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Dad Daze: Teens love dating apps, but what about the visceral thrill of meeting someone in person?

UPDATED: Sun., March 28, 2021

Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is pictured here on Oct. 2, 2020, in Hawaii. Is Dad Daze columnist Ed Condran's son Milo, 15, experiencing love on the tropical island during a family vacation this week?  (Caleb Jones/Associated Press)
Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is pictured here on Oct. 2, 2020, in Hawaii. Is Dad Daze columnist Ed Condran's son Milo, 15, experiencing love on the tropical island during a family vacation this week? (Caleb Jones/Associated Press)

The teen dating game has changed, but it has also remained the same. It’s been an app-driven world for my eldest, Jillian, 22, and Eddie, 18.

When discussing how alien tech dating is to me, Eddie looks at me like I’ve just risen from the Paleolithic era.

“By going with apps, the net cast is much wider,” Eddie explained as if I’m a child. I understand, but there is nothing like the visceral exchange when meeting a person.

“That’s how it went with my last girlfriend,” Eddie said. “You saw how that worked out. It ended up being a nightmare. The way you look at dating is like saying, ‘You know, it was so much better before there were cellphones.’ It must have been terrible waiting around for someone to call.”

It was horrible, but I’m not completely down with the comparison. But I get where Eddie is going with how he feels about how technology opens up our lives.

“Daddy, you never had a dating app,” Jillian said. “If someone comes up to you in a coffee shop, you get a little freaked out. It just doesn’t happen like that so much anymore. You don’t get it.”

I don’t understand quite a bit, but every significant other in my life was met in person be it in Philadelphia, Tampa or Los Angeles. If I was growing up today, I’m sure I would be using the dating apps. Maybe my approach is like using a washboard instead of a washer.

But I hoped each of my children would experience the thrill of meeting someone in person and be riveted by that spark. It happened a few days ago right in front of me. After relaxing in a hot tub in Hawaii, a young lady approached my 15-year-old son, Milo.

As usual, I was kind of oblivious as the girl started chatting with Milo. I watched as she asked for his phone number. “Did you meet her on the beach?” I asked.

“No, now was the first time I ever spoke with her,” Milo said. Apparently, the lass had eyes for Milo.

My daughter, Jane, 11, laughed when recalling the encounter. “I watched her staring at Milo and whispering to her friend,” Jane said. “It was obvious how much she likes him. I can’t believe she is into Milo. Why would anyone like him? He’s so annoying.”

I don’t think any sister would understand why anyone would like their brother.

“Milo is the worst person in the world,” Jane said. “Wait until she finds out. It won’t take long. He’s so horrible!”

I was surprised how aggressive Milo’s new pal was in her pursuit. Miss Denver seems like a real charmer. She explained that she’s visiting her grandparents in Kona and is into sports and music, just like Milo.

Romance in Hawaii. It doesn’t get any better than that. It sounds like a fairy tale or an episode of “The Brady Bunch.” Good for Milo! Live it up, young man!

Milo doesn’t appreciate the connection of meeting someone in person like I do, but I think he’ll get it. Some of my fondest memories as a teenager were meeting girls and hanging out.

I remember going out with a pool lifeguard I met at the Jersey Shore. Kelly and I went out every night for a glorious week. I can still recall walking the boardwalk. I can practically smell the cotton candy as I won Kelly an array of stuffed animals while popping balloons with darts and knocking down milk bottles with baseballs.

I can still hear the Go-Go’s song, “Vacation,” in my mind. The bouncy hit is about meeting someone and the surprise that there is more to it than a fleeting fling. The lifeguard and I dated for six months despite 60 miles of separation. The distance to Denver might prove challenging for Milo, but he’s having fun and living in the moment.

Milo and the Rocky Mountainist are going to the movies at her resort. The girl, who is 14, appears as innocent as Milo is smooth. I explained to Milo girls mature faster than boys. I don’t think he understands that, but he will grasp it with experience.

Watching Milo and his friend brings back all of those memories when I didn’t have a care in the world. College, a job and responsibility were off in the distance. If I close my eyes and think about it, that feeling of no pressure and the potential that could be comes rushing back into my chest and head. There’s no feeling like it.

The combination of freedom and possibility is intoxicating. I had the most fun discovering as a teenager, and, when I was on vacation with my parents, the best part was meeting people. Some of the most vivid memories I have as an adult visiting exotic locales such as Greece, Italy and Cuba was getting to know locals and fellow travelers.

It’s not that I’m anti-dating app, but I defer to the title of the exceptional Radiohead documentary, “Meeting People Is Easy.” It’s so true. We’re social animals. We feel penned in by the pandemic. We really need each other.

The other cool thing about actually laying eyes on someone and getting to know them is that it falls under “what you see is what you get.” There is no physical deception.

To watch Milo interact with his new friend and witness how much she enjoys his company is wonderful. As he walks away with her, I see him moving away from me, and that’s great since we raise our children to have the confidence and knowledge to exist on our own.

I’m enjoying watching him step out on his own even though, with each stride he takes, Milo is less visible. I trust him. Milo and the rest of my children have always had a long leash, and I’m thrilled for him that he’s on the edge of being untethered.

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