Most people have an easy time accepting green juice and facials and Pilates as a form of self care, but we have such a harder time accepting self control, responsibility, stewardship, self respect, and patience as acts of self care as well.
As stewards of our hearts, minds and bodies it is up to us that we practice self care in more ways than just mani/pedis and meditative yoga. It is important that we also practice self care for our hearts and minds by saying no to things that do no serve us, or who do not build us, or that keep us astray from our goals of the kinds of people we want to be.
I feel that the conversations surrounding self care have been disparagingly absent of introspection. Self care has come to embody tangible, physical practices like eating clean and working out, eliminating toxic people and elaborate spa rituals, and yet when do we focus on what is on the inside as much as what is on the outside? Mainstream visions of self car often emphasize external factors in need of change, and instead lack components of self-accountability. It is usually something outside of ourselves that needs to be changes, eliminated, disposed of, or altered in order to “improve” things, rather than heading to the root, ourselves.
Cleaning up our tangible environments can be therapeutic, practicing yoga can make us strong, using a facial cream can make us pretty, and cutting out negative people can make us feel better, but if we are not actively cleaning up ourselves on the inside we are going to continue to feel unfulfilled and yucky.
And yet it is much much easier and frankly more comfortable to call a wine and Netflix night self care rather than doing the dirty work of cleaning up our souls. What if we focused on self improvement and the challenging task of humbling ourselves as self care? What is self care was recognizing ways that we are toxic, hurtful, selfish and unkind and then seeking ways to change that behavior? How would that change our perspective? How would that better our lives? How would that challenge us?
Self care has become a romanticized, socially justifiable way of acting selfishly. We cancel plans, spend money we don’t have, and give ourselves permission to behave however feels good in the moment all in the name of self care.
In many ways self care dangerously toes the line of “worship of the self,” as it prioritizes ones own needs above others, lacks humility, emphasizes innate goodness in ones self, and encourages whatever feels good regardless of long term consequences. And the biggest problem is that it is portrayed as virtuous and excusable.
I want to challenge myself and other women to reflect on self care in a new light. What if instead of it being a self-centered process it became a selfless one? What if we focused on recognizing ways that we could change our own actions, attitudes and behaviors in favor of ones that reflect a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control?
Facials and shopping are great, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t going to bring us any closer to joy, fulfillment, peace, introspection, or truth in our own lives.
So how can we change the focus of self care? What can we instead focus on? Here is a list of ways we can re- focus on self care:
1. Ask for forgiveness
The best way to relinquish yourself from resentment, bitterness and anger in favor of more peace is by forgiving those who have hurt you. Forgiveness is not for the people who have hurt you, it is not an act of them accepting blame or admitting fault, it is an act of you relinquishing yourself from anger and resentment. Forgiveness is for you and your own peace. 2. Practice gratitude Practice giving thanks for the blessings in your life, whether by making a list or showing your thankfulness to people in your life. Thankfulness is a lifestyle and not just an attitude to adopt when things are going great. Thankfulness is a choice to find and relish the blessings in life no matter the circumstance.
2. Admit to flaws and imperfections
We can’t get anywhere in self improvement journeys without first admitting that we have faults and failures. Sometimes this means admitting we aren’t perfect and sometimes it means not blaming others for the things that have gone wrong in your life. it is important to accept responsibility and to knowledge that we are all broken individuals in need of forgiveness. 4. Practice humility Hand in hand with accepting fault is recognizing that we aren’t all “perfect just the way we are,” in fact we are broken people in a broken world. I don’t say this to be depressing and morbid to but to offer perspective as we go through life and interact with others. Humility means thinking of others instead of our selves. Humility doesn’t mean viewing yourself as inferior, rather it is rooted in serving others and viewing one’s self with modesty. CS Lewis said it best when he said “true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
3. Practice acts of service and expect nothing in return
Want to know how to feel really good about yourself? Focus on someone else! Practicing service, from just listening to a friend or serving at a local charity can grant us both perspective as well as personal fulfillment. Contrary to popular belief, it can actually be exhausting to think about yourself 24/7. Rather, serving those around us without any expectation for reparations is a wonderful way to redirect our attention and re-align our purpose, values and goals in life.
4. Practice self control
Self control has gotten a bad rep in recent times, as we have culturally gravitated more into glorifying self acceptance and giving into ones’s urges. And yet self control is an age old virtue that asks us to practice discipline rather than just giving into whatever feels good in the moment or might satisfy our lusts. Self control releases us from the prison of continually seeking out novelty and pleasure and instead helps us to align with seeking out what is enriching, life giving, encouraging, and righteous. Self control helps us find empowerment via discipline. Self care isn’t all about just giving into what feels good in that moment, self care means taking steps today that help us to have a better tomorrow, even if it isn’t always what is the most fun or the most comfortable.
There is a reason the monks are celibate and why fasting is a component of religious practices, it is because self control makes you stronger, more alert, more aware and more in control of your actions, attitudes and behaviors. Meanwhile constant pursuit of pleasure makes you weak, malleable and distracted from things that really matter.
As women let’s especially practice true self care and empowerment by seeking out actions, attitudes and behaviors that help us grow. Pursuing what is truly “best” for us is often uncomfortable and challenging rather than always been fun, novel, or comfortable and yet it is those steps that are necessary to take to help us cultivate our best character traits. Yes we are all born as valuable humans, but that doesn’t not mean that the work stops there. In fact in order to cultivate more loving, peaceful, wholesome, faithful virtues it is important that we push ourselves each and every day to turn from what is not feeding those characteristics and helping us to grow into the best versions of yourselves.
I love me a good facial and dropping some cash on Amazon, but it is so important that I recognize that if we really want to cultivate our best selves we need to start by cleaning up what is on the inside and adopting new patterns of actions, attitudes and behaviors.
Aw college, the hallowed halls of higher education, crafting and molding the great minds of our next generation….or at least that is what our parents were thinking when they dropped us off at our freshman dorms with tear- studded eyes and overflowing egos, eager to see how college would transform their precious offspring into future leaders and politicians and digital nomads.
All the while most freshman are thinking about parties and exotic new sex terms they have never heard of before and whether they really will be able to manage an 8am class.
I think it is safe to say that college has evolved and transformed over the last few centuries, from esteemed halls of prodigy, to a holding zone for young adults between the ages of 18-22, who aren’t quite ready to become responsible adults yet, but have also outgrown living at home and curfews. And while education is an undoubtedly necessary and significant rite of passage that all young people should have the opportunity to pursue if they choose, the truth is that the university system as we know it has become more of a social and cultural coming of age period for young people. Regardless of your talents or brains or financial status there is a college that will take just about anyone. The result is a lot of people who are just there to have fun and make a fat paycheck when they graduate. The focus has shifted from being a space for the most brilliant minds to congregate and build careers and more to that of a four year long social gathering focused on fun, personal exploration and social programming.
That in mind, I loved college! It was so great that I decided to get a Master’s right after my undergrad because I just wasn’t ready to leave school! But as we know, college is certainly not all about education and learning, today’s college experience is now embedded with social traditions, cultural norms, and hegemony surrounding the types of experiences you shouldbe having. The college experience has absorbed lots of ideas about dating, sex, lifestyle and relationships, some of which are helpful, but are not always the right choice for everyone. The truth is that the college experience is going to be different for everyone and what might be really fulfilling for one person might not be for someone else. There really is no universal way to enjoy and get the most out of college.
That said there are definitely rules of thumb that can help you get the most out of college, whatever that might look like for you. Here are a few things I wish I had known and can now look back in retrospect with a new appreciation and understanding of:
Most college guys, no matter how awesome, will probably not make good boyfriends
College is generally a time for irresponsibility and selfishness, which for the most part is good. In terms of school and grades and career, college is a pretty opportune time to get selfish with your goals and to just focus on yourself. However this means most guys( and people in general) are not ready to be good boyfriends. Lots of guys who will someday make amazing husbands and fathers are acting like douchy fuckbois during college, and even though there is potential with lots of these guys, most should simply be left alone. Obviously there are some diamonds in the rough out there, but in general most college guys are in party/hookup/selfish mode which is mutually exclusive to boyfriend/commitment mode. Girls like projects and fixer uppers, but the truth is that most guys needs to make all the mistakes, and have all the hookups, and be the fratstars that we hate in order to figure themselves out (and figure out what we girls probably already know). Which is that that is not sustainable nor is it fulfilling for very long. The moral of the story is that for the most part college guys need to be taken with a grain of salt, and don’t be surprised when that cute guy you’ve been seeing every weekend for three months “doesn’t want anything serious.”
Be okay being alone/ single
If most college guys are simply not commitment material that means that girls need to be okay with being alone/single for parts of college. This is not to say that you won’t meet the love of your life in a frat basement or in Mon/Wed/Fri Chem, only that considering the odds of guys ready to commit in college, don’t be shocked when most campus romances fizzle out or are short-lived. That said, girls need to learn the fine art of being single. And an art it really is, especially when the culture is constantly telling us that we need a relationships status to define us. Ladies, learn to be comfortable being on your own and being your own identity independent of another person.
