I am 21 years old and I have never been asked out on a date. Not really.
The extent of my dating experience has been online; either on Bumble, Instagram, Hinge, or just through text. There has been no vulnerability. There have been no pick-up lines—not that those work—or asking awkwardly for my phone number by a stranger. As far as I know, things like that only exist in the movies.
I’ve never heard the words, “Will you go out with me?” or “Can I take you to dinner?” I’ve been told to “come over” after the sun went down, or asked if I wanted to “hang out” or “come along if I’m free.” There hasn’t been effort. There hasn’t been vulnerability.
Is this how we date in 2020?
We are casual, as if effort makes us uncool. Hiding behind our phones, our profiles, and our fear of commitment.
We think a “good morning” text constitutes interest and effort. We say that romance is dead and use that as an excuse to not call. We dance around the difficult and deep conversations instead of dancing around the living room because we are scared of caring too much. Caring is vulnerability, and vulnerability is scary in a dating world full of options.
We are constantly window shopping without daring to set foot too long in one store. The saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea,” has kept us bouncing around, fearing commitment like the plague; never finding what we are looking for, but never defining it either.
What do we want, anyway?
We say we want to be seen, but never let down our walls long enough to let anyone in. We say we want connection, yet we never stay with one option long enough to truly know what’s in their heart. And we say we want real love, but are unwilling to open our hearts and do the work required to stay.
In 2020, dating and relationship standards are painted by social media, not real-life experiences. We scroll through the shiny boxes with the perfect filters and cheesy captions; leaving us feeling empty and looking at our own life from that same lens. So, when we decide to “commit” to someone, we’re always comparing; holding our reality up to the standard of the highlight reel of what we think a relationship is.
“If it’s with the right person, it should be easy.” It glows. The world sparkles. You are walking on air, together. They never fight over the little things, like how he never remembers to put the toilet seat up, or she takes too long to get ready. They never worry about their partner leaving and going after another one of the thousands of fish in the sea. They don’t have money problems. But we do, which means we must be doing something wrong.
So, we leave, not that we were ever fully committed in the first place; saying “it’s not you, it’s me,” but in reality, it’s that nothing could ever measure up to the idea of what a relationship should be in our heads.
We want the kissing in the rain and deep late-night conversations we see in the movies; but we don’t want to expose our hearts long enough for them to be understood. We want the result, but we don’t want the effort.
Just as someone was getting close enough to see us, we close up. Go back to the options. Go back to the texting conversations and the getting to know someone. When the easy conversation is flowing, the butterflies are fluttering with every emoji or text that ends in babe, and we’re comfortable.
We’re comfortable hiding behind our phones and exploring the idea of what this person could be for us. We want people to fill our expectations of our person. It doesn’t matter who they really are or what they really want, so long as they fit into our perfect picture.
So, the reservations go un-made and the flowers go un-bought. We meet there instead of him picking us up and opening the door for us. We pay for our own meal, go home, and stare at the phone until it doesn’t ring. It’s okay, because we have options. We rant to our friends about how he is the same as the rest of them, yet we never change our own behaviour. Ghosting is so normalized we don’t even think to give people an explanation.
We go back to our options, seeking validation from the amount of matches we have; even though we’ll never respond to the majority of them. We say we’re happy, and we kind of are, but we want more.
We want phone calls. We want the butterflies that come from true vulnerability, not the thrill of compliments from strangers. We want one option, not thousands, and we want to be chosen. We want love, but all we do is like.
But nothing is going to change until we do.