So I was hanging out with my single friends, I guess I could say we were hanging out because technically I’m single too, but they were on the prowl and I’m not (trust me there’s a huge difference) and they we’re talking about guys non-stop. I was mostly listening because with me not being on the prowl there was really not much I could add unless you count the fact that my kind-hearted, completely platonic male co-worker bought me a Panera chocolate chip cookie.
In short, my night was full of stories about crappy dating misadventures where they regaled me with tales of awkward encounters with the opposite sex. It was entertaining as anything, don’t get me wrong, but I felt all adult-y because it was the first time I’d seen these old friends in a while and they are far more stereotypical twenty-somethings than I am (in that they go out on Friday nights and I like to be in bed by 11 because that is literally when I start to fall asleep.)
Yet with my premature adultness, I noticed a weird paradox about my friends as they were telling these stories that has bugged me ever since. And the paradox was this: they both really wanted to meet a nice guy and be in a good relationship while all the while dating these zeros/jerks/losers/whatever you want to call them. (I’ll go with non-gentleman.) Yet they still proceeded to man bash their dates like the more traditional feminists they are (calm down, I’m feminist too but of a different kind that I’ve already described in detail with Bad Feminism and Equality for All.)
But this cycle of the wanting and the compromising and the disappointment and the bashing really upset me, being the tenderhearted person I am, because I have the perfect solution to this problem, one that I wish more women would utilize. In fact, it even works for men too, just reverse the genders. The perfect solution to going on a date with a non-gentleman is this: don’t call him back, agree to go out with him again, or talk to him again ever beyond what polite conversation requires.
Every time I speak (or write I suppose) like that everyone tells me I’m oversimplifying things. Not at all. I think the truth is a very simple thing, it’s humans who make everything complicated. Because here’s the thing, all of my friends in attendance that night were very sweet, kind, and intelligent and I enjoy being their friend. They each have a desire to be loved, not even in a stupid Nicholas Sparks kind of way, but for who they are. Yet they, along with most of my fellow millennials, all seem to feel that they should compromise on this desire. Blame the media, blame the parenting, blame the scars of the divorce generation and lousy marriage statistics, blame the decline in religious morality, blame the skepticism that true love even exists, blame it on the millennials themselves for being self-centered, afraid/unable to commit, and having no clue what to do with their lives. However, the fact remains that many a person in my generation who reads Buzzfeed’s “Top 10 reasons why you should be in a relationship” or “Top 12 reasons why being single is the best” has become so overloaded with statistics and advice that something awful is happening, we’ve collectively made dating/relationships/marriage meaningless, just empty terms that can mean whatever you want them to mean.
Dating and relationships should be more than just a series of whatevers. And I would argue that relationships now are almost casual to a fault. Because the truth is if you meet someone who doesn’t even care enough about you to ask your last name before wanting to hook up with you, it is a clear signal that you are completely dispensable to that person, simply a means to their pleasure, because he or she is looking to use you for sex. You know that, the other person knows that, and if you proceed to hook up, you’ve made a terrible compromise. You settled for love’s cheap imitation, instead of taking the time to cultivate real and authentic love (which can be done even while you’re not dating as you learn to love and respect yourself).
Justify it however you want to- say you enjoy sex or wanted to feel in control or didn’t want to be alone or you’re a slave to your passions and just had to have it. Maybe you don’t believe love exists anymore so why not? Maybe you didn’t feel like waiting. Maybe you didn’t want to take the risk. Maybe you’ve just plain been hurt before and wanted something “simple.” Maybe you believe the lie that sex is just pleasure and that it doesn’t mean anything or that it doesn’t count as being used if there were two consenting adults who each knew they were being used but wanted to do it anyway for any of the reasons I described above.
I point this out not to judge, but because in spite of those many reasons the truth still remains that you deserve better. I hope you know that. And I think my friends knew that deep down, because the point where they finished telling me their dating misadventures is precisely the point where the disappointment kicked in. That’s the place where the bitterness and the man-bashing began, where conversations of “there are just no good guys out there” and “screw this we don’t need them we’re just as tough, financially independent (etc)” started to happen.
It was an upsetting conversation for me to hear as their friend, but it ultimately brings us back around to my perfect solution, because by not dating or having any type of sexual encounter with a non-gentleman you spare yourself that entire cycle. I know the hookup roller coaster may seem fun at first, like you’re living a popular TV sitcom: the drama of being single and young and free and endearingly unlucky in love until one day that perfect person comes around the corner and changes everything (and that, kids, is how I met your father). And I hope for your sake that you’re right, but I’m more inclined to believe that that is a lie as fake as the sitcom set. Because the truth is when you waste your formative years dating the wrong kinds of people it is much more likely you will simply get sucked into the cycle I described and remain alone or much worse: in a bad relationship, instead of preparing to become the type of person who will be ready when the right person does come around the corner.
And even though I am currently single (which always gets thrown in my face whenever I offer any sort of dating advice) the gentleman method, as I’m coining it from now on, has been extremely effective for me because even when the relationship didn’t work out with the gentleman, we usually remained friends and I could walk away with complete faith in the opposite gender and an appreciation for their complementary abilities. No bashing was necessary because the relationship was always based on a mutual respect for the dignity of the other, and that does not end once the romantic portion of the relationship is over. And unlike these disappointing hook-ups, this type of dating prepares me for future relationships, because they lead me not to a lifetime of casual and increasingly unsatisfying hookups, but to marriage. Maybe not everyone wants that to be the end result of their dating, but even people who are against monogamy or marriage usually want some form or imitation of it, someone to love them when they are not sexually attractive anymore (it’ll happen to all of us). But as for me, I think soulmates are still a thing, mostly because I refuse to believe I’m the only one who embarrassed myself by crying the first time I saw Disney/Pixar’s Up.
And also a little during the short film with the volcanoes…