By the time you reach your mid-20s, it's not just your mom and aunt expecting you to date. Your friends all ask if you're seeing someone. Your coworkers hint you need to get hitched (let's meet someone first, you think). And you yourself begin to wonder if you've missed the train, should I get my ticket now, gosh, wow, I need to be in this dating game.
So you date.
That is, as millennials do, you download the apps. This isn't the '20s; no one's meeting flappers at Gatsby's mansion. This is your 20s. There's no other way to meet people your own age. Even friends of friends introductions are facilitated over Tinder. ("How do you know Tim? I see he's our mutual friend.")
This is all fine and dandy. Online dating is always an affirmation of your attractiveness. You internally squeal when you match with that super attractive model who is totally two leagues above you, but holy cow, she swiped right.
But then you start meeting people. Rarely is the date traumatizing. But it's an endless buffet of decent dishes that you bring back to the table eagerly, but after three plates you're full and nothing was stellar. You question why you went to the buffet. You weren't that hungry. And you're exhausted, but so many other dishes wait for you to try them. Your friends urge you to go back and try the chicken teriyaki, but you want dessert, so they suggest banana pudding.
"But I have carrot cake at home in my fridge," you think. "Why am I at this buffet again?"
Such is dating. Recently I've found both myself wondering why I date and been embroiled in several conversations about the endless parade that is meeting online strangers when you're sunburnt and tired, but everyone is screaming, "Wait until you see the next float!"
Dating is bizarre. There's no other way to trim that bush. And we're talking online dating. It's healthy and natural to go on dates with someone you meet organically and are authentically interested in. But online dating is like opting to play chess against a computer on a Friday night (no judgment it you do that) when your friends asked you to come out.
Some of us date because we're lonely, but plenty of us aren't. We lead happy lives. We aren't bored. We have friends. We have hobbies. We have better things to do. In fact, we're the perfect candidates for dating - we love ourselves. We aren't seeking to fill an obvious hole in our existence.
But we date because of expectation. Others expect us to be at this coffee shop on a Saturday offering to pay for someone's coffee and asking how many siblings they have. And we ourselves might expect it of ourselves. Sure, we're happy, but we worry, in ten years, will we be happy? And then will it be too late?
"And what do your siblings do?" we continue the conversation.
The truth is, we date because we're seeking that fabled someone who we've always been told we'll meet and nothing will ever be the same afterward. We might like our lives, we might even love them, but there is a myth that there will always be someone out there who is the key to making our lives better and more "whole." Our lives may be great, but wait until we find our soulmate!
That, and our grandma requested grandchildren from her deathbed.
And, certainly, this may be true - maybe there is someone special waiting in our future. We humans are not so evolved that we don't need a long-term companion when life's shadow grows long. But the thing is, there's a difference between stumbling into this person - the one, your unicorn, a soulmate - versus hunting them down through book clubs, Tinder, and quarter-century crises.
Why do we need to actively be seeking "the one"? Why isn't it enough to trust I'll meet them via fate, cosmic collisions, or a friend of a friend - but in person, not over Bumble?
Online dating seems to be our plan B that we've made plan A: we've heard this fairytale of love, so let's hunt it down because we certainly can't wait it out here in content singledom.
Again, there is #nohate toward genuine dating. That is, say you meet the person via fate, cosmic collisions, or your friend - definitely go on a date. But it's this chore of swiping and scheduling meetings with strangers - why do we do that?
We don't set up dates with gorillas to find Bigfoot (RIP Harambe), so why do we do it with humans?
Okay, okay, I'm being facetious. I've have had too much coffee. But ask yourself: why are you dating? Are you lonely? Are you afraid you'll end up alone? Is it for kids?
It dawns on me we want to know the future - will we have kids, is there someone out there, what will retirement be like - and the answers lie in the one (if there is a one). Though is the one even forever? Not even you and the one can ever really know that until forever passes.
And this is where my thesis stumbles. Do we continue dating? Do we meet up with Sally four times because we didn't feel a spark the first three times, but maybe on this fourth encounter? Do we tell five more strangers about our younger brother who is in undergrad? Or do we say, "Sorry, I don't have time for this; I'm hanging out with friends I made in person over a year ago" or "Reruns of Damages on Netflix sounds a lot more fun than small talk about your puppy obsession, but I appreciate you swiping right and letting me know you're interested"?
But then, what if you say that to the one?
And that is why we date.