What Is A Carbon Dater, And Could You Be One Of Them?

You may not be all caught up on your slang, so if a friend accuses you of being a "carbon dater," it might knock you slightly off balance. Still, you aren't about to let her know you didn't get the reference. Urban Dictionary fails you, so you begin an online odyssey but all you get are results for scientific "carbon dating," which Merriam-Webster explains is a method of calculating the age of an ancient archaeological specimen by measuring the amount of radioactive carbon it contains. Your friend wouldn't be throwing shade, would she?


You're far from ancient, try again. Scrolling, you glimpse an ad for some TV series about identical twins who look eerily alike (as they should, since they're both played by the same actor). It hits you: carbon copy, carbon dater. Your face turns hot as defensiveness kicks in: You were stuck in a cycle of short-term relationships before you met your current guy ... it wasn't easy moving on! Still, the truth has taken hold of you. (And your friend is your friend because she never fails to get you.) In so many ways — but especially looks — your current guy is identical to your ex.

You'll soon see this is just one sign, and not nearly the worst, that you could be a carbon dater.

Symptoms of carbon dating

Your search intensifies until you find YourTango, and the site finally helps you understand carbon dating. The article's focus is on finding the breadcrumb trail in someone else's behavior, but if you read between the lines you'll see if you match the identikit. The list contains just 10 items on how to identify a "carbon dater" — YourTango writer Ossiana Tepfenhart, as far as we can tell, coined the term to refer to dating copies of your ex. Each item on the list brings a special pang of recognition. Symptom two is mentioning your ex one time too many, while the third sign is claiming you've had closure with your ex while giving off the exact opposite vibe. (Guilty and guilty.) Fourth clue is wanting to relive the past. (Didn't you try to get your new guy to go bowling, a not-so-subtle way of attempting to replay that spectacular first date with your ex?) No. 5 is all about similarity. This is another clear signal amid the noise, since your current guy and your ex are both hipsters who deify Jack Kerouac.


Reading symptom six, the queasiness begins. Carbon daters move at a much too rapid pace. Introducing you to family, talking about moving in together, they operate as if in a fugue state, unaware that they're starting fresh with someone new and not maintaining a past relationship. The seventh sign of a carbon dater is someone motivated by revenge, while the eighth and ninth draw a portrait of someone thoughtless, who plugs-and-plays people, trying to push a new friend into behaving like you-know-who. Symptom 10 is the most obvious and regrettable of all.

A carbon dater calls out their ex's name.

Beware the carbon dater

So the description fits you like a leather boot, making you believe you can march on and conquer love. Unfortunately, that ain't happening, not if you're desperately attempting to copy a relationship that once was but is no more. (You've seen the enemy, and the enemy is you.)


The good news is carbon dating isn't a permanent loop — it's just a common bug known as "unhealthy behavior," a term used to label anything that gets you into trouble further down the line. It's a bright indicator light telling you something's about to go seriously wrong. Make no mistake, a carbon dater will not go the distance. So if the description fits you, you'll either get discarded by a clued-in paramour or, once you've made peace with your past, you'll be the one abandoning a new love buddy.

Either side of that equation is unhappy and unappealing. Maybe you need to consider your options and your future. You could probably use some tips for finding a healthy partner IRL. In the meantime, why not invest your time in exploring the realms within, by learning something new or going somewhere you've never been? Even if that place is just blocks from where you are now? There's also contentment to be found in being good to family, friends, pets, and neighbors ... all of those who bring meaning to your not-so-insubstantial world.