Lately, I have been dreading family events significantly more than I used to. This attitude shift is not solely due to the irritating questions about how my classes in college are going, but also due to an upward trend in the number of questions I get asked about my dating life, boys and even my sex life by my older family members. I realize that many young women who are working hard to establish themselves in society are dealing with the same problems, and I wanted to write this article to provide assurance that being single in your 20’s is more than just okay, it has plenty of advantages over being in a committed relationship.At family events, my relatives make it their mission to drill me about my personal and intimate relationships at school and even go as far 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 from vomiting up whatever oversized meal I just consumed. They always presented 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 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 order to make myself feel better about my single status. I hope this can help other young women dealing with similar situations.
DISCLAIMER : While this article overall 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 just 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….
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.
Economic and social changes have had serious implications for the dating world; for older people who have maybe gone through divorce and it translates to the younger crowd as well. Students are busier than ever, and very few people have time (or money) to go on full fledged dates that involve meaningful conversations, getting to know the person sitting across the table. Who has time to sit through dinner and a movie on 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 it all even happened, not have long, soul-searching conversations with someone I met in a class or at the bar. Ain’t nobody got time for that! If it happens, it happens, but many don’t have the time to truly seek it out.
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. It’s nobody else’s business, preferences shouldn’t change to have a story to satisfy someone else during a get-together. Many women (myself included) have a stronger interest in establishing themselves as independent entities. No longer is finding a partner and falling into a domestic role a priority. A changing economy has dismissed it as an option, for now independence for almost everyone is essential for survival.
2. It’s okay to NOT want a committed relationship
As I am rapidly approaching college graduation, the pressure to find a boyfriend is amplifying 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. This is bullshit. Many people meet and fall in love long after they finish college, and finding “the one” while in college may not be such a good idea anyway. With all the commitments students have and how dynamic the economy and job demands are, devoting yourself to one person before you get the chance to live in new places, have career changes and new experiences is selling short.
I want to live in another country (Spain) for awhile after graduation to further enrich my Spanish language skills as well as experience what it truly means to live in and be a productive citizen of another country. If I had a boyfriend today, there’s a high probability that his goals and dreams as well as future job placement would conflict significantly with mine, and that may fog my judgment and cause me to make sacrifices that I would regret much later on in my life.
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 be settled 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 look less “intimidating”
A huge obstacle that many independent and driven women run into is criticism from friends (especially other females) advising them to try to appear less “intimidating” and instead more “vulnerable” in order to spark men’s interest in them. 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 toward 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-schedule, it may not end up being conducive to long term happiness.
4. Never lower your standards
Back away from anything you hesitate at. 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 you deserve someone “different” who thus would be “better” for YOU. Time is too precious to be wasted lying to yourself.
5. NEVER give up.
By this, 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 in terms of your love life, don’t assume that things cannot change and that you should just stop trying. Do what makes you happy and what enhances your life in all facets. Get your hair done and do your makeup if the extra effort in the beauty department gives you confidence. 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 aunts question your sexuality every time you have a holiday dinner together. Live your life for YOU and not anyone else.