How fictional dating has ruined real dating for teens

As we all know, Hollywood can set some pretty high standards. Movies plant ideas in our heads about everything from how to dress to what relationships should be like. Maybe I overthink things, but I’ve been wondering lately how many of these ideas from movies and television have become standard expectations, particularly in the teen dating department. How have movies and TV shows altered the way teens perceive dating? How realistic is fictional dating when compared to dating in real life? To gather insight, I decided to go full journalist and asked some of my peers about their thoughts on the topic.

Below are my not-really-scientific but still-very-very-interesting findings. Sure, they might not be the kind of statistics you can cite in a final paper, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great insights.
What are your first date expectations and how do you think they are affected by popular culture? (Movies, TV shows, books, etc.)

“Movies cause me to be optimistic at first, but first dates are usually awkward and nothing like the movies.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“One a first date, I expect a relaxed environment where you can talk to someone easily. Media makes it look like a courtship — someone is taking another person on a wild ride through town or an extraordinarily charming experience. I think (and this depends on the couple) that dates should be casual and there shouldn’t be any pressure, besides just having a nice time and being comfortable with yourself and them.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“My first date expectations are affected by fiction. You read about or see in movies the guy taking the girl on a moonlight dinner date or walk in the park. In reality, most dates are watching a movie and not talking at all. On a first date, my biggest expectation is to talk to each other. If I want to know if this guy is going to be my significant other, I want to get to know him first and vise versa. A healthy relationship is based on communication.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“Before going on a first date, I create a mental list of my morals, my limits, and my views. During the first date, I will touch on these subjects subtly and casually. I expect the person I am on the date with do the same. The first date is a way of gauging whether or not a relationship could ensue or not, so judging on how they react to what I find important and how I react to theirs, I can see how promising the relationship will be. All in all, I expect to be able to confidently ask for a second date or decline an offer for one.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“First dates are very tricky because that is when you truly start to know someone, and yes, it is affected by fiction. Some of the best dates can be from movies or books. It’s nice to read a cute story and I’ll find someone to do that with someday. A first date doesn’t have to be in public.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

Who should pay for what?

“The guy should pay for everything, and this is true in what I see in Hollywood and read in fiction as well.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“I think while you’re still in the early stages of a relationship, or even just for the first date, splitting the bill or only paying for what you ordered is fair, but don’t force payment on someone.” – Kalee DuBois, 16

“I know it’s tradition for the guy to pay, but honestly I believe if one pays for that date the other has the next. Unless, they insist. You don’t really want to argue with that.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“People take a lot of joy in paying for the date because it creates the sense that they provided for their partner’s enjoyment with no cost on his/her end; it is the same feeling one gets when a gift is given and appreciated. From my experience, I found a great way to solve this is by having whoever doesn’t pay for the meal cover the tip. This way, both people get the satisfaction of contributing.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“A date isn’t always something you pay for. For example, my first date was a trip across the fields at my house, picking up metal. Otherwise, figuring out who should pay for what is difficult. Being in a relationship is mainly about being able to give what’s yours to them.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

Who should make the first move?

“Definitely the dude, unless he is shy, but normally the guy should be the one to make the first move.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“Whoever is interested. Questions are good, such as, “Will you go out with me?” or, “Can I have your number?” Besides just asking, holding out your hand or leaning in and letting them decide if they want to kiss are good options. Always make sure they have a clear chance to express their feelings, but don’t be afraid.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“Every girl has been told not to make the first move because it is not traditional, but as the years go by, girls are becoming more confident and making the first move, whether it is telling him you like him, or asking him out, or holding his hand for the first time. I remember the first time I told someone I liked them, and though I didn’t want to tell him, I felt excited. I do think that guys should make the first move, unless they are too shy, then girls should show them how it’s done.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“Despite any preconceived notions, there is always someone in the relationship that is more comfortable being straightforward. However, if the relationship is meant to move to next step, it will do so naturally, and should not be stressed over too much.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“Making the first move is a huge step in your relationship; it’s not always up to the guy. Guys are just as nervous as girls are, so why should everything but up to them? I held my boyfriends hand the first time and I don’t regret it.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

When should you call each other your boyfriend/girlfriend?

“After being mutually interested for a while. It varies with each person.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“Whenever you are comfortable with them. If you can’t call them your friend, you shouldn’t call them your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you’ve gone on several dates with them (or have been around them long enough to generally know who they are) and you know you are attracted to them and would like to be around them more, then you should call them your boyfriend or girlfriend (but ask them first).”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“I think the most appropriate time to be calling each other boy/girlfriend is probably after about a month, or whenever the people feel comfortable with the them. Just because you are “talking” doesn’t mean you are “dating” yet. When I was a freshman, I was asked, “Do you want to go out with me?” Most people would think that is an offer for a date. I would love it if someone would ask instead, “Will you be my girlfriend?” ”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“The ONLY time that this label is acceptable to use is after you have asked the permission of your partner — whether it be the 2nd date or the 2nd year.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“The term boyfriend/girlfriend is a big deal, not to be taken lightly. I honestly don’t feel you should say it until you have your first date, and even then maybe not. Its all based on how you see your relationship.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

What defines a “thing”?

