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On “Doing It (Or Not) for the (Hookup) Culture”

William Stitt for Unsplash

As invincible as my fellow so-called Millennials would like to believe we are, the notion that we exist for but a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the universe remains an afterthought. In my mind this is irony at its finest. Our sentiments of invulnerability become compounded by an endless game of “who can care the least” across relationships; platonic, romantic, and ones that are unrecognizable because we have confused ourselves that badly in the name of love for sport. “Hookup culture”, while certainly not a new discovery, has transformed the dating arena in ways we can’t possibly fathom or actually enjoy.

Outside of two relationships post-college, the entirety of my romantic interactions have consisted of “situationships” devoid of titles, a distinct lack of plans for commitment past sharing a blanket through the night, and my favorite utterance in Austin outside of “Fight, Texas!”— “We can have some fun now, but I can’t bring you home because my parents don’t like Black people”. The latter being a tattered red flag emblazoned with “Do Not Enter!” and matching bloody handprint to anyone with plans for with common sense or understanding that this is 2017, not the ’60s or the middle of a big-budget book-to-film movie. A flag that I saw and ignored — twice.

In college, I was so determined to undermine Millennial dating habits that I designed the Jack + Jill app. Stripping away (ideally) the ability to facilitate hookups, it strove to emulate the dating of old. You know, seeing someone attractive in a bar, leaving your number, asking them out to dinner, or for drinks. All this would be done by tapping into your cell phone’s calendar, location services, and a preset list of interests in order to plan a date where all you had to bring was the conversation and interest in someone else. No puppy photos that ensured a lay on the first night and certainly none of the “good guy” facades that were quickly shattered after making your date uncomfortable.

We have been taught that there’s other fish in the sea, but nobody ever says anything about the hard work, dedication, and time it takes to catch the one type of fish that’s never going to let us starve.

Afraid that committing to one person will compromise a potential future with someone else “better”, 69% of Millennials experience the phenomena researchers have dubbed “FOMO” or the fear of missing out. Social media, most specifically Instagram, has offered audiences blueprints for what a fulfilling life should look like by way of promoting the “shiny” and blemish-free imagery of others. Couples accounts; marriage, fitness, cosplay, and just about anything else you can name, are put online but are able to remain private — shielding from the general public the arguments, moments of weakness, and pain that all relationships inevitably suffer. Why stay with someone and build a foundation when a date, sex, and a good morning text is just a swipe or scroll away? Our incentives to do so are lessened by a strong understanding that gender equality is necessary for our society’s successful functioning and progression. Subjecting ourselves to the painstaking work of growing with another person rather than escaping at the first opportunity when things get rough are equated to sentiments of a time when gender roles and stigmas such as a divorced woman is promiscuous, evil and worthless and should have remained obedient to her husband. While not at all to say that gender equality is ANYWHERE near where it should be in today’s culture, such thoughts and ways of being should not make an entire generation shirk off the responsibilities of love.

I’ve allowed myself to live in the greener grass, hookup culture twice. Both times I’ve come out worse for the wear and regretful beyond measure.

In both instances, I believed that I was entitled to what seemed like greater circumstances than I already had. Of course, afraid to do the work, exercise the patience and wherewithal to realize that opportunity cost existed in more than just markets (I slept through economics in college and had to drop the class in high school because I did so poorly), or simply not be afraid to take our emotions seriously, I inevitably pigeonholed myself into the confines of my bed; lonely and in deep belief of karma.

Transience is a motherfucker and love is sometimes fleeting. But being unafraid to say “I love you” is urgent as a motherfucker too. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is the amount of time I waited to watch Love Jones.

Our divorce rate is erring somewhere around 40% these days and declining contrary to popular statistic capitulation. A figure that we are certainly driving down as a generation with ease by realizing the error in our ways by choosing to not tie the knot too soon and equally as definitely doing so by choosing to only do so after we’ve had the chance to see what’s in the world. Wait, aren’t you advocating for very loose and detached hookups here? Close, but no cigar. How can we ever hope to get married (if indeed our goal is to one day be knocked completely on our asses and be joined in matrimony) with any shot at it lasting if we’ve never jumped into the throes and risks of long-term commitment with another person. The age-old addage (sometimes you just know) is the reason why divorce is trending upwards for people in their 50s, but downward for our generation.

You never really and truly know, but you have to leave these things up to chance in order to find out. As scary as that may seem, you’ll thank yourself or have learned a lesson for later.

What do we stand to gain from hookup culture exactly? The arguments for a distinct lack of “shackling” to another person, not having to worry about hiding our most true selves, and being free to act on our most instinctual desires are strong and understandable, but also lacking in sustenance to some degree. Do we actively begin to feel better about ourselves by body counts and the number of DMs we receive? How “happy” we look on social media despite our ravenous internal struggles? Or does it all come down to freedom — the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want, with whoever you want without having to consider anyone else’s feelings? An exhaustive process that maybe we’ll never quite be able to identify what exactly is so good about it until we find ourselves in the thick of it.

This is not at all to say that one should rely on someone else to find our happiness, nor that there is anything wrong with hookups but instead a call to never limit yourself, your emotions, and your heart to hookups exclusively (see what I did there?) Of course, Elvis may have been onto something by saying “only fools rush in” but taking your time; with focus, dedication, and ridding yourself of the notion that a warm body is only a swipe away doesn’t hurt. Utterly confused by our generation, the question becomes one of being fed. Should we catch as many “small” fish as possible or do we patiently await the one that’s going to fill us to the point of unmistakable comfort?

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