The XX Factor

Texting While Dating

Sometimes I wonder if male columnists write columns just to piss off their daughter’s friends. In David Brooks’ case , his dissection of modern dating habits is less annoying than Michael Gerson’s similar attempt, because he is less scolding and more anthropological. And because I am closer to his age than his daughter’s, I will admit-with some fear of my fellow DoubleX ers-that I found it intriguing.

Brooks does his research at New York magazine’s online sex diaries, which he admits is not a representative sample. What he discovers is a new mating market which operates something like an e-Bay auction, where buyers are, up to the last minute, searching for a best deal on a lay. I’ve had friends newly on the dating market, so I’ve seen some of this in action, and I do find it kind of amazing. Most interesting to me is the creation of a texting persona-almost a literary persona-always somewhat ironic, flirtatious, and almost never honest or hurt.

This doesn’t mean, as he says, that we need medieval chivalry, or Bruce Springsteen to keep us in check. I, for one, can’t stand Bruce Springsteen. I think there must be new rules here and Brooks and I just haven’t figured them out. I can see, for example, how this resembles in some ways dating from the ‘50s, with everyone angling and protected. But I’m not sure. Anyone with more experience want to explain?