BEIRUT: In parallel with a large survey by American dating destination Match.com, Annahar found that Lebanese millennials and Gen Z are finding the proposition of dating too expensive, but many also said it wasn’t money but rather the thought that counted in potentially romantic meetings.
A match social expert revealed that a large percentage of surveyed Americans considered their financial stability as a problem in finding durable relationships, and they could barely afford to date.
Survey anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, noted that what was formerly a casual first meeting has changed and that now the first date has become a much more formalized event that happens much later in the relationship for US daters.
"Millennials are very ambitious. They are terrified of ‘catching feelings’ and getting into relationships that they can't (financially or mentally) manage," Fisher told USAToday.
She referred to courtship in the digital age as "slow-love."
Dating in Lebanon
Though the factors of college debt, low salaries, and a general lack of money are still big considerations, many Lebanese millennials said it was still okay to meet over coffee versus the same American age group who were conflicted about what was the current proper early dating protocol.
Nevertheless, a number of persons interviewed by Annahar noted certain complications to dating in Lebanon, such as proper appearance for women and for men.
The following are excerpts from interviews with over 20 millennials and Gen Z generation with these quotes representing the general range of answers received.
Lebanese 19-year old Sarah El Abed, told Annahar a version of “one gets what they give in dating and relations,” and this includes not only money but also time.
“Dating is expensive. It’s providing your significant other with tangible items, but also with your time, commitment, trust, freedom, and love,” El Abed said. “It’s only an expense when you’re not satisfied with what you’re getting in return.”
While Al Habib Bantan, 21, noted for Annahar, “I believe it’s only expensive if you decide it to be. Every date or gift is a nice gesture from you and not a necessity- it doesn’t have to leave you penniless.”
Several millennial age young men noted that when it comes to paying the bill, the rule always applies that whoever asked the other party out - more often the men - of course, pays the check, but many find themselves considered “cheap” if they don't pay a lavish amount.
“I’m by no means cheap, but I would rather go out with a ‘chill’ type of young woman who is not attaching a price tag to everything,” said a young executive, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I believe in showing a date a good time, but not to the point of taking out bank loans,” he added.
For Elsy Milan Cherfan, 21, the fact of being a cash-strapped college student is a very large consideration. Accordingly, she applies the rule that sometimes in dating its “go big or go home.”
“Financially, we are college students and barely able to pay for our stationary, computer programs, clothes, and food. Also, keep in mind that in Lebanon we still lack the ‘part-time job' culture so we can’t fund our dates or so,” Cherfan said.
She also noted, “The financial crisis does not make it easier. Personally, I find it difficult to ask my parents who are paying for my high tuition fees and necessities for money to go on dates especially when dinners in good restaurants and cinemas are not that cheap. Plus, I don’t like to invest my money in relationships that I'm not sure will last.”
She added, “We have to be perfect to go on dates: hair, clothes, make up ...This is not only to impress the person we are going out with, but because we need to always be prepared for snapping a selfie or taking a picture. This turns dating in Lebanon into a mean of broadcasting a perfect life that includes going to fancy restos and taking pictures of the food to then tag the resto. Enjoying a sandwich and walking on the corniche is considered as 'being cheap’ for our generation.”
Yassmine Hussein, 19, told Annahar, “Personally I don’t think it’s expensive to date because there are so many things that you can do that don’t require any cost. For example, just going for a ride to watch the sunset and having a conversation is a great date."
Additionally, Zina Yassine, 19, noted “Dating isn’t about spending money on each other. It's about giving out love and spending energy on one another. It’s about compassion and finding a soul mate that’ll do for you as you do for them. In that case, the whole world would be priceless.”
So some are daunted by cost while other romantics have their eyes on the stars - and why not, what is the true cost of love anyway?
It’s a complex issue and for persons going on dates - before any romantic sparks have flown - what are the rules, coffee or a big expensive outing?
Perhaps whatever works, but as the last comment consider the old school Lebanese who chimed in to remind that not everything was once so hyped and expensive.
"Back in our days, the definition of dating was to meet in the village's garden for a talk. Nowadays, a date is all about fancy restaurants and luxurious car rides. Dating requires lots of money these days," Laura Souaid told Annahar.
The next natural set of questions which Annahar purposely avoided was once a soul mate is found, the next big expensive obstacle is the notoriously high cost of a Levantine wedding, including the groom, should have obtained a house or flat by the wedding date.
But it doesn’t all come down to money, there must be some chemistry between couples, to begin with.
Leaving food for thought is that old standard song about the unchanging nature of romance —“a kiss is still a kiss as time goes by...”
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