College is a wonderful time to develop strong friendships and focus on yourself, and instead avoid the messy dating culture, or lack there of, that permeates most college campuses. Don’t waste your precious college years crying over loser boys that are not adding anything to your life and for the love of God don’t waste valuable study time wondering if some horny dickhead from a party likes you. Likewise, lots of girls agree that college is a time to experiment or to not be held back by a relationship and so they turn to hookup culture to meet their physical needs while also maintaining independence. While hookup culture satisfies this need for some girls, it also can be a huge downfall for others. When I say be okay being alone/single I don’t just mean not having a boyfriend or a fling, I also mean be okay with not having a fuck buddy or a routine hookup. Lots of girls look to hookups to keep things casual and no-strings-attached, but often times they create more drama because girls make the mistake of not being honest with themselves about what they want from it, or simply from ignoring their own biology that often bonds women to their partners. Sorry it is just how it works! Even if it is just physical, it is still looking to someone else to satisfy or fulfill a need. Likewise things often have a tendency to get messy and leave you in the same crying-over-dickhead scenario as described above.
I am not saying to never date or never hookup, only that I think college is an important time to be independent and find fulfillment apart from another person. College is a special time to create an amazing life for yourself, one that shouldn’t be held back by immature boys who probably aren’t worth your time. So while dating and relationships are often a part of the college culture, it is for the most part a very selfish, self centered time in which most young people aren’t ready to be in mature, selfless, healthy relationships, whether that be exclusive dating or friends with benefits.
Hookup culture is not for everyone and that is okay
Hookup culture is a vast and ingrained part of the college experience, in which most college freshman step onto campus thinking they are going to get laid every night of the week and wind up in bed with new hotties every weekend. The media in particular has promoted such an idea in TV and movies and even magazines that break down how to have a great hookup. Basically, college students are left with the impression that not only is hookup culture a significant part of university, but that it is necessary to a fun, fulfilling collegiate experience. While yes, lots of college students are going to have sex and lots are going to have casual sex with friends, acquaintances, and strangers it is A. Not necessary to your college experience and B. No, you wont’t be the only one that feels that way. Essentially hooking up is NOT for everyone, even if the kids in the caf, and the media, and people who sit next to you in calc might make you feel like you are the ONLY one not partaking. In fact most students will actually not be partaking, or at least not partaking to the extent you think they are partaking. Sex is a very personal choice, and one that should not be molded based on the peer pressures around you or the social stigmas attached to what collegeshouldlook like. I feel like many students partake because they feel like it is what they oughtto be doing or that by not they are missing out on some existential sexual revolution. Visions of casual/wild/ meaningless sex might not always be the answer to whatever fun, fulfilling experience you are looking to find in college. Sex should never just be the means to filling an empty void in your life.
Wild partying and abundant drinking is not an indicator of how fun and fulfilling your college experience is
As with sex, the college experience is convoluted with images and connotations about what sorts of debauchery you ought to be partaking in in order to be living your best collegiate life. The truth is that while college will certainly be filled with fun and late nights and wild adventures don’t believe the lie that alcohol must be the catalyst for all your best college stories or that alcohol and drugs and partying is a necessary gateway to a fun college experience that you will otherwise “regret.” Some of your best college memories will be cooking dinner with your roommates or having a sleepover with your best friends every night or going for a long heartfelt walk on campus with you bff , or a spring break road trip, or renting kayaks at the local lake or hiking with your dorm floor. College doesn’t’ have to be hedonistic to be fun or satisfying.
If you can afford to without going into debt ALWAYS do study abroad
I know everyone says this, but study abroad truly will change your life. It did mine! The only exception I will make to this is that you should never go into debt to do, if you have to work a few extra shifts or pick up a summer job to afford it, please do, but if you have to go into debt say no for now and look for travel opportunities post grad. Study abroad is a magical experience that everyone vows to do on the first day of freshman year and yet when the time comes life often gets in the way and excuses are made such as worrying about graduating on time or having to do a long distance relationship. The truth is that study abroad is sort of a once in a lifetime chance to travel and learn without other pressing life matters getting in the way. After graduation you might have a full-time job and later down the road you will marry and have kids, but while you are in college is still a wide open expanse of opportunity. Take the leap and go! No one ever regrets study abroad!
Get involved in activities and find a tribe
Again, this is pretty cliche advice, but the college experience is fueled by activities and finding groups of like minded people with similar interests. Whether it be clubs, sports, teams, the arts or student government find something you enjoy doing and a group of people you enjoy doing it with. This is a great way to make lifelong friends as well as pursue passions and interests in a particular niche, something that becomes harder to do after college when life gets in the way.
Know the different between when you are better off going to sleep and when to stay up
I feel like puling all-nighters and wild nights spent staying up into the wee hours are staples of college, but I am here to tear that myth apart. Sleep is important. Sleep is the difference between successful people and all the hot mess people that memes are about. There will be some nights where staying up is important, like having an important conversation with a friend or a fun night out that you know will make a really special memory. However there will be nights where rest is important and you are better off going to sleep knowing that FOMO is just that, fear.
Don’t take everything you lean in class as the gospel truth, always be a discerning consumer of information
Yes, for the most part your professors are intelligent, worldly, experienced individuals who are probably smarter that you, but the difference between the mass hordes of students who get pushed through the college system and truly wise students, are those who ask questions, analyze what they are told and are discerning consumers of information. Anyone can sit in a class and take notes like a robot, but the best and brightest will question what they are told and seek out alternative answers and verification. Remember most universities have an agenda in regards to what they want their students to walk away with after four year and what they want them to think and feel, and it is your job to figure out what that is and then dissect that mission to see how well it correlates with your beliefs, values and judgements about the world.
If you are studying humanities your major doesn’t really matter so pick something you enjoy
The humanities get a bad rap in the university system these days. Most people are quick to judge a liberal arts degree on its lack of job prospects or its limited salary opportunities, but the truth is that the humanities make the world go round and most of why the humanities are important, or where scholarship is being formed, is not inside a classroom, unlike the sciences or technology. Rather the humanities are most vibrant outside of college campuses in theaters and bookstores and living rooms gathering round the TV. Therefore if you are choosing to study something in the humanities, or social sciences even, don’t worry so much about the specific degree or the major, just choose something that you enjoy. A person with a world languages degree can still become a college president, a person with a communications degree can still become a CEO, a person with a dance degree can still become a lawyer. The degree itself should be more focused on what brings you joy and passion as opposed to job prospects or salary, not because those things don’t matter but because after graduation your major become less relevant to your career. To be honest most jobs in the humanities are looking for a college degree, not what your major was.
Community college is a great choice- not a cop out or inferior to a university
As someone who works in the community college system I am a huge proponent of its academic and financial opportunities. People will be quick to point out that it is not as fun or fulfilling as a 4 year college, but I feel like people are so quick to judge community college as inferior both socially and academically. However, community college is a great for people who are unsure what they want to study or want to get their grades up or want to/need to save money on tuition. it is so important to validate the choice to go to community college as a wise and responsible choice. Most community colleges allow for more one on one teaching and stronger relationships between students and professors. There are also tons of community colleges with great student programs and dorms!
Going to college is not necessarily a sign of intelligence or superiority
That said, and in light of the college admissions scandal, please note that going to a four year university does not mean you are better or smarter than anyone else. Not everyone deserves their spot in a 4 year university. It is also not the straight and narrow to success. lots of high schools will pressure students to go to 4 year schools to make them look good, while neglecting the fact that all students are different and everyone is on a different path in which a 4 year degree is not necessarily the best path for every student. Likewise, your college experience is what you make of it. Whether you are at Harvard of a poorly ranked state school, your college experience has the potential you allow it to have.
Use all that free time wisely!
Never again will you have as much free time as you do in college. Class from 11am until 2pm! Then afternoons and weekend free! Oh you don’t have Friday classes? What a paradise of irresponsibility! Partying every night! Sleeping until 2! But not so fast! All this free time is a precious gift not to be squandered on drunken bacchanals and sleeping until 2! After college it is 40 hour work weeks and days where you wished you just had 2 extra hours in the day to do something other than work, exercise, laundry and sleep. While you’re in college use all that time to pursue passion projects, start a business, get a side job and start saving money, join a inter-mural league, pick up a new hobby, learn a new language, exercise, the list goes on and on. Trust me on this one, you will miss those college days when you have to transition to the adult work week with no school holidays or summer vacations. You will miss all those carefree afternoons and endless playtime. Make sure you make it worth it! Never again will you have that kind of free time to pursue your dreams and goals.
College is a tricky time full of expectations and hazy glimpses of an unclear future, and there are loads of things I wish I had known, or can see clearer, now that I have left the dorms and dirty frat alleys behind. College is a time to explore and experiment and pursue, and yet life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself, sometimes you just have to learn from other people’s mistakes.
Money. Money. Money. Must be funny in the rich man’s world. Ahh the lyrics to another lit ABBA bop that also happens to be relate-able af.
I know that this blog has primarily been about Millennial dating with splashes of culture critique here and there, but I want to chat a bit about money. Trust me I can make this relevant. You see money is a huge concern for millennials and ends up affecting their dating lives in many ways, whether they avoid it because they cant afford to take their Tinder hottie out to drinks, or girls looking for sugar daddies, or perhaps a man does want to propose because he is yet to get his finances in order. See I just tied it back to dating didn’t I? Money can actually have a huge impact on our dating lives whether we realize it or not. Truth be told money is the number one thing that couples fight about. If you can get your finances and debt in order now you will a. make yourself a more appealing mate and b. save yourself the trouble of entering into a debt ridden, financially unstable hot bed of resentment when you eventually want to settle down.
