It's easy to romanticize dating in the '90s. Looking back, we can feel a bit jaded. The game of love was played differently without online dating, Tinder, and "ghosting." You hadn't taken the time to review a personal profile before agreeing to meet. There was no published list of "likes," "dislikes," or "where do you see yourself in five years" to draw from. There was more mystery and innocence to a first date back then. Conversation had to happen naturally, and if you were going to "hang sometime" again, they would need to actually call you — not just drop a 3 a.m. text reading "sUp?"
Today, first dates are typically comprised of meeting for a coffee or a quick drink to feel people out and see if they match their profile. You don't want to commit to a full dinner and movie, heavens forbid, in case you don't like them that much. That way, if you aren't enjoying the date, you can always cut your losses early and pull out your phone for other "singles in your area."
In the '90s either we were far more patient or just didn't have as many options. We would do our best to squeeze something enjoyable even out of the worst date. Once we had committed to a plan, we had to stick to it. Sure, you could go to a bar after a bad date and try to meet someone else, or try to reach your friend on their pagers — if you were near a pay phone. But having things so simple actually made things more complicated. But a benefit of that was that bad dates wouldn't continue to haunt your social media feed. If you gave someone the wrong number back then, they'd probably never find you. And you most certainly would not have seen any unsolicited pictures of your date's "equipment" (unless it was a senior prank involving the photocopier and the local Kinkos).
So was dating better in the '90s? Check out these classic first dates and you be the judge.
1. Go To A Johnny Depp Movie
Throughout the '90s it seemed like you couldn't go to a theater without seeing the Depp-ster. In 1990, he went from a teen TV talent to a movie star overnight with John Water's Cry-Baby and Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The ladies were a bit obsessed with his pillowy lips and smoldering sensitive eyes. Back in 1999 everyone was trying to get their date in the mood during Sleepy Hollow.
2. Walk Around The Mall
No place played a larger part in teenage wooing than the mall. It seemed the pinnacle of romance was holding hands with your date while walking around the indoor fountain. You could fall in love instantly while sharing some fries in the food court. If you took your date to the mall, everyone from your school would know that you guys were together. And if things weren't going well, you could always part ways and buy some new CDs.
3. Eat At The Nice TGI Fridays
Taking your date out to dinner was a surefire way to impress. Picking the right restaurant was crucial for romance — and you couldn't go wrong with the one with the red and white striped awning. There you could act like adults and share a milkshake. Back in the '90s you had to sit across from each other and make actual conversation — since there were no cellphones to check. That meant staring into each other's eyes... for the entirety of the meal.
4. Listen To Music While Sitting In The Car
There is only so much Oasis and Blur one can listen to till your mind starts turning to other more lascivious things. Sitting next to each other in the car you started to wonder "Should I try to hold his hand?" "When is he going to make a move?" and "Wait, is that an old hot dog in the backseat?" But, it wouldn't matter how dirty your date's car was, as long as they were a good kisser.
5. Try That New Hip Coffee Shop From Seattle "Starbucks"
It's difficult to remember a time when you couldn't find that "place with the mermaid logo." The popular chain started expanding throughout the US when it went public in 1992. There was nothing better than awkwardly chatting over your vanilla bean frap in a cozy chair by a retro Starbucks fireplace on your first date.
6. Go To A School Dance
A school dance was a little intense for a first date, but sometimes it was the only fun thing happening in town. Getting ready for that date would take tons of prep time — which was often the best part of the evening. Meticulously applying eyeliner and deciding on a shade of mauve lipstick to wear would take at least an hour. Choosing between a flirty babydoll dress or a long skirt with a halter crop top was basically Sofie's Choice. When the clock struck seven, your date would actually pick you up at your house, and sometimes even (gasp) meet your parents! For some reason it didn't seem like that big a deal back then — as long as they had you home by 11 p.m.
7. Veg Out Together
The cheapest first date option was to invite your crush to "study" or "just veg out" at your house. It was essentially the "Netflix and chill" of the '90s. But you had better pray you had some good Blockbuster new-releases to lure them with... and that your parents were out of town.
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