There was a period of time when Katie and I were planning on writing a whole book about hook up culture. It was going to be feature our honest opinions about the state of romantic affairs. We were living in a time when all bets were off – no one texted what they meant, no one asked you out in person, and no one wanted to be the first to ask if all this nothing was…a relationship?. We had major plans for this extremely important book. It was going to have a bright pink cover, but like a deep pink to suggest maturity.
We never got around to writing the book, so I started this blog instead. For the first few years I filled it with post after post about the rules of modern courtship (if there were any), how we were supposed to decode the male text message (if we ever got any), and what all this meant for the future of our love lives (which seemed pretty unlikely at the time).
I am now pushing 30 and living with a boyfriend. I have survived all the bullshit of this “age without courtship.” I know first hand that articles like the most recent Sunday Styles section piece – The End of Courtship? – are mostly true. And so – somehow and finally – my reaction to this latest exploration of our troubled romantic 20s is shut up and do something about it.
I get that New York Times writers are not in the business of playing guidance counselor, but if I read another quote from a 25-year-old about how sad she was when, “a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?’ petered out after several months,” I’m going to lose my mind. Why is no one asking the obvious follow-up: did you really think that behavior was leading toward a healthy relationship? If so, why? If not, why did you keep doing it?
I’ve asked it, and the answer is usually, “because that’s the way things are.” I get that. 25-year-old me would have said the same thing, and she would have been short-sighted and wrong too. That is not the way things are everywhere, with every person. And even if it is, that doesn’t mean you have to participate.
If you want to play the game, have at it. The non-rules of dating, sex and relationship make it so that you can experiment in any way you see fit. Maybe that’s a good thing for you. If so, I’m not judging. Where I take issue is with the people who do not want to play the game, hate the game, hate the players and can’t seem to stop playing. Yes, that immaturity is all just a part of growing up, but from the outside looking back over, growing up is often something you choose.
I get equally heated when I read quotes like this: “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”
You know who doesn’t have to deal with all that crazy, cold war spy-style interpreting? People who don’t participate in text detective games; people who say I’d rather be sex-deprived and single than put up with this crap. I played detective a few times, and it sucked. I was single and sex-deprived for awhile too, and it made me realize what a huge waste of time all the detective work had been. I wanted a real relationship with a real person. If 20-something Manhattan men weren’t game then I’d go to Plan B, not kowtow to their Plan A. I didn’t want to play the victim in a game I controlled.
Which brings me to this problem: “In Sunday’s opener for Season 2, Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), who last season forged a relationship by texting each other nude photos, are shown lying in bed, debating whether being each other’s “main hang” constitutes actual dating.”
Yes! It does! Sleeping with and hanging out with a member of the opposite sex exclusively (or, frankly, otherwise) for a period of time longer than a few weeks means you’re actually dating. Isn’t that what you wanted?? Stop talking about whether or not “it” is “it” and enjoy! You are in a relationship. This is good. Yes, you may have to break up, and that will be hard, but tough shit. You don’t get all the amazing benefits of a relationship and skirt all the potential rough stuff. This is real life people!
But – see – we former and you current 20-something don’t often want real life. We want the life we see in other people’s Instagrams and read on their hysterical tumblr pages. We’re well aware that if we just skim the surface of all things romantic we’ll still get a non-date to meet us out at the bar or hook up with us if we text “yo.” Why would we do what all those old-fashioned idiots did if we don’t need to? That stuff was hard. People got their feelings hurt, like, in person. We’ve evolved way beyond that.
“ The problem is that “young people today don’t know how to get out of hookup culture,” Ms. Freitas said. In interviews with students, many graduating seniors did not know the first thing about the basic mechanics of a traditional date.”
That did get to be a problem for me. Or maybe I just got sick of behaving in a way that didn’t feel natural…or safe…or real? I can’t remember, but at some point I woke up and thought, I do not need this. I also don’t want this. And if I don’t need it or want it, I don’t have to have it.
When we hit that point and where we go from there happens on a case by case basis. I was 27, and I met a guy who called me on the phone for weeks before he ever even sent me a text. At first I thought he was coming on too strong. Then I smacked myself in the face and re-read all those miserable posts I’d written about the end of courtship.
I think the point of my rant is that yes, it’s rough out there. Technology has it made it really easy to be an asshole, and that goes for both guys and girls. The experimental sexual nature of our times (which can be a good thing) means is not required for intimacy. People are comfortable settling down much later, which makes them uncomfortable dating seriously before then. These are facts, and you can read all about them in this recent New York Times piece and the dozens before. What you won’t read is an article about what the hell to do about it. I’m not saying that I know, but I am saying that accepting it is not the answer.
There has just got to be a way for us to be modern and still respectful. And I think a huge part of that is going to have to come from being modern but still demanding that respect.