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New ways to date

From the good to the bad to the laundry, young singles have their own ideas of romance. Dinner and a movie need not apply.

In lieu of dinner and drinks, I’ve had new love interests take me shopping for end tables, center dates around playing darts with their friends and invite themselves over to shower. Yes, this is often what courtship looks like for the 21–35 age bracket. Local singles share what’s happening in their dating worlds, how to deal—and why, sometimes, a date devoid of traditional romance isn’t so bad after all.

The fix-it date I’ll show you my Schwinn if you show me yours? When 26-year-old Irving Park resident Melissa Sanders joined dating site HowAboutWe.com (instead of posting traditional profiles, users propose specific dates), she posed this question to possible suitors: How about we…give our bikes a spring tune-up? “I’m definitely attracted to less traditional dates,” she says. “One, I could learn more about fixing up my bike. But it’s also [an activity where] we could easily talk or chat, unlike a movie where you’re not really talking.” (No one took the bait; Sanders has since ditched HowAboutWe.) But for 33-year-old Lakeview resident Kimberly Eberl, the fix-it date “is like a business transaction. A younger guy I’ve been on two dates with keeps texting me, ‘When are you cooking dinner for me?’ ” she says. “I figure if I can cook him a simple meal he’ll be at my house and I can have him do some electrical work I need done. He told me if he likes dinner he’ll fix [the light on] my ceiling fan. Is chivalry dead? Yes, but I need my lights fixed!”

The errand date Sanders cites a friend “who on her first date went grocery shopping with someone. They met on OKCupid. I wouldn’t do it, but I guess it’s better for [people in] the city because everyone’s so busy—you get to kill two birds with one stone.” That was the case earlier this year when I started dating a busy 28-year-old consultant. Two weeks after meeting, he asked if I wanted to come over to “order food,” and suddenly we were in his building’s laundry room, chatting while he sorted out his whites. Weird to see him holding up his crumpled boxers? Yes. But it actually sparked funny conversation and a few Seinfeld references—he got major points when he knew the Golden Boy episode. And I got a telling glimpse into his domestic side (waits until everything in his closet is dirty, then crams it into two loads).

The phone date After meeting a River North bachelor at a bar and exchanging numbers, the author of anonymous blog FindMrRightLateNight.wordpress.com (a 25-year-old Lincoln Parker) found her new relationship turning pseudo long-distance: a string of two-hour phone dates with someone who lived less than a mile away because he was too busy to go out. “It was only a $12 cab between our apartments, but we would go weeks without seeing each other because he chose to call me every night instead,” she says. She eventually put her foot down and told Mr. Phone she was nixing the cell time until they made real plans. The other branch of the phone tree? Textual relationships. Nearly every single I talked to—male and female—confessed to making plans with love interests via snappy text messages and Gchats only. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? Lincoln Park resident Nate Schnitker, 40, has been pursuing a woman in her thirties by text “just because that seems to be her preferred method of communication,” he says. “She’ll send me two pages of texts!”