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Rebooting the Mating Ritual

Robert Downes - January 3rd, 2011
Rebooting the Mating Ritual
Anthropologists often study the habits of primitive tribes, including
their mating rituals, dances, tattoos, dining practices and such.
It makes you wonder what they’d think of the odd and exotic practices
of the natives here in Northern Michigan.
Recently, I went to a popular nightclub in the area and noticed that
the dance floor was packed with women in their 20s, dancing to DJ
music by Ke$ha, Kanye, Prince and the like. Where are all the young
dudes? the anthropologist in me wondered. Sitting at the bar with glum
looks on their faces, dressed in their hip-hop baseball caps and
oversized sweatshirts, watching the girls dance.
Finally a couple of guys got up to dance -- with each other.
Then the band came on -- a great power-pop group made up of players in
their 20s.
Instead of remaining on the dance floor, the women fled back to their
tables as soon as the DJ music and the THUNK-THUNK-THUNK of the drum &
bass sound stopped.
But the dance floor didn’t stay empty for long: Replacing them were a
group of dancers in their 40s and 50s. This crowd -- old enough to be
the parents of most of the people in the bar -- had a great time
dancing the entire set to the live music.
The younger crowd sat and watched until the DJ came back on, and then
the 20-something women came back out. Finally, late in evening, some
of the guys got buzzed enough to get out there too and it wuz a
party.
I’ve noticed this same routine at other nightclubs -- mostly the big
places where live music isn’t the main motivation for showing up.
Maybe it says more about the popularity of DJs and tunes like
“TiK-ToK” than live music. But it also says something about the way
people connect these days -- or don’t, as the case may be.
Sneer all you like at the much-maligned disco era, but back in those
gallant days of yore, young men didn’t sit on their hands at the bar
while the women went out on the dance floor alone. It was more like a
cavalry charge, and quite usual to do the funky boogaloo with a dozen
or so partners during the course of the evening. Everybody was kung-fu
fighting; those moves was fast as lightning...
You don’t see a lot of that sort of thing today; the solitary
pogo-stick bounce seems more the norm. A pity, because dancing is
body-speak for basic principles of anthropology and biology. Dancing
in any culture is a ritual display meant to say, “I’m sexy, vital,
fun, and a happening dude who’s the perfect partner for making your
babies.” If you were a Sioux warrior or a Masai tribesman and
declined to join in an all-nighter dance-a-thon on the eve of the
warpath or a lion hunt, folks would have considered you an odd duck at
best.
Well, each to their own, and there seems to be no threat to the
survival of the species, but a number of old mating rituals seem to be
fading away. The ‘date,’ for one thing seems to be a tradition in
transition. These days, group dates seem more the norm for
college-aged persons. For another, the ‘personals’ disappeared years
ago from papers like the Express, replaced by online dating.
Currently, an estimated 20 million Americans are searching for each
other online through services such as eHarmony.com, Match.com and
specialty sites such as ChristianMingle.com. A side effect of this
trend is a boom in new web services which run background checks on
your potential soul mate to let you know if he‘s a convicted sex
offender, bank robber on the lam, or delinquent in paying his child
care.
Can’t knock it, if it works: I have friends who met online and got
married despite living hundreds of miles apart. Given the relatively
small dating pool here in Northern Michigan, it makes sense for some
singles to import their partners from downstate.
Makes you wonder, though, if we’re starting to lose the ‘personal
touch’ at the expense of our networking technology. Does anyone have
it together these days to just call someone up and ask if they’d like
to go to dinner and a show? Has asking someone at a nightclub if
they‘d like to dance become a lost art? Or are we getting to be like
those groovy black silhouettes in the iPod commercials, plugged into
our MP3 players and dancing in the middle of nowhere, alone?

 
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