Today I come to you with a topic that’s far more personal than my recent posts. Today, I want to discuss modern dating; specifically, if you’re career driven, have many goals for yourself, and are hesitant to settle down until you achieve your goals. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am by no means an expert on dating. In fact, I’m probably quite the opposite. However, lately, relationships have come up in conversations with friends more and more. I joked recently with one of my friends that I left for the summer with mostly single friends and returned to find a good portion of my friends dating someone or at least having a hand in the dating game.
During a night of drinking with my roommates a few weeks ago, we swapped war stories about relationships we’ve had in the past. As I sat there, the sweet scent of a Mike’s Harder wafting up my nostrils, listening to my friends lament the failed attempts of relationships past, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve never been really really burned. I mean, I’ve had failed relationships and once they ended I thought, “That wasn’t the healthiest, but overall I learned a lot.” Additionally, I’m a firm believer that most of the time, there isn’t one completely innocent party. A relationship is a two-way street, and often both parties act in a way that contributes to the relationship’s demise. In all honesty, looking back on the relationships I consider significant, I don’t think the guys I was with are bad people, not then and not now. But I look at where we are now, individually, and laugh. We couldn’t be more different. The guys I dated went their own way, and I went mine, and we ended up in very different places. There’s a reason we separated and it was for the best.
However, it’s funny how different dating is as you age. In high school, dating was fairly easy. You went to the movies, you hung out by firepits in backyards, you argued about whether you were going to hang out or not based on if he could borrow the family car. In college it was different, but still pretty easy. You studied together, went on dates in your college town, attended parties together and argued about whether you were going to go to that party with his friends or go to that event with yours. I’m not trying to simplify dating, sometimes it is heavy and sometimes it has intense, serious consequences. However, in the grand scheme of things, dating in high school and college seems easier because it’s easy to meet people, it’s easy to see them, and you’re both operating in similar spheres of life. However, dating post-college isn’t as easy. My friends are all on dating apps and recommended I sign up. So I did. I scrolled through a few profiles and didn’t find anything promising, so said maybe that wasn’t the best approach. My friends often tell me my standards are too high. Maybe they are, but I also haven’t met anyone I wanted to lower my standards for, so I remain steadfast in my pursuit of the “unrealistic.”
In addition to relationships entering conversation more frequently with my friends, some of my favorite bloggers have also been contributing to the dialogue. Katy Bellotte, the Youtube persona and author of TheKatyProject.com, has constant negativity clogging her comment sections with readers ridiculing her videos and blog posts for focusing primarily on relationships. This obviously raises the question: why do people react so viscerally to a college-aged woman (who has her own business) discussing relationships, f*ckboys and casual sex? Some women comment with “I like you, but all you talk about is relationships. It’s annoying. You don’t need a man!” But here’s the thing: she doesn’t need a man, but maybe she wants one. Maybe she doesn’t even want a man in the sense of an ever elusive creature who she can chase through various frat houses, she just wants a relationship, someone she can feel something for who isn’t going to text her “Send nudes” at 3 am or “you up?” at midnight. People expect someone like Katy, who is a business owner, driven, dedicated, and absolutely killing it, to stand firm and say, “I don’t need a man.” They expect her to have walls on all four sides of her being that refuse to let anyone in because she’s a strong independent woman. However, I think vulnerability is important. Vulnerability is what allows us to learn. If you can only be either a strong independent woman or a senseless romantic that’s extremely limiting. Why can’t women who are strong and independent want relationships?
The Bold Type, the new Freeform show, is a current obsession of mine and it’s mainly because the show portrays driven, successful women grappling with friendship, their careers, and relationships. Relationships and the ability to feel strongly for another person is what makes us human. Sure, we fear that stomach-dropping, ears ringing feeling that comes with a read, but unanswered text, or when he’s over an hour late and doesn’t call, or when you find out through the grapevine he’s implied you’re desperate. Dating is scary but I do think that sometimes we–‘we’ being successful and driven women–use our status as a blockade against feelings. If we’re too busy building our empires, we can’t possibly get hurt. There’s only so many read receipt rejections, minutes over- thinking responses, and disappointed evenings women can endure before they feel like sitting on their couch with a bottle of wine and chocolate, pathetically watching romantic comedies and thinking the following
I mean, dating is hard enough and then you factor in all the conventions of modern dating and it’s basically a no go. By modern dating conventions I mean the whole “don’t catch feels,” “don’t seem too eager,” “make him jealous,” “you have to be casual” stuff. There’s this expectation that we cannot feel anything and if we do feel something then it’s our own damn fault when it goes wrong because we weren’t supposed to feel anything to begin with. To be frank, this idea of dating makes it pretty easy to feel nothing. Few people have the conviction to say how they’re feeling and pursue what they want openly. Why is it bad to admit you care for someone and then pursue them? To be fair, some of us have that “he said you’re trying too hard and he’s not interested,” playing on repeat in our head as background music in the movie of our lives where he asks for our number, ask us if we’re going to make a move, then has the audacity to call you desperate, thinking you’d never find out. Hello – high school isn’t dead (news travels faster than if I live tweeted the whole thing).
Returning to my “too high of standards” for a moment, I think the funny thing is that my standards aren’t actually that high. Is it really asking too much to want someone who is witty and understands that I’m not being snobby, I’m just really sarcastic? Is it too much to want someone who will return texts or calls without it being weird? Who won’t gawk at the phone, exasperated I’m showing my hand if I call them simply because I want to? I don’t think it is. As a general aside, when my last serious relationship ended, someone close to me said I was one bad relationship from seriously screwing up my life. They were joking, but there was some truth in this. Perhaps because when I’m in, I’m all in or because if I dedicate myself to something, I will sometimes try to work it out for much longer than I should. Regardless, the comment stung. Since then, I’ve refused to let anyone derail my plans. I’ve refused to settle and I’ve refused to pursue someone unless I really felt something (I know, feeling something is breaking the rules… But I don’t always like playing by the rules, so…)
Some people want a Nicholas Sparks movie to play out in real time. Some people are being “realistic” for accepting modern dating as it is, building their fortress and refusing to “catch feels.” Some people think dating should have an aspect of *gasp* mutual respect. All of us think we have the dating game somewhat figured out, and if we don’t we come up with coping mechanisms… either refusing to acknowledge feelings or recusing ourselves for a few rounds (aka months/years) of the dating game. I joke pretty regularly that I have horrible timing. I tend to catch people on the cusp of a major life change. My first serious boyfriend and I broke up because he was going through a personal change that affected all the relationships in his life and our relationship was part of the collateral damage. My second serious boyfriend figured some things out and acted upon certain discoveries, which terminated our relationship unexpectedly and quickly. Then, the next person to come along entered my life before I was about to move across the country and few people desire a long distance relationship, especially in new relationships. However, I do feel like the expression “you’ll meet the person when you stop trying” is becoming a cliche for a reason. We don’t have to actively look for someone to date. In fact, I don’t think we want or need to engage in such a pursuit. However, regardless of the path you choose when it comes to dating, remember it’s okay to have standards, it’s okay to stick by those standards and it’s certainly okay to feel. How are we supposed to have lasting, healthy relationships if their beginnings are built on games played through emotional fortresses?
This post is getting long and so I think I will conclude with this: find someone who makes you laugh, who the conversation is easy with, who challenges you, who supports you, and who won’t waste your time, forcing you to wonder where you stand. Find someone who makes it clear that you’re important and that you matter.
What are your experiences with dating post-grad or while in school?