Speaking as someone who grew up in a small town, I have to say that living there was fantastic. Dating in a small town, however, was an absolute nightmare. By the time I moved away, I knew way too much about everybody and everybody knew way too much about me. You can do it and you can find love too, there’s no disputing that, but more often than not, dating in a small town is just messy.
The pickings are pretty slim. It’s not that there’s no one worthwhile to date, it’s just that there isn’t a ton of variety. It’s a small town, after all. Even if you venture into nearby towns to increase your dating options, they’re small, too. Tiny communities are insular like that. You pretty much have to drive a few hours in either direction to meet someone who doesn’t recognize your last name.
You’ve known everyone since childhood. That means you know who used to pick boogers, who cried during sleepovers, and who witnessed all of your embarrassing mishaps. Even if you date an old classmate’s younger brother years down the line, it’s not only possible but likely that he’s seen you flub your lines in a play, fall down on the basketball court, or run around naked in his backyard pool. At least that kills some of the awkwardness of dating, though.
The whole dating pool’s kind of incestuous, honestly. I don’t mean that literally, obviously. I just mean everyone knows everyone else. You’ve dated your friends’ exes, they’ve dated your exes, everybody’s dated around, you’ve gone out with each other, you’ve dated siblings and cousins and best friends, your parents are friends, you’ve got an aunt dating his older sister – everyone’s somehow connected, is the point I’m making here.
So you hear lots of… stories. You hear things you never wanted to hear. Naturally, plenty of these stories are just rumors, but not all of them. Plus, of course, rumors are occasionally grounded in truth. You may hear things that tarnish your image of the guy or girl you’re pursuing, but just remember that it’s a small town. There are probably some unsavory stories about you floating around out there too.
There’s not a lot of privacy. In every sense of the word, there’s a lack of privacy. Everyone is everywhere all the time. A pair of eyes is almost always on you. You can’t sneak off anywhere, you can’t have any secret romances unless both of you are clever and discreet, and even still, you can practically guarantee that someone’s going to find out what you’re doing.
Decent date locations are few and far between. In my small town, there was a pub, a diner, and a park. There wasn’t even a movie theater. Many small towns have more to offer than that – a drive-in, an ice cream shop, something – but even still, there just aren’t a lot of places to go unless you have the means to go out of town.
So every date is like a group date. If your town as a bowling alley, a skating rink, or another date-friendly location, everyone ends up there. It’s not uncommon to run into your ex and his new squeeze while you’re out with your new boo, too. That’s why small towns frequently harbor a whole host of drama behind the scenes.
Everyone always knows everybody else’s business. Always. Someone is talking about you, you’re talking about another couple, and that other couple’s gossiping about somebody, too. You’re the subject of dinner conversation and porch chats. That’s just the way it is. Your love life now belongs to the town. Again, keeping a secret’s somewhat possible, but the odds are still stacked against you keeping a romance or a relationship hidden. People know, they talk, and they’ll come right up and ask you about it.
You’ll probably end up going back for seconds with somebody. That kid you dated for two weeks in eighth grade might take you to prom come senior year. A decade later, you could find your way back to your high school sweetheart. Not everyone will dip their wick in the same inkpot twice, but plenty of small town folks do. It’s the nature of the beast.
There’s a lack of diversity. Even if there’s a diverse population in your small town, you know everyone, or at least you know of them. You hear the same opinions, you see the same faces, and you go to the same places. It’s disheartening if the options that surround you aren’t right for you – you start thinking there’s something wrong with you when, in reality, you just need new faces and fresh spaces.
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