Being single can be simultaneously liberating and downright confusing. Some days, it’s great to revel in your freedom during which you can stroll through a museum, watch hours of Girls in bed, and spend time doing the things you love at your own pace. Other days, you can’t help but want a cuddle-buddy, a dinner partner, or someone who simply wants to be a part of your life. These are very opposite desires of the heart: one is completely at peace with independence while the other craves a more intimate partnership. One way we try to remedy this tension is by finding someone new and jumping into relationships, only to make a quick exit when we realize there’s little substance beyond initial curiosity and attraction.
As a Millennial I’m part of a generation that is accustomed to instant gratification. Most of what we want and need are at our fingertips, thanks to the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. I’m also part of a generation that doesn’t handle being alone very well. When you couple the two traits together, you end up with what is often called “hookup culture.” Granted “hooking up” has an ambiguous definition, but whether it is for physical satisfaction or emotional fulfillment, it feels as though such a trend has made it harder for dating to take place. Nowadays, most of my friends say they’re “seeing someone” or “hooking up” or that they’re “a thing.” Rarely does anyone use the word dating to describe two people getting to know each other. Too many times I see one-night stands turn into casual flings which turn into relationships. Call me old fashioned, but I miss when college-aged people used to actually date.
Dating. It’s an archaic word, and some would say its meaning is also rather antiquated. Dating is a form of courtship, referring to two people engaging in activities together to see if they’re compatible as a precursor to a potential romantic relationship. Historically speaking, it is a relatively recent phenomenon (think of all those arranged marriages and staid formal courtships complete with chaperones in every Jane Austen novel!). Dating offers a newfound freedom to explore and determine the qualities you value in a significant other.
As a college student, it’s rare to find peers that understand, much less partake in the act of dating. Logically speaking, dating does require a lot more effort and with hookup culture abound, it’s less likely that a twentysomething-year old would prefer to take someone out on a date over a Friday night with a friend with benefits. Because it requires patience and a willingness to be vulnerable for another person, dating can be a lot harder and definitely a bit scarier. However as a twenty-one year old, it just might be the most valuable thing I can do for myself.
Throughout our late teens and early twenties, we do a lot of growing up. I’m definitely not the same wide-eyed freshman I was at age eighteen, but I’m no wise sage when it comes to life. Despite plenty of aspirations and ideas of what I want in the future, I’m open to exploring what else may come my way. So when it comes to romance, I’m a big proponent of dating because it offers the chance to really flesh out what attracts us to another person. Instead of caving into an initial physical attraction, there’s a lot more to be gained by getting to know that person. We all have this mental checklist of the qualities we think we want in the ideal significant other: tall, a sense of humour, soulful eyes, athletic, etc. However, those qualities may evolve with time as we change, and going on dates with different people is a great way to determine whether or not those characteristics remain invaluable. We eschew from dating because we see it as something formal and stuffy when they don’t have to be. A conversation over coffee with an interesting classmate or an afternoon rock climbing with someone you were recently introduced to constitute dates. As we get older and leave behind our adolescence, knowing what we want versus what we don’t want is vital and empowering. So don’t be afraid to date. Along the way you might make a special connection, but even if you don’t, it will still provide an opportunity to learn more about what you want for yourself and in a partner.