Like a lot of people in her (and our) generation, Lea Hecht, a single 36-year-old psychiatrist from Philadelphia, resents having to date online. She told us she especially hates the protracted texting period: “I find that if there is too much of a lead-in, then there’s too much of a well-formed idea in their minds of who you are. And then, inevitably, you refute that when you meet them in person.” That’s assuming that an in-person date happens at all. “A few years ago I would go on so many bad first dates. And it’s such a waste of your time and their time,” Julia Capeloto, a 39-year-old senior marketing manager from San Francisco, told us. Now she doesn’t have to worry about taking Ubers to and from a bar, or wasting time meeting someone she might not get along with; it’s far “more efficient” to meet someone first over video, she said. Better for the bad first encounter to happen from the convenience of one’s own home. When we asked Lea about how newly popularized dating formats such as videochat might improve her dating experience, she dismissed the idea out of hand. Video screening, she suspected, would serve only as another barrier to real connection. “It would take a lot for me to actually meet someone in person,” she told us.
For Chantal and many other young people on the dating market, slow love stands in direct conflict with their reproductive timelines
Slow love is not just a dating tactic; it’s a whole orientation toward romantic lifemitment is postponed, and as the relationship gets stretched out, it can become brittle. Chantal Lunderville, a 35-year-old physician from Orange County, California, met her boyfriend online during the pandemic. When we spoke with her, she had just completed a round of egg freezing and told us she would like to try to start a family as soon as possible. Ideally, she would prefer not to do this on her own. When she shared her timeline with her boyfriend, he “kind of laughed.” He said he wanted to travel and have a couple years of “just us,” though in reality he ended up spending most of his time at work. They had planned to move in together in December, but he kept delaying their move-in date. They barely saw each other, she said, but “he doesn’t think anything is wrong. He thinks our relationship is perfect. And I’m like, What are we doing here?” She was souring on the relationship and would, she said, most likely end it soon. All the trips and dates in the world couldn’t fix the fundamental issue: “Is the relationship the priority, or is it work, and how long is this going to be?” “There’s romance,” she said, but “there’s no intimacy.”
For those who survive the gantlet of texting and video dates, the pace of relationships can remain glacial
Indeed, the adherence to the slow-love paradigm-with its indefinite delaying of relationship milestones-is perhaps nowhere more impractical than in people’s attitudes toward having children. A 2018 study by the sociologists Eliza Brown and Mary Patrick reveals how slow love can put women in a bind. Brown and Patrick Nashville hookup interviewed 52 women who at one point had frozen or considered freezing their eggs. Egg freezing, they concluded, was not, as is widely assumed, used in the service of women’s career ambitions, but as a way to “disentangle the trajectory of finding a partner from the trajectory of having children.” The reason for this desire for disentanglement? “Women were fearful that rushing to find a partner with whom to have children was rationalizing their search for a romantic partner,” Brown and Patrick wrote, “making the process calculative and contrived.” In other words, egg freezing has become an instrument employed in the service of the slow-love program. It promises to loosen the tight grip of biological necessity, allowing women’s dating lives to stay on their proper course, one that aims for romance and compatibility, and that is allowed to take however long it might require.