New “Hardballing” Gen Z Dating Trend

The latest dating trend to come out of Gen Z is called Hardballing AKA “Dating like a CEO”. Some love it while others hate it, so we're here today to discuss our asexual perspective on the matter.


Courtney: Hello everyone. Welcome back to the pod. My name is Courtney. I’m here with Royce. Together, we are The Ace Couple. Now, if you are a listener who’s been around with us for a few months, then perhaps you’ve listened to our episode entitled “Our Asexual Love Story,” where you learned how we got to the point where we are today as a married couple. We famously courted each other via online methods. And although I don’t know if you could… necessarily say that what we did was “dating,” we’re going to talk about dating anyway. Specifically, the latest trend, and that would be hardballing.

Courtney: So just a little bit of background, here is how this concept of hardballing made it into our purview. I just got recommended a YouTube video last week. It was a channel that I don’t really watch or engage with anymore, but I recognized the name from years ago. And it was… I mean, you gotta get those clicks. You gotta get those views on YouTube. So everyone tries to have a buzzy title, a catchy thumbnail. And their sort of “grab” to pull me in, which [laughs] clearly worked, was that this is the latest Gen Z dating trend.

Courtney: And… we’ve talked about Gen Z on a couple of occasions on this podcast, both as a generation that I heavily admire and can’t wait for them to get a little older so they can rule us all, because I think they’ll do a bang-up job, but also just how much at odds that generation is with all of the older ones. We saw it with Millennials too. I mean, just a few short years ago, it was, “Aw, Millennials are weird. They’re wrong. They do this, that, and the other thing. They can’t buy houses because they’re… buying too much avocado toast.” So there’s always, always going to be juvenoia. That is basically the word that means older generations are going to look down on younger generations as being somehow worse and somehow other.

Courtney: But since we now have a podcast about all things life, love, asexuality, relationships, I thought, “Hmm, perhaps this is something we should know about. What is the latest new dating trend amongst Gen Z?” So I clicked. And to my dismay, this particular video was very, very heavily looking down on this. They tore this trend of hardballing to shreds. So we’re going to talk about it and maybe share different views. So first, let’s talk about what hardballing is. Royce, I believe you’ve done a little bit of research for us.

Royce: Sure. I compiled a few sources before we sat down today to talk, mainly because there seems to be a lot of different articles talking about this. I don’t know who started it, but apparently the term’s flying around.

Courtney: Apparently Gen Z started it, from what I hear.

Royce: So, from what I’ve seen, hardballing, also known as “Dating like a CEO,” which I kind of hate –

Courtney: Oh, that’s awful. Throw that one out.

Royce: Yeah, let’s –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Let’s keep entrepreneurship out of the dating circle.

Courtney: Oh, yes, please.

Royce: But hardballing, as defined in these articles, is: “Not wasting your time on people that can’t give you what you’re looking for; for being clear about your expectations for a relationship, whether you want a serious long-term partnership or a casual fling; or being really upfront and honest about what you’re looking for from the moment you start seeing someone.” In addition to that, Urban Dictionary chimes in with the definition of hardballing being “To play a game of any kind, including real life, in the toughest possible way.”

Courtney: Ugh, gotta love Urban Dictionary. [laughs] All right. All right. So… I love it. I see no issue with it.

Royce: Right. And –

Courtney: Except for “Dating like a CEO.”

Royce: Yeah, that’s awful.

Courtney: Throw that out.

Royce: The first thing I came across was actually on r/DatingAdvice –

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: – and it was a very short thread where… OP pointed out the term “hardballing,” saying that they learned about it in the news article on Today. And they said, “This is what I’ve been doing, so I guess I’m on the right track.” And the main comment was, “This isn’t a trend. People have been doing this forever, particularly if you’re dating over 30.”

Courtney: Yeah, that makes sense. So, I’m right off the bat going to say that at least some percentage of people have always done this. It is probably true that there’s a growing number of people doing this. Because as a culture, we’re sort of getting away from the, “You meet someone. You go on a date. You go steady. You get married. You stay married until you die, even if you’re miserable in that marriage.” That’s not the way a lot of people want to live their lives anymore, even though that once was the norm. But this just sounds like online dating too, [laughs] if I’m being honest.

Royce: That was my thought as well. At least on what I would call a good website, like a website that actually allows you to write things out and answer questions and give context, where people actually read things.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Not Tinder-style dating apps.

Courtney: I’ve never been on Tinder, but I know you’re supposed to swipe. Which way do you swipe? Do you swipe right?

Royce: You swipe right.

Courtney: You swipe right.

