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Megan S. is an associate editor at Dating & Hookup. She's a big fan of pop culture, comedy and essay collections (but just a regular fan of any sport that isn't softball or golf).
Freshman year of college wasn’t kind to me. I felt an incredible amount of pressure to live the idealized undergraduate life I’d seen in movies and television shows: excellent grades, tons of new friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a solid athletic career. I already had a sweet boyfriend and was a straight-A student. Those things were nice, but they weren’t new or exciting for me. I wanted the friends and athletic success even more.
After a few months on campus, my life resembled a constant cycle of worry and disappointment. I got along with my roommates but I didn’t have a lot of other friends. My track teammates were nice, but they were also faster, thinner, and more outgoing than me. Basically, college wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and that freaked me out. The new anxiety caused me to overeat and occasionally binge, and soon a twenty-pound weight-gain became another source of worry.
My boyfriend, who I’d been dating for two years before going to college, did his best to make me feel better. He told me not to worry about my social situation, and he encouraged me whenever I vowed to get my weight in check, but nothing felt right anymore. I felt like a pudgy failure. Two months before the end of spring semester, I told him we should see other people.
You don’t have to wander very far into the world wide web to find dating/relationship advice. There are articles that tell you how to know when a guy will call, or what her favorite drink says about her views on marriage, or the 148 signs that he might be a cheater. Every question about dating has seemingly been answered.
And yet, I still have questions. But just a few:
Honestly, I’ve never considered if I’d prefer to be married by a certain age. Unlike the popular claim from so many ladies on reality television, I haven’t been dreaming of my wedding day since I was a little girl. The idea never even crossed my mind as a child. I guess I assumed that since getting married was something grown-ups did, I wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while.
I continued to not think about marriage through college, even as former high-school classmates got engaged and married. “Huh, that’s weird,” was my typical response when these wedding photos popped up on Facebook. I was studying for psych tests and writing papers about ethical issues in sports in my early twenties; how did these people have time to become adults and get married?
“I would never cry over a dude. That’s something that I’ll never do.”
It would be natural to think this quote was uttered by a lady, maybe in her mid-twenties or early thirties, who is jaded by the modern dating scene. Someone who has “been there, done that” with one too many lame dates and failed relationships.
But this declaration didn’t come from a woman well versed in heartbreak. It came from a preteen girl, gossiping with her girlfriends about a young crush gone wrong. She said this with total conviction, and her friends seemed to agree: none of them would be crying over dudes. Absolutely not.
Her statement struck me because I grew up with a similar mentality, though I wasn’t exactly proclaiming that I’d never cry over a guy. My attitude was more that I was too embarrassed to even admit when I liked a boy, most likely out of fear of rejection. The approaches seem different on the surface, but the motivation is the same: suppress your emotions and you won’t get hurt.
Hello. We meet again. Tonight, I’m praying for love, though I’m beginning to wonder if that request is too general. Perhaps if I’m more specific, this love will happen my way a whole lot sooner.
May he please have Andy Samberg’s sense of humor. Or Jimmy Fallon’s. Or John Mulaney’s. You know what? I’ll just pray that he likes the same Lorne Michaels-produced material that I do.
I pray that he understands baseball, because I don’t have time to teach some dude about America’s pastime when I’m watching the game.
I don’t mind Valentine’s Day, but I can’t stand Singles Awareness Day.
Have you heard of this? You probably have if you’ve been on the Internet within the last decade. I haven’t been able to log-on to Facebook or scroll through Twitter in the past few years without somebody posting, “Happy Singles Awareness Day!” every February 14th. This exclamation is typically followed by the single person’s plans for the day or thinly veiled pleas for pity, and sometimes it’s a standalone statement. It isn’t so much the presentation that bothers me—it’s that people feel the need to bash Valentine’s Day in the first place.
Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that seems to suffer this wrath. You don’t see posts on Christmas that read, “Happy Jesus-Was-Actually-Born-In-July-If-We’re-Gonna-Get-Technical-About-Things Day!” Or on Thanksgiving, nobody posts, “Happy Vegetarians’ Awareness Day!” People don’t publicly fight the traditions of Easter or St. Patrick’s Day, either, at least not with the same level of hatred as St. Valentine receives. So why did anybody feel the need to create this kind of anti-holiday?
I tell anybody who asks that I don’t have a love life, at all.
And while it’s true I haven’t dated in a while, I also haven’t rejected the idea of ever dating again, so it’s misleading for me to completely deny this facet of my life. But denial is waaaay easier to deal with. It’s certainly easier than talking about feelings and feeling feelings and potentially having feelings hurt.
