the tone. You don’t have to hand wash your car or put a playlist together. But Jesus, open a door. Engage. Ask questions. Be interested and interesting. Order dessert together. Pick up the check. Effort. Effort. Effort. Put some into it. You get back what you put in. Now if there’s no connection, that’s okay. That’s all just a part of dating. But don’t act like your time was wasted or that you were ripped off. Magic is hard to find. Your parents had to kiss a lot of frogs before they met so why shouldn’t you? The internet doesn’t hack that for you. And if you think it should, you’re entitled and don’t have the tools to build a relationship so stop dating until you grow the fuck up.

The aftermath.

If things didn’t work out, don’t be an asshole. Be a good fucking human, the kind that your kids would be proud of, and be respectful. Know that you got to hear a new story, as did they, and that’s a privelge. There’s no waste in connecting with a human.

If things did work out, then make it clear that you like then. You don’t have to write their name in the sky. But don’t fucking play games. Just communicate and be honest. I understand that’s difficult because it takes vulnerability. But if you are not transparent, you are already fucking things up. There is already something false about this and he or she will smell it and lose trust. And we both know, without trust, you are building on sand. Say what you feel. Don’t wait for the other person to go first. You’re not being mysterious in a good way by keeping someone in the dark. You’re being lame.

If you guys have sex, don’t pretend like you didn’t. Don’t act surprised or like the other person is crazy if they want to know where this may be going or what you want, unless you both agree that the sex was just sex. It doesn’t have to be a “what are we” conversation but it can be a “what do you want” or “what are you looking for” conversation. Most likely, you guys are both looking for something that will turn into a relationship. Here’s the rule. If you have been inside someone or someone has been inside you, both of you have a right to ask what’s up. If it was just sex for you, then tell them. If you don’t want to be monogamous, then tell them. Don’t ghost because shit comes around and someone you really like will ghost on you and you will internalize it and wonder why and if you’re defective.

Here’s the thing. You can’t want a cleaner world and toss your bag of Wendy’s out your car window. So if you want people to find love again. If you want dating to be fun again. If you believe in romance. Then stop reading about it and let’s save dating by putting some effort into it and by being responsible. Save dating by treating people like human beings. Save dating by practicing transparency and showing your true self. Save dating by actually going on real dates. Then maybe we will all have a better chance at love.

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Originally published at medium.com