Royce: I had a Tinder profile for a little while. I… think I met one person who was okay, who I went on a couple of dates on, and I also had some of the most boring conversations I’ve ever had in my life.

Courtney: [laughs] Oh dear.

Royce: And it’s from the… “You gestured toward my picture,” and that was as significant as that introduction or connection was.

Courtney: So they’re into vampires. [laughs]

Royce: Or they accidentally dropped their phone while the app was open.

Courtney: Awww. [laughs] So this is actually a really good comparison, because you and I met through OkCupid, which – it’s been years now, so I’m sure things are different than when we were on, I don’t know how different. But one of the things that I think really, really helped, probably is the reason we met each other in the first place, was because we answered a lot of questions and we wrote a lot of details. And the way OkCupid was structured, you could, right off the bat, say, “What are you looking for? Are you looking for a long-term relationship? Are you looking for…” I believe casual sex was even an option. You could outright just say, “I’m looking for casual sex.” In my case, not expecting to meet a fellow asexual and not particularly being interested in a relationship at the time, I just said, “I’m looking for new friends.” So they had a variety of options.

Royce: And I’m not sure where to draw the line with how these articles are describing hardballing. Because to understand what all of your red flags are would take a fair amount of self-awareness.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And a lot of people either don’t have that or don’t realize it yet.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But the “dating site information blob” strategy kind of does the reverse of that, where you can read through what someone is all about, and get a better feeling, see if anything is clearly a dealbreaker, without necessarily going in knowing what a dealbreaker may or may not look like.

Courtney: “Dealbreaker” is a key word here. Because when I clicked on this video and they were tearing this to shreds, the commentary around it was, “No, you can’t just lay out every single expectation you have for someone. You’re going to scare them away. And also, where’s the romance? Where’s the spontaneity?” All of those kind of talking points. But correct me if I’m wrong – because you have read the articles, I have not – so you educate me here. Are they actually telling you to lay out absolutely every single thing? Or… Because to me, I would think you would just want to know the red flags and know the key important things.

Royce: I think they were jumping to conclusions.

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: And like I said, I don’t think that everyone has a list of demands going into a relationship. And if they do, that relationship may not work out. And I have an example. Because we’ll get into the articles in a little bit, but I think I’ve experienced exactly one case of what could be considered the more extreme version of hardballing. And this is where I… had a brief couple of messages with someone on a dating site, and then she wanted to talk on the phone. And once we got on the phone, it was a relatively short call, like half an hour, under an hour, but she launched into her entire life plan on a calendar for the next 10 years. [laughs]

Courtney: Mm.

Royce: And it was a bit intense, but it was also good information.

Courtney: The woman knows what she wants, Royce.

Royce: But it was the thing that gets criticized or made fun of in media sometimes where it’s like, “Well, I want to start dating by this time. I want to get married when I’m this old.”

Courtney: Mmmm.

Royce: “And then I want to have my first kid here. And I want to hit this career path. And then the next kid right here.” And it’s like, that plan is not going to work. Even if you find someone that fits those needs, you’re not going to hit those milestones at those times. That’s just not how life works.

Courtney: I mean you’re setting yourself up for… monumental distress when you miss one of those key dates. And I think possibly even… I don’t know how many people are going to that extreme – that definitely seems like a select few. But I do think that Millennials, and probably by extension Gen Z, are trying to get away from that a little bit, because I see a lot of people mocking that concept. Because all of the… especially on financial op-eds, it’s like, “Here’s how much money you should have in your savings account and your IRA by the time you turn 30.” And then I just see people who are 30, who are on Twitter saying, “By the time you’re 30, you should have $26 and crippling depression.”

[both laugh]

Courtney: “You should have back pain and a job that you hate.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, you can’t be too rigid. But there is something to say – if you want kids, you probably shouldn’t enter a relationship with someone who definitively doesn’t want kids.

Courtney: Kids is a big one, yes.

Royce: And I think the old traditional kind of dating advice was, “Well, you date them anyway, and then you slowly try to grind down their opinions over 15 years,” or something.

Courtney: Oh, that’s horrible. See, I think the mentality behind the whole thing is just, don’t set yourself up for failure.

Royce: Right.

Courtney: Don’t let yourself experience disappointment when you aren’t able to, you know, change someone’s entire worldview. And it’s really those things, it’s the big life things, and kids is a big one. And I know that on the dating site OkCupid, when we met, was a big thing: “Do you want kids? Yes, no, or…” They had a maybe option. But what I really, really liked, and what I think is important to keep in mind – whether you’re meeting people online or in person – if you’re hardballing, I think it’s important to think about everything kind of on a scale. “How important is this trait or life goal to me?” And that’s something I remember answering questions on OkCupid – and these are about big things that can make or break a relationship. One question being, for example, I remember it saying, “Are you religious? Yes or no? Do you want the person you meet to be religious? Yes or no?” But then it would say, “How important is your answer to you?” So someone could theoretically say, “Yeah, it would be nice if they weren’t religious because I’m not, but that’s not a dealbreaker. If I met someone religious, that might be okay.”

