Having been gleefully independent of romance for quite some time, I can’t help but notice the pervasive obsession with dating. Its all-consuming nature encompassing apps, swipes, rules, and games is exhausting, to say the least. I have opted out of the dating game since its conception, but sometimes, that leaves little room for commonality in a dating and mating – focused world.
A few years ago, a relationship that I cared very much about reached a rocky road, followed by an abrupt end. A few days later, I found myself seated at a dinner table with a group of girlfriends who I hadn’t seen in ages, ready for a simple distraction from my overwhelming rumination and gloomy outlook on love. To my dismay, the conversation rapidly changed from small-talk to the last thing I could possibly want to discuss: dating.
Disclaimer: What lies below is an utterly heterosexual anecdote, stemming solely from my personal experience. I’m intrigued to hear from LGBTQ+ on this topic.
I won’t bore you with the specifics, but this three-hour conversation circled around seemingly trivial topics such as that of “mixed signals.” I get it; fleeting romances or “flings,” can be riveting in the moment. But they also possess the ability to consume us, especially as women, which is where this phenomenon becomes problematic.
The subsequent “girl talk” revolved in slow-moving, pointless, circles; like the solar system (except, that’s actually somewhat important—and I’m pretty sure average speed up there is approximately 67,000 MPH, so, bad analogy). Anyways, from recent dating app matches to year-long relationships, I pretended to appear intrigued while simultaneously fighting the urge to hide in the bathroom for the remainder of the evening.
When it was my turn to talk about “love interests” I tried to dodge the subject with the classic, “I don’t have time to think about that,” which I cleverly used as a segue to my dreams of applying to law school and pursuing a career path in the human rights realm. When my comment was met with utter silence across the table, I felt as though I had said something wrong, or I had an overtly pronounced piece of broccoli wedged between my front teeth. I probably would have preferred the latter, given the former’s implications.
My wide, enthused eyes were anticlimactically met with sly smiles and half-hearted congratulatory statements, but the conversation nonetheless reverted to romance. Neptune, here we come… On my way home that evening, I did some soul-searching, of course (when in doubt, channel your inner-genie). I wondered, Was I dismayed by the conversation solely because I no longer had those cute anecdotes or enthralling argument synopses to share? No, I knew that this wasn’t the feeling gnawing at my stomach. Then, of course, I began to think of this through a gendered lens. Hello, 21st century!
So, why do I care about this perturbing three-hour long conversation? Well, because it’s longer than a three-hour conversation. This is happening ubiquitously and invariably. As women, we tend to obsess over a man’s thoughts, wait for their approval, or harp on minute attempts to act like a decent human (e.g., campus wave vs. “look away”).
My point: Don’t wait for a man to validate you; validate yourself. As women, we can grow together simply by changing the course of the conversation. We are defined by our ideas, dreams, travels and experiences. Not by the [______] (time to play some Mad Libs), who “ghosts” us or prefers to compliment our looks over our brains. The man who wishes we would flow with the motion of the ocean, as opposed to embodying the rock that the waves can’t possibly erode, likely doesn’t appreciate our uniqueness or ability to challenge commonplace ways of thinking. It’s time to bring our conversations a step beyond, to dream bigger, and to challenge one another to rise above what’s conventionally expected.