Settle down into your favourite chair, grab some popcorn and a cup of tea/coffee/vegan vanilla chai latte; because this is going to be a long one.
If you’re a child of the pre-2000s, chances are you’ve watched shows such as FRIENDS and Sex and the City, both of which were very popular and continue to be watched and enjoyed by many young men and women entering their new and exciting lives as teenagers and young adults. We’ve seen Pheobe, Rachel and Monica go on endless dates with streams of men until they found the loves of their lives, we’ve watched Joey break an endless string of hearts after one night stands (we call him adorable btw and not a f***boy) and we’ve watched Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda have an endless amount of sex with strange men while Carrie fights her on and off relationship with Mr Big. We’ve watched When Harry Met Sally, with the theme based around the idea of ‘can guys and girls be just friends‘ and the romantic love story that grew from a beautiful long-term friendship which came about because of chance encounters or what some might even call fate.
So are we to be blamed when we have these super high expectations and unreasonable beliefs of what life is going to be about?
Growing up, I had so many amazing real-life relationship role models. Tales of young adults in their early 20s meeting and falling madly in love, to be together till this very day and have all the children that make the family that I grew up with. Now don’t get me wrong, I know they weren’t perfect, I’m sure they were far from it! They had their issues but they stuck together and today have so many adventures to tell the new generation.
But they were from a different time, a time when getting married in your early 20s was the norm and when bell bottoms graced the Beatles blasting discos. Things are different these days, with casual sex, rampant infidelity and snapchat nudes being the talk of the town. You need only listen to the conversations at family gatherings to know that ‘kids these days are just not the same.’ I know that they’ll never admit that they were probably just as frivolous as we are but behind their carefree hearts were the foundations of morality and kindness towards our fellow person that society seems to have stolen from us now.
I started dating right about when I turned 18, because my mother was adamant that I focus on my education and her and my dad made sure that I had a childhood and adolescence that was innocent and full of the things that a child should be experiencing. Not saying we didn’t have our rows, because we did, about boys and all their drama but my life was fairly secluded from all the turmoils of the world of relationships until I got into my first one. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I enjoyed the carefree childish years that I had because now it makes me appreciate the adult experiences that I go through and I suppose I’m better able to process the mistakes I make and the lessons I learn from them.
That being said, I don’t think even the most experienced or caring parent can prepare their child for the things they’re going to see once they step out into the world. It takes going through things to be able to understand people and why they do the things they do, but also to understand ourselves and the things that we want from life. Out of the relationships that I have had, one of the things that I have learnt is never to compare new people to the ones who have come before. Each encounter is a new one and so you need to go into a relationship or friendship slowly, giving yourself time to find out what they can offer you, what you can offer them and whether they are who you think they are.
The one thing that no-one can prepare you for and that no-one is going to tell you is that the world is both exactly what you see in the movies, and not at all what you see in the movies. That’s the paradox of the today. So easily influenced by what we think the world is meant to be about and what we want the world to be about, based on stories that we’ve heard or the things we want to imitate on tv, we often forget that the only way we’re truly going to find ourselves is if we forget everything we think we know from having sat in front of a screen and actually go out and live the experience first hand.
Something I wish I could have prepared myself for and known about the dating scene is how much pain and hurt can come out of it. Heartbreak is every human beings worst nemesis. It claws at the tendons of your heart and seeps its way into your very dreams, causing sleepless nights and an uncontrollable stream of tears. Whether it’s from coming out of multiple year relationships because you simply grew apart, dealing with being cheated on, being the cheater or being the other guy/girl or trying to disconnect from that heartthrob that you swore would just be a one night stand, the pain is all the same. But people don’t set out to hurt each other. We were born to love. We weren’t born with the intention to break hearts, or be cruel or cause anyone any sort of pain but sometimes we forget that the things we do or say have an impact on people that we may be unaware of. We don’t realise that we could be playing with someone’s feelings and never know that we could be the ones that leave them with sleepless nights and aching mornings. We forget that the people we once thought had our best intentions at heart or who once showed us the best times of our lives, could, through their own confusion and hurt, turn on us, and leave us broken and distraught. We don’t realise that people are never who they first portray themselves as.