Royce: And then there is also a hard no option.

Courtney: Yeah, so you can kind of… They were weighted questions. And I’m sure that was all in their algorithm. Because when we first met, I hadn’t answered all of the questions, but I’d done a fair number of them. And I know you’d done a fair amount as well. I think it was like, “You guys are 75% compatible,” which was actually the highest I’d seen for myself personally. I was like, [excitedly] “75%! That’s very high.” [laughs]

Royce: It’s probably because you hadn’t filled many out. I had done all of them –

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: – because I had that account for quite a while.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: It was not uncommon for me to see 98, 99%.

Courtney: But how’d those work out for you?

Royce: They didn’t.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: But anyway –

Courtney: So 75% is the sweet spot. [laughs] But yeah, I think it’s good to keep that in mind. Because one, for example, that I can take from our real life life – [mimicking herself] “real life life.” [laughs] When we met, I was vegetarian, and I had been vegetarian for… 11 years? 10 years? Something like that. At least a decade. About a decade. And if someone were to ask me, “Do you want to date someone who is also a vegetarian?” I would say, “Oh, yeah, of course. Absolutely. Yes.” Why would I say no? But that wasn’t a dealbreaker for me, because we eat vegetarian at home. In fact, now we eat vegan at home, but you were not a vegetarian and that was not a dealbreaker for me. Had you been someone who was really into hunting and fishing and you were bringing dead animals into our home every weekend, that would have been a dealbreaker, I think. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah. The only dead animals are in our home is when you need to hospice something.

Courtney: Yes. Well, we… [sighs] We have four mice and a bat in our freezer right now, which we still need to bury.

Royce: I keep reminding you of them and you keep saying it’s too soon.

Courtney: Well… [sighs, sadly] we recently lost three of our mice. I know that sounds like a lot of mice, but we have like 40 of them, so it’s not that many mice. And this was over the span of a couple of different months. They’re getting old. We’ve had them multiple years at this point, and they’re just little guys. So they were old. It was their time. We found a bat in our fireplace. And then one of them was just a baby mouse who didn’t make it, a couple years ago, still a little pink one who just died the day it was born. So I mean, yes, we do have dead animals in the house. [laughs]

Royce: But if we go back all the way to before that tangent…

Courtney: [laughs, fake accusing] You’re the one who started this! [laughs] You made me clarify our dead animal situation.

Royce: What I was trying to say was that the one experience that I have with what I could consider as the most intense sort of hardballing scenario, like “Here is my life plan” –

Courtney: Mm, mhm.

Royce: It was surprising in the moment, but we resolved that whole thing in like 30 minutes. Her life plan didn’t match what I was looking for. And we were like, “Great, moving on.” Meanwhile around that time, maybe a year or two later, I had a friend come to me. And when we were just hanging out, he was saying, like, “Man, I’m getting so frustrated with dating. I keep meeting people and we talk and we spend, like, a month or two. And finally on… several dates in, after spending who knows how much money on dinners and events, we suddenly hit a red flag that I’m just absolutely not okay with. And then all that time’s wasted, and I have to start over from scratch.”

Courtney: I have to wonder, in a situation like that, what their communication style is like, that it took so long to hit such a hard red flag like that.

Royce: Well, this was the friend – we were talking about this in private a while back – who was also like, “Man, why do I keep meeting all of these conservative religious people? Are there just more of them around here than where I’m from?” And he was from Texas.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: So the answer is no.

Courtney: So no.

Royce: I asked him what dating site he was using, and it was Match or eHarmony or something. And I was like, “There’s your problem.”

Courtney: [laughs] And you were like, “Come, friend. Let me show you the progressive [laughs] dating sites.”

Royce: He thinks he may have been dating women with more traditional dating styles.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Because in my case, I’ve never paid entirely for a dinner while on a date.

Courtney: That’s not true. Unless you don’t count anything we ever did a date.

Royce: Well, we had a specific arrangement. Because it was like, you were traveling, so I paid for the meals.

Courtney: Yeah, I traveled, you paid for the meals.

Royce: But that was a negotiated thing. But when I’ve dated people who are local, usually before the check came out, the girl I was with was like, hand on the table, “I’m paying for my half of the dinner,” in a “this is not a negotiation” sort of tone.

