|Photo: Ozan Hatipoglu (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
|Are we getting too busy to date?|
In our last issue, E&M author Oyin Akande reflected on the absurdity of what she called "the interview process." Her saga on dating for young European continues with this article questioning the assumptions we grew up with and the change in our priorities.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess now that I had absolutely nothing to write about. Nada! Zilch! (I have always wanted to use those in a sentence). When it came down to the task, I kept finding that I am completely uninspired to write about dating, as I personally have no interest in dating at the moment. So, I wondered why that was and realised my head is preoccupied with major life events that will take place next year. It’s not a wonder that my focus is elsewhere.
But is this the case for other young Europeans in the 21st century? Are we getting too busy to date?
I read an article the other day suggesting that millennials should ditch our parents’ out-dated career models. It made me think there is a lot that our parents did that we saw growing up and still try to emulate but probably have no real place in our lives today.
At my age my mother was pregnant and married, so I used to think you had all the answers by your early twenties. Now that I am here, I find myself debating if I am even responsible enough to take care of the puppy I wanted but did not get for Christmas! I am still a student and too many of my days involve sleeping in, anxiety and realising I might not have enough money at the end of the month - makes me wonder what my mum was thinking getting married and taking care of baby at 23! And I naively trusted the coming of age stories of the 90s and 00s that told me I should know who I am somewhere between graduating high school and the summer after leaving university.
Having never been in a relationship and still struggling through a master’s degree, I am not disappointed by the realisation that these things are terribly unlikely. In fact, I am only more aware that there is so little I know and so much I want to explore. But like many my age, I am confused, finding myself without a model to replace the out-dated one with.
The world we have come into as adults is so different from the one we were in as children. Information changed everything. We now live in a global-community and are keen to travel and experience. We are increasingly aware of – and curious about – different lifestyles and cultures and ideologies. Technology and social media gives us so much unfiltered access. We are exposed to a lot and there’s so much choice. One consequence, amongst many, is that we are open to exploring just about everything. It’s all about experience. For some, all this hasn’t really changed their priorities, but for others there’s more to figure out.
Consequently, all of this choice and confusion mean our autonomy is so much more important. Where we cannot rely on traditional values and models, we increasingly have to rely on a personal self-discovery (and, yes I do realise that I sound like the plot to a cheesy movie). But what Eat, Pray, Love did get right was its depiction of this 21st century solitary ‘search for everything’ and the sense that answers come with an expanded worldview. And if I have the choice to have that identity crisis now rather than after a divorce in ten years, I’ll take now please.
I spoke to a friend about this and she responded with "that’s because feminism has given us more choice". I do agree, and feminism has knocked down traditional roles, for men as well as women. Not to mention the freedom we now have to choose either gender, or neither.
But it does feel more like life is giving us more choice.
Cosmopolitan Europeans are luckier than most to have access to education, opportunities and an accepting society. But it’s disheartening to grow up and find that the ideas that were passed down to you were limited – there is more out there.
So now dating is this big adventure of its own. While you’re figuring out what you want, you’re also trying to figure out who the other person is, and if that’s what you want. I find that I have this battle in my head between still needing to figure things out on my own and wanting to be with someone else. It sometimes feels like it’s backwards – as if you’re trying to find someone else before you find yourself. It is almost like dating today is a constant negotiating of one priority over others.
It is not actually that we are too busy. It’s more like we are too confused to date. But confusion, although it might not seem that way, is the new self-awareness because it means admitting you don’t have the answers. Despite what we might have grown up believing, you have nothing figured out in your twenties.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oyin Akande is from Lagos, Nigeria but is currently living in London. She is a King’s College of London graduate in English Language and Literature and is currently completing her History of Design MA at the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She has done freelance work for thandiekay.com and Wallpaper* magazine. You can follow her on instagram: oyin_oa