It’s Friday night. Do you know where your backup date is? Chances are they’re right where you left them, at home waiting for you to call (or drunkenly text) them with the less-than-desirable proposition of playing second fiddle to a date who either fell through or wouldn’t put out. Whether you call them your “backups” or your “safety reserves,” one thing never changes: they just never seem to be the first on your list.
Sociology senior Greg, who refused to disclose his last name, is the first to admit that his dating patterns resemble those of a 13-year-old than an actual adult, but he doesn’t feel bad for keeping a couple of “backup girls” in his contact list.
“The reason I keep backup chicks is to avoid that limbo period between girls where you have nobody,” he said. “Nobody wants to be alone to the point where they have no one to go to that is guaranteed to be there.”
However, Greg isn’t oblivious to the fact that his rotation of safety reserves can hurt the feelings of the girls involved. He said that he aims to be transparent with the girls who aren’t his top pick by not promising a chance of exclusivity that he knows won’t happen with them. For Greg, the role of a backup can include anything from watching a movie, talking to them about things he can’t share with his guy friends and of course, hooking up.
“I have been in a position where I have felt bad about it because I am stringing that person along, but I am in college and sometimes that is the nature of the game and I bet I’ve been someone’s backup before,” he said. “Like I said, I don’t really date like an adult. Maybe someday.”
The nature of college dating encourages dating multiple people at a time, if not to figure out your different levels of compatibility with someone, then definitely to ensure that you’ll have a date on your arm at the next semi-formal or even just to prevent playing third wheel to another couple.
Recent marketing and writing and rhetoric graduate Shannon, who refused to disclose her last name, said that her experience with keeping backup guys around totally changed after she graduated. She went from keeping guys on the back burner to chucking all versions of safety reserves after college.
“It’s definitely harder to meet people outside of college, but I also don’t have a lot of patience for hanging out with guys that I don’t have a spark [with],” she said. “Normally, the spark tends to come from their personality. I don’t want to keep hanging out with someone that bores me.”
Shannon admits that now on a Friday night, she’d much rather be hanging out with friends that she actually likes than out at dinner struggling through a fourth date with someone she knew right away it wouldn’t work out with. She said that guys, on the other hand, seem to have no problem keeping dates on the back burner.
“You hear from guys like two months after a date when they realize that all the other fish in the sea are swimming a little too low to catch easily and they want some,” she said.
For a culture that puts so much emphasis on finding “the spark” with someone you’re dating, we are quick to disregard that spark when loneliness rolls around, leaving us in the semi-stimulating company of someone we only chose as an afterthought. Additionally, the upkeep of texting and hanging out with a person you don’t consider a priority seems like a lot of voluntary effort for something you don’t even really want that badly.
The dating world sometimes makes you forget that if you have to tell yourself a date wasn’t that bad, then it doesn’t mean the date was good simply by default. No matter how many dinners you go on, no matter how many of their jokes you try to convince yourself are funny, no matter how many times you walk home from a date with them thinking, “That wasn’t so bad,” you’re never going to fall head over heels for a backup date simply because you haven’t done so already. Instead, it’s best for both the dater and the dater’s safety reserve to go their separate ways or be “just friends” instead.