Courtney: Well, if you were meeting them on sites like OkCupid after having answered a lot of these questions ahead of time, before you even start talking to each other, you had to have been meeting very progressive women.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Very feminist women. Probably very independent women. So that doesn’t surprise me. But I’m sure someone else with a different worldview could use the same site and get a different result. [laughs]

Royce: So I’m a little surprised about the video you watched, who is very critical of hardballing.

Courtney: Very critical.

Royce: Because when I was looking through what sort of news was out there, I basically just searched for a few different terms and then opened every article that came up on the first page of the results and scrolled through. And almost all of them were glowing.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Plenty of them seemed a bit out of touch, thinking that this was, again, a new thing, and not just basically what young people who aren’t swiping left and right have been doing for a long time.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But to talk through some of these. The title of the Today article that was mentioned earlier on that Reddit thread was, “There’s actually a good dating trend out there and it’s called hardballing. Hardballing is a term to explain when you tell someone all of your expectations up front before you even go out on a first date. That way you don’t waste your time and can weed out anyone who may not be as serious about finding a relationship as you are. It’s always best to be clear as possible. That way there’s no room for misinterpretation.” Which…

Courtney: I love it.

Royce: Yeah, exactly.

Courtney: “Expectation” is the key word. Setting expectations is the most important thing in probably any level of communication or interaction, not just dating, but just life. Setting expectations is a beautiful thing. And quite honestly, it sounds like even on a micro scale, like, “Oh, we are going on a first date,” you should probably set expectations for just that date ahead of time. Set expectations about… who is going to pay. You know, if you’re offering to pay, say, “My treat.” If you are splitting the bill, you set that expectation ahead of time. Because otherwise there’s potential for that awkward moment when the check comes, if this is a restaurant kind of a situation. [laughs] Nobody’s going to restaurants anymore in 2022! [sadly] Oh, but sadly they are, actually. [regular tone] But I think setting expectations is great. And that’s why I’m so baffled that there are people who will date for a month or more before they hit a red flag. Because I think we knew about… about everything we needed to know as far as expectations by the time we actually met face-to-face in person for the first time, because we were just talking so much.

Royce: Yeah, I think we unintentionally took a page out of the lesbian handbook and U-Hauled.

Courtney: That is exactly what we did. We are not going to get into [laughs] how “lesbian” is or is not an umbrella term in this podcast. Oh, that’s a hot Twitter discussion these days. [laughs]

Royce: My thought, just a moment ago as you were speaking, was how… more mainstream communities could learn things from more obscure communities.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Like, if all of the straight vanilla cishet people would just dive into kink a little bit, and learn a little bit about communication around limits and boundaries.

Courtney: Mhm, mhm.

Royce: It’s the same thought process.

Courtney: Oh, absolutely. And… you know, we mentioned, there are some people who have been hardballing forever. Think about poly communities, like polyamorous people. They are usually much better at setting expectations, because you need to have that communication open and flowing. And if you’re seeing someone and you’re already in a poly relationship, you need to let everyone know what’s going on.

Royce: And maybe the difference here is that when you’re fitting within the norm, when you’re fitting within the mainstream, you can be lazy and rely on social expectation.

Courtney: Yes!

Royce: And just assume that everyone else has the same social expectations that you have.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Which doesn’t happen. And that’s why so many things fall apart.

Courtney: And that leads to a lot of hard feelings too. I mean, if you’re a woman who still feels like the man should pay on the first date – and that is just how you were raised, that’s all you know, that’s what you’re expecting, that’s your idea of romance – and then…

Royce: And then suddenly he asked to split the check. That would be really jarring.

Courtney: That would be really jarring! And that is just one example of many about how things can really blow up if you don’t have those expectations set. Because it can lead to hurt feelings when you’re surprised by something like that. And just to… I mean, [laughing] all communities just need to learn more from each other, especially, like you said, straight cishet people need to learn from queer communities, more often. Queer and kink. I really do believe that. Because honestly… Aw, I can’t believe you just said we lesbianed it. [laughs]

Royce: One of the articles that I –

Courtney: We did! We did! [laughs]

Royce: One of the articles that I read was by a lesbian woman who described the U-Hauling practice. And she mentioned how this was intimidating – this hardballing made sense to her, but it was intimidating –

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: – to just put everything out there right at the beginning. So that’s why the term was in my head.

Courtney: Well, in our case, it was a pod because it was a several-state move, so we got one of those.

Royce: Yeah, because we’re not driving our own U-Haul.

Courtney: We’re not driving a U-Haul! We aren’t real lesbians! [laughs] We are fake lesbians!

Royce: So running through a few more titles here. Because again, I looked at several articles. I’m surprised that you got recommended apparently the only thing on the internet that’s critical of it.

