At family events, my relatives make it their mission to drill me about my personal and intimate relationships at school and even go so far as to give me sexual advice and encourage me to “date around.” They generally supplement this advice with personal stories, which typically causes me to gag and hold back vomiting up whatever oversized meal I just consumed. They always present their advice with a strong underlying tone of urgency, as if I HAVE to start seriously dating men (boys) ASAP or else my time will be up and it will be too late to find that fairytale happiness every girl is supposed to find while in college. This thinking is a product of many sexist principles of society, as if I will “expire” and become undesirable past a certain age, as many women do according to the media.
I have realized, after listening (cringing) to their advice and personal anecdotes, how flawed and irrelevant it all is when put into a modern day context. I have compiled a list of their concerns and found answers to all of them. And I hope this can help other young women dealing with similar situations.
DISCLAIMER: While this article appears to view committed relationships in a negative light, it is not a critique to individuals who are lucky enough to be in them whatsoever. It is merely a different perspective on a lot of criticism that I have personally received as a single, 21-year-old “woman.”
1. “Dating” today is NOT what it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago…
This is the hardest concept to get through the heads of my assailants. The economy has changed. The position of women in society has changed and it is CONTINUING to change every single day. Debates on gender equality, equal pay and the image of women in the media are hot topics due to the surge in female influence in society (about damn time!).
Economic and social changes have had serious implications for the dating world; for older people who have maybe gone through divorce as well as for the younger crowd. Students are busier than ever, and very few people have time (or money) to go on full-fledged dates that involve meaningful conversations and really getting to know the person sitting across the table from them. Who has time to sit through dinner and a movie on a Friday night? By the end of a school week filled with volunteering, club meetings and shifts at work, all I want to do is drink as many beers as I can fit into my body and forget my week ever happened. The last thing I want to do is have long, soul-searching conversations with someone I met in a class or at the bar. If it happens, it happens, but many don’t have the time to truly seek it out.
So don’t change your schedule to appease your family. If you want to date, date. If you want to focus on yourself, do that. If all you want is casual sex with as many partners as possible, that’s fine too, but be safe and don’t be stupid. And it’s nobody’s business but yours. Many women (myself included) have a strong interest in establishing themselves as independent entities. No longer is finding a partner and falling into a domestic role a priority. Now, independence is essential for survival.
2. It’s okay to NOT want to be in a committed relationship.
As I am rapidly approaching college graduation, the pressure to find a boyfriend is increasing dramatically. It’s as if I am running out of time, as if it’s impossible to date once in the “real world,” outside of a social institution like a university. And this is bullshit. Many people meet and fall in love long after they finish college, and anyway: finding “the one” while in college may not even be such a good idea. Devoting yourself to one person before you get the chance to live in new places, have career changes and new experiences is selling yourself short. Go get that dream internship you’ve always wanted and move to New York City. Travel. Live abroad. Try new things, and pursue your dreams. You have over half your life to settle down in just one place, so be a transient gypsy while you’re young and have the energy (and can take advantage of youth hostels)!
3. NEVER lower your confidence or decrease your drive in order to appear less “intimidating.”
A huge obstacle that many independent and driven women run into is criticism from friends (especially other females), telling them to appear less “intimidating” and more “vulnerable” in order to spark men’s interest in them. Know that this is a HUGE mistake and is terrible advice.
“Some women choose to follow men and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore” – Lady Gaga.
This quote, at first glance, may seem cynical and one-sided towards ONLY pursuing a career and success, but I interpret it as far more complex than that. Gaga is NOT advising young women to shirk opportunities at falling in love in favor of making their entire lives revolve around the workplace. She is reminding women that if they are sacrificing what they believe in and what they want to achieve in order to follow a man and appease his life or schedule, this may not end up being conducive to long term happiness.
4. Never lower your standards.
Back away from anything that causes you to hesitate. Instincts exist for a reason — don’t let your brain lie to your heart so you can justify being with someone who isn’t right for you. Settling for less than one deserves to avoid the sting of being alone will burn much more painfully down the road.
It’s not always that one deserves someone “better”; I truly hate that mentality because it forces a standard of judgement on human beings. I think of it as deserving someone “different” who thus would be “better” for YOU. Time is too precious to be wasted lying to yourself.
5. NEVER give up.
And no, I’m not referring to giving up the search for a life partner. What I am demanding is that you never give up on yourselves. Just because this month, year, or even longer-term phase of your life isn’t turning out to be very successful love-wise, don’t assume that things cannot change and that you should just stop trying. Do what makes you happy and what enhances all facets of your life. Get your hair and your makeup done. Read books. Eat well and exercise — your body is a temple, so treat it that way. Don’t let yourself fall into a depression just because your nosy aunt question your sexuality every time you have a holiday dinner together. Live your life for YOU and not anyone else.