In my recent single years, I haven’t thought (too much) about what might be preventing me from connecting with people in anything more substantial than a platonic way. This denial thing, though, is a bit of a concern, and as a young adult attempting to get back on the dating scene, it’s probably worth examining some of my hang-ups.
I recently watched a TED talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” In the video, self-described researcher-storyteller Brené Brown discussed the work she has done in defining shame. Her years of research revealed that most often, shame can be summarized as this: I’m afraid someone will see what’s “wrong” with me and deem me to be unworthy of connection.
I’m surrounded by couples, and it’s kinda having a negative effect on my social life.
This isn’t something I think about very often. Through the spring, summer and fall, I’m usually content to go about my own business with the occasional concert or sporting event with friends thrown into the mix. But winter brings about a cooped-up feeling that drives me crazy, which causes me to seek out more social engagements than usual.
Recent events in my friends’ love lives have left me struggling to find something to do each wintry weekend in this small town: one of my closest friends recently proposed to his wonderful girlfriend (now fiancée), officially making me the last single person in my small social circle.
No, I haven’t hit the panic button yet. I’m not going to throw myself at the next available dude just so I can say, “Look, I’m in a relationship, too! I did it!” That’s not my style. Still, I can’t help but to notice that it’s easier for couples to make plans with other couples than it is to invite Little Miss Third Wheel.
Step 1: Break up and vow to remain friends.
Step 2: “Remain friends” by IMing each other the day after the break-up and acting as though everything is totally cool. After all, you two are mature adults.
Step 3: Spend the next year IMing and calling each other at least once a week. Mature friendship at its finest. You laugh at the people who can’t be friends with their exes. “This is what everybody makes such a fuss about?” you wonder. “This is easy!”
Step 4: Scroll through Facebook and pretend that seeing a picture of him with some other chick doesn’t drive you batshit crazy, because you both agreed that everything is totally cool, remember?
Step 5: No seriously, who is that chick? She keeps showing up on his Facebook page. Wait, who’s that other chick? Is he seeing two girls? Are they friends? Should you care? You don’t care. But maybe one more picture…
Step 6: Spend another year randomly messaging each other while not caring AT ALL about all of these pictures of him with another girl. Or series of girls. Who the eff are these girls?
The Head: I’ve given this some thought, and I think I would like to start dating again.
The Heart: Oh, really? We’re finally ready to give this another go?
The Head: Yeah…yes. Yes, I think so.
The Heart: Well okay! I mean really, that’s so great, because I was starting to think you’d forgotten—
The Head: Hey! Don’t get too excited there. I’m simply reintroducing the idea; give me a minute to get comfortable, okay?
The Heart: Right, right, of course. But dating was fun, remember?
The Head: Yeah, dating was pretty fun, I’ll give you that.
Real talk: I’ve been trying to think of something to write that relates to both the holiday season and relationships, and I’m coming up blank. The struggle has been so drawn-out that I honestly think it would be easier to write an article on preparing reindeer for flight in inclement weather.
“Why is this so difficult?” I mumbled to myself as I stared at my notebook. “Why won’t my brain go to a place where Christmastime and relationships exist?” And then, just as I was about to search for inspiration in a tin of Christmas cookies, BOOM—a light bulb went off (or, since it’s December, I guess it could have been a strand of imported Italian twinkle lights). I don’t know what to write because I’ve spent the last six holiday seasons with just my family.
This isn’t a bad thing at all. My family is awesome, and we have several pretty great traditions for this time of year. We have a classy, candlelit dinner on Christmas Eve, and we celebrate Christmas morning with a marathon session of gift giving followed by a leisurely brunch. New Year’s Eve has more of an outright party atmosphere, what with all of my cousins playing Just Dance before we distribute the noisemakers and party hats just before midnight. But even though I’m grateful to be able to spend the holidays in such a festive and loving environment, I sometimes get a little bummed out about being single during the holiday season.
I recently became a substitute teacher. Like most things in my life post-graduation, I never planned on this happening. I liked school, and I still love learning, but I never imagined myself standing in front of a classroom with any amount of authority. Thankfully, I’ve learned that subbing doesn’t involve much more than taking attendance, handing out some papers and making sure the kids don’t do anything harmful or creepy on my watch.
When the kids are working quietly at their desks, I can’t help but to remember what I was like at their respective ages—and who I was crushing on all those years ago. I really liked one guy from my class in middle school; unfortunately, so did every other girl in my grade. But who could blame them? The guy was super-athletic, funny and wore trendy clothing—is anything more important than that when you’re ten-, eleven- or twelve-years old?
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