Several neighbors came by for lunch when I was visiting my mother for a few days in the late 1960s. Because I then worked producing a radio talk show that often featured interviews with the biggest music stars of the day, conversation briefly turned to such groups as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.
All the women, including my mother, dismissed rock & roll out of hand. It wasn't real music to them.
Remember, these were women born in the 19-teens and 1920s who came of age in the big band era – Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, for example, and singers such as The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Billie Holliday, etc.
I mention this because I don't think that the oldest generation can ever really understand – or accept, sometimes – the culture of the concurrent youngest adult generation.
This came to mind last weekend while reading an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times titled Sexual Freelancing in the Gig Economy that discusses how dating among the young is done these days.
It is, and always has been, asserts writer, Moira Weigel, related to the economy even if the details differ slightly from generation to generation. Nowadays, corporate language rules in dating, she says:
”First, [men on Tinder] 'reach out.' Then, after spending the night together, they 'follow up.'
“...We constantly use economic metaphors or describe romantic and sexual relations...we have 'friends with benefits' and 'invest in relationships.' An ex may be 'on' or 'off the market.' Online dating makes 'shopping around' explicit. Blog after blog strategizes about how to maximize your 'return on investment' on OKCupid.”
Further, says Weigel, changes to how the workplace operates nowadays, affects dating culture too:
”Back when most people punched clocks at fixed hours, a date might have asked 'Shall I pick you up at 6?' But part-timers, contractors and other contingent workers – who constitute some 40 percent of the American workforce – are more inclined to text one another, 'u still up?' than to make plans in advance.”
An attractive, 30-year-old, single friend tells me that she hardly dates at all. Get-togethers, she explains, are set up with one- and two-line text messages and the guys, as as often as not when the day arrives, text to “postpone” the meeting and she never hears from them again.
Moira Weigel again:
”The generation of Americans that came of age around the time of the 2008 financial crisis has been told constantly that we must be 'flexible' and 'adaptable.' Is it so surprising that we have turned into sexual freelancers?
“Many of us treat relationships like unpaid internships: We cannot expect them to lead to anything long-term, so we use them to get experience.”
No wonder surveys tell us women are postponing marriage. It makes me sad to read this stuff and I'm glad I'm too old to participate. A majority of the comments seem to feel sad too. Here's a sample from a Times reader named Sophie Vandoorne in Paris:
”Wow, this article made me understand a bit more what my daughter had tried to explain to me all these years about the lack of romance in today's American society.
“I just could not believe her when she claimed that men in NY were not about love and romance. They were about work and sex. Being French I would say, yes sex is great darling, it makes one feel alive but aren't sex and love together so much better?
“I could hear her think, 'mom, you are such a dinosaure you don't get it, do you?'
“Well, no I really don't. I still think like Freud taught me that life is about being able to work and to love. If as Steve Jobs urged us to do, you can find work you love, that's even better but can you really live your life without loving someone and being loved in return? Isn't it what people secretly still wish for themselves?
“I guess my daughter is right, I am yesterday indeed.”
Me too, right here in front of you on this page, a dinosaur. Whether it's music or dating or a lot of other things that have changed.
But that's the way it's supposed to be, isn't it? Young folks reject the old ways, old folks resist and the world moves forward. For better or for worse. Usually a bit of both.