Courtney: They were so critical!

Royce: But Femina says, “Hardballing is ruling the dating billboards and we are not complaining.” It just talks about –

Courtney: No, no complaints.

Royce: – being confident enough to voice what you want in a relationship and not settling for less. Amodrn says, “It’s a new dating trend that puts you back in control while keeping open and honest communication with any potential partners.” They go into – like you were saying about setting expectations earlier, “Is this supposed to be a hook-up? Is it a fling? Is it a more serious relationship? Are you in the stage of your life where you’re actually looking to speed things up and settle down and have children?”

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: They add that “hardballing is basically what dating should have been a long time ago.”

Courtney: [laughs] Yes! And for many people it has been! Because – so here’s actually something that this hypercritical video also mentioned, where in whatever article they were pulling from, they said, “Yeah, this is a good thing to do, by dating multiple people, hardballing to whittle them down.” And they even went so far as to say, “Don’t date multiple people,” which is a very, very [laughs] straight, very monogamous point of view. And I don’t even think dating multiple people necessarily means that you’re not monogamous either.

Royce: I think we need to define the term “dating.”

Courtney: You do need to define the term “dating.”

Royce: Are you in… Are you texting and maybe you’ve been to dinner once? Because if you’re in what I would consider to be a relationship of some kind with multiple people, without communicating this with everyone involved, that’s a big nope.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, yes, you do need to communicate. And I think when you’re on a dating site, there’s some level of assumption that you probably are talking to multiple people, maybe even meeting multiple people once or twice. But then the monogamous thing to do is to pick your favorite and stick with them, [laughs] basically. But, yeah, dating multiple people kind of is different than being in a relationship with multiple people, I think, and a lot of people think. And that’s even something that is an older concept too, because I remember my grandmother recommending that you date multiple people until you find the one you want to go steady with. [laughs] And I mean, that’s the old terminology, “go steady,” but the “going steady” is “deciding to be monogamous and sticking with one person,” in this sense.

Royce: Right. I was vaguely aware of this process. Because I’ve known people, I guess, who would just say, like, “Oh yeah, I’ve got a date with one guy in a couple days, and – a dinner date with one guy in a couple days. And a lunch date the day after that. And there’s a third person over the weekend.” And… that sounds exhausting. I can only handle one person at a time. [laughs]

Courtney: The only time I ever truly, truly tried doing that was honestly right before I met you, and I did not like it. It was nobody on this dating site – because, as I mentioned in our episode about this, you were the first one [laughs] on the dating site, miraculously, that I truly talked to. But I was meeting a lot of people out in the real world, and… I was a young woman, [laughs] so I got a lot of suitors. And… I hate that this was my rule at the time, [laughs] but it was. My rule was: give everyone a chance. So if someone asked me out and I was not in a monogamous relationship, my rule was, yeah, give it a try. And that just led to a lot of miserable dates that ended after the first miserable date. In those cases, hardballing would have been better, [laughs] would have saved me some time, if nothing else.

Royce: There was one line I thought was kind of funny out of a New York Post article. It said… which, this New York Post article is probably one of the least interesting ones. A passage says, “These woke Gen Zs are really upping the ante when it comes to healthy dating. And I am very much here for it. Time to leave the games in the ’90s where they belong.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Which, by the way, who was playing these games? Is it the allos? Is it a straight thing? Is it a cishet thing? I’ve never, as I mentioned, I’ve never really understood, I guess, how dating was supposed to work. So I just talked to people sometimes, rarely.

Courtney: I don’t know… [laughs] It sounds like a very allo thing, but it also sounds like a very…

Royce: Just a traditional thing?

Courtney: Yeah, like I’m just gonna cover all our bases and say cishet allo. It’s a very cishet allo thing. Yeah, I don’t know. The “actually going on dates and dating” is not something I enjoy, because there’s such a weird vibe and atmosphere about it. And with my horrible rule of “give everyone one chance,” I had so many boring conversations with uninteresting people. With you, since we – I guess you can say we hardballed [laughs] – since we hardballed, I knew you were interesting from the very first night I started talking to you. And then we just kept talking forever. And we’re still talking, but now it’s on a microphone for the internet. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah, it all just comes down to communication. I saw an amazing… I think it was on TikTok. [laughs] And it was someone who was just saying, “I love how polyamorous people meet someone, because they’re like, ‘Hey, I think you’re a genuinely awesome and interesting person, and I’d love to get to know you more. And if you just want it to be as friends, that’s cool. Otherwise, if you want it to be something more, it can be something more. But either way, I’m just going to be really happy to have you in my life. And by the way, my polycule’s having a board game night on Thursday.’” [laughs] And I was like, “Yep. Yep, yep, yep, yep. That is exactly what it’s like.” [laughs] But see, that is still a level of setting expectation. It’s like, “I will be happy with a friendship or a non-monogamous relationship. I am happy with either.” It’s all communication!

