Dating in your twenties
Are twentysomethings too selfish to commit?
As a 22-year-old, I’m reminded by my elders on a daily basis how they would love to go back to their twenties. I’m sure if any of them spent one week dating as a twentysomething, they’d change their minds. My generation dates, lies, cheats, breaks up, rinses and repeats in a matter of days. I’m not sure if it’s because most of us just finished the nakedest, drunkest four years of our lives, but we sure are some confused, headless chickens.
A few Saturdays ago, I woke up to a text from an ex-boyfriend saying, “I missed you tonight.” But—probably due to a drunken mistake with the group message function on his smartphone—the text wasn’t just to me. Apparently, he was also missing someone with an Oregon area code. Looking more closely at my phone, I noticed I also had five missed calls from that Oregon number. At 5am, when the number called for the sixth time, I answered. It was a woman, going crazy about who I was and what was going on. Who was she? My ex’s fiancée.
I had just spent New Year’s Eve with him in Nashville (his idea), where he told me he wanted to kiss me every New Year’s from now on, so this whole business of him having a girlfriend in Oregon, whom he recently proposed to, was news to me. He denies proposing, and calls her a crazy ex. After I bonded with his (now ex-) fiancée over tossing him to the curb, I learned that crazy ex is also how he described me.
Though I was pissed at him, I have to admit that when it comes to dating, I’m not much more honest than he was—and I’m just as selfish. My vocabulary is filled with mes and Is. I’m constantly talking about what I want, what I need. Looking back at recent relationships that have fallen apart, I can pick out terrible moves I’ve pinned on others rather than taking the blame. I once yelled at a boyfriend for being needy and calling too much—as I sat across the table from another date.
But if one more person tells me I’m just too young to know love yet, I’m going to stick pencils in my eyes. My generation isn’t ignorant. We’re self-absorbed. And it’s turning dating into a joke.
Statistics on how many people my age cheat on or lie to their dates are hard to find, but when asked by Esquire magazine in 2010, 36 percent of 20-year-old males said they didn’t believe monogamy is realistic, compared to 20 percent of 50-year-old men. From anecdotal evidence, I’d say that hesitancy to commit applies to females my age, too. As social media becomes more popular, our attention spans are decreasing. It’s hard to stay focused on one thing at a time, and that includes relationships. It’s easy to talk to people 10,000 ways—through text, Facebook, Gchat, e-mail—and hide it from your other love interests. I’m sure my ex would hide from my feed any Facebook posts his fiancée wrote him. He kept his relationship with her so secret I had no clue about it, even though it was clearly serious.
A 28-year-old I spoke with pins the uptick in cheating on the message to Millennials—from TV, from magazines, from our parents—that we have all the time in the world to figure out our lives and that the twenties are a time to focus on ourselves. “That shouldn’t be license to do selfish things, but it sure makes it easy to justify them,” she says, confessing to cheating when she was 25. “My boyfriend was wrong for me, but I liked the comfort and stability of having someone—except on nights when there were more interesting prospects. And it’s much easier to lie in a text.”