So This Is Love?
The Author of "Girl Land" Explores Generational Shifts in Dating
But as the 1980s melted into the 1990s, a huge change began to take place in the social lives of high school students, one that exists to this day and that informs much of their private lives: They stopped pairing up, going steady and falling in love. Suddenly it was about the group event and only the group event. There were no more dates, no more nervously telephoned invitations to the movies or a concert, no more faltering toward a relationship.
I was still only in my early 30s, but in that moment I felt, for the first time, older than—and separate from—young people. They were moving toward something I couldn't understand or fathom. I felt old.
When I was in high school, all that my friends and I could think about was falling in love. We read books on the subject, watched movies about it, talked about it endlessly. And as each of us found our first real boyfriend, we had one of the major emotional experiences of our lives—after all, what's a more profound emotional state than first love as experienced by an adolescent? The idea that girls wouldn't want that for themselves was hard for me to wrap my head around—what's better than love?
The new generation didn't seem to be interested. Social life centered on the mini-mob event: the co-ed sleepovers at someone's house and, in college, the huge parties and the birth of a widespread hookup culture. There had certainly been plenty of casual sex when I was young (I'm not that old!), but hookup culture was different. It's not one option of several; in many communities of young people, it's become the only game in town.