Vail Valley Voices: It’s rough out there in the dating world |

Vail Valley Voices: It’s rough out there in the dating world

Allen Smith
Vail, CO, Colorado

Three minutes after my newly divorced friend suggested she was ready to jump back into the dating game, I felt it was my duty to enlighten her about how things have changed since she stood on the altar looking into the eyes of her pimple-faced boyfriend, poised to say, “I do.”

It’s gotten rough out there.

When Adam and Eve ventured out on their first date, romance was considerably easier than it is today. There weren’t other men and women to compete against, they didn’t have to be concerned with what clothes to wear, and Lucifer took care of the dinner arrangements.

Since that infamous first date, the process of finding “the one” has endured countless twists, turns and dead ends.

Gold miners in the 1860s quickly learned that they could bypass the entire dating scene by ordering a bride through the mail. They not only got a lady who would put up with their poor hygiene, but they could also buy someone who was willing to accommodate gaps in their manners larger than the spaces between their teeth.

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In the 1920s, “modern” dating took the form of socializing in group settings like church gatherings, community dances and hay rides. Relationships typically began with a suitor paying a visit to the young woman’s home, where she received him in the family parlor chaperoned by her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, pastor, six aunts and uncles, eight brothers and sisters 12 dogs and 15 cats. The relationship culminated by the exchange of a dowry: usually a cow, a pig, $25 and a dozen eggs.

During World War II, dapper young American soldiers wooed innocent European ladies in crisp military uniforms and shoes so shiny they reflected the Lucky Strikes hanging from their lips. After the war (and a brief courtship), the soldiers returned to the U.S. with their new wives in tow. The brides quickly learned dozens of quaint American customs like pumping out kids one after the other, scrubbing the kitchen floor, washing loads of dirty laundry, picking up dog poop from the back yard and heating up TV dinners.

In my parents’ generation, men and women showed respect for each other by navigating through a complicated set of dating conventions that began with formal introductions between the elders of two families. It progressed to love letters delivered by snail mail, weekly telephone calls, followed by a year of chaperoned dates.

Today, randy men and women can fast forward through awkward first dates by flirting on dozens of online dating sites like, eHarmony,, and Craigslist. From the comfort of their stained sweatpants, overweight, unemployed losers with inferiority complexes can pretend to be virile, Harvard-educated orthopedic surgeons without the fear of ever having to actually meet anyone in person.

Singles on the prowl also need to master technologies that have infiltrated the modern dating scene — like text and instant messaging. Text messaging has replaced writing intimate letters in longhand and allows two people to trade innuendos as fast as their pudgy fingers can race across a keyboard the size of a postage stamp. But to play the game you need to learn a new language: text message abbreviations. Ten years ago a girl might have sent the following letter to her love interest, accompanied by a single, red rose:

Hi Jeff,

How are you? What’s been filling your days? I loved hearing from you and I think you have a wonderful sense of humor. Your last letters tickled me and made me laugh. As you know, I’m looking for that special someone. Could you be the one? How about finally meeting face to face? Let’s meet in real life to talk about beginning a long-term relationship, OK? I’ll be at Starbucks at 4 p.m. I’ll be the one with the short mini-skirt and no underwear. Well, that’s it for now, so I’ll talk to you later. Please send me a note if you can make it. Bye bye for now. Beatrice.

Today, people skip the hand-written note and flowers and dash off a quick text message while stuck in traffic: HJ… Hig? Wayd? I loved hearing from u and think u have a gsoh. Your last 2 tm had me rotflmao. Ayk, I’m looking for that special some1. Could u be the 1? How about meeting f2f? Lmirl to talk about a ltr, ok? I’ll be at *bucks at 4. I’ll be the 1 w/ the smsnuw. Well, tafn so I’ll ttul. Smaim if you can make it. Bb4n. Beatrice.

If all of your best efforts end in disaster, there’s no reason to sulk. There are plenty of contemporary ways to handle rejection. Gone are the days of enduring that “Dear John” letter while sitting at your desk at work. Instead, you can publicly humiliate your ex on the Internet.

If you own a digital camera (and who doesn’t?), you can post embarrassing photos of psycho-ex caught on the toilet or wrapped in the arms of Raul, the tennis pro at, or

There’s even a handy self-help section on that will not only provide you with tips on how to get back at your cheating lover (subscribe them to 300 magazines or have 75 large pizzas delivered to their office) but also offers the newly jilted a complete line of revenge products like simulated doggie poo or a hand-crafted voo doo doll, complete with pins.

Dating has gotten rough. Daunted by the thought of having to master Facebook, Twitter and write a competitive profile on, my friend gave up and decided to hang with a few of her close friends — at least until the next church sponsored speed dating event.

Allen Smith, of Vail, is the author of “Watch Grandma Circle the Drain” and “Ski Instructors Confidential.”

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