and now for something completely different.

I want to take a minute to talk about something not ball of fur related. Shocking, I know. Don't worry, I included a gratuitous photo of the ball of fur annoying her cousin over Easter to soften the blow.

What I want to talk about is something I have never discussed publicly.

I want to talk about dating.

I'm single and have been for most of my adult life. If we're being honest with each other, most days I have a difficult time seeing that changing any time soon.

And not because I think I'm unlovable, undesirable, or otherwise defective.

No I don't think that at all.

The best way to explain why I think that is to explain what dating is like right now.

You see there's this thing called the hookup culture. It started back when I was in college and has grown ever more rampant in the years that followed.

Back in college we didn't date. We hung out. It was never referred to as a date and your "status" was rarely discussed. We rolled our eyes at the girls that wanted to DTR, i.e. define the relationship. They were labelled clingy and needy and insecure. When you did DTR you heavily made fun of yourself for doing so, acknowledging to your friends that you were acting like a crazy person in the process.

In college hanging out didn't always include sex of any sort. It frequently just meant hanging out in each other's dorm rooms, eating pizza or cafeteria food and watching TV or playing video games. It meant sitting near each other at tailgates and football games but not necessarily going to them together. It meant doing homework and studying together.

Since then online dating has taken over and made the problem worse. Now the whole world of single people in your area is available at your fingertips 24/7.  Being a single young adult I signed up for several dating sites over the years, hoping to find love.

There were men that came right out with inappropriate sexual remarks and who grew insulted when their overtures weren't returned. Don't even get me started at the wrath that poured out if I dared to tell them that I didn't appreciate those types of remarks.

There were men that were respectful. Until the first date was set up. As soon as we arranged to meet at X bar at Y time on Z date, comments like "I'm having you for dessert" began to roll in along with requests for nude photos to "tide them over". All requests were declined, dates cancelled, and matches promptly blocked to minimize the tirade of insults.

There were men that were respectful and never made one sexual remark. These were a refreshing change of pace. Until I didn't respond to their messages promptly enough (at least in their opinion) and a wave of insults was released.

There were men that were respectful and never made one sexual remark and were understanding when I didn't respond because I was sleeping or in court or in a yoga class. They would ask to meet and I'd say yes and then they'd simply disappear. Sometimes they would show for a few dates and then simply disappear.

There were men that were respectful and that showed up for date after date only to simply disappear when I dared to suggest that we were dating even though that's exactly what were doing. No, they insisted that it was just causal and grew jealous if I dared to speak to another man.

But it wasn't just the men.

It was the women too. The women who judged and labelled me a prude & said I was anti-feminist for not sleeping with someone after the first date. The women who gently suggested that maybe, just maybe, I should consider changing my expectations if I wanted to find love. The women who shrugged and said I hate it too but what can you do? It's the only way to not be alone.

And if this is how dating is for a white woman, I can't imagine the horrors a woman of color must face.

So I'd put down the phone and turn on the TV, exhausted with it all and wanting to zone out for a bit, only to find show after show that suggested that I was abnormal for not wanting to participate in the larger culture.

By last fall I reached a point where I wanted to give up the fight and just join this hookup culture, this culture that jumps from sexual encounter to sexual encounter with this deep-seated fear of emotional intimacy and a tendency to just ghost when they got everything they wanted from you.

But I knew that wasn't me.

I wanted to be romanced, swept off my feet, pursued by someone who only had eyes for me. I wanted someone who took the initiative and who opened doors and paid for meals. I didn't want to be one of 20 different women they were talking to through an app on a phone, knowing that if I said no they still had 19 other chances to find something to do this weekend. I didn't want our first date to be "hey wanna grab a drink after work on Tuesday? You pick the place."

The whole process grew exhausting. Notifications from a dating app that were once exciting were met with a grown and dread. Everything was reduced to rough calculations with all emotion removed: if I viewed A profiles I would get B responses. Out of B responses C would ask me on a date. Out of C potential dates only D would be respectful and polite about it. And out of D respectful potential dates, only E would actually show up and be respectful in person.

That's not romance.

That's networking.

Networking is all good and fine for business.

But this wasn't business. It wasn't my career.

So I stopped. I deleted accounts and apps and walked away from it all.

Don't get me wrong, I want very much to fall in love and get married but there has to be a better way.

I'm not advocating for a return to the old ways when women were expected to be chaste & pure and only be interested in finding a man to settle down and raise a family with.

But is what we have now any better?

Or is the same thing, only flipped on its head so that sex is the goal and intimacy to be feared but still with the same societal pressures to conform to the mold?

At the end of the day all we have is the illusion of choice without any actual choice.

And I don't want to chose that which I should be choosing.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't clutch my pearls in horror when a friend tells me about their sexual exploits. I don't judge or condemn or think less of them for that. I have countless good friends who lived with significant others without being married to them. I don't think them immoral or hell bound for it.

It's the same tricky line we've always walked, really, the same Madonna/whore division.

I don't know where this leaves people like me. But I bet there are far more of us out there than we realize. I know people that engage in the hookup culture while longing for something more meaningful.

What I do know is this: it's hard out there for single young adults.

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