The nature of dating has changed since my time, or so I am told anyway. Older readers will remember that we had to wait quite some time for that first kiss and when it did finally arrive one night, it wasn't long afterwards that you got to meet her parents.
Now call me old fashioned but I do not think that human nature has changed at all. Lads today are still lads and the lassies likewise. Perhaps the words we used to use like, demure, attractive or affection sound outdated today but the sentiments behind them are as real and relevant as they ever were.
Lat Wednesday evening I had a chat with a guy in his early twenties where the subject of girlfriends came up, (I used the word actually). He gave me that gentle smile reserved for village idiots and said, "Ah John, that doesn't happen any more!" I was flabbergasted. I was fascinated. I was flabbergasted and fascinated. If young guys didn't have girlfriends, I innocently asked, then how was mankind to ensure the propagation of the species?
Had I not been a customer of that young barman at the time he might just have reached over and patted me on the head. "We don't waste time dating," he told me, "We just hook-up when we feel like it." In my parlance you "hook-up" a trailer to a toe-hitch so I wanted to know more about this "hooking-up" business.
The lad, in fairness, gave me a pretty good explanation and Niamh Horan this morning in the Irish Independent filled in the blanks. Apparently it has all become a bit laissez-faire and loose and after many questions of clarification from me, I am left with the distinct impression that hooking-up now means having sex for the sake of it without ever needing to get to know each other.
In my defense first, I am a liberal-minded man and have never suffered from Catholic guilt regarding sex. But I have always considered the act of making love to be a rather sacred and special thing in its own right. It is the ultimate physical manifestation of a strongly felt emotion so it's an expression of love of some kind. The so-called "Joy of Sex," is the happy contentment of making someone special to you feel happy. That surely is the purpose of it?
However, if all you wish to do is hook-up then none of this complicated emotional stuff need bother you. Just think of two dogs in the street where one of them is in heat and the other is a male dog. They hook-up, no strings attached. The lack of strings though is where I see the problem.
In her article, Niamh asks, "Am I the only one who finds solace in the old days of romance and the warm comfort it offered, compared to the cold, hard face of today's hook-up generation?" She maintains that women are looking for "connection and intimacy," To this I can add from the male prospective that if a complication-free shag is on offer then why not? It's exciting for a little while and maybe a welcome change from the usual boring routines. If a young healthy girl with a skirt up to ass is sidling up to a young guy half-drunk at some late night kip then who came blame the guy if they should "hook-up"? Some voices will even claim that it is the girl's right to assert her femininity in this way if she wants to.
But as a man who has been in a stable loving relationship for so many years, I feel qualified to observe that any worthwhile relationship is damned difficult to keep together. At the very least, it has to start on all of the right principles of mutual respect and understanding. Through careful and frequent communication, feelings grow and at the risk of using another quaint word, those feelings finally reach fruition in consummation. The resultant intimacy brings everything to another level and thoughts begin about spending the rest of your lives together. Even then it can be touch and go.
But I cannot imagine the aftermath of one of these modern hook-ups ever becoming the basis of a long-term commitment. Indeed if anything, it must surely turn to revulsion in short order?