6 Insecurities of Dating in the 90s



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A lot happened in the 90s – the internet came of age, Johnny Depp dated Winona Ryder, and grunge spread its flannelled influence around the world. It was also a period when dating was relatively difficult, relying on a combination of luck and boundless self-confidence. Insecurities were rife, as we’ll see in the list below.

1. The approach

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For many 90s singletons, the only way of speaking to a potential partner was by approaching them in person. To modern-day daters, with their hoards of easily accessible background information, this might seem a truly horrifying prospect. If truth be told, it was back then too. Like soldiers on a battlefield, intrepid singles would bravely try to engage with potentially hostile forces. It was nerve-wracking, but at least it built character.

2. Newspaper ads

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Those not brave, or foolhardy, enough for the above were forced to resort to scanning ads in the ‘personals’ section of newspapers. All they had to go on was a text-message sized nugget of abbreviations. If a 28YO M with a GSOH appealed, the interested party would have to call a voicemail number and leave a message. This might or might not result in a date. It was fairly unlikely to result in a marriage.

3. Blind Date

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There once was a time when the thought of going on a date with a complete stranger was highly alarming. The dating game show, Blind Date, capitalised on this latent terror by setting up two people for a date, and then following them around with a camera for all to see. The format worked so successfully that the programme ran for 18 years, helping to instil a fear of sliding screens in a whole generation.

4. No privacy

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Mobile phones are a surprisingly recent invention. At the start of the 90s, the UK only had two providers – Cellnet and Vodafone. Aside from silly businessmen with enormous Dom Joly-style contraptions, most of the population had to conduct their affairs using the good old landline. For those living with their parents or in a shared house, this could prove excruciatingly embarrassing – especially in the initial awkward stages of a relationship.

5. Being stood up

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Another result of the mobile-less world was that communication on the trot was more difficult. While punctuality supposedly had more meaning, daters would sometimes face the painful quandary of deciding whether the other person was late, or in fact, not coming at all. This led to the perfection of the nonchalant wander-off after having stood in the same place for an hour or so.

6. Instant messenger

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In 1997, singles were presented with a new weapon in the relationship-forming armoury – AOL’s Instant Messenger service. During its relatively short life (it was a goner by 2011), instant messenger allowed singles to communicate without awkward real-world silences. The 1024 character limit was a little restricting, but by and large AIM was responsible for introducing singles to today’s world of online dating.

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