I cannot tell you the amount of times I have sat in a coffee shop, on a couch, at a bar, in a club, etc., listening to a girlfriend or guy-friend or just any ol’ girl or guy talk about how he or she is confused about whether a guy or girl likes them or not. I can tell you that I have been that girl. I can also tell you that as I get older, this situation feels more and more annoying. Fifteen year-olds sit and revel over what each text message actually means, what every gesture actually indicates; if you are not fifteen, this shouldn’t be your life. From your twenties and onwards, it’s time to person-up. (My gender-neutral alternative to man-up or woman-up.)
In the age of technology, we substitute the most natural human interactions for superficial ones. Constant digital public shout-outs about one’s romantic feelings for someone else, never-ending analysis of texting patterns, and excessive attention to people’s “digital selves.” We seek as much knowledge as we can about people online, and then create a fictional character about who we think they are. And indeed we have endless online dating sites and apps like Tinder to fulfill our romantic desires. Now while I am not against meeting people digitally, I do question why humanity is rushing to technology more and more, to do something that is the most human of things – socialize.
No one needs to tell me how important technology is – I write on the Internet! And as someone who lives away from many family members and childhood friends, I use it frequently to keep in touch. Ah, “keeping in touch” through technology – quite an oxymoron if you think about the rhetoric of “touch.” And I get it, it’s so much easier to take-in rejection when someone doesn’t message you back, or swipes to the left. (Or is it right? Whatever.) And you take the less difficult road when you sit there and hope and wonder if someone can read between the lines of your texts and Facebook posts and emails. It is a terrible, horrible feeling to not have your attraction and feelings requited, face-to-face. But, you know what? You are a better person for it. Sounds crazy? Good. Because it is.
One of the things I don’t respect about my generation while always defending it in many ways, is that we seem to be an overly safe generation. We are afraid of hearing harsh truths about ourselves, and are far too wrapped up in our feelings. And I honestly think that’s at least part of the reason why dating is a great difficulty for so many people. If our parents wanted to find someone to be with, they would have to go up and talk to them; this was unavoidable. But now we can sit behind our screens and comfortably hope for the best. And even when the best does happen for those lucky few, I am here to say that for most of us, this is not good enough.
Get your feelings hurt. Get your egos bruised. Get called a “creep” or whatever else people will say. Stop running away from being so uncomfortable. Meet people in grocery stores, at the gym, at the bar, at coffee shops, on hikes, in dance groups, whatever. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND MEET PEOPLE IN REAL LIFE. Walk up to them and say, “Hello.” What if you were standing next to someone at the produce aisle that could be the greatest love of your life, but could barely make eye contact with them because you were afraid? “Hello” could be the life-changing word in your life. Isn’t knowing better than wondering?
But perhaps most of all, when you do have their attention, when it is clear that there is “something” between the two of you, what the hell are you waiting for? Signs from heaven? A comet to hit the earth? Stop it. Stop checking their Facebook or Twitter for signs. Stop trying to read between the lines of their ambiguous messages. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Pick up the phone, go to them, and yes use social media if it’s the only way you can tell them those sweet, sweet words: I like you. And take a breath, because yes it would suck if they didn’t like you back. You will be hurt and confused but I can almost guarantee that you will get over it. But if they said yes, my God, if they say yes, you could start something beautiful. Isn’t it worth finding out? I say yes. I say yes, every single time. Because the hope of love is always more important than the risk of any pain or regret.