January 23, 2013

BOOKHEIMER: Why Dating is Not the Answer to Our Relationship Problems

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Recently, Cornell’s bible that is The New York Times published an article about how the dating scene of our generation is hyper casual. It was mostly the same old article you read about “millennials” that is 60 percent bullshit and 40 percent true. I guess I still read it, so the NYT is doing its job. On the other hand, I didn’t need another source telling me how sad my love life is. Thanks, NYT.Basically, it said exactly what you would expect: Our generation goes on fewer traditional dates and we’re unsatisfied as a result. But I wonder, are we actually unfulfilled with our dateless culture, or are just being made to feel that we should be? Some would say the answer lies in removing ourselves from the hook-up culture, as kind of cultural rebellion. I feel a certain pressure to want to go on dates that I can’t seem to separate from my actual feelings about the person who is asking me out on one. Do I like this person only because they are carrying out the traditional romantic ritual?So, when I was asked to go on a date Monday night, I was supposed to figure this all out. As I was getting ready, I couldn’t decide if I was getting dressed for my night class, the date or to go out for syllabus night afterward. Clearly, I was mentally and emotionally confused about the whole thing.The date ended up being completely fine. We went to dinner, it was snowing — it was all very romantic and traditional. Wouldn’t you know, a date turns out to be a great way to assess if you’re compatible with someone! For a moment, I thought, “Maybe the way our generation seeks partners is misguided.”The next day, I assessed whether the experience was actually fulfilling. I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter if you get to know someone on a date, or at a bar, or in a class or via technology. Whatever relationship model persists in a particular culture will have its pros and cons. Maybe at Cornell, we are emotionally guarded and have a penchant for drunken hook-ups, but we also spend less time in committed relationships just to avoid being alone. Sure, my heart freezes over with a harder layer of ice with each passing day at this school, but at least I didn’t date a bunch of losers.We need to stop worrying about the means and start thinking about the end. The person matters, not whether you ever went on a traditional date with them. Relationship lines are blurred in college. I could be romantically interested in my classmate, who is also my partner on a project, who is also my editor (not you, Liz, wink wink). Going on a date with that person might be fun, but not crucial.How many of us really know ourselves well enough to accurately assess if we are interested in someone anyway? This is the greater problem in our and really any generation. We know ourselves in the way we know our social media brand, in the way we know our major (some of us), and in the way we know what groups we are a part of. However, when it comes to the ebbs and flows of our personality and how to surf those waves with a partner, we are confused.Honestly, the tools I use to assess my interest in romantic partners are pretty arbitrary: Am I attracted to them? Do they dress well? Do they have good taste in music? The things that seem to matter only scratch the surface of who a person is. I mean, I have multiple somewhat creepy crushes on people I’ve never even met. So, as a 20-something and a millennial when I read these stories about how wrong our hook-up culture is, it just seems so removed from the actual experience. There are a lot of things wrong with the traditional dating culture as well — for instance, why should the man be the one to pay — but that’s a different column. As college students, we’re lucky if we find “the one,” regardless of how we try to find them.Over the course of Cornell’s history, no professor has ever come up with a formula to find love. But here’s to hoping The New York Times covers it if they ever do.

Morgan Bookheimer is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at mbookheimer@cornellsun.com. Behind the Time appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Morgan Bookheimer