A few weeks ago, one of my best girl friends walked me through the wide world of modern dating via Tinder. And while I was mostly shocked by the alarming rate at which she swiped left ("That guy looks cu — oh, OK, bye, guy"), I was also struck by a singular thought: Dating in the '90s was a wildly different experience, starting with the ways you asked someone out in the '90s. Obviously, the emergence of more advanced technology has literally put the power of dating at people's fingertips — but back in the day, we had to rely on far less tech-savvy ways to chat up our crushes.
Not to mention far less convenient. Without social media or dating apps, '90s kids had to find ways to ask our crushes out without the comforting security of a blue screen. It could be terrifying. Sometimes it ended disastrously. But, for better or worse, life was simpler and so were the ways we started relationships. Clearly, I'm mostly referring to dating of the high school variety, so I understand that teens now probably aren't relying on Tinder to score dates (are they?!). However, there's no denying that the teens of today largely communicate with each other by texting or social media instant messages.
So in ode to a simpler time, here are 10 ways you asked someone out in the '90s — if you can believe it.
1. Actually Speaking, Face to Face
Gasp, I know. Summoning up the courage to swipe right and start a chat is one thing, but summoning up the courage to actually ask someone out in person for the first time is a whole other beast. These sweaty palmed conversations often took place in front of your locker or in the parking lot after school — and sounded a lot like, "Will you be my gf/bf?" or "Wanna go out?" Aw, how quaint and cute were we?
2. Making a Mix Tape
Mix tapes and CDs were the height of romanticism during the '90s. If your crush gave you a custom soundtrack full of slow R&B songs, you were as good as getting their letter jacket or earning the coveted yearbook superlative of "Cutest Couple" — and the same, of course, went for any person upon whom you bestowed your own mix tape creation.
3. Through Your Friends
We all played this game, right? Your friends tell their friends that you think they're cute. Then their friends tell your friends they thinks you're cute, too. Your friends ask their friends if they'd like to go out with you. Their friends tell your friends yes. And so on and so forth until you and your crush somehow actually wind up together, holding hands. The end.
4. Inviting Them to Go For a Walk
In case you thought I was kidding when I said times were simpler ... I wasn't. Truth be told, most of us couldn't really afford fancy gestures or elaborate first dates back in the day. Rather, long walks around the town were a surefire sign your crush wanted to be your Bf-4-eva. Think Rory and Dean (or Jess) in Gilmore Girls.
5. Changing Your AIM Away Message
If you grew up in the '90s, you were definitely chatting online. You were also most likely doing it with AOL Instant Messenger, in which case you spent hours crafting the perfect away message, whether it was a cryptic song lyric or a quote about living life to the fullest (in alternating upper- and lower-case letters, of course). But if you wanted to show your crush you were interested, you'd put their initials in your away message. This coded love language would surely catch their attention and lead to coupledom. Damn, we were smooth.
6. Writing A Love Letter
Yes, people actually wrote real life letters in the '90s! It was a thing! Receiving a hand-written note from your crush was such a high that you'd hold onto them for-ev-er. Modern girls may not understand this obsession, given that their love "letters" come via text and, really, who saves those?
7. Requesting a Song on the Radio
Much like mix tapes, this method relied on song lyrics to do the heavy lifting. However, it was a far riskier venture which had to be planned precisely — you could be sitting by the radio for hours waiting for your request to play, but if your crush didn't hear your shout-out to them it was all for naught. I once had a crush call in and dedicate John Michael Montgomery's "I Swear" to me, and I swooned hard.
8. With a Cheesy Pick-up Line
"Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" "Are your feet tired? 'Cause you've been running through my mind all day." Never were pick-up lines cheesier than they were in the '90s, yet they endured for the better part of the decade. If you landed a pick-up line on your crush that stuck, well, they probably mainly went out with you because you made them laugh. That's important, you know.
9. Calling on the Phone
It was a special breed of torture finding out your crush was going to call to "ask you something" when you got home. You'd play it cool, of course, but then you'd promptly rush home and park your booty by your LANDLINE phone for hours waiting on the call. It was equally as nerve-wracking if you were the one doing the calling. The emotional stakes were so high, my friends.
10. Saving the Last Dance
School dances in the '90s were a heady mix of awkwardness and excitement, all leading up to that most pivotal of moments: the final dance. The DJ would give you the head's up that the last slow jam of the night was about to play, and the person you picked to shuffle around in circles with said so much about your dating status. It wasn't just a dance, you guys — it was a declaration.