I’m a single 20-year-old woman who is kinda, maybe, definitely on the lookout for a partner. Because of this, I spend more time than I probably should thinking about human relationships and the complex dynamics that go into dating in the 21st century. However, I’ve been reminded yet again why dating really can suck.
Don’t get me wrong — I love meeting new people and having new experiences. I find even bad dates can almost always teach me something, and I rarely walk away from a first date feeling as though it was time wasted. However, I hate to play games. And yet, as a woman in the twenty-first century looking for companionship, I often feel as though I have no choice but to comply with silly rules that feel as though they were put in place by a bunch of middle schoolers: Don’t text first, don’t double text, don’t respond too quickly. Never say yes to every invitation even if you’re free. Always see other people until you’re officially exclusive. If you really like them, don’t let them know until you’re sure the feeling is mutual. All these rules function off a power dynamic. The dynamic being whoever cares less wins. Considering dating is about fostering human connection, I find it a little off-putting to think young people are taught to view a relationship as a competition, with the winner only having won if they have successfully projected an image of indifference and the loser having lost for displaying mere interest in forming some sort of connection. Let me be upfront here and say it: this is stupid. It’s childish and unfair, and actually pretty cruel considering power is only gained by making the other feel lesser.
While I know this playbook is stupid and silly and often times quite mean, I can’t help but succumb to and obediently follow the rules. And after giving it some thought I now know why: I am terrified to be labeled as desperate.
We live in a day and age where everyone and their grandmother is instagramming pictures from the Women’s March and using #metoo. However, the language used to describe women seeking male companionship is still incredibly sexist. This is a classic example of “if you walk the walk you gotta be able to talk the talk” (pun very much intended).
The term ‘slut’ has been around for ages. So has ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ and ,especially the word ‘crazy’. For years these words have served the purpose of making women feel as though their emotions, wants, and needs are invalid, excessive, or wrong. And more often than not these words come from male tongues that are purely seeking power, as a woman speaking or acting in accordance to her own wants and needs threatens their masculinity.
However the term desperate is on the newer side. Don’t get me wrong; fifty years ago women were labeled desperate, and at that point in time it was still a pretty gendered term. However, the classification seems to have changed. In 2018, any women actively pursuing human connection whether it be physical or emotional are at risk for being labeled desperate by the opposite sex- or by other women.
Somehow, wanting to see a guy again after having great sex and several hours of meaningful conversation makes a woman ‘crazy’. Double-texting to confirm plans that are supposed to happen within a few hours means she’s pushy. Because a woman expressing her desire for monogamy after several months of dating with no label makes her a clinger. Because a woman wanting or needing anything from a man that he does not want or need in return is proof enough to deem her god damn desperate.
These tropes are positively ridiculous and sexist and just plain old cruel. So, I’ve decided to say screw it. If I like a guy, I’m gonna let him know. If I haven’t heard from him in several days, I’m gonna double-text. If I need something- or god forbid- want it, I’m gonna ask, and above all I’m not going to apologize. Games only work if both people play, and your dignity is not something that a cruel combination of consonants and syllables can snatch from you. So go ahead and call me your worst; I’m not scared anymore.