The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

“Can I have your number?” I’d just spent an hour talking with the guy about homework, but the question caught me off-guard.

It was the Mark Rothko of pick-ups: direct and unadorned, as was the message on my phone later: “Hi, Sarah. How am I supposed to ask you on a date when you don’t pick up?” Being used to more indirect strategies, I was surprised by the frankness.

But here is the punch line: statistically speaking, people are unlikely to meet a spouse in college. People are marrying later than they once did, which is why most students I know think of serious relationships in the abstract. If meeting a spouse is on your college bucket list, this reality is awfully depressing.

I use the opening illustration because it doesn’t happen often (also, it didn’t work out), which is why a recent New York Times article dourly decried “the end of courtship.” Technology has thrown a wrench in romance, complicating the subtext of casual relationships and making it simultaneously harder and easier to connect.

But has technology actually killed romance?

Yes, but only if romance is simply the sum of a patriarchy-based courting system that results in early marriage and procreation. But if the definition of romance is a little broader — no, not at all.

Being dissatisfied with contemporary dating is normal, as is pining for the corsage-formality of the relationships that once upon a time began at the movies and not by making out sloppily at a party.

This dissatisfaction, though, can put romance on a binary scale. On one side of the spectrum, the relationships that lead to weddings right out of Pinterest — on the other, the nebulous tenure of hook-up culture represented by the HBO show “Girls.”

This binary gives the illusion that nothing falls in between; that we are subject to the unwritten rules of an unwritten culture. It is trendy to fetishize technology as the malaise all disconnected 20-somethings suffer from and to say that we lack relationships because texting is confusing, the economy is bad and the Internet is big.

But within my own longing for substance in daily life, a choice is lodged. If I want to unplug, I can; if I want to express interest in someone, I can. Choosing to despair the contemporary dating scene — as I often do — might be fun, but it’s not helpful. It’s important to validate technology as something that has complicated romance, but also broadened it. Change, after all, is the only constant.

And romance is a part of that constant. I find the blurring of rigid gender expectations romantic, along with the freedom to experiment and marry later; to have platonic friendships and dance with my best friend.

It’s inaccurate to eulogize romance just because it lacks the prescription of 50 years ago. I don’t want a prescription for romance. Courtship may be dead, but romance isn’t.

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