Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dating in the 21st Century, Pt. 3: The "Rules of Dating" and Some Date Ideas

Marhaba LOVEanese! As I promised, I want to present to you the third and final installment of the Dating in the 21st Century series (you can read the first part here where I talk about the "end of courtship," and the second part here where I discuss exactly what a date actually is). In this part, I want to do two things:

1. Present some findings from my thesis about the "rules of dating" in Lebanon from the perspective of my interviewees. They were very insightful, and I think many people will be able to identify with their responses (regardless if you're in Lebanon, the larger Arab world and Middle East, India and South Asia, or other places). 

2. Give some suggestions for where to go on dates in Lebanon and in Louisville. I covered it a bit in my last post, but I just want to put the information out there in case you're looking for good places.

Before I get into this, however, there is some news to share and there's numerous links that I first want to highlight. First and foremost, some really exciting news, my MA thesis was published on ProQuest! You can find it here. Now, if anyone wants to find it through their university libraries or through Google Scholar, you can. It's also available through the AUB Scholar Works. So, it's definitely good news. If you cannot access it, I am always willing to provide you with a copy. You can get one here

For the links I wanted to share, separate from this topic, this article is a really cool analysis of love as an emotion. I really suggest you read it!

Another is related to love in India. It's called the "Indian Business of Love," and although it's not a very thorough article, it's nice that it's being incorporated into the public discourse.

In Lebanon, a recent phenomenon that's taken Facebook by storm are the pages for AUB, LAU, and USJ Crushes. A few days ago, it was featured in a Daily Star article. Although it's an interesting twist on discussing attraction and relationships. it's also really sad that people have to resort to anonymously telling their crushes via Facebook that they like them. Is it because they can't talk to them for social or religious reasons (like outside of my sect)? Or are they just cowardly? What does it really accomplish, does it make a difference? I think a lot of people have much emotion built up, but don't feel they can ever actualize it. Perhaps I'm approaching this from a different angle. For me, I'm already well-informed of how difficult dating can be for the average Lebanese person, in part because of the multiple barriers and conditions for it. So, I look at things like this and think it's just another way for people to voice their frustrations, but never really take action about it. I get frustrated by the lack of power youth have when it comes to relationships. I just see this as further exacerbating the overarching problem of inaction. What do you think? I'd love your thoughts, so please share them below.

Apparently this is half of Hamra

Some additional links I wanted to point out related to dating are the following:

1. A Million First Dates - How online dating is challenging monogamy and the entire dating/courtship model, in part, by providing unlimited access to new, potential partners.

2. Ten Things You Didn't Know About Single Americans - Interesting research out of the US about singles. 

3. Want Love? Don't Date - A blog post all about being friends first and then moving into a relationship (not always easy, however).

4. How Technology Has Changed Romance - Great quote that sums up the article, "In the digital age, technology isn't killing courtship. But for many young couples, it's redefining what romance looks like."

5. The End of Dating? - A Huffington Post Live discussion.

6. Why It's Really Possible to Fall in Love Online - It's about the dynamics behind online communication and why romance can easily be fostered through computer-mediated communication.

7. The Search Engine of Love: How Long Do You Need to Spot True Love? - Another article about love and technology, and about how technology is helping us make up our minds faster about whether or not we're attracted to someone--but it's not always a good thing.

8. Women in their 20's Shouldn't Feel Bad For Wanting a Boyfriend - Exactly what it sounds like. I'm actually fairly tired of these articles because it should actually read, "White, American, Urban, Middle/Upper-Middle-Class Educated Women in their 20s." Is it really applicable to others? Even if it is, their examples are always specific to these individuals. Demographics aren't often taken into account when generalizations they make are made. But, I will say that as things continue to change in the Middle East, I think this will become increasingly more pertinent.

OK! Getting to what I really want to talk about... let's start out with the rules of dating. I'm focusing specifically here on rules of dating in Lebanon. Honestly, I don't have a formula for what the rules of dating are, especially a broad construction. Quite simply, these rules vary from culture-to-culture and society-to-society. However, in the case of my thesis and building on Farhood’s (2009) work, I explored what the rules of dating in Lebanon are, and if the rules are clear to the interviewees. Reinforcing the subjectivity of these "rules," many of them focused on the process of entering a relationship while others focused on the norms and conditions governing romantic relationships and dating.