Royce: So you said something earlier about… not as many people going down to have in-person dates as you would have a few years back. There are a few interesting trends that are obvious, now that I’m thinking about it, but I hadn’t considered it until tonight. Some of the other popular dating habits that are going around right now are things like “slow dating,” where you just talk remotely through, you know, text or chat or whatever for a while before the first time you meet in person. Hardballing could be, “Are you vaccinated yet?”

Courtney: Oh, that’s a must! [laughs]

Royce: There’s also this new phenomenon that I saw mentioned a couple times called “New Dawn Daters,” and these are all the people who had huge breakups of long-term relationships during the pandemic –

Courtney: Oooh.

Royce: – who are now getting back into the dating scene en masse and are, by and large, not familiar with how dating works today.

Courtney: Mm. That’s interesting. Yeah, I’m not surprised, but that is interesting. I see in theory why they also call it “CEO dating” or whatever. Because, you know, the idea, like, [exaggerated] “Oh, I am very busy. I’m a working woman. My schedule’s jam-packed. I can pencil you in for exactly this one hour next Wednesday.” [regular tone] So I get where they got that, but I still also… I hate it. And I don’t think it needs to be like that either. It doesn’t have to be like a job interview – like “Come in. Submit your resume. Thank you, next” – which was the impression that these commentators who were hating on it kind of had. They were like, “Where’s the romance?” Which, first of all, not every relationship needs to be “romantic,” for whatever that means. There are people who are aromantic and can still date and love and form relationships. And just the idea of what is romantic, at least to the general population, also kind of changes over time. I mean, think about how different Disney movies are today compared to how they were in the ’90s [laughs] or earlier.

Courtney: So you know who I also love this trend for: neurodivergent folks. Hello, hi, how are you doing? Because if you don’t get really blunt and honest with the situation at hand, we just might not know. Do you know how many dates I’ve been on that I didn’t know were dates? [laughs] And I would have gone if I was asked as a date, because my rule was to give everyone a chance! [laughs] But I didn’t know it was a date! Yeah, so that’s… Oh no, that was a date, wasn’t it?

Royce: Did you just remember something?

Courtney: [laughs] Oh, I’m probably a monumental asshole. In hindsight, now that I know more about allo people and I know more about neurotypical people, I think I was probably on a date with a man the last time I kissed a girl – who is coincidentally the last person I kissed before you. But I think I was on a date with someone else. Oh, no. Whoops! It might not have been a date. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe that person was also neurodivergent and we were just hanging out. Who can say? [laughs] Don’t look at me with that tone of voice! Yeah. Hmm. It’s the subtlety I don’t like. I don’t like the subtlety. If someone, for example, is like, “Hey, you seem really cool. Let’s get a coffee,” I’d be like, “Great. Yes, let us get coffee because you think I’m really cool!” And now you’re just getting coffee because this person is interesting. Someone else might be like, “I’m asking you on a date right now.” [laughs] And I would just never know. Although the worst is when neither one of you is sure. Have you ever been in that situation, where neither one of you were sure if you were on a date or not? [laughing] Because that’s absolutely happened to me.

Royce: I don’t think on a date, specifically, because dating sites were about the only way that I met people.

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: But there were definitely the “is this going anywhere or not?” sort of quandary periods.

Courtney: Mmm, mhm. “What are we? What is this?” [laughs] Which is a concern that I think a lot of people have at one point or another [laughs] while dating or forming relationships. So yeah, I think just setting expectations helps all of those. So yeah, I’m on board. I am. Now I just can’t stop thinking, “Hardball U-Haul.”

Royce: So I figured we’d end this episode with some justification for ignoring criticisms of things like dating trends by using a little bit of myth-busting.

Courtney: Ooh, Mythbusters!

Royce: I’m sure you heard, when you were younger, that half of all marriages end in divorce, right?

Courtney: Oh my gosh, not only when I was a kid did I grow up with that statistic, but my cynical-ass co-workers, when I worked at the bridal shop, said that all the time. Like, obviously, when all the customers left and it was just us, they’d be like, “Half of these people won’t make it. Half of these people will end in divorce.” And I was like, “How can you be so cynical? They’re in love, and they’re about to get married! And this is the greatest time of their life so far!” And they’re like, “Look, I’m just here for a paycheck. I’m just glad I got a commission off their dress.” [laughs] So that gets thrown around all the time. Yes.

