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Dating then was very different from what it is now

 Dating then was very different from what it is now (Photo: iStock)

Dating for Generation Boomers I and II was a straight-up foreign concept. We may now view with feigned disdain, communities that still have that arranged marriage thingie, but it is likely that your parents, or grandparents, are products of it.

In a lot of cases, the betrothed couple had nothing to do with choosing each other – it was the parents’ duty. With Gen-X, where I fall under, came the era of dating several people who your parents knew not of.

Ours were interesting times compared to the preceding Boomers who had spouses forced down on them – but mine is a mindset of Gen-X – it was not like the Boomers were complaining.  We explored (literally and metaphorically) relationships.

Ours was the first woke generation with normalised single-parenthood, singlehood, young women with multiple partners, and divorce. When I think about it, my generation made the most impactful social changes.

We were the guinea pigs, which also unfortunately meant that we made the most mistakes, as a prototype is bound to. As many mistakes as we made, there was one thing we got right; dating. We were, for lack of a better word although it could be from lack of alternative, careful daters.

We dated people we knew either directly, or by extension of someone we knew. Take me, for instance. My first boyfriend hailed two villages from mine.  Back then, kids could walk far, so it was no surprise that he was not only known to my siblings, but to the other villages he had to walk to get to me. If he was seen in my hood, people would know that I would automatically be around, and the same when I went to his village. 

As I grew up, left the village and broke up with him, the trend of dating people already known to those close did not stop. It would be a friend’s brother, neighbour, cousin’s friend, college mate, and so forth and so on.

We as a generation might have taken it for granted, but it was a perfect way of vetting a lover – the assumption was, that if they were already close to the people you trusted, you could trust them too. We did meet strangers in nightclubs, but they were never strangers. They would be people we have seen in the same nightclubs several times, people we would establish rapport with before agreeing to meet the outside Kenya Cinema on a Sunday afternoon.

More often than not, it worked perfectly, and when hearts were broken, they were not broken because you discovered someone was a serial killer, but because youth is uneasy, and somewhere along you would meet someone else through a friend, someone more interesting than your current. Not to say that grave mistakes were not made.

Not to say that some of those people we thought we could trust were always worth our trust. There were love casualties and martyrs. Teen love is pure and unadulterated by the realities of life and bills and taxes and character development. I am not sure our teenagers are experiencing that, because technology is the proverbial devil – beautiful and dangerous. Gen-Z, fearless and reckless to a fault, which I suppose is the fault of Gen-X that birthed them, think dating is liking a stranger’s comment online because the next thing would be DM and hooking up. Perhaps it is – I wouldn’t understand because I am old.

Because I am old with not just age but experience, allow me to describe what dating was like, in very few words. The boy you liked, you wouldn’t openly show him, unless he did it first and even then, you needed to act coy and slightly uninterested.

Then you would meet several times, among friends, then eventually alone for several days, talking. There were few things more interesting than the nervous moment when you were alone together, and you knew you are going to have that first kiss.

There was also the aftermath excitement as you looked forward to the next date when you would fumble. When they did eventually happened on the fifth or so date, it was magical, and after that, you would walk with your hands linked, in love – well, as long as someone better doesn’t pop up. And they usually did.

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