The point is that money is a rather pressing matter for most Millennials, mostly because we are often caught in a dichotomous relationship with money and what we are suppose to be doing with it in our early twenties. On one hand the culture is rather adamant in telling us to “treat yo self” and that self care is comprised of luxury skin care purchases and manicures. We are often instructed that little luxuries are a right and not well…luxuries. On the other hand, we can’t seem to escape the deluge of news telling us how financially screwed millennials are, that we can’t afford homes due to our insatiable appetites for avocado toast, and we are drowning under student loan debt and that we are the most over educated and underemployed generation of all time. The two conflicting messages are confusing and daunting. One side of the story is telling me I am irreparably poor and the other is that I am entitled to constant frivolities. Where is the truth in this stream of messaging????
So first and foremost i want to unpack where these messages come from. They come from the media, an institution hell bent on keeping poor and miserable so that we look to them for whatever antidote they are selling. Obviously a “treat yo self” mindset is great for business! The spa business must be thriving! Likewise, financial consultation and so-called “get rich quick” schemes are big businesses in the western world, and the poorer people are, or at least feel (a la social media comparison) the more likely they are going to seek out solutions to problems that are perhaps not even real problems. Yeah, millennials have debt, but I wouldn’t exactly call them an impoverished generation with their fancy college degrees, North Face jacket collections, and Amazon Prime addictions. Yes, their 12 TV show subscriptions and weekly bottomless brunch routines might be irresponsible, but it doesn’t exactly scream financial struggling. All I am saying, is that it is possible the vague entity called the media is exaggerating/creating the “crisis” of millennials finances for their own benefit… Wouldn’t be the first time…
Now that we have called into question the legitimacy of millennial wealth or lack there of, lets get to my actual point. Millennials do have a lot of irresponsible money mindsets that i want to challenge. Regardless of where we rank on the salary totem pole, Millennials have an often negative relationship with money. They don’t know how to spend responsibly or save carefully and are unsure where to draw the line between the two. Moreover, most millennials just want to know how they can “live their truth” and follow their passions while also not going broke.
The truth is that regardless of what you make you can still accumulate wealth.
1. Change your mindset to live off of lessThink about how much you spend each month. Where does it all go? if you were to strip down that spending to the absolute bare bones necessity how much could you truly live off of? I want to challenge millennials to take a hard look at what really truly constitutes as necessary spending in their lives. When we make more we often spend more, but what if your expenditures did not change with income and your lifestyle remained the same no matter how much your salary increased over time? You would save a ton right!? Well that is the kind of mind set I want to encourage. Increasing our lifestyle every time we make more money keeps us enslaved to the system and creates wealth dependence not wealth Independence. When your lifestyle is independent of your income you are free from living paycheck to paycheck and your wealth is free to grow at increasing rates. So what does this look like? Reduce your lifestyle to bare bones necessities with a few splurges for priority items here and there and watch as you find yourself free from financial burdens. it is all about creating a more sustainable lifestyle, and not I am not talking about composting. It is about creating a lifestyle that doesn’t require much financial upkeep and leaves plenty of room for saving, rather than spending. So ditch the expensive habits and brand loyalty and treats in favor of a lifestyle that need only a minimum salary to maintain.
2. Make sacrifices There is no such thing as wealth without sacrifice. It is a necessary component. What this means is that while you should treat yourself now and then and have a few splurges in which you enjoy your life, note that you will never accumulate wealth without making sacrifices in your spending and lifestyle choices. Shop at cheaper grocery stores, use coupons, drive a shittier car with cheaper insurance for a a while, delay gratification until you can actually afford it outright, say no to frivolous spending, live at home for a while, say no to things you know won’t make you happier to add value to your life beyond a fleeting moment. I am not saying to quick eating out, but when you eat out that $30 meal lasted an hour, while the same 30 dollars could buy groceries for the week, or fill up your gas tank, or purchase a new dress that you wear for years. Be mindful of value and the value of the dollar. Recognize that sacrifice does not mean living worse with no benefits, it means making changes in which there will be more benefits in the future, such as a fatter savings account and the freedom to make bigger purchases when you are ready. Wouldn’t it be worth it to live at home for a year longer if it meant you could buy your own home 5 years sooner???
3. Become addicted to saving Saving money doesn’t sound like much fun, but once you start meeting those savings goals it is hard to not get excited watching that number in your account grow. Soon making that account transfer is a source of endorphins and helps re-prioritize your spending. Perhaps that purchase you were saving up for does not really mean so much? Maybe it is more fun to keep your savings and keep growing it!
4. Create new channels of wealth and never become dependent on one channel The key to true financial independence is to never become dependent upon a sole income. When you are dependent upon that one income channel you reduce your options to make changes and adjustments in your life whether they are voluntary or involuntary. Being a slave to one job and one income means you are unable to step away from that position if you so chose, or perhaps if life got in the way. More income and more savings means more freedom and more options to make changes in your life. Maybe you want to go back to school or move to a new city or country, or stay at home with your kids more, or maybe you just want to take time off and travel, or maybe you want to go to part-time instead? Without single income dependence these opportunities become more manageable and realistic. As with dating, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, rather create a multitude of opportunities and possible opportunities for yourself. So what does this look like? It looks like having at least one side hustle, which in this gig economy is more than feasible, it looks like making investments with your savings, and it looks like saving as much of your salaries as you can.
I know Instagram is a huge source of information on how our generation lives, or at least how we think our generation lives. Often times the ‘gram makes us think that the majority of our peers are on yachts in the Maldives sipping rose while you are at your cubicle job. This is both unrealistic and a false comparison based on a curated highlight reel. As a result, Instagram creates a lot of feeling of jealousy, inadequacy and social comparison that can drive us to a. feel bad about our own lives and b. inspire us to make purchases we don’t need. I myself have never spent more on skin care than I have while following beauty bloggers! It isn’t even necessarily that i am buying what they are selling , more that I felt more like I needed fancier skincare after watching their videos. It made me feel like I was one step closer to achieving their seemingly perfect lives.
I think too often we get caught up with living our best life today, rather than preparing for our best life over the course of the next 40 years. And trust me when I say it does not take a fat salary to become wealthy, being wealthy really comes down to making wise money choices with whatever means you have, whether that be limited or abundant. Even if you have a entry level salary you can still save and accumulate wealth by living off of less, making sacrifices. becoming addicted to saving and creating multiple channels of income.
Remember when you were a kid and mom would say you were not allowed to watch certain movies? She would say it was because you were not old enough to watch such a scary/violent/inappropriate/(fill in the blank) movie, and that you had to wait until you were older. Up until a certain age mom and dad pretty much monitored whatever it was you were watching on TV or listening to on your Walkman (I am an adult millennial okay?). You probably tried to get away with watching an R rated movie or listening to that one 50 Cent song your mom would always turn off when it was on the radio. Then one day you were free! Somewhere between age 13 and 18, depending on how strict your parents were, the world of entertainment was your oyster! You could read all the Cosmo’s you wanted and watch any movie and listen to any unedited version of a song you wanted! In retrospect your fragile, malleable, pre-pubescent brain was not mature enough to engage with certain content. But as you got older and wised up the assumption became that you were mature and responsible enough to watch scary movies without having to lose a week’s sleep, or you could watch a TV show with sexual content and not be traumatized.
Yet as we have grown up how often do we ask ourselves whether the media we engage with is toxic to us? The assumption is that we are mature and responsible enough to make good choices about what we listen to, read and watch, and yet most adults rarely question their own media engagement or call into discussion it’s toxicity.
I teach dance classes to young children and the other day I played the song “7 Rings” By Arianna Grande for my class to warm up to. One of the girls informed me that while it was one of her favorite songs she was no longer allowed to listen to it. I apologized, turned it off and asked if it was inappropriate, because to my knowledge there was only the muffled use of a bad word or two. She told me that her parents said they did not want her listening to the song because it gloried money and told listeners that money could solve their problems. My initial reaction to her explanation was that yeah she was right and that kids were too malleable to listen to certain messages even if it was just a fun, catchy tune. Adults, on the other hand are discerning enough to recognize that it is just a fun song and that Arianna is not reallyinsisting that materialism is a solution to our problems or that money can substitute therapy. Right?! And yet as I thought more about the short interaction I began to realize that perhaps the 8 year old girl was imparting a wisdom that most adults were prone to shrug off and ignore because they were over calculating their own maturity.
The reality is that even though we are supposedly educated, mature adults who have the ability to discern what is good for us and what is toxic, we rarely do it. We often put ourselves in the position as passive consumers of media rather than active ones. All too often we allow ourselves to succumb to the mind-numbing, almost comatose state of turning our brains off and passively absorbing the subliminal messaging all around. How often do we stop and ask ourselves what the messages are in the songs we listen to and the TV shows we watch? And how often do we ask whether they are uplifting, truthful, and/or helpful to us?
Back in the day most ads with hypnotic charms were aimed at kids, like sugary cereal ads where the kids would watch TV and then beg their parents for the same cereal at the super market. The media got in trouble for trying to manipulate and target kids who were not mature or intelligent enough to discern that the messages were meant to manipulate and beguile them. And while most people feel that was a triumph against the pervasive messaging of the omnipotent, omnipresent media, that same tactic regularly influences bona fide adults as they too shut their brains off and allow subliminal messaging to trigger deeply rooted emotions like a need to be liked/loved or to feel worthy and valued.
