THE HOLIDAYS ARE here. For many of us, that means making small talk with relatives we only see once a year. It can be difficult to find something to talk about with someone who is in a completely different stage of life, especially this year when politics are banned from many family dinner tables. If you’re someone who has been married for decades, you might not be familiar with what your single niece/cousin/friend is encountering on the dating scene. So before you strike up a conversation about fixing them up or asking about their exciting bachelor/ette lifestyle, here are six things to know about today’s dating scene.
- Everyone swipes. It’s important to understand the language of online dating. On Tinder and other online dating apps, users swipe right if they’re interested in someone or swipe left if they’re not interested in the person. Swiping left and right has seeped into the vernacular. For example, if your nephew says, “Uncle Joe told me to try the Paleo diet, and I thought, ‘Swipe left,’” that’s slang for he’s not interested in trying the Paleo diet.
- No one goes out to dinner anymore. At least not on the first date. Nowadays it’s perfectly acceptable, probably even preferred, to meet up for drinks or coffee on a first date. This is undoubtedly related to the swiping phenomenon. You don’t have to go out to meet people anymore; you can meet hundreds of people on your phone while relaxing on your couch in a matter of minutes. After a few texts, you’ve got a coffee date … or four. All of the swiping leads to more first dates, which leads to people being more thrifty with their time and money on first dates.
- There are fewer than six degrees of separation. Think your co-worker’s son might be perfect for your neighbor’s daughter? There’s a chance they might have already met. In a bustling and transient city like Washington, DC, people are meeting online faster than well-meaning meddlers can introduce them. Of course, the flip side of this is that everyone has more baggage. That awkward guy you had coffee with last month is in the Meetup group you just joined, and the guy you met for drinks last week who couldn’t stop talking about himself is now dating your friend’s sister.
- Ghosting is a thing. Previously called the fade, ghosting is when things seem to be going well between two people but then one person suddenly stops replying to texts and calls. (Pro tip: When someone confides in you about being ghosted, do not try to comfort him or her by saying there are more fish in the sea. The best response is to say, “I’m sorry that happened,” and show empathy.)
- What happens on the internet stays on the internet…forever. Gone are the days when people could breakup and forget about each other. Now, no matter how many miles apart you move, your ex is only a mouse-click (or finger-tap) away on social media. While it’s not healthy, it’s definitely common for people to use Facebook and Instagram to keep tabs on their exes. Don’t ask people why they do this, just accept that it happens.
- Not everyone who is single wants a relationship. While getting married might be the best thing that ever happened to you, marriage isn’t for everyone. Of course, you have good intentions when trying to make a match, but remember that people want different things out of life. When people say, “Thanks, but I’m not interested,” believe them (and preferably don’t pass judgment on them).
Keep these six tips in mind over the next few weeks to make sure you’re speaking the same language as your single relatives. But most importantly, remember that being single is only one aspect of their personality (and probably not the salient one). Don’t forget to ask about their career, travels, hobbies and other pursuits!
— Aliza Epstein
Aliza Epstein lives in Arlington, Va., and spends her free time writing and dating.