Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Hanging Out vs. Dating: Can an old dog write New Adult?

Being north of 40 years old and writing New Adult romance, I need to understand the current atmosphere of the 18-25 year old dating community.  I don’t want my books to come across as contrived or outdated, but they should appeal to a broad age range as well.  I hope that certain romantic notions are ageless.  And no, I don’t creep the college campus, but I may quiz age-appropriate family members with a promise of confidentiality!  My husband has 65 first cousins (lots of free time on farms, people), so there’s no shortage of kin to talk to.  I also gorge myself on good New Adult books – because those authors have the ability to combine a fresh vibe with the romance we love.  And I learn from that.

I want to focus on one point that really captured my attention during my anthropological adventure:
Hanging Out vs. Dating

It may be less prevalent in the South, but apparently Hanging Out is replacing Dating.  When I was single I loved being asked out because it meant the guy liked me more than he feared rejection.  I thought that was awesomesauce (well, I thought that it was totally rad because it was 1988).  Anyway, now it’s a text to say “mtg @ tylers L8R. CU there.”  Seriously.  I’ve had so many younger girls tell me that they don’t get asked out on dates, but rather texted to join a group setting where hookups may or may not occur. 

I’ve heard the term “situationship” in song lyrics and jokes.  It’s different than hanging out too.  Basically it is something that is less than a traditional relationship.  Some say it is the middle ground between Friends with Benefits and Exclusive Dating.  Others say it is problematic by definition (e.g. a couple has great, um, chemistry but don’t really like each other), and therefore fated to fail.  Laziness and low expectations?  Lack of social skills?  In real life as long as both people are content, I don’t care what it’s called and it’s none of my business.  But, in books, not surprisingly the situationship is not . . . romantic. 

I find that interesting because more than any other response, people tell me they read romance to escape:  into a pleasant world, somewhere outside of themselves, somewhere without worries, where there will be a happy something at the end.  And the situationship doesn’t provide that.  Hanging out and hooking up doesn’t provide that.

By the way, there is even a Wiki on “how to date” with the appropriate links to “how to look attractive,” which I found mildly terrifying.  Now, this isn’t a post about how everything was great in the old days, because I heard my parents and grandparents say basically the same things. Things evolve. I get it.

My point is that readers don’t lie.  They like what they like.  Trust them.  New Adult books have happy endings that are not situationships.  The happy endings are not the couple hanging out and hooking up. Real and complex relationships develop.  There is love.  So, it gives me hope that I can write this genre because, indeed, certain romantic notions seem to be ageless.

The next stop on my fledgling anthropology trip is a study of online dating sites.  TrekPassion, ScientificMatch, CougarLife, FarmersOnly, Zoosk, Tinder.  Should be interesting!


Michel Reinhard said...

I have two nieces who recently graduated from college. One had a steady boyfriend from high school, the other has always just hooked up. In fact, she just went on her very first date a month ago. The guy actually picked her up, took her to dinner, and to a club music performance. She called me and said "Aunt Shell, I think I like this dating thing. I felt like he was focused on me and made me feel like a beautiful woman. Not sexy, but beautiful.". I was thrilled for her.

Heather said...

Great post!

Meda White said...

Girl, you've got this lingo down. Great research. I need lessons. You're gonna rock the New Adult world. Thanks for sharing.

Ali Hubbard said...

Great feedback, Michel. I guess I was working and raising kids. ..and missed it! I used to think that I didn't want my daughter to have a steady. She should date around and learn about how guys act and how they have different strengths and weaknesses. Now I'm not so sure! Lol.
So glad to hear that your niece had a nice date. I hope it continues! !!

Ali Hubbard said...

Thanks, Heather!

Ali Hubbard said...

Meda! You are totes adorbs! Actually I think that one is on the decline. Lol. I can't keep up!And I'm the one who needs lessons from you. Now Sshh. .. I'm about to go buy your book!

Carla Swafford said...

I think things go in cycles. My grandmother and mom talked about how the girls met guys by going to church and staying in a crowd of kids (teenagers). After they did that a few times, the guy would show up on the porch and hang around. Then they'll go on a date but usually a sibling would go with them. :-)

Now when I was growing up, I would meet the guy at school, church or the local skating ring (if you're into that sort of thing - I was) and then he'll call you and you'll talk for hours, keeping the line busy. After a couple phone calls he'll ask you out. I had to double date in the beginning, my mom's requirement.

