Indeed, that comfort and connection is the whole reason that retrosexing is so appealing, says Massachusetts love expert Paul Falzone, the CEO of the online and in-person dating companies eLove, Together Dating, and The Right One. In these rather desperate times, with the economy particularly terrible for young job-seekers, and the specter of Middle Eastern crisis looming large, all we can be sure of is that we can't be sure of anything. "Society is going to see more [retrosexing] happening than in the past," says Falzone. "It's security, it's safety, it's bringing back old feelings that make you feel young again. People are resorting to things they're familiar with, that they're comfortable with."
Of course, that same sense of familiarity is what so often drives us back into the arms of ex-lovers — even more recent ones. Callie, 29, recently reignited an old, extinguished flame after a three-year hiatus. When they met up for beers, after years of relatively sullen, angry silence, she expected a mere friendly reunion. But the outcome was quite different.
"When we saw each other, the chemistry was immediate and intense," she says. "I remembered both why we were together in the first place and why we'd ended. There was the comfort of the shared past. We had an immediate ease with each other — one that was both relaxed and extremely exciting. A feeling of new romance, with the added benefit of having known each other extremely well. The nervous, fluttery, exceptionally turn-onable [feelings], combined with knowing each other's backgrounds, likes, dislikes, senses of humors, families, etc."
It makes sense that retrosexing is so appealing to twenty- and thirtysomethings, who otherwise feel adrift in their quarter-life malaise: participants are being permitted to regress. Romancing with people you already know cuts out one of the most harrowing elements of adulthood — forging new personal connections.
"[F]or the first time in your life, you are not automatically surrounded by people your age who are doing the same things you are doing," wrote Abby Wilner and Catherine Stocker in their 2005 book, The Quarterlifer's Companion:How To Get on the Right Career Path, Control Your Finances, and Find the Support Network You Need To Thrive (McGraw-Hill). "The challenge of meeting people and making new friends is one of the more common themes in the [quarter-life crisis] community."
Combine the ease of Facebook socialization with the relative effortlessness that comes with chatting up old acquaintances, and you've got the lazy man's dream-dating scenario.
As with any unique type of relationship, the retrosexual one has its quirks. For one thing, it can be difficult to tell what's romantic and what's friendly, especially if the reconnection is made with a platonic premise. After all, archetypal implications of "dating" — like offering to pay for dinner, e-mailing or texting just for fun, or casual physical contact — are the province of friends and lovers both.
"You're very hesitant to make your move," says Chad, the 26 year old who recently started up a retrosexual relationship with Gillian. "You're afraid you're going to misinterpret signals. You're not sure if what's happening is romantic or not. You don't know whether you should attempt to kiss the person."