No, I don’t know how to date

Millennial musings, I suppose. Read more here.

Me creeping on couples. Copyright Zhai Yun Tan

I just knew I had to write this after listening to “A Millennial’s Guide To Kissing” on the Modern Love podcast.

The thing about millennials that everyone loves to hate is our obsession with everything that is fast — be it a fast Internet connection or fast relationships.

Is it that we are freewheeling creatures who want to soak up every bit of independence and freedom we get to enjoy or are we commitaphobes, deeply fearful of rejection?

I am a millennial, although I don’t like to admit so. I often mentally brush off casual relationships because oh god, that’s so shallow, I would never waste my time on something like that. I’d be brave enough to face rejection, right?

And then I find myself doing the EXACT thing that I said I wouldn’t do because — get this — I’m scared of rejection. Instead of wading into the dangerous waters of figuring out what this attraction is, if it’s deeper than the skin, if the other person feels the same or how we can work out our very obvious differences, I’d rather just stick the word “casual” onto the relationship.

“Being casual is cooler than intimacy and vulnerability. Or so we think,” Emma Court, the author of “A Millennial’s Guide To Kissing” writes.

Exactly. “Or so we think.” Facing our feelings for what it is is scarier than I thought. It is easy to recognize your attraction to someone and frame it as some kind of fancy, like you’re just physically attracted to the person or that you find him/her interesting. Maybe you casually date the person, maybe you hook up with the person.

But going beyond that is like me staring at a cockroach for half an hour because I’m so scared if I move, it will go crazy (and climb over my toes, land on my clothes, fly, whatever, I don’t know. I’m deathly scared of those things.)

Court tells this story: Her friend had a hookup, and at some point in the night, the guy asked the friend if this was a special thing. Her friend wasn’t sure if she heard correctly — she was also scared to reveal that she might want him to stick around — so she asked him to repeat himself. To which he says “Never mind” and goes back to sleep.

That can be our mindset when we’re scared of rejections, right? So instead of having that really hard conversation of “Hey, I like you, do you like me back?” we can just settle for casual things like “Hey, let’s just hang out,” hoping that maybe that may turn into something deeper someday.

Here’s my problem then: I don’t know when are things serious and not anymore. There are so many different definitions to dating and what being a girlfriend/boyfriend is that I feel like couples should have a day when they just sit down and discuss semantics.

In the culture I grew up in, dating meant something more serious — you’re girlfriend and boyfriend, you hang out very frequently, you’re exclusive, and you’re probably staying in touch all the time. Here, dating only means you’re seeing each other a few times a week, you’re probably not exclusive (going on other Tinder dates to scout the market, maybe) and you’re definitely not calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. That’s another stage.

With the hookup culture and instant first/last kisses, dates and whatever that comes with all the swiping we do, figuring out what comes next is the hardest part — which is when we have to face our feelings and possibly, rejection from the other.

“So often once the rules of the game change, once we do something we’ve never done before, the question of how to navigate the new world is what’s next.

What do we do after the first cigarette, the first time visiting a place, the first meeting, the first kiss? Will this time be the first time of many, many more times? Or will it be the first but also the last?” — “First,” from the podcast The Heart.

So … how does dating work? How serious should we be?

Should I duck and hide because I’m scared of rejection, of being seen as clingy and being “the old-fashioned girl who is taking things too seriously?” Wouldn’t that send the boys boltin’ away?

Or should I do the “casual dating thing” because I don’t want to think about my feelings (which are sometimes just feelings of ‘Oh he’s so cute’) or I don’t want to face the reality of loving (or even liking) someone? With love comes expectations — which can be so easily dashed by tiny things like a lack of response or a perceived lopsided affection.

Yet facing those feelings comes with exhilaration and a sense of fulfillment too, I suppose. It’s a conscious decision I make everyday to be more courageous and become that “strong woman” that I envision myself to be — a goal that, as I recently ranted to my friends, is a tough, tough one.

The lyrics from the song “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes captures it the best:

“And so I thought I’d let you know
That these things take forever
I especially am slow

So if you want to be with me
With these things there’s no telling
We just have to wait and see
But I’d rather be working for a paycheck
Than waiting to win the lottery
Besides maybe this time is different
I mean I really think you like me”

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