Love & Sex

How Technology Killed the “Three Day Rule”

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Like a lot guys who came of age in the mid '90s, I stupidly learned everything I knew about dating from the movie Swingers.

By Dan Ozzi

Like a lot guys who came of age and started noticing women in the mid-to-late '90s, I stupidly learned everything I knew about dating from the movie Swingers. I say “stupidly” because I was an incredibly stupid teenager who did not realize that the movie was not intended to be a handbook for dating. In fact, Vince Vaughn and crew were portrayed as such incompetent Lotharios that the movie’s now glaringly obvious message was: “These guys are pathetic d-bags; do not act like them if you ever want to touch a naked woman.”

In my defense, I did not pick up on this at age 14 because, hello: THEY WERE WEARING CHAIN WALLETS. Chain wallets were a sure sign that you were money. This was incredibly misleading on the film’s part. It’s like when cigarette ads had warning signs that smoking was harmful to kids but at the same time, featured a cartoon camel driving a convertible with two sexy ladies in the back. (Side note: Were the human ladies having sex with the camel-person and if so, what was that all about?)

But I did learn one useful lesson from the guys in Swingers, besides how to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed. It’s that you should always wait three days to call your baby. They all waited at least three days to call their babies. Vince Vaughn even waited six days to call his baby. Babies were ladies, by the way. So whatever Vince Vaughn was doing, I wanted in on it. At this point, I would like to remind you that we are talking about young, bright-eyed Vince Vaughn here and not the present-day Vince Vaughn who looks like he stores his sadness in his jowls.

Back in the late '90s, this three day system actually made sense. If you got a girl’s number on Saturday night, you would hold off on calling her for a few days to show you weren’t too desperate, which you absolutely were. Then around Tuesday or Wednesday, you gave her a casual call to make plans for the coming weekend. Super easy, right? Except that calling a teenage girl’s house was actually one of the most terrifying, nerve-wracking experiences of a young male’s life.

It started with several minutes of staring at the phone. Just staring. Carefully plotting your choice of words. Words that would go directly out the window as soon as someone answered. Then came the dialing. Dial three numbers, hang up. Dial four numbers, hang up. Dial the entire number, very quickly hang up. Then, once it started ringing and you were caught like a deer in headlights, without fail, her father would answer. This was the exact moment your voice decided it was time to hit puberty. It’s hard to to sound casual when you’re stuttering and squeaking like sneakers running up and down a basketball court.

This was the process I went through every single time I wanted to make plans with a girl. It was traumatizing and has led to me to resent kids who grew up with cell phones. Seriously, if you grew up texting girls, you should not be allowed to have a girlfriend until you arm wrestle her dad. Cold calling was a humiliating, character-building rite of passage that every teenage boy should have to go through, like getting changed in a locker room or hiding a boner in class. I hated everything about calling girls. But it’s what Vince Vaughn did, so it’s what I had to do. Again, this was back when finding Vince Vaughn’s jawline wasn’t an all-day activity.

But over the years, I’ve had to say goodbye to the Three Day Rule. It was a good run, but it’s been slowly phased out of the dating game, like the phrase “going steady.” It just doesn’t work anymore. For starters, if you call someone in lieu of texting, they will inevitably answer by crying out “What’s wrong?!” because phone calls now are reserved for being arrested or hospitalized and only a crazy, inconsiderate caveperson would make someone’s phone ring. Go ahead and try it out on your friends if you’d like to freak them out.

But beyond the calling vs. texting faux pas, social media has gummed up the works of the once brilliantly simple elegance of the Three Day Rule. There are now so many different levels of interaction that the lines have started to blur about what’s officially considered “contact”. Here’s an example: I went out with a woman a few weekends ago. We had a great time, so I fully intended on Three Day Ruling her. But on a day that was a designated “no contact day,” she faved one of my tweets. What is that? I can’t think of a less personal form of social interaction with the possible exception of endorsing my skills as a terrible dating advice writer on LinkedIn. In fairness to her, it was a hilarious tweet in which I observed what it’s like to wear an old pair of underwear for the last time. She’s only human! But this created a glitch in the machine and made me ponder some logistical questions: Does a fave count as an interaction? Do I need to start the three day counter over? Or maybe just start the day over? And why does Twitter recommend that I follow Guy Fieri?

There’s another way in which status updates are killing dates. Unless you’re incredibly strong-willed, you’ve probably done some pre-date research to get some background info on your potential suitor. Nothing to feel guilty about. It’s totally normal to do a little poking around on your date’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Google+, and WebMD profiles. No big deal. But it injects awkwardness into conversation. Say your date got a promotion during the week and brings it up over dinner. You, being an Internet sleuth, have already seen her updates about it. There are two ways to handle this delicate situation: You can do the normal thing and carry on a charade for the rest of the meal, pretending this is news to you and offer congratulations. Or, you can admit to being a total stalker creep. “I saw that you got a promotion on Facebook! That’s terrific! Erica Johnson sounded so happy for you. Is that your sister, by the way? And who is David Cooperman? Is he an old boyfriend or something? He seems to like a lot of your status updates. More wine?”

It’s times like these when I wish Swingers would get a modern day reboot to see how Vince Vaughn would handle the delicacies of dating in the age of social media. (W.W.V.V.D.?) But then I watch the trailer for The Internship and decide it’s probably better that it doesn’t. What I’ve learned over the years though is that even if you can’t implement the Three Day Rule as Sir Vince Vaughn intended it, you can still date by its core principle, which is to always play it cool. Whenever you like someone, there is a natural urge to make that known, if not by calling too soon, then by some other embarrassing way. But you’ve got to check yourself before you come off as desperate. Because while the rules of dating are constantly changing, playing it cool never goes out of style. Just like my sweetass chain wallet.