Regarding the clarity of the rules of dating, seven of the interviewees responded they are clear, but each of them had different perceptions of what those rules are. For instance, Michel--a 19 year-old junior--expressed, "Oh wow, it's complicated, annoying, superficial--it's just sad really. Definitely no sex!" For him, the rules are clear, "but [they] aren't explained. They just happen, and you pick up on them; learn them indirectly." May--a 19 year-old sophomore--was not sure if she could explain the rules. Instead, she emphasized how the rules of dating are subjective, but there are some expectations such as dating among certain families, and within faith and sect--which are often contradictory. "[My grandparents] expect me to date within the same sect, [but] my mom, however, is more open-minded." Additionally, Shireen--a 20-year old junior--emphasized the difference between geographic locations and places: 

"It's very different between Syria, Lebanon, and AUB. In Syria, it really depends on your social/family's background and class. Also, on your parents and what schools you attend. In Lebanon, I am very free. There's no family friends or connections. In AUB, it's whatever; it's open."

Tamara--a 21-year old junior--and Tarek--a 24-year old senior--reflected this as well. Like Shireen, the rules were not clear to Tamara either, but she insisted: 

"[It] depends on where you're from. Living in Beirut, for instance, it's easier. The farther you go, the more conservative it is. So, it's different. Beirut is more liberal. Tripoli, for instance, is more conservative, so dating is more unlikely than being engaged or married."

Tarek replied the rules are clear "to a certain extent, but are hard to describe," according to him: 

"AUB is not a good sample of Lebanon or the Arab world. It's not constrained by many rules. It's hard to pinpoint them, but we know where to draw the line on certain behavior. Rules equal norms. I know I'm staying within the rules because of other people's reactions."

When asked about the rules of dating, Tanya--a 19-year old junior--quickly replied, "In terms of what? Arabs have such a different way of viewing relationships, one that's different from the West's, different from how they are." She highlighted how "society doesn't expect the couple to be too "lovey-dovey," especially in public. There are a lot of underlying rules." However, when it comes to the rules she follows, "There aren't many from our society to obey, maybe just not PDA. But otherwise, there's nothing else I feel I have to do or follow. I don’t owe society more than that."

Three others also specified the rules are clear to them because they create their own. Lama--an 18-year old freshman--explained how, while the rules were clear to her and not necessarily to other people, "My own rules supersede social rules." Shireen also reflected this, stating, "Many of the rules are culturally inflicted. But I make my own rules. I get them from society, but I observe myself, other people, and my own relationships." Zayna--a 20-year old senior--also makes her own rules, and contrasts them to society's rules and the established processes of dating. These rules include, "They take my BlackBerry PIN, talk on Facebook, go out with a group of friends a few times, then you ease your way in." But her rules are "meet someone, be attracted to them, and connect with them."

Like Zayna, Sara--a 25-year old senior--mentioned similar things about the established process of dating and courtship. "I don’t really have [rules], but there are social rules. There’s a social "game." For instance, you have to go for someone, but you can't make it obvious." Although she confessed her and her fiancé make fun of the rules, she does "respect the basic structural rules like no abuse or disrespect. My interpretation [of the rules] is different, and the basic rules are unclear."

Joanne--a 19–year old sophomore--was open about explaining the contradictions that come with the dating process. While she indicated it "begins in the "typical Western model" where the girl likes the guy," being from good social stature, the same sect, being able to support a girl, having a future, and not just being physically attracted is important according to society. In her perspective, the rules are clear on the social level because "there are set rules. There are boundaries you shouldn't cross, like no sex before marriage and don't do anything to tarnish your reputation." Moreover, she was quick to affirm causal relationships are not common in Lebanon, but only serious relationships. "Even if you are thinking of getting married or aren't going to get married, [they] still need certain prerequisites, certain criteria/features, and they need to fit a certain mold. It shows they are serious." She continued, expressing, "Attracting the other sex is an entirely different game, and there are many other rules for that."

