Dating rules collapse with text messaging

By Michelle Magnan, Calgary Herald

Mustapha Khalil was just chillin' in the bathtub when he decided to send a text message from his cellphone.

The message was short and sweet: "Is your laundry dry yet?"

A few days earlier, Khalil had texted the message recipient, a girl he'd exchanged numbers with at a bar, to suggest a coffee date. "Yes," she replied with a text message. She then cancelled at the last minute -- via text message -- saying she had to do laundry.

When Khalil, 25, hadn't heard (or rather, hadn't read) anything else from her two days later, he texted her the question from the tub.

OK, so the message wasn't that sweet. It did, however, prompt a response.

"She got mad!"

Khalil's text messaging saga isn't unique. These days, entire pick-up attempts, conversations, foreplay, fights and break-ups occur between couples and would-be couples with no face-to-face interaction whatsoever.

Is this type of communication a good thing? What does all the instant messaging, Facebook-ing, e-mailing, CrackBerry-ing, and texting mean when it comes to dating?

According to Rebecca Sullivan, a communications studies professor at the University of Calgary, it depends.

Some people will thrive in this modern, urban dating world. Others will not.

"We've entered into a whole new realm of tiered dating," she says.

"It used to be you'd have a phone call and if it worked out, great. Now, you go from e-mail to text messaging to 'OK, I'll let you into my Facebook site,' to `maybe we might actually have a phone call and then a coffee date."'

Whew. And we haven't even reached the dinner date yet.

"On the one hand, for the anonymous encounter aficionado, the times have never been better," says Sullivan. "But for the person seeking a relationship, you've got to really jump through some hoops. There are a lot of gateways towards your perfect mate now."

The consensus seems to be that once you're in a relationship, those gateways fall away. With a sweetheart, you can text, "poke" (on Facebook, that is) and e-mail to your heart's content.

The rules become fuzzy, though, when it comes to communicating with someone you're interested in, but not yet in a relationship with.

Steve Santagati, a model, self-proclaimed bad boy and author of new book The Manual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date, and Mate -- and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top (Crown Publishers, $27.95), believes all this faceless communication is helping one gender.

And guess what? It's not the ladies.

"It's hindering the dating process for women more than for men," he says in an phone interview from New York.

"Men are inclined to just want to have sex with no commitment. That's biological, that's genetic. Internet, texting, e-mailing all provides men with what they love to do, every single one of them -- it's called a shotgun approach to sex and meeting girls."

He explains that the more girls a guy can meet or have on the go, the better his chances are for sex. Eventually, someone ("the weak sheep in the litter," as Santagati rather cruelly refers to her) will say yes.

"It's making it extremely easy for men to have sex these days."

Guys, now that you've finished high-fiving, consider this:

"Sadly, it's turned guys into a bunch of girls," Santagati says.

A real man, he says, will put himself out there. A real man will face the danger of being rejected, either on the phone or face to face.

"If you text a girl for a date, you need to be bitch-slapped," he adds, pulling no punches.

It seems opinions differ when it comes to the appropriateness of text messaging.

Khalil says texting after an initial meeting is a good way to "test the waters," especially for someone who doesn't have much confidence. If you get a good response, says Khalil, then you should pick up the telephone, call and connect with the person. Then perhaps a date will follow.