When asked, most people are quick to admit that the “media” in general is “bad” for us. We are constantly coming into contact with “Fake News” and advertising that over-sexualizes and objectifies women. We continually bemoan the toxicity of mainstream news outlets like Fox and CNN that sensationalize news into a “he said she said” battle where correspondents and commentators see who can talk over one another the loudest about issues that are meant to keep us bickering rather than seek out solutions. We know that social media has a correlation to depression and that most rap songs have horrible messages and yet when do we actually say, “this is bad for me” and turn it off? How often do we truly recognize the intent of the media around us? That is often aimed at getting us to dislike something about ourselves that we are told can be fixed with a purchase. The media’s constant goal is keep us dissatisfied and until we recognize that and take steps to reduce our engagement we remain under it’s stronghold.
So what types of media should we start analyzing more deeply? What kinds of messages are being perpetuated? There is a huge difference between screening out messages we KNOW are bad for us, and toxic messages that are disguised as empowering, positive messages.
Everybody knows that most modern, popular music is garbage and yet we listen to it because we are “here for the beats and the not lyrics.” However, what we fails to recognize is that subliminal, subconscious messaging is a very potent form of communication. It is an effective form of propaganda that is often even more powerful because we too callously brush it off as “just a good song.” But how often do we actually analyze the lyrics of our favorite jams as we sing along on our way to work?
While we are aware that most rap music is misogynist and objectifying to women, most of our other favorite pop songs carry similar messages of over-sexualizing women, promoting promiscuity, romanticizing alcoholism, condoning violence against women, and worshiping of materialism and consumerism. While most of us are somewhat aware of these messages, we usually write them off without examining how much influence they carry over us and whether these are positive influences in our self-image, relationships, or view on money. For example, we are often unaware at how a song about women using men for money can affect how women are portrayed and how they act towards men. Or how a song glamorizing a breakup can influence our dating habits.
Most glossy women’s magazines run a lot of similar content, something that should be our first tip off that print is no longer pure journalism, the helping hand of democracy, but rather a strong grip in keeping us dissatisfied. Most mainstream women’s magazines pose as “feminist” and “pro-women,” yet they are are more complicit than we realize in keeping us as comatose masses eager to pull out our purses and pursue hedonistic pleasure in the name of empowerment. Most women’s magazine’s perpetuate the idea that self care can be achieved through consumerism, as if a face mask will solve all your problems, or that self care could also be sitting in front of Netflix allowing yourself to be passively influenced and sold ideas. Either way selfish, pleasure-seeking, consumerist behavior has been repackaged and sold to millions of women as “self care.” Whose idea do you think that was? The beauty industry or a therapist?
Magazines also communicate to women that promiscuity, pleasure seeking, hedonistic behavior is fun and empowering, although it is actually very damaging mentally and emotionally to lots of women. If we take a look at the root of these sorts of messages it makes sense that the media would want to keep women in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction with their lives, continually seeking out novel pleasures and material gratification. It is good for business! It also begs the question of where do most women get their information about feminism? From the media you say? And wouldn’t most women agree that the media is toxic in most forms? So why on earth would we trust the media’s take on feminism, especially if most of the media is owned by white, billionaire men with monopolies on the information we consume?
Articles glorifying a career over a family and hook up culture over marriage present a singular idea of femininity under the false pretense of “supporting all women.” Moreover these narrow concepts of female empowerment often glamorize climbing the ladder of consumerist, corporate America and pursuing cheap, physical pleasures as “liberating” and “empowering” without offering alternative choices to women or exploring the pros and cons.
Most of us have gotten pretty lax with the types of TV/movies we watch, always self-assured that our adult brains are not influenced by any amount of cursing, sex, or violence we may see on TV. Yet, what if those should not be our foremost worries? Violence and cursing have little to no impact on most women, however things like the way men and women are portrayed on TV/movies are potent indicators of female behavior and attitudes in real life. Most women fail to recognize the way relationships are shown in tv/movies and the effect they might have on how we view real relationships.
For example, most tv/movies positively portray promiscuity and hooking up as glamorous, fun, sexy, exciting and empowering with very little reveal of the emotional or mental consequences of casual sex. Likewise, media often shows a very negative portrayal of married life, as boring and soul-sucking with tropes such as the nagging wife, the lazy husband, marital weight gain, obnoxious children and lackluster (if any) sex lives. Ultimately, marriage is shown as the death of romance, while sex without commitment is fun and empowering.
On the other end of the spectrum movies and TV can also show romance in very idealistic terms that can also put wildly high expectations on dating and romance. We see images of firework first kisses and men as knights in shining armor there to rescue women from the misery of single life, and we become bitter when our real relationships don’t unfold quite like The Notebook or Titanic.
Yeah yeah yeah we have heard it before, Facebook is bad for us, and our generation is more depressed than ever due to comparisons of false realities on social media where people force us to watch their desperate attempts for attention and validations through “stories” and “posts.” And yet there is more than meets the eye in terms of why social media is toxic. I, like most millennial women, follow lots of influencers on social media. Now don’t get me wrong I very much admire the premise of bloggers, who are using social media to become empowered girl boss entrepreneurs. For the most part, most bloggers seem eager to spread beauty and positivity to other women, and yet why do I still always feel like I hate myself after I watch one of their stories about their vacay to Cabo or a post on Botox?
Why do I continue to feel a gnawing anxiety that I am not pretty enough or skinny enough or am failing to have a complex enough skincare routine? Am I suppose to be able to afford a Gucci clutch? Is my health at stake if I don’t have a 6$ green juice from a hip shop in LA?
I think that while bloggers have mostly good intentions, these get lost in an overall materialistic concentration focused on sales. And unfortunately consumerism’s biggest advocate is a dissatisfaction with the way that we are naturally. Lots of followers are left with the impression that they are not meeting the continual demands for women to be thin and beautiful, in spite of messaging that we are “perfect just the way we are.” It is confusing and it is hypocritical. I am pretty enough, but I am definitely not the prettiest unless I have a new facemask??
We are continually told that it is the male perversion of beauty and male objectivity of females that keep us chasing unrealistic beauty standards, and yet these are women keeping us trapped in a rat race of dissatisfaction with our appearance.
A lot of blogging is a carefully curated feed made to look perfect, and while we are mostly aware of this, it does not stop us from comparing our own “drab” lives to their “glamorous” ones. The affects of comparison are dissatisfaction, ungratefulness, selfishness and greed.
SO what? Should I move to a cabin in the woods?
The most important step in getting out from under the media’s iron grip is to first recognize that every message the media sends is mostly about keeping us anxious, dissatisfied, unhappy, and in a continual state of seeking instant gratification, novelty, and pleasure to assuage our “unhappiness.” As soon as we recognize that, we can break free of the shackles. But the work does not end there. We need to focus on no longer being passively entertained by mindless media, and instead stay alert and discerning to messages. It is imperative that we bring into question what said messages are and how they are influencing us. Are they making us happier? Is it only for short bursts of time? Or are they making us feel more miserable in the long run? Are they keeping us glued to TV’s full of negative stereotypes about men and women? Are they keeping us chasing after material possessions in corporate America, but selling it as empowerment? Are they telling us what kind of woman to be and what “empowerment” looks like? Is the news just laundry lists of “bad” stuff going on and arguments meant to keep us distracted with issues that will be old news the next day anyways?
It is important that we question and dissect the influx of messages around us. For example we should ask ourselves why casual sex is so glorified in almost every media outlet, is it because the media understands our needs, and wants what is best for us, or is it because they know that the constant pursuit of meaningless sex is ultimately dissatisfying and that a dissatisfied person is more likely to be an avid consumer of whatever “antidote” they are selling, whether it be alcohol, new clothes, a boob job, or a fad diet.
The media has long believed that women were more influenced by pathos-based advertising due to our emotional nature and often uses that against women. This is why I encourage women especially to embrace empowerment not through consumerism and pleasure-seeking(ultimately fool-hardy pursuits), but through discernment and pursuing wisdom. Wisdom in the face of an avalanche of toxic, conflicting messages is the most empowering tool you can gain. True female empowerment comes from strong values rooted in truth and justice and discernment.
Relationships are a huge part of our lives no matter how “empowered” we are. And although having a boyfriend or not having one is in no way a reflection of your value, it does not mean that the loss of a relationship does not hurt.
The days of Ben and Jerry’s binges and long nights crying into a pillow are over. In recent years the idea of the breakup, and how one should treat a breakup, has had a vast makeover. Revenge bodies as inspired by Khloe Kardashian and rebound hotties are the new post-breakup traditions. As strong, empowered 21st century women we are not suppose to let men get us down. Men are not suppose to define our identities or our happiness. Sometimes this is taken to far out extremes where we are often taught through vague, innocuous terms that men are disposable. We are suppose to be so empowered that men have no effect on our well-being. And yet sometimes that is not always an accurate reflection of reality.
