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What does ‘dating’ mean in today’s world? Is it about having someone to hang out with, or to search for a life partner? Here are the Ins and Outs for those who would like to set out on this slippery slope.
It is sort of the question that usually comes up after you have had a few conversations with a person.
People politely ask you what you do for a living and what you do for fun and then eventually ask you this question.
“So, are you seeing someone?”
“Am I?”I start to wonder.
If you had asked me what dating meant to me as a teenager, I would have sat you down and told you my little dating check-list. My first date happened when I was 18 years old and a chivalrous boy took me out for a perfect candlelight dinner, and we were two kids who were happy that we did serious ‘real-world’ things like a dinner date.
As you step out into the real world and your ‘serious relationships’ with childhood sweethearts fade away into a distant nothing you realize that dating in the real world is HARD!
Dating as a young woman of 22 or a young person is really hard because dating is just not dating any more. Everyone has opinions and everyone has rules.
Why date when you can just fool-around? How can you fool-around when you can date?
How casual is not too casual?
How long until I let him stick his tongue into mine?
Is it OK to date your colleague? Is it OK to use online dating applications?
If I can’t do either how the hell am I supposed to meet new people? Do I wait until my soul mate falls off the roof?
Wait, I don’t even believe in soul mates anymore.
And then eventually when you do go out on a date, you start exploring other questions.
Are we exclusive? Am I ready to be exclusive? Does he like me? Why is he acting like my boyfriend? Why is he not acting like my boyfriend?
There are times when you want to put on some make-up and go out and ‘date’ because that is the correct adult thing to do. There are rules on the appropriate amount of time that two people should have spent over bad pasta before they can jump into bed, sext (sexually explicit text messages) each other, become emotionally dependent or decide to tie the knot.
And then there are times when we are so exhausted by our job, filling out college applications, spending too much time worrying about how perfect everyone’s life looks on Instagram, trying to keep up with your friends, that eventually all you want to do is crash in your bed and dating just becomes an impossibly tiring ordeal.
You just want something easy, spontaneous and fun.
Something that does not involve being tangled in an obligation to listen to the other person speak about their day.
Friends with benefits. Casual dating. Open relationships. Or the perfect movie dates that make us feel like we are doing something together, but we actually are not and then everyone is happy.
I spent some time thinking about why dating that was supposed to be fun, happy and an essential part of life started turning into a bundle of expectations.
While I am all for casual relationships, friends with benefits, flirt buddies and other the new tags we have for age-old courtship, it sometimes saddens me to see that these are often not choices but just a fall-back option when dating doesn’t work.
And why doesn’t dating work?
It was always supposed to be happily ever-after right? And that possibly is the worst statement to believe in if you want to date in this world.
Dating in the real world is all about meeting a bunch of people with different upbringings, different past experiences and completely different perceptions about love.
Dating is fun when you are casually exploring the joys of being single and in the process trying to find a partner. Dating is terrible when you have a goal in mind and you are trying to turn every possible date into a potential life-partner.
And given our upbringings and the cultural context in which we were brought up, this is such a hard thing not to do. Our upbringings sometimes forces us to give a coffee-date way more attention than it deserves.
Being single is viewed so negatively in our society or is just unreasonably glorified that there is always a certain pressure that is associated with dating. Does dating mean I lose my freedom and not dating mean that I am a loser?
As a young person, there will be things about dating that will confuse the living hell out of you.
There will be days where you want to stream YouTube videos and meaninglessly sext someone.
There will be days when you just surf tinder and wonder why nothing ever seems right.
There will be days where you want to pretentiously put on make-up and enjoy an obviously over-priced meal.
There will be days when you just talk and pour out your soul to someone for eight hours straight and feel like they are your soul mate only to realize that you don’t really want a relationship right now.
And in these times you need to remember that nobody has walked a mile in your shoes which means that ultimately it is what you feel that matters.
You can either get worked up about the ‘rules’ other people follow, the judgements they make and the tips they give you to happily date or you can realize that all of that is absolute bull-shit.
Because young or old, there is just one way to figure dating out. And that is something you have to figure out by yourself!
Image source: young couple dating by Shutterstock.
Nandhitha Hariharan is a writer with a love for anything that is pretty or covered
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