Royce: Right. And a lot of people out there know that this isn’t true and has never been true. It’s a misunderstanding of statistics.

Courtney: Mhm!

Royce: It’s also really old. [laughs] It comes from a point in the ’70s when the marriage rates dropped a little bit and the divorce rates were at an all-time high. But the statistic was that there were about half the number of divorces in a given year compared to the total number of marriages.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And this didn’t mean that the people that were getting married were getting divorced. It meant that the older marriages were ending at a high enough rate that even with population growth, it was half that of the new marriages. So I pulled up a chart just so I could know what I’m talking about here, and it’s really interesting. Because there is a huge spike, both in marriages and divorces, immediately after World War II.

Courtney: Mm, mhm. Absolutely!

Royce: Which is both soldiers coming home and possibly married soldiers coming home to either some infidelity on either side during the war.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And then there’s a dip in both for quite a while. And right around 20, 30 years later, there is another huge spike in marriages and divorces.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And that looks to be the Boomers and the parents of the Boomers getting married and divorcing.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And that is what propelled the saying that we have into the 1970s, where the divorce rate was extremely high. Now, since –

Courtney: Always the Boomers.

Royce: It’s always the Boomers. And since then, the divorce rate was falling. And it’s extremely low now, to the point where… I came across an article that attributes the drop in the divorce rate almost entirely to the Millennial generation.

Courtney: Millennials are killing divorces! Can you believe that? What hasn’t been wrecked by the Millennials?

Royce: The main justification here is just that dating and marriage habits changed. The article says that many people getting married today are more educated, older, more socially and economically stable – which I guess with debt, we can’t really claim that.

Courtney: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Royce: But at least job and career focus helps, as well as the various trends of dating longer, of cohabitating before marriage, of –

Courtney: Hardballing!

Royce: Of hardballing.

Courtney: Dating online.

Royce: But I figured I would bring that up because if that chart is accurate, if there’s anyone you shouldn’t be taking dating advice from, it’s the older generation.

Courtney: It’s the Boomers! Does this information, coupled with the fact that we have a successful marriage – does this qualify us to be marriage and dating experts? Can we be the next people quoted in these articles? [laughs] I always wonder who these people are, the dating experts, the marriage experts.

Royce: Probably, but didn’t we specify in the last episode that we’re not going to be doing that? We’re not going to be advice columnists.

Courtney: No… I want to give no one advice. If I tell you how I’m living my life and you choose to follow in my footsteps of your own free volition, go for it. [laughs] But yeah, I wonder how many of the people writing these things or quoting these things actually are Boomers. Because so many of them, even the ones that are positive, are calling it a Gen Z thing, and being like –

Royce: “This brand-new, savage, brutal dating concept.”

Courtney: Savage, brutal, but also, like, “Actually, that sounds pretty good. But it’s still a surprise. We didn’t create that!” But I’m sure anyone actually in Gen Z and probably a fair number of Millennials would just be like, “That’s just… how we talk. That’s just how we meet people.” Who coined the term hardballing? Did Gen Z actually create that word or was there a “dating expert” who was like, “This is my observation. Let me coin a word to describe what I’m seeing.” [laughs]

Royce: I couldn’t find it. I did see a link to a podcast about dating like a CEO, though.

Courtney: [groans] No, thank you. Yeah, it’s all very, very interesting. I’m curious now. And maybe this is a future episode, if we find anything interesting, but with all these, like, “These are the dating trends,” I wonder if there are any new marriage trends [laughs] amongst Gen Z and the younger Millennials. I would assume and maybe hope that fewer people are doing the big white wedding, you know? But I have no actual statistics to back that up.

Royce: Yeah. I have no idea. So many people get wrapped up in tradition or nostalgia, which is something that I’ve just never really experienced. But with people leaning more progressive and trying to understand the reasons that some traditions exist, I feel like more people would be turned away from what is essentially a ritual to give a daughter, who was considered property at the time, from her father to her husband.

Courtney: Oh, absolutely! And I mean, there are people who… I mean, I think a lot of people in our generation were like, “We aren’t going to do the traditional wedding,” but they’d still basically do the traditional wedding. They’d just take away the walking someone down the aisle. They’d take that little bit out.

Royce: They remove any scripture or anything.

Courtney: Yeah. They’d remove the questionable lines about, like, [exaggeratedly solemn] “Will you submit to your husband?” But they’d still basically do the same thing. And weddings are so expensive. They are so expensive. And the thing is, for me, I like the pageantry. I really do. At the time we were dating, if someone said, “Do you want to date someone who wants to have a big flashy wedding?” I would have been like, [emphatically] “Absolutely! Absolutely I do.” I’m so glad we didn’t actually have a wedding. I am so glad. But that doesn’t stop me from loving just pageantry in general, because I… am extra [laughs] and I am dramatic.