The new breakup mentality is to “get over him” as swiftly and seamlessly as possible. Women are no longer suppose to cry over men or experience grief, rather they are encouraged to either shove their feelings under the rug and present a facade of un-bothered chill, or participate in often unhealthy behavior such as using alcohol and partying as a coping mechanism, or hook up as a way to feed a veneer of empowerment. This “get over him” mentality is highly problematic in that it does not allow for, or encourage women to properly grieve, and instead suggests “band-aid fixes” and instant gratification to fill a void.
I think of lot of this lack of healthy grieving has to do with undefined relationships. With so many relationships in label limbo, ie friends with benefits, hookups and “things” that never really leave the “talking” stage of relationship development, lots of women have trouble justifying their own pain. They feel that because he was not their “real boyfriend” or it was “just sex” that they should not really be sad over him. They convince themselves that because it was not a “legit relationship” that they should be able to just move on quickly and “get over it.” Worse, they think that entering into a similar arrangement with the next guy will fill the void.
These are dangerous messages that many mainstream women’s media outlets promote. Women are repeatedly fed the idea that pleasure seeking and instant gratification are replacements for grief or counseling. Moreover, much of women’s mainstream media perpetuates the idea that empowered women move on quickly and don’t get hung up on feelings. “Feelings” in particular are an entity more and more women are looking to avoid in the dating arena. Ironically, what exactly is dating without feelings? Feelings have been labeled a death sentence for the “empowered” women who is not controlled or hindered by emotions or the high price of bonding and becoming vulnerable with someone. To the modern dater, feelings are synonymous with vulnerability and a lack of control of the situation.
Rather women are suppose to engage in casual sex sans feelings, something that is not really a reality for most women. The result is a lot of women who don’t end up feeling “empowered.” Instead they feel depressed, lonely, and unfulfilled. Much of said negative feelings has to do with the fact the relationship or lack there of was not properly grieved when it ended. Unfortunately the culture does not provide women with the tools to understand why hookup culture leaves them feeling this way. Hookup culture and mainstream media gives women the impression that hooking up is sexy and fun and empowering, and then leaves women confused and insecure when it is not all that it is promised to be.
Women are often berated and belittled for being the more “emotional” sex. This is the often cited reason for why there has yet to be a female president or why women can’t be in positions of power. While this is an unfair and degrading assessment of womanhood that many female leaders are working to break down, society still maintains the connotation that feelings are “vulnerable” and “weak”. Instead of allowing women to express their femininity and be celebrated for it, we tell women that in order to stand a chance in a man’s world and be taken seriously they have to disavow themselves from being “emotional,” “needy,” “clingy,” or just plain too “romantic” as if those are to be avoided like the plague instead of misunderstood components of the feminine psyche. What if we saw expressing emotions and feelings as wise and empowering instead of weak? How then would our view of women and hookup culture differ?
Moreover, if “feelings” are the enemy then we are more likely to treat others with inconsideration and a lack of compassion. Teaching ourselves that it isn’t cool to “catch feelings” promotes a dating culture that is unkind, aloof, and unsympathetic, and results in far more heartbreak. Even if it isn’t “cool” that doesn’t make feelings any less legitimate or irrelevant. So if men are expendable and feelings are “uncool” we are left with a cold and un-compassionate hookup scene. We are left with a dating world where men are at a huge advantage and women do not have the tools or information to properly grieve relationships no matter what they look like. Does not sound very empowering to me.
Contrary to mainstream messaging, grief is an integral part of moving on and finding future healthy relationships. We need to be able to allow ourselves the full spectrum of human emotions in order to process and move forward. There is no benefit to bottling things up or seeking out dangerous emotional behavior in the hopes of covering up our hurt. Although the self care industry will have us believe that retail therapy and body scrubs will alleviate stress or unhappiness, the truth is that mental and emotional self care cannot be purchased. Grief is a long, arduous mental process that requires times, patience, and the support of good relationships.
The first step in the process is recognizing the hurt and legitimizing it. No matter whether it was a fling or a hookup or a one stand stand that has now ended in less than favorable terms, that hurt matters and is legitimate. It should be handled with grace and patience.
Some of the best things you can do for the grief of a relationship is to talk to a friend, exercise, do something fun that does not have to do with partying or alcohol or mind-altering substances, and get lots of sleep. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain and say to yourself that it is okay to be upset. It is not you who is weak for feeling this way, it is the culture and it’s mentality of “get over it” that is damaging.
I think this highlights an important trend in our society, that we value emotional stoicism and having the appearance of “having it all together” more so than we do actually doing the work that grief requires of us to get ourselves “together.”
I want to challenge women to help one another to properly grieve relationships, and allow one another to be upset without feeling weak or inferior for doing so. True empowerment comes from supporting and encouraging one another. It is also important to note that it is okay to seek out professional help, our friends cannot always be responsible for helping bear our burdens and sometimes counseling or therapy is necessary. This does not make someone weak, it means they are wise and introspective to seek out help when they need it.
While the current dating culture is full of misinformation and un-compassionate attitudes, we can seek out positive behavior in ourselves that prioritize growth, wisdom, introspection, forgiveness and healing. It is also imperative that we recognize negative and problematic messages in our culture and take steps to instead seek out truth. When we stop to ask ourselves why the culture might promote certain ideas and whether they are helpful to us is the first step in breaking free from negative influences and learning to be discerning consumers of information.
You just got back from dinner with your girlfriends. You had a great time catching up and hearing about one another’ lives. You sipped wine and giggled about work, boys, and The Bachelor. And yet there is a lingering anxiety in the back of your mind. All of your friends are in great relationships…Except you... One is engaged. The other just started seeing this super cool guy who started his own company. The other girl has a long term boyfriend who is apparently great in bed. You are totally happy for them, and yet you cannot quite put your finger on it, it is sort of an impending worry, quietly hissing at you to get a move on, you’re missing out!
Like any good, modern woman, you furrow your brow and recite to yourself how much of an empowered woman you are, who does not need a man to complete her and how fulfilled your life already is. And yet….there it is again… the light tap on the back of your shoulder, the worry that you will end up alone with 56 cats and gets excited for TSA to feel you up at airports. You cringe.
You quietly whisper “fuck it,” under your breath as you pull out you phone and re-download a dating app.
You swore this was not how it was going to be and that this style of dating was, “totally not for you” and yet you need the reassurance that there are options, possibilities, even hope. You don’t even have to go on any dates. Just chat with a few hotties, even if only to encourage yourself you still got it…
Pretty sure if you have been single at all since 2012 you have experienced some form of this scenario. In theory, dating apps are great. Who does not want to judge strangers or flirt with hotties all night long without ever putting on pants? And the options… hot damn we have never been provided with so many options before! It is like an all-you-can-eat-Vegas-buffet of dating!
Yet, once the initial glow of judging random strangers on totally shallow characteristics has worn off, we rarely find ourselves excited by the prospect of tossing up a photo on the internet and hoping complete strangers will not be repulsed by us. Sure the whole swiping thing is fun and feels like a game, but after a while dating apps can start to feel less like innocent fun and more like a last-ditch alternative to dying alone or missing out on love. They certainly are not always the Band Aids to our love lives that they are sold to us as.
Sometimes dating apps become subtle ego boosters, where we seek them out in the hopes of re-affirming our own attractiveness. We really do not want to spend the evening with a stranger making small talk, but we would not mind some harmless flirty banter just to remind ourselves that we are desirable…
Dating apps effect us each on an individual basis. For some it is Camelot and for others it is the 9th layer of Hell. And yet regardless of our dating preferences, dating apps retain similar consequences for all of us. It really boils down to whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa. Are we willing to brave the stormy seas of ghosting and meeting strangers and vulnerability in search of love, or is modern dating the equivalent of the proverbial frog in boiling water? Are we just normalizing a negative dating environment?
So how do dating apps affect us? Are they bad news or modern marvels?
Dating apps can lead to increased anxiety
According to dating expert, Anita Chlipala there is a correlation between increased levels of anxiety and depression. This is due to increased exposure to rejection. While dating apps have increased the sheer volume of interactions, they have also increased the volume of rejections that occur. Other things that can make us feel anxious and/or cynical about our dating prospects are low numbers of matches, excruciatingly long periods between communication, crude messages, and ghosting. While there are compliments and flattery to be exchanged, feelings of rejection or harassment often weigh heavier on participants and can impact self consciousness. Basically a few hurtful exchanges can spoil the experience.
Another factor that increases anxiety is the sheer amount of conversations and interactions one might be juggling. Sure this might sounds like most single peoples’ dreams, but for women especially this can cause stress to the point of wanting to delete the app. Lots of women experience anxiety at having to maintain several different conversations. Coupled with the fact that most interactions lack humanity (a result of not having met in person), many women come to point where they are both overwhelmed and don’t feel invested anymore and either end the conversations or ghost.
Low Self esteem
Yes, dating apps have the potential to make us feel like desirable sex goddesses when hoards of matches message you to tell you what a snack you are. On the other hand, large volumes of rejections, ghosting, and lack of matches can do serious damage to our self esteem, especially if we believe( incorrectly) that our peers are having loads of success on dating apps and hopping into bed with every hottie they match with. Please see: Getting It on Millennial Edition.
We start to question what is wrong with us and worry that we are missing a crucial ingredient to our dating life. We are often left under the impression that those on dating apps are hooking up right and left and getting loads of matches and exchanging nudes on the daily. This perception leaves many feeling inadequate or undesirable based on a false comparison. The truth is that most users only use apps sporadically and most people do not engage in random hookups with strangers. Generally most people get ghosted or stood up just as often as their peers.
