“Whatever happened to the chase?” a friend asked the other night, drawing me out of social media world and back into the conversation.
“The chase?” I replied vaguely, “It’s still on ITV isn’t it?” Little did I know at the time, I had just proved her point.
We are a generation obsessed with social media. Anyone with a smartphone has half a dozen apps designed to make us more social, helping us connect with new people, stay in touch with old friends, express ourselves in a sequence of emoticons, and yet all they do is give us another way not to have an actual conversation.
It’s not exactly breaking news that romance has been digitised along with the rest of world, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks dropped that bombshell in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ way back in 1998, but it’s hard not to feel sentimental for the old days.
‘The chase’ as we knew it growing up doesn’t seem to have evolved with the rest of the romantic revolution. I remember fondly the butterflies felt when that guy walked in, the stolen glances across a crowded room, the heart-stopping thrill of a first touch… it might sound like something from a Jane Austen novel but this is what happened in our youth, no more than a decade ago, before it all regressed to button pressing – ‘add as friend’, ‘poke’, ‘in a relationship with’.
Having a sister ten years my junior it’s an interesting contrast of how those awkward teenage years of discovering the other sex is played out nowadays. Her friendships are formed online in chat boxes, while I had to go through the nerve wrecking rigmarole of hanging around, usually in the rain, perhaps falling into conversation with someone in particular, testing the water with some innocent flirting, the nerve-wrecking tos and fros of getting to know someone until one day they might ask for your number, or get their friend to ask your friend if you’d ‘go with’ him. They just don’t make romance like they used to do they?
And then the phone conversations! On the landline! Hours and hours running up your parents phone bill, talking about everything from friends to films to music to what you had for dinner. Getting to know one another’s likes and dislikes, where they’ve been in the world, what their passions are by actually posing them the question, rather than scrolling down their profile or checking out their online photo albums. Imagine getting to know someone by the use of actual spoken words instead of the instinctive roll of your index finger. It’s almost unfathomable in this day and age.
When did men stop crossing rooms to talk to women? When did they stop asking if they could buy you a drink or have your number or walk you home – without expecting to come inside when they get there.
The fervent feminist in me fears that perhaps with all our shouts for equality we might have killed chivalry in the process but isn’t there room for the two to co-exist? Can’t we have our cake and eat it?
As my friends and I discussed this great loss to the dating world, or perhaps the ‘undating’ world as it now is, we concluded that the chase as we know it was MIA, presumed dead.
If it has evolved into something new and digitised our sense of romance hasn’t progressed with it. We still want conversation, flirtation, flowers, we want to be charmed … we want retro romance!
It can’t be completely extinct? It must be out there somewhere? Perhaps hidden in some dusty vintage shop. There must be a way to rediscover the magic of the chase?
Ooo, maybe there’s an app for that…