Royce: I know.

Courtney: [laughs] Hey! So I could attend someone else’s wedding and I will be crying like a baby. I’ll be like, [mock crying] “This is the most gorgeous wedding I’ve ever been to.” If it’s an old historical building, I’ll be like, “This is a gorgeous venue.” And I love the flowers and the massive cake. And I will love it. I will absolutely love it. But I will still simultaneously be like, “Thank goodness we didn’t actually do this!” [laughs] So yeah, that might be things to investigate. We also might need to go undercover on dating websites. I think we need to see how ace-friendly the dating sites are these days. Because I know from our episode when we were talking about OkCupid – OkCupid was not ace-friendly when we met, but they’ve added some things to make it a little better for aces. And I wonder how many dating sites have done that and how many are just way behind.

Royce: That will be an interesting experiment. It’s something that we’ve discussed a little bit but haven’t actually started. So, if any of you are out there and looking and you see either an individual or a joint Ace Couple account on there –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – send us a message. We would be curious to see what your experiences have been. But we’ll probably test around. Make some notes on the UI. I did talk to a couple of asexuals, including, I think, the first demisexual that I met, on OkCupid.

Courtney: Oh, really?

Royce: And you could always tell what people’s behaviors were, because suddenly there would be someone from the other side of the world viewing your website.

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: And it’s like, the only way you got here is by keyword search.

Courtney: You searched the word “asexual.”

Royce: You typed in “asexual” and that happens to be on my profile.

Courtney: Yes! Oh, that is very interesting. I can absolutely see how that happened, though. [laughs] Fascinating. So I’m gonna leave off. I’m gonna ask this of you, Royce, because, maybe you can explain this to me or maybe they were just allos allo-ing. [laughs] Allo-ing. I heard people talking about hardballing, and they insisted that it sounded extremely dirty and sexual. Do you agree? [laughs] Why, or why not?

Royce: I don’t really get it. I’m struggling to find a connection. Maybe you could relate it to a slang term for CBT or something. But you wouldn’t expect a normal person to just know that and laugh at it. And I think it’s just sort of the basic sub-genre of allo, just hearing the word “ball.” And I think that’s probably about as deep as it goes.

Courtney: “Ball” as in “testicle.”

Royce: Balls. Yes.

Courtney: And they’re just, like…

Royce: Laughing at that, like 12-year-olds.

Courtney: Oh, okay. So they’re just allos allo-ing.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: I see. I see. I guess Urban Dictionary can be our judge here. Because you pulled the definition of hardballing from Urban Dictionary and that was not dirty. And Urban Dictionary –

Royce: It wasn’t! Actually, I had to scroll to find examples that had anything to do with dating. Because there’s also a gun that’s referred to as a “hardballer,” because it’s the type of ammunition it shoots.

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: Or some other references to the term that were completely unrelated.

Courtney: Yeah, because it –

Royce: Which could lead to this being a thing that maybe some out-of-touch news sites just made it up.

Courtney: That’s true.

Royce: Like, made up the term or the description for something that seemed foreign to them.

Courtney: That sounds like something news sites would do. But yeah, because if that was a sex position, Urban Dictionary would tell us.

Royce: Oh, it would give us like twelve variants.

Courtney: Oh no. [laughs] That was one of those weird things, just Urban Dictionary in general, as a younger asexual.

Royce: I remember when it first went up and people in elementary or middle school were just, like, typing in everyone in the class’s names.

Courtney: Yes! Yes! That’s a thing we did. A time-honored millennial tradition! [laughs] But the totally off-the-wall sex positions that you would find in Urban Dictionary – my baby ace brain had no idea that half of those were not actually real sex positions.

[both laugh]

Courtney: I was like, “They do what?! No!” Because if you already don’t understand the allos, like…

Royce: So for the second time, I’m gonna mention that we need to live discuss the Curious Sofa.

Courtney: [laughing] Yes we do. Yes we do. Oh. But does Gen Z know about Urban Dictionary? We had this discussion about pocket dictionaries and encyclopedias. But what about the important things? The Urban Dictionary? [laughs]

Royce: I’m officially too old to answer this question.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: I can maybe find some search metrics, but…

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: I don’t think I’m going to do that.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: I think I’m going to edit this episode.

[Courtney laughs]

Courtney: So our takeaway from today’s podcast: Royce is old. Courtney doesn’t understand social cues all the time. We hardballed. We U-Hauled. And now we make a podcast for you all.