Easier to become dissatisfied
It is all about expectations. When there are soooo many possible dates, apps can create feelings of dating abundance. Yet, this often promotes higher expectations for dates and matches. When we assume there could always be someone better this can inspire users to move on quickly from prospects without truly giving them a chance. The idea that there is always someone hotter, smarter, cuter, richer out there keeps us swiping and keeps us continually dissatisfied with results. This is not to say that we have to go out with everyone we match with, only that an attitude of “never good enough” creates unhappiness and excuses us from challenging ourselves to work on our current relationships.
Another consequence of this is dating fatigue, where we become swamped with so many choices, and so many possible choices, that we fail to invest in any of them. Combined with continually unmet expectations, users can become fatigued with dating and either quit or become cynical.
Ugh so are dating apps a total drag?
Not at all! We all know that engaged couple that met on an app. In fact it is 30% of couples these days….The point is to recognize toxic situations, attitudes, and behaviors and either make changes or get away. If dating apps are making you feel miserable, anxious, insecure or overwhelmed feel free to delete the app. Trust me when I say it is not the necessity to a full dating life that pop culture makes it out to be. You can still meet people IRL.
It is also important to recognize your dating style. We all date differently. Dating apps work really well for some people and for others they cause crippling anxiety and fear… and that is okay! It is perfectly okay to meet strangers online if that floats your boat, and it is also totally okay to need to get to know people and have some mutual history first. It is okay to feel like dating apps are not for you and to reject them entirely, this sentiment will not make you a Puritan or a prude. The important thing is to recognize this and own it.
But are there ways to make the dating app experience better?? For sure!
Don’t try to talk to everyone all at once. Just because you matched or they reached out, don’t feel like you are missing out or have to respond. This is a good way to avoid getting burned out or overwhelmed.
If people are crass or rude, do not engage. There will always be jerks, but learn to pick your battles.
Reject any notion that dating apps are the end-all-be-all of your romantic life. They are not a necessity or an indicating factor of whether or not you are hot or desirable or cool or destined for a life of loneliness.
Remember that most people are experiencing the same frustrations you are. It is a false comparison to feel that you are “failing” at dating while everyone else is banging and going out on cool dates and meeting their soul mate.
If you do start chatting with someone that peaks your interest above the rest, it is better to meet sooner than later. The sooner you meet in person the sooner that individual becomes a real person and not just an icon on your screen. The sooner you meet up, the quicker you can determine real chemistry or attraction, as opposed to guessing and making assumptions via vague texts and unclear syntax, emojis, tone, etc.
Meeting strangers for sex might seem like a easy solution to a lackluster dating life, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the false reality that everyone is doing it. Meeting strangers is always dangerous. And “meaningless” sex with strangers can not only be physically dangerous but also mentally and emotionally.
So there you have it.
Dating apps have their pros and cons, but the most important take away is that we use the marvels of modern technology as discerning consumers, bearing in mind their effects, influences and implications.
Dating apps should not feel like a plea-bargain to not be alone any longer, or a desperate attempt to get out of single hell. Dating apps shouldn’t be viewed as a “quick fix” solution to a crotch that might be overgrown with cobwebs. Just because it might seem like anyone and everyone are shacking up these days, does not mean you need to rush into the arms of the first person who gives you attention or “super likes” you. You are wayyyy better than that, and just believing that for yourself is enough to exude the type of confidence to lure in other confident, successful hotties (like yourself) IRL.
“Thank u, next.” Anyone want to make a bet on how many girls are gonna use this as the caption on their ‘gram tonight????
And while many girls are going to spew Arianna Grande lyrics all night and still end up in the bed of their fuckboi hookup who can’t/won’t commit this New Year’s Eve, you, you reader, are an intellectual. You will not let 2019 beat yo ass the same way 2018 did. You will get real about working out, getting clear skin, leaving behind toxic relationships, being responsible, saving money, paying off debt, and making strides in your career. You know why? Because you, enlightened 20-something-year-old reader are making the life-altering realization that your 20s aren’t just for fucking around/ finding yourself.
Sure there ought to be a bit of that, but don’t let the internet and memes and society lead you astray with the misguided notion that your 20s are a bullet proof time to make mistakes and you are invincible from any real consequences. If you are gonna make mistakes in your 20s they need to be things like starting a business and watching it fail and then being inspired to work harder or realizing you are dating a shit person and then leaving for one that is more fulfilling. When did “finding yourself” go from meaning “self growth and exploration” to trying fuck as many people as possible during your gap year in Eastern Europe? But somewhere along the way everyone confused “your 20s is for making mistakes” to mean that your 20s is to act like an irresponsible moron without consequences. False. Every day my Instagram feed is convoluted with memes that romanticize acting a fool in your 20s and sleeping with fuckbois and blacking out and being poor and making poor choices. If you can really laugh at those sorts of choices without irony or self-deprecating humor you are privileged. Most of us can’t get away with living like that without consequences, it catches up to us.
Our twenties are about setting yourself up to live and have lived an awesome life in your 30s and 40s and 50s and beyond, not making poor choices and hoping they will all just be funny stories in the nursing home. Because the truth is that these choices matter, maybe not a single one, but they add up and a whole decade of living recklessly and irresponsibly is masochistic.
Instead let your 20s be the years you build your empire. Have fun, play hard, work hard, and have adventures. Don’t waste your weekends getting drunk and hooking up with losers. Meet people with ambition and goals and self-respect. Be patient with relationships. Leave toxic relationships behind. Don’t waste your best years of health and vitality sitting on the couch eating Kraft Mac n’ cheese watching Netflix. Eat healthy, get a fitness routine, pick up a new sport, try new things, form a skincare routine. Don’t waste prime earning years squandering your money on bullshit like going out and tanning salons. Invest your money. Get a Roth account. Save. Save. Save. Live at home if you must. Live within your means. Stop eating out all the time. Learn to cook. Bring a lunch. Start using coupons. Set aside money for investments like property and stocks. Save money for emergencies. Don’t take our loans unless your ROI is proven. Don’t “buy” things if you can only afford to lease them. Work hard at your job. Show up on time. Grow and develop your professional resume. Network. Always look ahead to your next career move. Set goals. Don’t waste your time seeking instant gratification, instead seek out long term results and fulfillment.
Don’t let age 30 creep up on you while you are still at the bar picking’ up chicks and going home with fuckbois and eating drunk pizza at 2am wondering where your life went and why you didn’t leave the college life behind when you graduated?
Forget the socially-ingrained lie that it is better to not care or to not “give a fuck,” because that is how to keep expectations and unhappiness at bay. In 2019 you should absolutely give a fuck. Care about hobbies and people and your career and your future. Respect this next year as an opportunity to lay a foundation for the next year and the year after that and the year after that, and watch as you lap everyone around you. Cheers!
So last week I talked about “good girls” and how to spot such “scarce” creatures in the millennial dating world. If you haven’t already read it please see last week’s post: Where did all the “nice girls” go???
The conclusion was that while many a man wonders what happened to the types of women they would not cringe at the thought of taking home to meet mom, the truth is that men are in need of changing their OWN perspective and their dating behavior in order to find higher quality women.
But I am always one for gender equality.
Girls experience the same male-burnout and probably even on a larger scale. They complain about the limited choices of “good men” that treat them right and don’t play games. They bemoan the sparse options of men with good jobs and aspirations to be fathers. Women grumble and whine over being pumped and dumped by yet another loser who “couldn’t commit” and so they find themselves asking,” where did all the good men go?” What happened to the men who asked women on dates instead of to “netflix and chill?” What happened to the men that were respectful and opened doors?
Well, ladies as much as you want to think that men are from mars and women are from venus, you share more than you think with your testosterone counterparts.
The truth is the same for men as it is for women. Jerks exist. They always have and always will. It is womens’ jobs to sift through the unreliable dicks, filter through the loser who just want to fuck, get realistic about their standards, and change their dating behavior. Because there are lots of great guys out there, it is your job to find them. It is also your job to accept that if you have been pumped and dumped a lot (or whatever it is you are sick of), it is not just because men ain’t shit. It is important to recognize that you may also be part of the problem.
If you are wondering where all the “good dudes” went you are probably asking this for 1 of 3 reasons.
1. You are having sex too soon with too many strangers
2. You are only meeting men in the party scene
3. You have seen too many Disney films and your expectations are unfathomably high and unrealistic.
Does this look familiar? That is because men and women are both guilty of the same attitudes and behaviors that invite low quality men and women. So this might sound redundant, but it is absolutely necessary to see how men and women thrust the same unrealistic expectations, coupled with a complete lack of self-responsibility upon one another and then complain when they can’t seem to have any romantic success with the opposite sex. You are responsible for only one person’s behavior and that is your own and so if you want to see changes in your dating pool, and kinds of people you date, hookup with, and get into relationships with, you need to start with yourself.
Let’s get started with a little dating makeover shall we?
1. Have sex. Yes girl, I am a proponent of having sex when you want and with whom you want. Have casual sex. Have one night stands. But if this is not making you happy or fulfilling you, or you are ready for a more committed relationship, it is time to stop having sex right away. Ladies, it is all about filtering. If you want to know that a dude won’t just pump and dump you, don’t have sex with him right away. If he is willing to wait, chances are he is in it for more than just pussy.
