You may say I was a dreamer, but I can’t be the only one who truly believed she’d be married by the age of 23. As a young girl, I imagined my life would be the picture-perfect result of a Nora Ephron movie. Maybe I would meet my soulmate on the top of the Empire State Building. Maybe I would fall madly in love with a pen pal, only to find out he’s my professional nemesis but also the love of my life. Maybe I would realize that my best friend of 15 years was the man of my dreams. Maybe all of these scenarios sound ludicrous out of context. Well, no matter the meet-cute, the end result was always the same – I would be 23, madly in love and happily married with an ideal dream job. Preferably some kind of Carrie Bradshaw deal where I could write a nonsensical 200-word column once a week and afford Manolos.
Well, here I am in the real world. 25, single, no Manolos or husband in sight. What I do have is student loan debt, three half-finished novels, and crippling anxiety. I’m the definition of a cliched millennial, trying to find love in a strange, but hopefully not hopeless, place.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t you have your shit together by the time you’re 25? I keep watching as friends move away for promotions at work, or get engaged and married, or have babies (happy for all of you, by the way). And here I am, getting drunk on Jameson on a Wednesday night (happy for me too, by the way). When did we become adults? And when were we given instructions on how to do so because I can never tell if I’m too old to get drunk every weekend or too young to stay in on a weekend night. It’s always an internal debate whether I go out partying with my friends or stay in and drink wine on my couch. I find both options fun, but only one has the chance of meeting someone new. Most of my friends are couples, which is wonderful, but you can only be the fun, crazy single girl of the group for so long, right?
My roommate is also single and we’ve been trying to navigate the modern dating world – from dating apps to blind dates – and what we’ve found doesn’t look so great. If Pat Benatar was right and love is indeed a battlefield, then that battlefield is riddled with feigned apathy and true insecurities; trying to prove to potential mates that we don’t care when or how often their texts come; that we don’t care that they don’t care. And it’s the biggest load of bullshit.
Why do our cultural rules not allow honesty when it comes to romance? Why do we have to act like we have no emotional feelings? We are human adults. Humans have feelings. Adults are supposed to be able to talk about those feelings. If you’re into someone, say so. If you’re not, say so. Wouldn’t you rather someone tell you they’re just not that into you than completely ghost? That way you can save yourself the weeks of wondering what it was you said that upset them or what’s wrong with you that made them not like you, when in reality they just weren’t feeling a connection. The Golden Rule should be applied to dating as well: treat your Tinder match as you would want your Tinder match to treat you.
But you never know, maybe that person wants the same thing as you. If you want more than another night of non-committal sex, maybe they do, too. Just ask them. And on the other side of the spectrum, don’t be so vain to think that just because you’re using someone for sex that they’re not just using you right back. They’re probably not sitting at home doodling your name in their notebook, waiting for you to call. Maybe they just want to hook up on Saturday nights, too. Just ask them. Best case scenario, you are both on the same page and can continue whatever relationship is working for you. The worst thing that could happen is they don’t feel the same way. Wouldn’t you rather split, knowing how each other felt, than continue on in that grey area, constantly wondering what the other person is thinking? Or maybe that’s just me.
But who am I to tell people how to live their romantic lives? Honestly, my romantic history reads like a season-worth of Mindy Project plot lines. In the past year alone, I have: lost multiple friendships over romantic mistakes, unknowingly been the other woman, slept with people I shouldn’t have, swiped right when I should have swiped left, been hurt by someone I trusted and hurt someone who trusted me. So maybe don’t listen to me. But then again, maybe that’s what makes me an expert on the subject
I’m done acting like I don’t care. Because guess what, I do care. And so do you. And so does the guy at the bar and the girl you met on Bumble and your friend-with-benefits (you guys should probably talk). It’s not like every person you have feelings for is your soulmate, but, in the immortal words of Smash Mouth, you’ll never know if you don’t go, you’ll never shine if you don’t glow. You have to live through the wrong relationships to find the right one, so that’s what I’m doing – one mistake at a time. Although I’m two years past my childhood-dream wedding day, nowhere near a marriage proposal or a happy ending, I have faith that there’s still a Nora Ephron-quality romance out there for me. Let’s just hope it’s not Bewitched*.
*RIP I love you, Nora Ephron, you’re an icon. But Bewitched was not good.