All of the other interviewees did not think the rules were clear, but they were ambiguous and confusing. Five of the interviewees stressed the subjective nature of the rules of dating. When Tamara was asked if the rules are clear, for instance, she replied, "No of course not. If they were, I'd be getting guys left and right. The rules are subjective to the people." Moreover, for Raja--a 22-year old graduate--the rules are not clear because they are "very diverse, subjective, and there's no standard criteria." Additionally, according to Mohammad--a 19-year old sophomore, "There are no rules of dating. It's different depending on the person's religion." Expanding Mohammad's perspective, Najwa--a 21-year old senior--replied:

"It's different. [The rules] depends on their demographics: class, location, sect. My parents are different than the rest of the culture, and most AUB students are as well. These rules aren't clear to me, but they aren't clear to anyone. There are never set rules for something like dating. Everyone pretends it's known, but really, it isn't."

Noura--a 20-year old senior--felt a similar way. "Whose rules? Every relationship has different rules. You make them. I don't believe there are rules for a relationship. There's right and wrong, the way we perceive those is different from person–to–person though." She did express there are certain social rules everyone generally follows, such as no PDA (public displays of affection), and it "depends on the environment you live in."

Furthermore, some interviewees--both male and female--commented on the gender differences for the rules of dating. In Najwa's opinion, "There is a big discrepancy in the rules between men and women." Munira--a 19-year old sophomore--elaborated, "Guys expect girls to be weak and need protection. Girls look for a protector, not a partner," but affirmed she neither does this, nor approves of it. Maya--an 18-year old sophomore--also discussed the gender difference and her perceived mistake in courting a man. "What do you mean "rules?" You meet someone through classes or friends. Girls expect guys to make the first moves." She then explained how a male friend recently hurt her feelings by rejecting her because she had courted him. "If I had behaved more appropriately, I wouldn't have had my heart broken." 

Moreover, Rana--a 21-year old senior--and Rami--a 23–year old graduate--had much to say about how rules affect individuals and where they learn these rules. Dating, according to Rami, "is a long, dedicated process." He indicated: 

"You have to be in it for the long haul. It also means you're courting one person. [For me, it's a] combination of Western and traditional Lebanese models. [Rules] must be affected though by pop culture like movies and TV, and what my parents expect and how my friends perceive things."

Rana expressed many sentiments about the rules of dating as well, reflecting how different individuals and groups affect the norms that govern dating:

"My friend was trying to write an article here at AUB on the dating rules titled "Ten Rules for Dating in Lebanon." She enlisted my help, but we just couldn't do it. We didn't know what to say. There's no solid approach, very different among so many things like communities, personalities, groups. [It's] very subjective, and differs from person-to-person. It's confusing for everyone in Lebanon. It depends if parents dictate something. [If they do,] you respect them and you have to follow what they say. But at the same time, you want space for your own personality, to do your own thing. Confusion comes from what you have to be for yourself, your parents, and your community/society. These each operate by different sets of rules, so there's a clash of interests and thoughts, which makes dating confusing. You have to ask: "what do I feel?" "what do they feel?" and "what does he feel?""

When considering whom the interviews discuss the rules of dating with, they indicated their parents and their friends. Almost all of the interviewees responded they would or do talk to their friends about the rules of dating. "Of course [I talk about them] with friends. It's a very common topic, especially when there's nothing to talk about," replied Shireen. Many also look to these individuals to give advice. For instance, Tamara reinforced that friends offer advice, opinions, and feedback. Raja also turns to his friends, but mostly "to get their opinions and perspectives."

Joanne was quick to point out the differences between talking with friends and parents. "Two different sets of rules [exist] between parents and friends," she said. "With my friends, I can be open, be myself, say what I want, and be more honest. With my parents, I have to say what they want to hear. I have to be more conforming, at least in my words."

The amount of the interviewees who talk about the rules of dating with their parents is more evenly split. Some of them responded they had talked and learned about the rules of dating directly from their parents. Others indicated their parents had talked with them about it indirectly, but casually learn the rules of dating from society and their own experiences instead. For Maya--an 18-year old sophomore--she does not talk about it with her mother, but her mom still imparts certain rules upon her. Maya's mother told her, "If you want to be with someone, be serious and think long-term." According to Maya, her mother also conditioned her with expectations such as a potential boyfriend should be Syrian, from the same religion, and from the same background. "I can’t date to have fun, which is what many at AUB do," replied Maya. On the other hand, Hassan--a 19-year old junior--does not talk about dating with his mother, but prefers his cousin instead. "Mom has never given me the relationship talk. I talk about relationships with my cousin. I learn from her. Most of my knowledge comes from how she’s conducted her relationships."