But I like sex, I want to have sex. I don’t want to have to suppress my sexuality.
That is fine. I gotchu. Have sex whenever you would like, all I am saying is that if you are no longer finding hookups to be very fulfilling and they keep bringing along jerks, it is time to change your strategy. Stupidity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results right? Jerks gravitate to girls that are willing to have sex right away because it is easy and requires very little masquerading as a “good man.” This is not to say that you can’t find a nice guy hooking up, it is just that the odds are considerably against you. For a lot of women that risk is not one they want to take. Delaying sex also gives you the valuable chance to see what he is all about. You want to test drive before you buy right? Spending time with a guy without sex will show you who he is when he is not just handed what he wants. Delaying sex is not about controlling or manipulating men, it is about filtering men to determine whether they are a worthy investment or not.
2. Ugh. I cannot stress enough how unlikely it is you are going to find a guy who wants to settle down and have five kids and join the PTA with you in the party scene. Ladies please do not expect to meet Prince Charming at a rave. Why? Because those dudes are out for a good time, they are the ones trying to get with fresh pussy, and try new drugs and think they will never EVER settle down. They also probably don’t do their own laundry either. Stop going to bars every weekend looking like a bunch of street walkers and wonder where all the good men went???
3. I am sorry to say that Disney probably left us with some unrealistic expectations about romance. Like the fact that Eric was wiling to marry a naked, mute girl on the beach. Or that abusive, manipulative kidnappers make good lovers. Girls are uber guilty of fantasizing about unrealistically perfect men. They want Christian Grey and The Notebook and Titanic and Peter Kavinsky (sorry had to name drop again) all rolled into one. Too often girls expect to be treated like princesses because duh they are sugar, spice and everything nice right?Well… While women should undoubtedly be treated well, this is an unfair and selfish standard to put on men. Relationships are about reciprocity and mutual respect, not finding a man who will put you on a pedestal and worship the ground you walk on. It is time to get real with yourself and ask yourself whether or not you are putting unfair expectations on romance and men in general. And the truth is that most women only think they want Prince Charming. Do you really want a man who would fall in love at first sight? Doesn’t that mean that he could easily fall in love again with someone else and that you really were not that special? Do you really want a pussy-whipped beta that would willingly submit to you? Nah, me either girl. ladies, it is time to get real about your standards. By all means, hold out for good men and respect and love and kindness, but do not set men up to fail with your unrealistic expectations.
Okay so where are all these good men at that women can supposedly lure in with these new dating mindsets?
1. They are working on themselves. The “good men” you dream about are not sitting on their asses playing video games and they are not out chasing ass (if they are getting ass it’s because ass comes to them). These men are improving themselves, they are working on their careers, getting fit, eating right, socializing with people that build them up, they are getting educated, they are learning new tricks and trades. They are productive and proactive
2. But…they probably are not in college. Those dudes are still in party mode and won’t emerge for a a few years.
3. They probably are not in their early twenties. These guys are like 6th graders with large forearms and cars and bank accounts.
4. They probably are not on dating sites. As I have said, we all know a few couples that met on a dating app and are getting married, but don’t let this lure you into thinking that you too will meet your handsome prince while scrolling through Tinder at 2am, drunk. Those people are the exception not the rule. The truth is that most young dudes on dating apps are looking for hookups. And ladies, please do not deceive yourself into thinking that “but only if he just met me, he would want more than a hookup!”
5. The “good men” are putting themselves and their missions in first place, so they are not out trying to pick up women. They are not slaves to getting laid, eager to manipulate, lie and ooze sleaze in order to sleep with a new woman. And because of this women present themselves. If you want to meet “good men” you need to also put yourself in self-improvement situations like a new class, running a marathon, a career networking community, leadership roles, local government, volunteering, and mentorship roles. This is where you will find men who want to be better versions of themselves, and it also a good opportunity to see them in action. You aren’t going to meet him waiting at home for him to climb up your hair.
I get it, after a few years in the Gladiatorial arena of dating we start to feel cynical. Everyone is either a liar, jerk, asshole, manipulator, narcissist, or some lethal combination. And so we become pessimistic about the sorts of choices out there. We emerge with the tatters of our hearts after a few too many broken hearts, and we wonder if we should write men off altogether. Maybe a convent would not be so bad? Or the cool, drunk aunt that always travels and never married?
But often times we forget that we are in charge of our own dating behaviors and the contexts we put ourselves in. We set the standards. We make the rules. We decide who gets a pass into our lives. We filter.
Your attitudes and behaviors invite men that correspond. When you demand more you get more.
If we are tired of a parade of fuckboys, it is time to start re-evaluating where we meet guys and how we engage with them.
We also need to understand the lens through which we view men and determine how that influences our standards. Are we expecting him to ride in on a white steed? Are we hoping for a fairytale and then wondering why we cannot seem to like any guys we go out with? It is also noteworthy to say that if you want a high value man you need to be a high value woman. Be the kind of girlfriend, you think your dream man deserves or is looking for.
Contrary to the seemingly endless supply of fuckboys, good men do exist in the wild, you just have to be willing to ditch the party scene, filter sooner and more throughly and remove the rose tinted glasses. And remember you can’t change the boys, but you can change yourself.
And to all the boys who don’t meet your new and improved criteria.
In 2018 we really like to get things immediately. And fortunately for us the advent of technology allows us to have it all as close to instantly as possible. We get to binge all 7 seasons of Mad Men at once without commercials. We can have our fave restaurant delivered to our door step. We can order a pair of shoes and have it arrive later that day via drones. All in all 2018 is pretty sweet.
But if I am honest I don’t think the whole instant gratification thing translates to romance. Yeah sure, Tinder allows for us to have a hookup arrive in 30 minutes or less like it’s a fucking pizza delivery, but where is the sexual tension? Where is the building of anticipation? What happened to the development of chemistry? Even if you’re just after sex and not a real connection with someone, the whole instant gratification of the Tinder model deprives us what actually makes romance great!
I am not out to bash Tinder, it has it’s purpose, but if your goal is to develop real chemistry with someone, dating apps are going to leave you frustrated, exhausted and probably cynical about love.
Tinder has reduced attraction to something that can be measured within seconds, when in reality, true, authentic attraction builds over time. On Tinder, sexual chemistry is rated right away and expected to exist instantaneously. You can start sexting or sending pics with someone whom you have never even met. You meet people under a preconceived notion that there is an already existing sexual attraction because you are a “match.”
Swiping forfeits the developmental portion of attraction where you get to know someone and then decide through conversation, interactions and body language whether you find them attractive beyond outward appearance. Initial, physical attraction is close to meaningless for women. Women do NOT date for looks. Yeah, we like a nice man to look at, or strong arms to throw us up against a wall, but that is not why we are attracted to someone. Hence, men should understand the value in the slow burn approach when it comes to seducing women. Tinder very much abides by a shallow perception of attraction in which attraction is purely visual. While visual attraction is obviously a component, it is ridiculous for anyone to think that real attraction can be judged from a static image.
Tinder operates under the assumption that you are already attracted to one another before you even say hello and so you can skip the first few steps of relationshional development. Lots of Tinder users utilize this format to get right to sexual intimacy before the relationship has had any time to mature or for any chemistry to truly develop. Instant gratification reduces relational development to first impressions and a shallow façade.
You know what they say, the best things in life come to those who wait. Call me old fashioned, but it is all about the slow burn. I am not just talking “3 days before texting rules” and “waiting until the 3rd date for sex,” I am talking about the importance of building sexual tension and chemistry over time in order to not only keep things spicy, but to build a better foundation for the relationship. Here is what to know:
In the slow burn flirting happens over the course of weeks, months or even years as opposed to days or hours, and produces greater intimacy and intensified longing- both are integral parts of romance.
Eye contact, body language and interpersonal flirty banter over a period of time deepen levels of chemistry and mutual sexual attraction in which feelings have time to marinate and mature and intensify. These components are absent from dating apps. So if you are going the dating app route it is imperative to keep the texting minimal and meet up as soon as possible. The error many people make with dating apps is that they ‘try and get to know one another’ before meeting up, and while this seems prudent it diminishes the window in which you are both interested. People often lose interest very quickly over dating apps because the relationship fizzles before the two people have even met. Meeting up is the chance to install humanity in the experience and connect via body language and interpersonal communication cues. Both are imperative to truly “getting to know someone.”
Sexual seeds are planted with mental stimualtion such as debates and intellectual conversations, passionate rants, and witty reparte, rather than the small get-to-know you talk that occurs in the early stages of a relationship. Deeper, more meaningful conversations take time and come as a result of prolonged time together. They emerge as both parties test the waters of vulnerability and compatibility.
Prolonged tension is good for a relationship – without tension and rising action there is no climax (literally and figuratively)
The slow burn always anticipates that there is somewhere more for the relationship to go because not all the cards have been shown. This is what keeps both parties interested and wanting more. This means if you are into a woman do not play all your big cards right away. You should never take a woman on a fancy date or buy her an extravagant gift prior to being in an actual, exclusive relationship. If you show your cards too soon it diminishes the value of your commitment and appears desperate. A woman should feel like she is being seduced for a long period of time where the relationship just gets better with age. Like wine. Or cheese.
