Monday, October 10, 2005

[This is my last post for the next while. I’ve got other things on the go that I have to divert more attention to. But I’d like to keep this blog going on a regular basis. If you’ve got 800 or more words you’d like to publish somewhere, and you think this place is a proper home, drop me a line. --thechairatcanadadotcom]

The Double Date

Recently, a woman I had met through a mutual friend called me up for a date. When I casually mentioned it to a guy friend, he asked whether she had lined up someone for him to escort for a double date. After all, that’s what was customary for our parents. People went on double dates. There would be the core couple and the tag-along blind date couple. From all those movies from the 1950’s, it seemed to be that the woman always had a shy cousin visiting from out of town that needed an escort. Why she couldn’t stay home and watch tv by herself, I never understood. On the men’s side, the wingman usually was an army buddy or former college roommate who tended to be the comic relief to the story line.

But this wasn’t just the stuff of movies.

Looking into the receiver and smiling, Chip wasn't the brightest of twoI’ve heard enough stories from my parent’s generation to understand that many of my friends’ parents met on these so-called escorted blind dates. The stories were as generic as those B-movies. The core couple that introduced the pair didn’t continue the courtship, while the escort couple eventually fell in love and got engaged after a few weeks. The facts seemed to defy intuition because of the sheer randomness of the connection. I began to wonder about it further. If such styles of dating had more than a modicum of success, how come it has all but died out in current dating culture? Moreover, should we be looking to resurrect the noted “double-date” of days of yore?

The purpose of the double date appears to have been two-fold. First, it allowed for quasi-supervision on a couple’s dating behaviour. With adolescents, this meant that parents could feel partially assured that Tommy and Betty-Sue weren’t going to get into too much trouble if Chip and Tammy-Lynn were chaperoning them. Victorian sensibilities carried into the twentieth century so to speak. For adult women, this probably offered a feeling of security as well. In addition, the double date could be considered a low-threshold event for guys and girls to get to know one another. For many, particularly the shy, having to hold a one-on-one conversation over the course of the evening was just too much to hope for. Better to be with a larger group, where the flow of conversation can continue without one having to engage at every point along the way.

The double date started off bad. Real bad.
Of course, most double date stories I have come across usually involved a reasonably well-established core couple. In 1950’s parlance, they were considered to be “going steady”. While the above-mentioned elements were considered for bringing along the extra couple, other motives were often at play. The most common one I heard of was the “set-up” date, where one member of the core couple was desperately trying to find a partner for their close friend and it was up to the other partner to pony up someone for the ritual (some would say sacrifice). I don’t have statistics on the success of such efforts. It seems to me that the sheer overtness of the caper probably created too much pressure for the coupling to happen.

To hide the forced situation, I’ve also heard of the “stealth” double date. This is where neither party is aware that a set-up is taking place. The core couple, dating experts that they are, decides not to tell the potential couple that they are being invited to a double-date. It’s all kept very casual, with the hope that the natural chemistry between the two will make romance blossom. Sadly, I’ve never heard of much success for that method. In fact, the one case I know of, the only pairing that happened was an affair one of the core couple members had with one of the stealth couple participants months after the original date. Talk about chemistry.

Similar to above, with non-core couple double dates the dynamics are much more fluid. In fact, this is one of the downfalls that I’ve observed. If at least one of the pairings isn’t established, one often gets two of the participants trying to jockey for position in wooing the interest of the same person. Which makes sense wI saw her first!hen you think about it. While everyone has his or her type, it’s amazing how often we end up competing for that “type” with our guy buddy or girl pal. And when I think of all the parties I’ve gone to over the years, it’s always the same available woman or guy that everyone seems to be chasing after. Line up ten women and ask ten guys whom they desire the most, and eight of them will pick the same woman. Do the same for women, and maybe six will pick the same guy. While I won’t go into the differences in the numbers between the sexes, the fact is that this overlap exists and it makes for a serious challenge in the world of double dates.

After illustrating nothing but risks and consequences associated with the double date, why is it that it was so popular in the past and why did it work in some cases? I want to retract what I said earlier about the risks of being too overt. With men, at least, overt is what we operate best in. More than once, I have been invited to dinner parties where the intention was for me to meet some available single woman. Of course, the clever individuals attempting such matchmaking thought by not telling me, it would make it seem less forced and improve the odds. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Almost in all such circumstances, I would hardly make the connection. In fact, it was more likely that I would hit on someone who wasn’t available or interested, which made matters worse. I’d hear afterwards that my potential love-interest was completely turned off when I flirted with the caterer. Often, I would be disappointed that I didn’t know about such a prospect until after the fact.

“She was single?” you could hear me ask. “That Kyle she kept talking about is her cat? Not a boyfriend? I just assumed…”

Another phenomenon that has clouded the world of covert courtships is the greater integration of people of diverse sexual orientation in mainstream life today. I have chatted up many the cute and interesting lesbian in my day -- all to no avail. Subtleties in that realm serve no one’s best interest, at least when it comes to romance. Throw in the growing interest in modern day “just friends” platonic relationships, and it becomes clear that something more overt in the courtship game needs to be re-introduced. The double date may be just the ticket.

Got something to add on this subject? Post a comment.


At 10/12/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

Has your other thing on the go that you have to divert more attention to got a friend?

At 10/12/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

I did say other things -- some of whom have friends no doubt. I'll see what I can do to line up that double date for us, Dwarfie.

At 10/12/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

Oh, right, other things. Sorry, Chair. I forgot about all that humanitarian work you're involved in.

But back to this double-dating theme of yours. If people started getting back into this, it might help with the problem of people having to choose between dropping their friends or starting to see somebody new.

It's funny how in the last 40 years we've gone from "I can only see you Friday if you bring a date for my friend" to "I can't see you Friday because I've already promised to go to a play with my friend."

At 10/12/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

Yes, my humanitarian work. I won't read the sarcasm (or is that irony?) in your statement.

You raise a good point about sharing our time. I wonder if it was more a thing of manners back in the old days. You and I have talked before about certain codes of conduct we follow today when it comes to courtship prospects. One rule amongst the guy-set is that you can pretty much cancel the last minute on a guy friend if there's some romantic prospect you've got a chance to see. It's understood. With women, I'm not sure if that rule holds true. But you're right, we seem to be making an either/or decision, when maybe we should be trying to kill two birds with one stone.

At 10/12/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

"kill two birds with one stone"?

Rather unfortunate metaphor, there, Chair.

But it would explain why you don't bring me along on dates.

At 10/15/2005, Blogger Jeff said...

I have had success on what it referred to as "Stealth dates" even though it was a bit less of a set up and more of a circumstance that there were two couples it seems that casual encounters like that can have the smallest amount of pressure and in the end you either walk away with a new friend or go on a few more dates... cant say that any of my friends would be thrilled about the idea of setting up a double blind date it does seem a little old-fashion


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