There is a strange phenomenon that is plaguing the 20-something generation. And, before the inevitable freak-out over yet another article about those poor, poor 20-somethings and their plethora of #firstworldproblems, let’s get serious for a second.
We were born into a generation centered on an ever-expanding growth of technology. Where our parents were wearing each others letterman jackets and mailing love letters, we—yes, the rejected, sad, lonely 20-somethings—are exploring Tinder for “something casual” and staring wide-eyed at the ellipses on our iPhone screens, praying that what we just typed, thoroughly and totally without autocorrect’s help, doesn’t make us sound like the emotional wrecks that we actually are.
Our generation needs to finally accept that we’re slightly dead inside. We’ve driven ourselves insane by a complete lack of real human interaction. Intimacy has become terrifying. Talking on the phone with another human being has become uncomfortable and foreign. We go out to dinner with friends, staring at our iPhones, waiting for that text, when we should be present in the moment. We shouldn’t be waiting for a reply to solidify our doubts about that guy/gal we met at the bar last week. We should be having conversations. We don’t know how to have conversations anymore, and isn’t that the most terrifying thing of all?
We’ve become obsessed with the casual. We don’t want strings. We don’t want honesty. We want the temporary, the easy way in and the easiest way out. We want to have the greenest grass in the neighborhood, and if we see it starting to grow weeds and wither, best to get a new lawnmower. We want to have sex with as many different wildly attractive people that we can, and shake hands at the end of it. We want to be cool, distant, and unattainable. We decipher texts instead of feelings, we break-up via Instagram, and we don’t ever want to be the one at the losing end. The ultimate failure is being the one who loves the other too much, hell, even likes the other too much.
Even worse, the rules of casual dating have become engrained in our society. The laws of communication have become almost irrevocably warped. We tell each other things like, don’t text someone first, you’re better than that. Get the upper hand at all costs, and for Christ’s sake, don’t tell someone you like them. Don’t tell them you love them; then they have all the power! And what will you have? Nothing tangible. And that’s the point we’re all missing. Relationships are not tangible, love isn’t something you taste or smell, love is not our sixth sense.
But goddamn, can you feel love. Love takes you by the throat and disrupts your whole life. Love proves you wrong. It might even prove you right. Love humiliates you. A friend recently told me, “Love is agony.” And it is. Love is something we are so scared of, we throw away the beginnings of it, because it is just too serious, and our fragile, narcissistic egos can’t deal with the rejection. We haven’t let ourselves fall in love. In fact, we are starting to fall out of love with the rest of the human race.
Life is not about waiting for something to happen. We are waiting for someone to do the unthinkable, to reject these rules, to fuck the hypothetical, emotionally crippled man that is looming above every text we send that has a typo, over every vaguely telling Facebook status we hope will impress our exes, and over every Instagram photo that didn’t get as many likes as we anticipated, and ask someone to dinner. And we can’t let anyone know we feel that way. We need to keep our shit in check. We need to care less.
But, I propose that those rule-breaking, anarchist crazies are indeed still out there, hiding under a rock, where the shame of their fully-beating hearts aren’t on display for the rest of the robots. And they’ve almost given up. They’ve been burned and bruised, but aren’t quite broken. Let’s be those people, it’s not too late. Let’s refuse to believe that romanticism is dead and buried.
So, this is for all the people who ever screamed that they loved someone at the top of their lungs. This is for the people who would tell someone that they’re magic, just so they knew. This is for the people in our generation who don’t like the casual, don’t want the casual, but the oh-so-scary, unexpected, beautiful, ridiculous feeling that comes from loving someone, from being loved. It’s for the people who still believe in love letters and letterman jackets, and the people who fucking call.
This isn’t a death sentence for the casual age; it’s a signal to look up from the screens, to let your phone die once in a while, to make some really great eye contact. We still have hope, though. We’ll always have hope. That we’ll meet someone who shatters all those pre-dispositions, someone who makes us want to throw our cell phones into the river because we don’t want to miss a second of their presence. Someone that makes us want to break all those pesky little rules because they’re better than every one-night stand, every no-rules summer fling, better than those dick pics you’ve gotten used to, or all the people you thought you could change, and you’re going to want to look at them.