“When people date but don’t commit. It’s difficult to define.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“I would define a “thing” as anything romantic that is even semi-mutual, but not something that is serious and lasting. Some people might say ‘thing’ if they don’t want to make their old relationship with someone sound more serious or committed than it was. It could also be used to describe romantic interest that seems to be leading to something more.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“A thing is when you have something special, or feelings, for a person. You like them; you care for them. For me, I had a thing for a guy my freshman year. I liked him, but he wasn’t for me. I still hope he is doing well even though that thing is not as strong as it was.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“In relationship terms, a ‘thing’ is a type of relationship that occurs after two people begin to interact as more than friends, but before the terms boyfriend/girlfriend are used.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“‘Things’  don’t exist; it is a relationship. They are strong, and defined how all of them are — through an emotional feeling for one another.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

In many shows, there is usually a lot of drama surrounding “The Talk,” where two characters will discuss “going steady” and just basically where they are at in the relationship. Is this something that happens in real life, and if so, how necessary is it to have this conversation?

“The Talk does happen, but usually only when there are problems in the relationship.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“It really depends. I am someone who likes lots of communication; being in a relationship where you just sort of ‘feel things out’ would drive me crazy. If things seem to be serious or are getting long-term, the couple should have a chat about their plans for the relationship, just to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. If you don’t want the relationship to continue, make it known. Maybe update your boyfriend or girlfriend every once in a while, when you feel strongly about something.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“Yes, The Talk is necessary. I think it should happen at the beginning of a relationship. If a couple doesn’t have The Talk, they will disagree on many things. For example, one person might want to take it easy and go slow. The other might want to go fast have everything done before they are even 23.  There has to be boundaries. I have boundaries; everyone has boundaries.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“It is MOST DEFINITELY necessary in real life. Since you are in a relationship WITH someone, it is crucial to make sure that both people are in agreement before any further steps are taken.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“It’s a very big deal to have The Talk, especially at the very beginning of the relationship, that way you and your partner know the lines.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

When can romantic gestures become weird?

“I can’t think of any weird gestures, unless someone starts stalking you.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“Spontaneity isn’t always the best thing. If someone is trying to study for a test and you walk in trying to sweep them off their feet, they might not appreciate you distracting them. Maybe they would love a break, but in the end, asking if you can help a bad situation and letting them tell you what they want is always better than hindering someone’s aspirations. Giving someone an expensive gift or heirloom isn’t always good. I saw on a TV show a husband giving his wife a teddy bear as big as her and two flower bouquets bigger than her head. She liked it, but for other people that could be considered weird. Make sure the other person is comfortable with the gift amount and type you would like to give, and moderate yourself based on their preferences.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“Romantic gestures, to me, are the little ways of saying ‘I love you,’ like playing with hair or the random cuddles and hugs from behind or around the waist. The weird things are the extra physical touches or the inappropriate public affections. That gets too much for everyone.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“With this, everyone is different. Some people require very few romantic gestures while others expect a lot. It becomes weird when it is overbearing.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“Every romantic gesture is awkward and weird; that’s how you have fun in the relationship and in life.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

How relatable is real life teen dating to fictional teen dating, overall?

“Some aspects are similar, but not all. It depends on how close to the movies the guy acts; some are more romantic while others are more laid-back.”  – Aimee Wallner, 15

“I would say that on average, fictional dating provides unrealistic expectations. Life is not a sitcom, though it can be better than a writer would be able to make it. Misunderstandings and funny things happen, and hidden common interests will eventually come up. Despite the billions of people on Earth, you really will know if someone is ‘The One.’ Real life isn’t something something romantic authors just made up to make money. In a relationship, you are one half of a working whole, functioning together, and while real life can’t can’t always be like the movies,  life can always be what you want it to be.”  – Kalee DuBois, 16

“Real life and fictional dating are pretty close, although they have different ways of producing the look of love.”  – Jodyanna Gallegos, 16

“In fiction, characters are often portrayed to give up a major part of themselves in order to be with the person they love. Whether it be family, a career, or even a specific character trait, a major sacrifice is almost always made. In real life, it should be the opposite. We need to find someone for ourselves that will not ask us to give anything up to be with them.”  – Stephen Mathews, 19

“Dating in real life and fictional dating are pretty accurate. The only difference I see is that, in some movies, the couple gets back together after a conflict. That doesn’t always happen, even though I’m sure we wish it did. Overall, you can learn some very good things from fictional dating.”  – Tori Gregory, 16

This little little journey through the perspectives of my peers has been very educational for me (and I hope it’s been educational, or at least interesting, for you too). Thinking about how portrayal of dating and love in movies and on TV impacts how we see our real life relationships was eye-opening. Dating really is something that cannot be broken down into steps or formulas; there is no guidebook that could accurately portray dating and be effective for everyone. Dating is something that you must explore as an individual and that’s different for everyone. But, if you express your thoughts and opinions clearly to your partner, you could end up with a relationship better than even Hollywood could dream up.

(Images ViaViaViaViaViaViaViaViaVia )

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