Many of the individuals who did not talk about the rules of dating with their parents indicated it was because there was a generational gap or because they were "old-fashioned." "I never, ever talk about it with my parents. They are old-fashioned," replied Munira. Rami was quick to point out that his parents are not necessarily "old–fashioned" or closed-minded, but there is a generational gap between them and their parents. And according to him, "I'm caught in-between my parents and grandparents." Zayna and Michel, however, indicated there was a clear generational gap between them and their parents specifically. In Zayna’s words, although she doesn't talk to her parents about the rules of dating, "I could, but their input isn't valuable because of the generational gap. They wouldn't connect with me, but I know they are still there for me." Michel was less optimistic, however. For him:  

"I don't talk about dating with my parents because there's a generation gap. Not much has changed about the perspectives of dating here. There's still blind dates and arranged marriages. Tension exists between how dating should happen, and the differences between us."

Overall, there was little consensus as to what the rules were in general--as they identified different communities, families, and social environments teach different rules--however, some broad understanding does exist. For instance, dating is not the same as being in a relationship, gender roles within dating are clearly established--dictating a man is expected to pursue a woman--and many think it is prudent to avoid places where they could come across individuals their family knows. Moreover, behavior or actions such as abuse, disrespect, hurtful treatment excessive public displays of affection (PDA), and sex before marriage were collectively considered inappropriate as mandated by both the overarching social environment and their cultural backgrounds. Many of them also collectively identified differences between certain social environments--particularly that of Lebanon versus AUB--indicating Beirut was a more liberal and open-minded place, and AUB was a safe zone, free from the watchful eyes of family and members of their respective communities. As this indicates, the participants select whom they tell about their relationships and discuss dating with, and control the information about their personal lives that is publicly disclosed.

I know that was a lot to read, so here's some cute bunnies kissing.

So, what do you think? Can you identify with their sentiments? What about if you aren't in Beirut, Lebanon, or the Middle East? Do you relate?

Well, in case you can, especially if you're in Lebanon or my hometown of Louisville, I want to suggest some things to do/places to go if you 1. believe in dating, 2. understand what a date is, and 3. have navigated the rules of dating enough to have a fairly solid idea of what to do. I'm not in a position to coach anyone on how to go on a date or what to do exactly (just treat each other nicely and respectfully, be genuinely interested in the other person, ask good questions, and above all, have fun!). Additionally, I've blogged about fun date ideas in the past, and there's some good links with ideas, one from Thought Catalog, and another from this site. Additionally, this site has a list of 365 ideas to take from. Check them out!

For Louisville and Lebanon, here's some ideas:

Louisville: There's all kinds of things to do with someone ranging from restaurants and bars to local farms, bourbon distilleries, horse races, and park picnics.

First of all, let's start with restaurants. In case you aren't familiar with Louisville Originals, check out the website. It's a group of locally owned restaurants, and all of the locations are great (especially Bristol and Uptown Cafe on Bardstown Rd. and Baxter Avenue Station).

You can check out their numbers here:

There's so many other restaurants though! Come Back Inn is one of my favorites, as is Amicí, Old Spaghetti Factory, and Toast. Not to mention Ermins, Hammerheads, Proof, Smoketown USA (if they're into BBQ, it's some of the best in Louisville), Sergios, Four Pegs, Grape Leaf, Highland Morning, Eiderdown, Saffrons, Ramzi's, Molly Malones, and Havana Rumba. The list is practically endless! Just go exploring in St. Matthews, Frankfort Avenue, Bardstown Rd./Baxter Ave., Old Louisville, or Downtown. In downtown, for instance, There's plenty to see: NuLu, the Belvedere, Waterfront Park, Glassworks (you can watch glass being made), the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (take them to a play/musical/show!).

I also suggest thinking of all the museums in Louisville, like those on Museum Row on Main (Science Center, Slugger Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, etc.). Also, here's a list of all the museums in Louisville.

