The other day I needed some boy advice. So, loyal daughter that I am, I turned to my mother. I showed her a text he’d sent me and asked, “What does he really mean by this?” My mom, who is eternally wise and calm and beautiful, looked at me with a blank stare and said, “I have no idea.”
It was then that I realized just how vast the generational divide is when it comes to dating. Gone are the “face-to-face, find your spouse in college, talk on the phone for hours” days of my parent’s generation. That begs the question: what exactly has taken their place?
As a 20 year old college female and proud Millennial, I can safely say I am utterly confused. I grew up hearing stories about my parent’s various relationships and escapades in college and I always thought one day that will be me. Well, I’m almost a senior now and haven’t been in a single romantic relationship. You might be thinking it’s just me– maybe I’m undatable. Oh contrare. I could list the couples I know at school on one hand, while the list of attractive, smart, funny single people like myself goes on and on. From where I stand, it seems like the century old practice of dating in the traditional sense is breaking down entirely. As melodramatic as that sounds, it’s true. Hear me out.
According to The Atlantic, “Americans are getting married later and later. The average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 in 1960.” Perhaps people in college aren’t dating because they aren’t looking to get married until they’ve already established their careers. And sure, that’s understandable. But I’m convinced it’s deeper than that.
Human nature hasn’t changed much in the last billion or so years. We all still crave love, belonging, acceptance and yes, even sex. The difference with young people today is that they aren’t meeting those needs in committed relationships. Hook-up culture is at an all time high. Vulnerability is seen as clingy, needy and desperate, so people have casual sex and walk away. Independence has become so highly valued in our culture that we are terrified of admitting to someone else that we actually want to be attached to them. We crave intimacy but are too afraid to risk asking for it.
Technology of course plays a huge role in this problem. At some point ‘having the last word’ stopped being a sign of power and finality and started meaning your text isn’t worthy responding to– you aren’t worth my time. We learn to encode our true feelings into empty words and emojis on a tiny screen. Our reactions are not genuine but rather calculated, masking our hurt feelings with a quick “no worries” text because its easier than honesty. I get it, it’s normal these days. But where there is no risk, there is no reward.
I’ve had personal experience with this crippling fear. I went on a Tinder date not too long ago (#haters gonna hate). I really liked the guy and we ended up kissing. As things were winding down and he was preparing to leave, I almost said, “Hey, I really like you. I want more than just something physical. I want to see you again.” But I stopped myself short for fear of sounding pathetic or immature. And you know what? We never went out again.
How things might have turned out differently if I were transparent with him about my feelings. Now I will never know. I was too busy trying to ‘play the game’ to realize I had already lost.
Take risks. Be vulnerable. Mean what you say. Don’t settle for casual, hold out for serious. It is not desperate, it’s courageous. It’s easier to be independent, but not nearly as rewarding. Talk to the person face-to-face or, crazy as it might sound, ask them on a real life date. I believe we are better than this. And as much as we youngsters hate to admit it, maybe we could all stand to learn a thing or two from our parents after all!