Is this 2023 dating trend here to stay in 2024 — and is it effective?

Is this 2023 dating trend here to stay in 2024 — and is it effective?

Erika Ettin | Tribune News Service

It’s the start of the new year, so you probably know some friends or family members who are participating in “Dry January,” or taking a break from alcohol for the month. It’s understandable why the trend is popular: to recover from the (often boozy) holiday season and start 2024 on a healthy note, not to mention saving some money at the bar.

Staying sober also recently gained more popularity on the dating scene. “Dry Dating” is exactly what it sounds like: meeting someone for a date and skipping the cocktails, beer and wine. But the incentives are a bit different from Dry January. Instead of the health element, singles are turning to sober dating in an effort to get to know their date better, without the social lubricant of a few drinks.

There are quite a few benefits from Dry Dating, like not having a hangover on a Thursday morning and never having to worry about calling an Uber to get home. But the top perk is unmistakably getting to know someone with a clear head on both sides, making it much more clear if there’s a genuine connection or not.

Catherine Gray, author of “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober,” told Dazed, “Alcohol confuses how we feel about our date. Frequently on the 7 p.m. first drink we’ll think, ‘Meh.’ On the second drink, ‘meh’ is a little more mesmerizing. Rinse and repeat four times, and suddenly you’re heavy petting someone you wouldn’t even ordinarily lightly pet.”

More people are open to sober dating than before, a change that seems to have been brought on largely by the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed the way a lot of people approach drinking and their health. Bumble found that 34% of app users say that they’re more likely to go on a date sober now than pre-COVID. And it seems like it’s here to stay — another survey conducted by Bumble found that 56% of the responders in India said they prefer not drinking on dates because they “want to get to know the other person with a clear mind.”

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Those who dove into the alcohol-free pool seem to be fans. One woman told Stylist that when her dates were centered around drinking, “I often found myself coming away and wondering if there was any connection or attraction. Or, if I did think there was a connection, I’d go on a second date and realize the only thing we had in common was enjoying pints in a pub.” Now, she prefers getting coffee or going on a walk to meet someone. “I think the effort to be more authentically yourself is there, and it’s clearer if there is a spark or connection.”

Hitting a bar for a drink is a standard first date, but there are plenty of options for those curious about the dry dating approach. You can go mini-golfing, take a cooking class, explore a museum, try bowling, grab coffee or tea, or go for a walk in the park to get to know each other — no bartender in sight, guaranteed.

All of that said, there’s a reason that grabbing drinks is the go-to move for a first date. First of all, it’s inherently fun and does help shake any awkward moments, which are just going to happen when you’re meeting someone for the first time. It’s also a date that’s not weather-dependent and can be planned with relative ease. Then there’s the fact that having drinks makes it very easy to cut off a date that is not going well (First drink finished? Check please!) or extend a meet-up that you’re enjoying yourself on (Another round? Maybe even an appetizer?).

I have some good news for bars: I don’t think Dry Dating is going to become the new standard anytime soon. But if you’re curious about staying sober on a date, why not give it a try? It may be a good opportunity to try something you’ve always wanted to do (maybe painting, pottery, or zip-lining) while also getting to know someone. But if a glass of wine is going to get the conversation flowing, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.)

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