(We all wanted to be like Ross and Rachel back then. Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.)
1. Then: Have your friends set you up with someone they know. You will probably not see this person until the moment you actually meet, unless your friend has a picture of them in an old photo album from college, so make sure you get a detailed description of what they look like over the phone. Hope they don’t lie. Now: You swiped right because they were hot.
2. Then: You could also check the personal ads in the back of your city’s weekly newspaper. Look for SWM, SBF, GHM, etc. Now: Tinder, OKCupid, Bumble, Grindr, the list of dating apps is pretty much endless. Look for a single yet polyamorous, non-gender-conforming, #sexpositive, post-colonial, anti-Imperialist, non-capitalist, vegan, pan-sexual, multi-lingual, agnostic feminist who is cool with a little light BDSM on special occasions.
3. Then: Ask mutual friends to tell you about them. Now: Stalk the living crap out of them on social media to be sure they are hot/ interesting/ have a job/ are not catfishing you. Google and Reverse Image Search are your best friends. Then lose interest completely because, eww, he used the X-Pro filter wayyyy too much on Instagram, and suffers from an embarrassing case of hashtag abuse, and she has a disturbing number of duck faced selfies and might possibly charge people to watch her do laundry naked over a webcam.
4. Then: What’s your sign? Ooohh, Scorpio! Now: What’s your Myers Briggs type? Ugh, an INFJ? Boring. I’m looking for more of an ENFP. Sorry.
5. Then: You have to call their house to talk to them. Someone else (Roommate? Sibling? Parent?) will answer. You will have to ask if they are there. There will be an elaborate song and dance involving hanging up one receiver and picking up the phone in the upstairs bedroom as opposed to the one in the kitchen where there’s no privacy. There may also be messages written down on scraps of paper if they aren’t home. You will have severe anxiety wondering if their little sister actually gave them the message, if it was written down correctly, or if they can read the handwriting. If you’re lucky, you can just leave a message on their answering machine and hope their dad doesn’t erase it. Now: Text them. It’s way easier not having to talk to anyone.
6. Then: Allow the guy to pick you up at your house in his car. Now: Hell no is anyone letting a strange dude pick them up at home. You have seen the ID Channel. Everyone is a narcissist/sociopath/rapist/cannibal-axe murderer/ ISIS recruiter these days.
7. Then: Do not fail THE TEST. You know, the one where after he opens your car door you have to reach over and unlock the driver’s side door before he gets in. Now: Automated door locks. Instead, the girl now has to offer to pay. This test goes both ways, however, because the guy must absolutely not let her. Ever.
8. Then: When you’re driving to the place where you’re going to meet, as you drive you will need to refer to elaborate handwritten directions on a piece of notebook paper that she dictated to you in advance of the date, over the phone. Now: Seriously? Uber that shit.
9. Then: Shave your legs below the knee. Now: Go get a full Brazilian. Even if you are a man.
10. Then: Pre-date crash diet so you aren’t bloated. Now: Do a three day juice cleanse that costs $150.00 so you can rid your body of toxins and make a good impression, which you will not do if your body is harboring toxins.
11. Then: Dinner and a movie (as in actual restaurant and theater). Now: Netflix and Chill.
12. Then: Decide you want to send your lover a dirty picture. Buy film. Take the picture and have no idea how it turned out. Drop the film off to be developed at the One Hour Photo. Try not to blush or make eye contact when you pick up the prints and the girl at the register can’t stop snickering. Take the prints to Kinko’s to have them scanned. Endure more uncontrollable laughter from the employees. Take your scans home on a disc. Wait fifteen minutes for your dial-up modem to sign into AOL. “MOM HANG UP THE PHONE! I’M TRYING TO USE THE COMPUTER!” Wait another thirty minutes for the photos to upload so you can email them to PretEinGlittr1974. Give up and put the prints in an envelope and send them at the post office. Now: Dick pic, yo. Stand in front of the bathroom mirror, suck in your gut, fluff it up, snap some nice shots of it, and immediately text her. (She will then find this hysterical and send the picture to ALL of her girlfriends and both of her sisters and everyone will laugh their asses off at your ding-dong.)
13. Then: Three Day Rule. Now: #heisnevergoingtotextyouagain.
14. Then: You can’t leave the house because they might call while you’re gone and oh my God, you cannot NOT be there when they call! Now: Go wherever you want but keep checking your phone settings to make sure your texts are working. Post something on Facebook and refresh repeatedly to see if they “liked’ it. Are they active on messenger? Jeez! OMG why are they ignoring you like this?? It’s torture!!
15. Then: While in line at the grocery store, pore over print magazine articles that promise to teach you how to turn yourself into the perfect mate so that someone will want to marry/ have sex with you. Now: Pretty much the exact same bullshit, except now it’s on the Internet and you read it on your tablet when your friends share it on Facebook, while you’re in your Prius trying to find a parking spot at Whole Foods.
16. Then: Stay up all night long talking on the phone about anything and everything until you fall asleep with the receiver stuck to your face and you are suddenly awakened by the sunrise and a blaring busy signal in your left ear. Now: Stay up all night juggling three different text conversations with potential hookups and see if you can maybe get someone to come over for a 3am spontaneous booty call.
17. Then: Write each other long, poetic love letters on real stationery. Now: Wot R U doing 2morrow? BTW gr8 time last nite Thx… C U soon Xoxo PS Do u like anal?
18. Then: Make your beloved a mix tape/cd. Every single song should have meaning and purpose. Lots of acoustic, singer-songwriter stuff you heard at the coffee shop. Agonize over the order. Do not forget that Mazzy Star song. Draw your own cover with rainbow markers. Include lots of curlicues, moons and stars. Now: Text them the Youtube link to that trippy sexy EDM/ dubstep song you heard in yoga and found on your teacher’s Spotify playlist.
19. Then: Obsessively read The Rules, make notes in the margin and try to act breezy and aloof and like you actually have a life. Now: Rules? WTF? There are no rules. You cannot even with rules.
20. Then: You get annoyed because your date flirts with the server and stares at every hottie that walks by. Now: You’re mad because you got phubbed (aka they paid more attention to their phone than you).
21. Then: Go to lunch with your friends and recount every last detail of the date that you can remember and analyze every word your date said. Now: Live tweet the date in real time for your closest friends and 6,531 followers.
22. Then: Go out to dinner. Get some quesadillas or chicken wings. Now: Scan Yelp! to see if you can possibly find a restaurant that can accommodate everyone’s individual dietary needs. You’re doing that modified Paleo, Four Hour Body thing. She has multiple food sensitivities. There has to be somewhere you can both eat, right? And oh jeez, look, he’s written a bunch of rude reviews online and half of them don’t even use proper grammar. This dude is a troll! You cannot go out with a troll! CANCEL!
23. Then: Make up an elaborate lie to tell your friends about how you met by chance in a bookstore and it was just like a Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan romcom, because you would die if someone found out you found love in an AOL chatroom. Now: A bookstore? What is that? How could someone meet on Amazon? Does BarnesandNoble.com have a new dating app that I don’t know about? Does it work on The Nook or something?
24. Then: Whitman’s Sampler, See’s Nuts and Chews, Godiva truffles. Now: Unethical Labor Practices in West Africa, Anti-pollinator, Unfair Trade, Orangutan extinction, Massive Carbon Footprint.
25. Then: Go on several, well-planned dates to test your compatibility as a couple and really get to know one another. Invest some time before you sleep together. Now: Meet up for sex before you waste time or spend money unnecessarily on someone who sucks in bed.