Then fast forward to my two girls. Both hung out with friends. The only time they really went on a "date" was to prom. The rest of the time it was a group of them going bowling, movies, etc. I found it amazing. In a way, I was happy they didn't appear to be alone with a boy, but I felt they missed out in part of the excitement.

Great post, Ali!

Jillian said...

great post, Ali. I had no idea about situationship. I do have a 19 year old and they do the group thing all the time and not date really. It is totally different from when I was his age, for sure. I see some good there and I see some not so good there.

You're right. things evolve and it's interesting to see it as it unfolds.

I love that your next step is exploring the dating sites. Rock on.

Ali Hubbard said...

Things definitely evolve! I like group activities for high school age. But they are usually more structured and i feel safe. But I get a lot of 19+people saying the guys are sitting around playing video games whole the girls are social media-ing. Them at some point...bam! It's the end of the night and decision time. That won't work on a book. Lol

Ahhhh. Skating. Lol.

Ali Hubbard said...

Thanks!! And there is good and bad. I'm just trying to keep my writing relevant but satisfying!
Everything I see about a situationship implies there is some underlying problem that will prevent Happily Ever After. And the Happy for Now doesn't feel great...But something must be. Lol

Pamela Mason said...

I have two sons and yes - they hang out and do more group things than one on one dates. They've both had girlfriends that evolved from that, but I'm with you - I remember going out one on one.
IMO as a mom of two sons, I have heard so much fear of date rape and assault from single dates from mothers of girls that I think that has changed the whole landscape. I cannot blame them; there are too many scary news stories out there these days.
And of course my own boys are perfect gentlemen!
I think the days of scaring the boy by the daddy with the shotgun have passed.
And I can't wait to hear what you learn on Farmers Only and Tinder!

Carla Swafford said...

Hey, Pam. My hubby isn't much taller than me but our daughters have told us the guys would tell them they were afraid of their dad. Maybe not a shotgun, but it made several of them behave. Not sure about the girlsthough. :0)

But what really drove the girls nuts were when he would call the boys the wrong name. On purpose. LOL!

Ali Hubbard said...

Pamela, thanks for the comments. I've read a lot about the safety concerns too. So much to think about.

My pop definitely put the fear in the boys. I remember him cutting up a sandwich with a very big knife, looking up and asking the boy in a deadly tone "do you want some of this?" Hilarious because he could be talking about the sandwich...but the TONE implied his Italian side meant "touch my girl and you will get some of my fists!" He was the king of his words meaning something else entirely. No wonder I didn't get married until I was 34.

Now, my husband says when our daughter gets that age he'll just say, "be sure to have her home by 11:00. I sure would hate to go to prison...again." lol. Not that he has.

@Carla - hilarious about calling the boys the wrong name on purpose.

Chris Bailey said...

What a great post! As an old dog, this new world of hanging out seems too suspenseful. I mean, if someone asks you to do something specific--not texts you to maybe meet--then you're testing the possibility of a relationship. If everybody just meets at the same place--and maybe some hook up--that just seems like, I don't know, wildlife? My sister has tried computer dating. She's gotten really good at reading between the lines!

Ali Hubbard said...

Thanks, Chris Bailey! I have a feeling there is a LOT to read between the lines with online dating! Another thing 18-25 people tell me is that they IMMEDIATELY google the name of the guy or girl to see their facebook and other info on them. It's a new world!

Cari Hislop said...

Great post! Loved the comments too. Commenting on Pamela's comment - I suspect there's a double edged sword working against the decent young men. There are the young men who think that their girl friend/dates owe them sex. That buying a girl a drink or buying her dinner comes with a free sex tip. These men give ALL men a bad name (and some young women probably think all young men are like that). Flip side of the coin you get the odd evil girl/woman who will use any man she can get her hands on (kind boys/men can be particularly vulnerable) and if he won't comply and buy or do what she wants...she cries rape. I'm glad I'm happily married. I don't think any age group today has an easy time of dating (even people looking in the seemingly safe places like church). I think there's something weird going on in our society. We all need and want love, but there seem to be a growing percentage of people who think they can buy or demand it. I don't understand that mentality.

Ali Hubbard said...

Cari - you are right. There are just so many types of people out there. Best to really get to know someone well when dating...or hanging out!

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