Disclaimer No.1: this piece is written by a heterosexual cisgender woman and is not meant to promote heteronormativity.
Disclaimer No.2: this is not a self-deprecating piece seeking validation. This is a piece on dating, which is arguably a mixture of the two regardless.
You’ve seen “dating mistakes” portrayed in movies and TV and played out in real life. You’ve heard of and lived “cringe” moments where someone did or said the worst thing imaginable and had to face the repercussions—usually serious awkwardness and a doomed relationship thereafter. Dating mistakes can manifest in one giant blunder or a number of micro shitty moments.
If you or anyone you’ve met or dated sucks at dating, it’s because whoever the perpetrator is, that person has adapted too well to society.
Humans are social creatures entrenched in their respective social networks bound to a greater society. Every individual is a pawn of society, meaning that we are the way we are primarily because of nurture. Society told us so. The reason some of us suck so bad at dating is as simple as Monkey see, Monkey do. It lies in the give and take of mass media’s portrayal (standardization) of shitty relationships and bad communication and the reflection and reinforcement of those relationships in real life.
I know I suck not because I make one wrong move over and over again, but because I have been on a bajillion dates and have had disproportionately more unfulfilling than fulfilling relationships and sexual experiences. I’m always secretly looking for the “perfect boytoy,” yet I’ve settled for less than my perfect sculpted, funny, affectionate, intellectual dude time and time again.
This dilemma naturally leaves one questioning: Do I not love myself? Why do I dig assholes? Does (s)he not exist?
My hypothetical dating resume where I mention how many fun and interesting things I do, how outdoorsy, open-minded, kind, caring, and all-the-adjectives-no-one-cares-about-if-you’re-hot I am would easily explain my awesomeness and verify my dateability. Yet, I’m not getting past the interviews. I can hold a job longer than I can captivate a man. I am multitudes better at job hunting than man hunting. My job referrals would shit on my date referrals—competitive candidate versus dead on arrival. You get it, I’m a great employee and a bad significant other.
Why the job analogy? To me, there are two things we will surely do for the rest of our lives as humans, outside of fulfilling our basic needs: look for jobs and look for mates. That’s right, I reduced our entire lives to working and fucking. I’m not that far off though. Work and relationships are valued highly and used as identifiers. Both your job and your relationship(s) are meant to provide you with something, both should be rewarding and mutually fulfilling, and both take up considerable time. Sure, your hobbies and volunteer work identify you and may be your passion, and you may hate your job and need it only to pay the bills, but which do you need more? And what asshole decided to make the world revolve around money?
I was a star student-turned-good employee because of adequate lessons, teachers, parenting, and societal encouragement. The same is not said for dating!
I’m a Millennial that grew up with R-rated action (read: killing and rape) movies, porn literally everywhere—jokes, ads on websites and late-night TV, hook up culture, rape culture, and the objectification of women even more pervasive than the porn industry, infiltrating the media and social interactions among peers and even strangers. My point is that as our society glorified violence and only the carnal side of sex, it diminished the importance and meaning of love and all the things that SHOULD make someone want to stay in a relationship with another person—and people like me internalized that.
Another exacerbating factor is that “looking for mates” in the Millennial Era means a plethora of socially acceptable things on the spectrum from hooking up to getting married, including, but not limited to, a one night stand, hookup buddy, friends with benefits, casual relationship, open relationship, and polyamory. So many “opportunities” or “prospects” in the dating world can make a distracted, impatient, passionate Millennial not in it for the long haul feel like a kid in a candy store. Also, Millennials are traveling more than ever. We aren’t bound to our hometowns and it’s population for our mates. We know there are “better opportunities” elsewhere, no matter what...
In effect, I’ve been socialized into living a dating life of mass consumption, tossing boys aside that loved me because I thought they were worn, not caring to work through rough patches because of a belief that the grass is always greener on the other side, and keeping boys with toxic chemicals and unsustainable, inhumane production practices at my side. I’ve exposed and come to terms with my masochistic dating past fed by the media enforcing unhealthy dating norms where women undoubtedly get the short end of the stick.
Growing up, I was plagued by the identity ambiguity of being Filipino-American in an ultra-religious conservative household in the ultra-liberal Bay Area. My sexual identity reflected the polarity of my environments. Meanwhile, mass media’s portrayal of male-female interactions around sex, violence, and the female body left me in a continual cycle of devaluing my self-worth for immediate gratification and carnal consumption—ding ding, quintessential American culture and media at its most grotesque.
Being aware of cliched notions of self-worth and the sanctity of my body didn't affect my dating success or what I sought out in relationships. I had high self-worth in certain areas: academics extracurriculars, socializing. Dating was always a gray area. It’s the area that no one formally teaches you about, that you get a feel for through your friends, parents or guardians (or lack thereof), and the media more than anywhere, sadly. Impressionable girl + rape culture + glorification of violence + objectification of women = girl accepting and perpetuating these images and realities in her own life no matter how smart she is on paper. Social psychology 101.
No more. After over two decades, minus prepubescent years, I’m phasing it out.
Any version on the relationship spectrum is perfectly fine as long as you’re fine with it, which I think I never really was. I’m getting the bullshit out of my system and unlearning the final vestiges. I can sense the mental transformation too. Shuffling for inspiration today on my morning commute, I stumbled upon this amazing quote: “You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.” Stretching it slightly, I read: you will never find true happiness in relationships and rise above by reflecting societal norms.
For an apropos follow up to this no-BS take on dating, read Mark Manson’s blog post “Fuck Yes or No.” It’s exactly how I’m tackling dating from now on.