Here’s How Dating Today Is Different Than in the 80s

Here is a glimpse at dating on the high school circuit in 1980 and how it compares with dating today.

1980: See cute boy in school. Ask your friends his name. Doodle his name. Doodle your first name plus his last name. Doodle your names together. Dream about where he lives and what his interests are.

2018: See total hottie in school. Ask your friends his name. Google him at lunch. Have friends search and follow him on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

1980: Invite friends over after school and look his family up in phonebook. Use your thumb to make a black smudge on the thin paper in the exact spot where his info is. Everyone squeals as you stare at the page.

2018: Compare search results at your house after school. All intel about crush is relayed via group text message. The clicking of the keyboard, whoosh of a sent text and new text notification are the only sounds. No one talks at all.

1980: Pull out yearbook. Methodically flip to every black-and-white photo of him. Stare at his team baseball picture. Imagine sitting in the bleachers cheering him on as he lowers his tinted aviator sunglasses to wink at you.2

2018: Pull out iPad. Scroll through pictures on his Instagram account. Notice that he has posted shots wearing at least three different baseball uniforms. Hope he doesn’t think you are going to 1,000 different dusty fields to watch him. He might not even be all that.

Dating in the 80s versus today

1980: Pull rotary phone over to couch, find smudged page in phone book and slowly dial. Hang up as soon as someone answers. Thank God they have no way of knowing who it is. Repeat three times before little brother comes into the room to watch Happy Days and ruins everything. As usual.

2018: Type his address into Google Maps. Zoom in and get directions and distance from your house to his house. Take new selfie and upload to all of your social media accounts. I mean, he might be Googling you too.

1980: Next day at school, your friend, who is friends with his friend, asks if your crush has a girlfriend. Hold breath all day for the answer. Distract yourself reading a Tiger Beat.

2018: Next day at school, your friend texts him mentioning you might think he’s cool. He replies, “tell her to HML” (hit my line). Yeet!

1980: At lunch, your friend says that his friend says that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Yes! Now it doesn’t matter that Shaun Cassidy isn’t going to kidnap you in his Camaro after all. Scribble your phone number on spiral paper, fold into a small triangle and give to your friend to pass to his friend to pass to him.

2018: At lunch, your friend texts hottie’s contact info to you. Add him as a contact with just a first name. Time to start a Snapchat streak ASAP

1980: At home, you wait by the phone for his call. But, your mom stays on the phone forever. You are apoplectic, picturing your hunk getting a busy signal and giving up. You have no way of knowing if he called unless everyone stays off the phone and you never leave the house. Ever.

2018: At home, hottie texts you before his baseball practice and arranges to FaceTime later. You get a spray tan, and then stop at Chipotle and Starbucks. You have hours to kill until he calls.

1980: He calls during dinner and your dad tells your maybe, hopefully new boyfriend to call back in an hour. You pull the phone into a closet exactly an hour later and jump when it rings. You talk for precisely 7 minutes. You repeatedly establish that you both are “fine” and doing “nothing.” He asks you to go to a movie Friday night.

2018: Before his call, you move around the room picking the ideal FaceTime view. Perfect. Just you with your photo collages in the background. He asks if you want to hang out on Friday. You agree but don’t make plans because OBS POA’s are lame. Translation: Obviously plans of action are lame.

1980: He was supposed to be there at 7 p.m. You have no way to contact him so you wait. You smooth down your culottes, adjust your poncho and apply more Cherry Lip Smacker. Finally, you climb in and drive away with Blondie blaring from the 8-track.

2018: Take pics of four outfits. Text them to your friends and wear the one they pick. Shove $20 inside your phone case and watch Netflix. He texts to say he’s on the way and finally texts to say he’s there. You leave the house promising to text your mom and let her know the plan.

1980: You have no idea whether Caddyshack was a good date movie but you know it was a good date. You guys are perfect together, just like Danny and Sandy in Grease. You can’t wait to tell your friends about it when you go roller skating on Saturday morning.

2018: Your friends are with you on the date. On a trip to the bathroom, you text the few that aren’t. You snap a selfie of you and hottie for Instagram. You look amazing together, just like Kanye and Kim. You can’t wait to go home and track how many likes the picture gets.

And there you have it. Teen dating may have changed over the last few decades but having your friends as wingmen has, apparently, survived the times.


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About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

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