Finding Love in the Me, Me, Me Generation

College dating is hard in any generation (aptly put by this Cosmopolitan article) – it’s an incredibly selfish time where we have little inhibition and an overflow of freedom. Today, however, college dating has reached a new level of perplexity. With the advent of social media and the prevalence of text messaging, many twenty something year olds have no clue on how to connect romantically, and we blame everyone else but ourselves for failing to find love.

Let’s take a Thursday night. You get a text message that reads, “Hey, are you coming out to the bars tonight?” from a guy you danced with a week or two ago. You make some half hearted jokes defending your choice to stay in for the evening, and when it becomes clear that his insistence isn’t going to get him anywhere, the conversation comes to a close. This happens several times over the course of a few weeks, and while he appears to have no qualms about asking you to spend the night, his response to a suggestion that he properly ask you to lunch or coffee is lukewarm at best. You’re not heartbroken or jaded; neither of you really knew each other, and you were well aware of what he was asking of you. As Millenials, our generation has inexplicably accepted the disappearance of old-fashioned courtship when it comes to dating. We’ve embraced hookup culture and eschewed traditional gender roles leading to the demise of chivalry and a general sense of confusion on how to find love.

There exists a misogynistic myth that assumes girls are obsessed with finding romantic partners while guys see women as casual sexual partners. A few decades ago, this may have been true; many women did go to college and find husbands and while the stereotype may still be true of some women, current statistics on the overwhelming number of women versus men in college would demonstrate otherwise. Casual sex is also no longer a domain solely for men, and our generation’s general acceptance for greater sexual freedom allows for both women and men to engage in stringless sexual experimentation. Ironically, this newfound freedom has only made it more confusing for both men and women when it comes to romance because no one is as forthcoming about wanting to truly pursue anything beyond the physical.

The lack of forthrightness and general passivity breed grounds for a dangerous perception of misguided feminism. Women view sexual liberation as an opportunity to reject traditionally feminine characteristics such as being overly sensitive or emotional to instead embrace the devil-may-care attitudes more traditional of men. This makes it hard for everyone in the dating pool because it perpetuates the all-too-familiar need to act cool.

We’ve seen it happen before, if not been guilty of it ourselves: the silent competition between two people in a relationship for who can care less. Girls agonize over text messages in an effort to sound interested but never too interested while guys make sweeping vague statements that mask their desire for commitment. Wanting more became uncool, so everyone tries so hard to not care. And even worse, somehow we believe the person who cares less has the upper hand in a relationship, so everyone tries even harder to appear aloof.

Then there is our baffling aversion to labels. If you start hanging out with a guy regularly, when does it go from a thing to something more? If you never define your commitment levels to each other, are you bound to the other person or is it more of a open relationship? When we avoid labels, we further complicate college dating by making it acceptable for people to treat others with indecent respect. And by labels, I don’t mean that every person has to be your boyfriend or girlfriend. Simply being honest and respectable about where each individual’s intentions lie would clarify potential misunderstandings. When we treat the dating scene as a commitment-less game, we fail to hold ourselves accountable for making someone else happy or being responsible for how they feel.

Ultimately, our generation is failing to find love because we are so busy acting cool. We see vulnerability as a vice, so we make efforts to protect ourselves against rejection. Coincidentally, that means putting up walls and being vague about our intentions and desires and caring less as a means of emotional security. In doing so, we won’t get hurt, but it also means we may miss out on truly connecting with someone. If we don’t allow ourselves to be honest and let our guard down, we may never find that emotional intimacy we are looking for with another person. Navigating the winding path that is the college dating scene would be far less complicated if we all decided to stop pretending not to care. Instead of waiting on someone else to read our minds and hand us our happiness, it’s our responsibility to communicate candidly about what we want. Playing emotional games is a waste of time for anyone in any kind of relationship, and we all deserve more respect than that.

The Root of Chivalry’s Demise

It’s a Saturday morning. You’re at brunch with your girlfriends recounting the scandalous events of the previous evening. With mimosas in hand and a slew of hazy memories, we vow to forget about the guy who never called the morning after and harden our hearts against another potential relationship mishap. These days, it feels like women are often bemoaning the belief that chivalry is dead. Moreover, we tend to blame its demise on men, all the while failing to see the unfortunate truth that men did not kill chivalry; women did.

When it comes to dating, chivalry stumbled to myth as we women lowered the standards for both ourselves and the men we date. It’s one thing to don a miniskirt to feel sexy and powerful for yourself, but an entirely different thing to wear that miniskirt in hopes of attracting attention from a future one-night-stand. By dressing provocatively with that intent, we invite men to stare at our assets and objectify us. When we forget that we have genuine personalities, aspirations, and thoughtful opinions, our conversations at the bar revolve around what drink we’re having and how pretty we look. Adopting a vapid and meaningless persona only invites conversations devoid of much substance. Such actions convey to women that it’s okay to be indecent or air-headed in order to get men while sending men the message that we are easy. If we don’t uphold ourselves as worthy recipients of gentlemanly behavior, then is it fair to expect such behavior from the men we desire? Chivalry isn’t dead; women killed it when we collectively decided to act as if we aren’t deserving of it.

However, chivalry’s demise isn’t just unfortunate for women, it poses a catch-22 for men too. If a guy spies a girl at the bar and everything about her screams come hither, it isn’t out of the question that he’ll approach her. His first tactic may be of the sensible, polite variety. Perhaps a, “Hi, I’m (insert name here). Can I buy you a drink?” or a, “Hey, how’s it going?” Perfectly reasonable and fairly gentlemanly, but for some reason, she’s not buying it. At this point another guy, one with a little more swagger and far less inhibition, approaches the same girl and this time, she’s met with, “Hey, babe. You look hot tonight. Let me buy you a drink.” To him, the girl smiles and nods only to leave her first suitor incredulous and dumbfounded. Now the nice guy is convinced that the only surefire way to pick up a girl at the bar is to become an ultra-alpha male and assert himself onto a woman. Thing is, most men are capable of chivalry, but this sort of interaction understandably confuses them. If approaching a woman with etiquette and courteous curiosity leads to rejection while a slightly misogynistic and tactless manner helps you score, then it further solidifies the male belief that boorish tendencies are more successful in attracting a woman.

By settling for men without chivalry, women behave with all the provocation and inhibition that is underserving of chivalry, convincing men that we can be wooed without it. And in turn, when men behave gracelessly, it only reaffirms the female belief that men are incapable of chivalry. Now this is beginning to feel a lot like a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” paradigm. Alas, all hope is not lost. Chivalry may feel like its dead, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Chivalry isn’t meant to exist because women always expect chocolates and flowers and for men to always pay for dinner. As gender roles shifted to create more equitable and balanced relationships, chivalry faced a similar evolution. It is no longer about catering to every woman’s whim or fulfilling archaic expectations; it’s more a notion that involves mutual respect and courtesy. In order for women to see chivalry’s revival, we need to learn to treat ourselves with self-respect. Once we do that, men will recognize that not all women can be won with trite compliments or superficial admiration. Admittedly, this sounds like a lot more effort for both parties. But that’s the point. Chivalry demands patience, confidence, and a healthy regard for both the self and the other person, and until we roll up our sleeves and own up to putting in the work to resurrect it, chivalry will remain dead.