Long-term seduction produces satisfaction because nothing good ever comes easily. Women especially feel that any love worth having should be earned.
The best sex involves emotion on both accounts, in which stimulation is derived not from just physical pleasure but from feelings of frustration, longing, tension, love, joy, thrill etc. Therefore the best sex is going to be with someone you have an emotional connection with. And while the whole stranger thing can be hot, I am guessing it does not have the same satisfaction as with someone whom you have real chemistry and intimacy with. Very few women orgasm during a one-night stand (20% i believe) because there is absolutely an emotional component to sex that is imperative to satisfaction.
The slow burn is sort of the equivlevent of the farm to table movement or the slow food movement (rebuttal to fast food) or to a hand stiched garmet- it is far more valuable and satisfying and will last a hell of a lot longer because it took time to be prepared.
Chemistry and romance are dishes best served in a 10 course meal, not from the grab-and-go counter
Obviously Tinder has it’s time and place and we all know that ridiculously happy couple that met through a dating app, but my point is not that dating apps are bad, only that the model of instant gratification does not work for romance or relationships. The best relationships are the ones that build tension and chemistry and intimacy over time, always smoldering, in need of constant stoking.
Perhaps this is why so many Millennials are dissatisfied with the current dating climate, we have lost interest in the thrills of the slow burn because we have been socialized to want and expect instant gratification. We want companionship NOW. We want a relationship NOW. We want a hookup NOW. But waiting and tension and suspense are healthy and lead to far more satisfaction physically, emotionally and mentally. And its hot. It’s way hotter.
What scares Millennials most in the world? The rising cost of housing? Looming student loan debt? Net Neutrality? No wifi? Negative. A Millennial’s worst fear is the prospect of vulnerability. I don’t merely mean talking about your childhood, I mean having to tell a guy you like how you really feel about them. Double texting someone that has not responded to you in four days. Having to ask someone “what are we?” *cue music from Jaws* You know what I am talking about. This sort of “put your dignity on the line” honesty is what instills fear in us like nothing else can.
To be specific, unreciprocated vulnerability is what scares us most. It is being too accessible to someone who is not accessible to us. It is crossing oceans for someone who would not cross a puddle for you. Unrequited vulnerability says I am giving more than I am getting. I am being manipulated and extorted and used. I am the only one who cares. As a result, vulnerability feels weak and exposed and helpless.
We are so terrified of being someone’s number two that we are willing to play any number of exhausting games, say any number of lies, and sabotage our own relationships to reduce vulnerability, or at least the appearance of vulnerability.
That is the thing about vulnerability in Millennials, we are far more concerned with the façade than we are what’s going on in the inside. We would rather look perfect on the outside and be a mess on the inside than vice versa. We would rather let someone we care about think that we don’t give a shit about the relationship, and its all casual and “no string attached,” but be in emotional turmoil on the inside, than tell someone what we are really thinking. We would rather make someone else feel lesser, than have to feel the pain of unrequited vulnerability. Heaven forbid someone think that we care more than they do.
As a generation, we are pretty okay with physical vulnerability like nudity and sex, it’s that emotional vulnerability that frightens us. Ironically, emotional vulnerability and physical vulnerability are deeply intertwined, although we would love to pretend that they are not. We love to separate them as estranged entities when in fact physical vulnerability is often a direct ticket to “catching feels.” From there, emotional vulnerability is the first stop on a long road trip of heartbreak and crushed self-esteem.
Now we are a generation that is ridiculously cynical when it comes to “catching feels.” And rightly so, “catching feels” is the worst. Like I would rather have my naked body dragged across hot coals and thrown into a pool of gasoline than catch feels. Catching feels is the ultimate gateway to vulnerability, and once you’ve opened the door you can’t go back. You either have to get over this person (an often long and arduous process) or dwell in emotional turmoil for an indefinite period. Yippee. Dating is so fun.
As a result, we have become a generation of defensive daters. It is all about protecting our own dignity and hearts no matter the costs. It does not matter if we ghost that guy or reject that girl and never speak to her again, as long as our own dignity is intact. As long as we have protected our hearts and minds from actually falling for someone. We don’t mind hurting someone else’s feelings as long as our own feelings are not hurt.
It is okay for someone else to be vulnerable, as long as we get to remain aloof and apathetic, because the person who cares the least is the person with all the power in the relationship. Control is power. The ability to manipulate a situation. The feeling of supremacy. The capacity to influence. For Millennials, vulnerability is a roadblock in our ability to remain in control and possess power.
Now apart from being wrapped up in a culture that tells us to care very much what others think and to groom ourselves to be perceived a certain way, being guarded is also a matter of self-respect for millennials. We see it as dignifying to be stingy with our vulnerability. We feel that our self-worth is somehow wrapped up in how much we have exposed of ourselves.
For Millennials, vulnerability is a currency, and you want to be as frugal as possible. To some extent this isn’t wrong. You wouldn’t go in the middle of the street and yell your deepest darkest secrets, not because they define you, but because you respect yourself more than to just bare your secrets to anyone. Yet, there is a fine line between self-respect and being emotionally stingy.
We have somewhat misguidedly deemed self-respect to be only investing in a relationship where we are sure to get a return. While there is truth in guarding your heart and protecting yourself, there is no such thing as a relationship with a 100% probability of investment growth. Most often a gamble is necessary. If we never take the risk there is never the reward.
This imbalance of investment that we fear so much is pretty much the root of all relational conflict. I first realized this when I was upset with a friend who I felt was avoiding me. There was no conflict. Yet I felt the distance growing between us even though we lived together. I would ask her about her day and ask her to hang out, but she was always aloof and “too busy.” It felt terrible. It took me a while, but I realized that what I was really truly upset about was not that she was not hanging out with me or spending time on our relationship, it was that I felt that I cared more about her than she cared about me.
Think about it. Whether romantic or a friendship or family relationships, relational conflict is derived from one person caring more than the other person or at least a perceived feeling of such. I think this realization was a huge step in gaining perspective about conflict. Rarely are we really upset about an unanswered text or showing up late or a failed promise. Rather what’s truly bothering us is a fear that we care about someone more than they care about us. Being on the non-reciprocated side can really hurt. It feels degrading. And as Millennials, this is a pain we are willing to do almost anything to avoid. We would rather come off as cold and aloof than lower ourselves to tell someone we care about them if we feel that it won’t be reciprocated.
I remember back in good ol’ 2003 watching Lizzie McGuire, and in one particular episode Lizzie was going to tell resident hottie, Ethan Kraft, that she had a crush on him. I remember watching in horror as Lizzie bared her soul to a guy who was nice enough, but clearly did not feel the same way about her. How could Lizzie be so stupid? Didn’t she respect herself? Didn’t she care about being embarrassed?? I remember the horror my 9-year-old self felt as I watched Lizzie throw caution to the wind and embarrass herself in font of him. Even then I saw such vulnerability as something to be avoided like the Bubonic Plague. I carried this mantra with me for the next 15 years. I would never tell anyone that I liked them unless I was sure that they felt the same. The alternative, was not just humiliating, it was a degrading shot to the ego, and totally avoidable. I couldn’t understand why Lizzie had wanted to share that info if she did not have to. No one was making her tell Ethan!
But that is the thing about Millennials. Millennnials are total control freaks. We are obsessed with trying to control and manipulate our circumstances. And when it comes to feelings and dating we want to control that too. Everything is a power play with us. Perhaps it has something to do with trying to combat our role as the world’s scapegoat. Or perhaps it is that nasty sense of entitlement we are so often accused of having. Or maybe it has to do with us being socialized to have control over everything in our lives the same way we exhibit control over other instantly gratifying things like Netflix and Uber. Either way we view control as a necessary means of achieving success and happiness. We feel that if we can just master our emotions and minimize our vulnerability then we will have total control and no one can hurt us.
The truth is that the path to successful and fulfilling relationships is paved with heartbreak and embarrassment, and yes, lots and lots of vulnerability. Maybe Lizzie McGuire had more emotional intelligence than we did back in middle school after all.
Vulnerability is what relinquishes us from the prison of perfectionism and having to maintain a façade. Vulnerability is what prepares us to be authentic and honest and communicative with one another. Vulnerability is the framework behind growth and development and self-awareness. Without vulnerability we remain stagnant. Vulnerability drives us out of our comfort zones and into our truest potential. Vulnerability doesn’t mean not caring what other people think, it is seeing the bigger picture beyond the temporary feelings of fear and anxiety. Vulnerability can be a worthwhile, calculated risk. If we never take the risk, we will certainly never get the reward.
As a Millennial myself, I totally get it. We’ve all been hurt one too many times and the wounds of our previous experiences with vulnerability still sting. We promise ourselves to be miserly with our vulnerability in order to protect our fragilie hearts. We never want to get hurt again. Yet, at some point we are going to have to humble ourselves just a bit, and go out and catch some damn feels and not expect anything in return. No 100% probability of texting back. No games. No favorably calculated circumstances. No tit for tat dating rules. No playing hard to get. No facade of nonchalance.
Maybe #livingyourbestlife does not have to always mean sipping sangria on a yacht in Spain, maybe it can also apply to scary moments of telling someone you care about how you really feel. Maybe it could even be a choice to text someone back immediately or call them instead of texting. Maybe vulnerability is not a plague to be avoided, but an opportunity to be embraced.