And for the arts fans, aside from the aforementioned, there's the Speed Art Museum (after it's remolded), and the Thrust Theater/the Playhouse, all at UofL. UofL's music schools puts on free shows and concerts all the time, and the Theater Arts department makes their ticket prices incredibly reasonable (and all proceeds support the show, arts, and the department).

If you're into sports, just go to a UofL sports game or to a Bats baseball game at Slugger Field.

Another idea is to visit one of Louisville numerous beautiful parks. Have a picnic, go biking, walk your dogs! 

Across the river, you can check out Schimpffs Candy Confectionery, one of the oldest businesses in the U.S. Then head to Huber's farm, restaurant, and winery (especially in the fall).

If you're 21+, take a weekend and go explore the Bourbon Trail. It's awesome, and only a short distance from Louisville. Additionally, you can go to Churchill Downs (Downs After Dark anyone?).

I think you get it, there's plenty to do. And I'm sure I've missed a lot (e.g., Derby, Thunder, etc.). Feel free to add you own date ideas Louisvillians!

P.S. Go Cards!

Lebanon: If you're in Lebanon, you're going to find coming up with fun date ideas is a bit trickier. There's a lot of restaurants in Beirut and throughout the country (here's a listing for some), many more than I know about. Of course, there's the basics (bars in Hamra, Monot, Gemmayze, and Mar Mikhail in Beirut (a listing here)), and the various beach clubs (you can find a listing here). Aside from the other basics (skiing/snowball fights in Faraya, day trips to Tyre, Byblos, Sidon, Baalbek, B'charre, Beiteddine, Nabatiye, etc.), there are a few things I can recommend. One is to visit the Vinefest when it comes around the fall.

Along that idea, check out the various wineries (like Ksara, Kefraya, Batroun Mountains, etc.) to see if they can schedule a tour. One of the ones I really like that I highly recommend, though, is Chateau Belle Vue. They have a beautiful restaurant with fireplaces, and will give personal tours. All you have to do is call ahead and make an appointment/reservation.

Just get in the car, and drive around. Explore the beauty that is Lebanon!

If you want more suggestions, just send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll try to come up with more. Just try, and be creative.

I know it's been a longer-than-usual post, but I hope it resonates with you. I'm looking forward to comments you have, and as this is the last of the series, I hope it gives you a bit more direction vis-a-vis dating, and that you find these suggestions helpful. Just remember too that you should be getting to know the person and having fun!

Let me know how it goes, and good luck!

Spread the love,

-Ogie, MA


Farhood, Diana N. 2009. Family, Culture, and Decisions: A Look Into the Experiences of  University Students in Lebanon. Unpublished master’s thesis. American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon.


  1. First of all, thank you for the interesting, insightful, and informative post.

    Second, about the crush pages, I kind of think that people make a huge deal out of asking someone out or even having a crush on someone. I for instance was one. I no longer feel that way but I am still thinking about it, trying to understand why did I feel bad liking someone. When I told my colleagues that I asked a guy aout, they both told me that I did a good move and that they are proud of me. But when I told that to my cousin, she told me that I shouldn't have and that I should always make the guy ask me out first. She kept telling me that this is the only way to get a man to respect you in Lebanon. It is interesting to see how people react differently to this issue. Lebanese men and women should get a life :p embrace your emotions and take a chance, where is the harm?

    P.S: I loved the bunnies.

    1. Anon: Thank YOU for reading! And for your comments about the Crushes pages.

      As far as your comment, don't feel bad. Do you know how many crushes I've had?? It's normal and natural, you just move on, and when you meet someone really worth it, then something will happen. So no worries, and don't be so hard on yourself!

      I don't necessarily agree with your cousin's advice. But I also can understand where they are coming from vis-a-vis gender norms (in Lebanon).

      I agree with your thesis, but basically the harm is hurt, embarrasement, and/or rejection. And no one likes that, not to mention, we make these three things into a huge deal in our minds that it basically just erodes away at our confidence completely. But, you know, you never know what will happen unless you try. We always assume the worst, but we need to stop being so fear. Fear is an antithesis of love. Just like we cannot fear losing those we love, we cannot fear being rejected (the story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader from Star Wars comes to mind here).

      Glad you liked the bunnies :)

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