Sex + Dating

I Wish I Could Have Dated in the ’90s

Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris, Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski

God, I miss the ’90s. What wasn’t to love about the quirky decade that gave us amazingly peculiar things like Salute Your Shorts, Pogs, "MMMBop", and JNCOs? As a woman now in her late 20s bearing witness to this century's formative cultural contributions such as Twitter, Miley Cyrus, Uber, and the Kardashians, I’m nostalgic for times when everything was simpler. 

I was admittedly playing-with-My Little Pony-young for most of the 1990s. Still, I often wonder specifically what it would have been like to be on the dating scene “back then” -- you know, before life got so... complicated. Of this, I’m convinced: had I been in my man-eating prime before Tinder, Google Maps, and hair straighteners ruined the romance, my love life would have thrived.
Let’s take a comparative walk down memory lane, shall we?

Long before swiping left

No wayyy, you met your girlfriend at a bar? That’s so retro!
Today, Match, eHarmony, and I guess even Tinder have bestowed on us the ability to meet people we would never have otherwise crossed paths with. The options are endless! But that’s partially where the problem lies. You unapologetically swipe left on potential suitors for superficial reasons because you know that someone else’s face will immediately be presented to you behind the comfort of your iPhone screen. And I hate to break it, but that makes YOUR profile picture just as dispensable to someone else.
The Internet was still a novel concept circa 1997, so singles went to bars and coffee shops to meet other humans the authentic way -- by walking up to someone who peaks your interest and saying hello. There weren't as many options, either. So if you liked someone, why not “go steady”? The ’90s were humbler. The decade allowed people to focus more on others’ good qualities than bad -- which is NOT the same as settling for less.

Boyfriend on phone while on a date
Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock

“You used to [not] call me on my cell phone... ”

A common, modern-day scenario: being out with a guy, eating a spicy tuna roll, and telling him why you chose your profession BECAUSE HE ASKED… but he’s across from you tap-tap-tapping away on his phone. Speaking from experience, I don’t care if he’s answering a business email or checking in on Foursquare -- I want to grab the thing and chuck it at his face because he’s being RUDE. Back in 199-anything, only unicorns carried cell phones. So there was nothing else to do on a date but be present and get to know the person you were sitting with (unless your tamagotchi needed feeding, of course.) Not to mention that pre-iPhone, a guy had to CALL YOUR HOUSE  to ask you out on said date, risking your father picking up first, or worse -- having to leave a voicemail. His willingness to take that gamble was proof he was truly interested. 
Another perk: 7:50pm texts that read “My iguana got sick, I can’t make it” before 8pm dinner plans weren’t possible in the ’90s. If he were a decent person in the first place, he’d probably suck it up and show… or at the very least, have the decency to call the restaurant to relay the message.

The love songs

Music was awesome in the ’90s… especially love songs. Unfortunately for me, I was still learning subtraction when Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” came out. I’ve instead had the pleasure (?) of relishing my modern-day love life synonymously with ballads like “Call Me Maybe”. Let’s face it: love songs today can’t make you feel the way The Pretenders did with “I’ll Stand By You”, or K-Ci and Jo Jo with “All My Life”. Or R. Kelly’s ”Bump ‘N Grind” -- if you’re not the commitment type.

Girl using smartphone in bed at night

Clean breakups

Breakups are hard, no matter what decade it is. But once again, thanks to the Internet, I’ve been dumped over Skype and AIM. To think ending a relationship with someone you loved used to have to go down in person! It hurts more in the moment, but at least you can walk away with respect for the person.
Also, if you claim to have never “stalked” your ex on Facebook or Instagram before, you are a liar of great magnitude. It’s so easy (and tempting) to take a gander at his profile. So you do… but then you see he has a new girlfriend (ugh, she’s hot) and he just posted pics from their trip to Brussels. It’s too late to unsee it, and your heart hurts all over again. In the ’90s, WAY before social media, you could’ve had a clean break… from your ex and his vacation photos. Well, until you awkwardly bumped into him at Caldor.

Date night fashion

For women, getting dressed for a dinner date is THE WORST. You think we enjoy removing our comfy leggings to squeeze into skinny jeans that make our butts look good? If only I could’ve dated in the ’90s when leggings were trendy! If wearing patterned spandex pants nowadays was still considered sexy, hell yeah I’d order a burger on the first date. Essentially, today’s restrictive waistbands are ruining my reputation as the “cool girl” because my favorite dark wash jeans are so tight I have to do acrobatics to get them on and buttoned. So yeah, I’ll have the Caesar salad, dressing on the side.
Also, big, crimped hair was so in, which means my natural lion’s mane could have been effortlessly in style. Greetings, 21st Century -- now, I must spend an hour fighting nature with a flat iron before appearing socially acceptable. And back then (God, I sound like my grandmother), the “popular” guys had frosted tips -- so hair dye was something women and men had in common. Perfect first-date convo starter!

Oregon Trail screenshot

Dying of dysentery

Firing up Windows 98 and playing a game of Oregon Trail with your significant other was the original “Netflix and Chill.” Had I been old enough to date back when all computers had CD drives, this would have been an ideal night in with my boo. Not only is it arguably the best computer game of all time (if you’re able to sidestep cholera), but a guy’s game skills and choices on the trail reveal what kind of man he is. How is he at bison-hunting? Is he the nervous type who fords the river, or does he caulk the wagons and float like a true pioneer? Candy Crush just can’t expose a person’s character like that.

Get lost in his eyes... and car

Remember when GPS didn’t exist? An impromptu road trip with a boyfriend that spawned from the idea “let’s get lost together!” had a whole different meaning in 1994. You could EASILY get lost with Lifehouse turned up, windows down, and five random turns off a highway. Next thing you knew, the two of you were cruising down a never-before charted back road, with nothing to rely on but a PAPER map and each other. It’s the kind of romance I’ll never know.

The best part of waking up...

It was customary in 1993 to share a well-balanced breakfast of Pop-tarts and Folger’s with BAE. Oh also, “BAE” wasn’t a term yet, which in and of itself has me wishing someone would just invent the time machine already.

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Brooke Sager is an NYC-based contributing writer for Thrillist who still listens to Hanson and would never date a guy who chose to ford the river. Social media is a thing now, so follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @HIHEELZbrooke.