And in this day and age, we forget the power of every girl and guys worst nightmare. The group chat. Technology has made us so cruel. We think its okay to talk about people, and spread gossip and defaming pictures and slut-shame just because we’re hiding behind a screen. We say things we would never dare to say to people’s faces and all for what? To make us feel part of the group? To validate something in ourselves? To make up for something we don’t even know is missing in our lives? Guys slut-shaming the girls that they hook up with after they’ve had a good time with her and after she gave him something that he wanted, instead of moving on and respecting whatever it is that may have gone down, as an encounter between two equal human beings. Young girls of 16 being labelled as ‘hoes’ as a piece of gossip that gets passed around to the point where people don’t even know her face, but merely her name invokes the image. Intelligent and driven 20-year-olds, 25-year-olds, slut-shaming each other when all each of us is trying to do is find our place in this crazy world. Girls giving each other side eye and calling each other names out of jealousy or spite instead of acknowledging that we have all been there and we all feel pain in the exact same way as the next person. I’m not generalising or stereotyping and I know that it’s not everyone, but all of us at one point or another, in one way or another, has been guilty of this. Why do we set out to hurt people or do things that we know are hurtful when we know exactly what it feels like to be hurt? Why would we ever want to put any other human being in that place when we know how horrible it is?
And let’s not forget the sexism! Oh the sexism has gone too far. If a man in this day and age wants casual sex, asks for it and gets it, through tinder or simply a cheesy pickup line, he’s just a regular guy and nobody thinks twice about it, in fact, he may even get a high five. If a woman wants casual sex, does what she wants to seek it out and gets it, she’s ‘easy’ or a slut. If she doesn’t want casual sex and doesn’t succumb to the guy’s ‘charm’ then she’s a prude, a nerd or up tight. Yes okay, there are rare occasions when guys will recognise that another guy’s ‘sleeping around’ and will call him a player but we all know that that doesn’t come near to having the same impact as the girl who is labelled a slut. And then to top it off, at the end of the day the guys will say that they’re looking for a ‘decent’ girl to settle down with but that there are no ‘decent’ girls left. Why are there no ‘decent’ girls left? Because their hearts were broken and they were made to believe that they had to act a certain way in order for them to be seen and wanted. I believe that we all have a choice in how we live our lives, and we should all be aware of the consequences of our actions, but if we choose to do something a certain way, it’s no-one else’s place to judge, because at the end of the day, only God can judge the things you have done. Whether someone’s choice is a mistake or not is not for you or me to decide, and our job is to be compassionate and kind and to focus on the things in our lives that concern our happiness and wellbeing. Having sex, for example, doesn’t define who you are. It’s an activity that, yes, people have very different opinions on but we aren’t on this earth to judge anyone, to slut shame anyone or to condescend on anyone. We’re here to live our lives as best we can. And if we want to safely and responsibly have sex without being in a relationship or before marriage there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. If we want to save ourselves till marriage and not succumb to peer pressure, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. There’s judgement on both sides of the spectrum and it needs to stop.
However, despite all of that, if there is one thing that you should hear me on and believe me when I say, its that out of what I have seen, experienced or learnt from others, when it comes to going through any experience of pain and hurt, it will pass. It’s simple to hear, hard to believe, and in the moment you feel like the world is crumbling beneath your feet, but just know that maybe not in a month, maybe not in a year, but certainly several years from now, none of it will even cause you the remotest amount of pain and you will wake up having accomplished so much. Just as you can reach the lowest point of pain, one day you will reach the highest point of happiness and love and THAT will be the moment when you realise the beauty of the ’21st century dating scene.’ You will be happy again. Hold on to those moments of happiness, hold on to the things that make you happy; your friends and family and your hobbies. Focus on the present and on building the best version of yourself, so that you can love the person that you are. You need to love yourself first because it would be unfair to seek out someone to love you when you don’t. Relationships come and go but you have to be the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Don’t chase the people who refuse to see your potential and your infinite interior beauty. Forgive the ones who hurt you, not for them, because they’ll never know and they may not even care, but for yourself, because that’s what sets you free. Remember what its like to start a fresh relationship, to meet someone new and to start something that may or may not develop into something more.
And to go full circle, don’t compare people and think that everyone is the same. As my mum likes to say, ‘put it down to experience’ and be cautious but doesn’t close yourself off to discovering new things with new people for fear of getting hurt. The hurt makes you stronger and prepares you for the next step. If things don’t go the way you want, in any kind of relationship, be it a fling or a hookup or a date or even a relationship you thought was going somewhere, just know that the pain and the behind-your-back-talking will fade. The thing about the 21st century dating scene is that although it’s different from last century’s, or the century before that, at the same time it’s the same, because at the end of the day, we’re all human, we all want to love and be loved, and you will find that someday, you’ll wake up beside the person that you love, and none of this will matter anymore. That’s what I’m counting on at least.
Be strong, be positive, and be kind. And remember that you are loved.