BY JANE BRADSHAW
Growing up, it seemed like all my friends’ parents met in college. Some were in the same program or had mutual friends, one couple met when the dad was the RA (aka Don) for the mom. It felt like these were formative years, not only for your independence but your dependence on a significant other. It dawned on me that I am now at that age, and so many individuals will be meeting “their person,” (or one of their persons, since the divorce rate is so high nowadays).
Last year, I lived in a house where I was in the minority for being single. Perhaps my naivety got the best of me, but I was surprised at the level of commitment exhibited by my housemates and their partners. It was rare for them to spend a night, let alone a minute, apart: they stopped being individuals and transformed into one half of a pair. This attachment was consistent with a friend of mine from back home; it is hard for her to be in a conversation without mentioning her boyfriend. Witnessing the infatuations between all of these couples, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on an integral part of university, or perhaps, life.
A friend once told me that dating during your teens and early twenties is like getting braces: some people need it, and others are perfectly content with their straight or almost-straight teeth. Either way, your mouth functions just the same and those with braces are just trying to achieve what those without have.
While this may seem a little too pro-singledom for some, it justifies why I haven’t been able to fully accept another person into my life. I’ve found a way to be fulfilled without seeking the validity of another person. However, it means I dedicate a significant amount of my day to maintaining this sense of self, and I struggle with giving that freedom up. You see, for me, the biggest barrier to dating is time. Between class, work, and club commitments, I can barely find time to eat, let alone maintain a relationship. In all my “things,” I felt I was too impatient with the foundational relationship-building, which usually happens over numerous weeks (or, realistically, months). I feel like my mind – and life – moves 10000 miles a minute, and I haven’t been able to sustain something that doesn’t move at the same pace as the rest of my life.
I am not alone in being single. Another friend mentioned to me that she feels like it’s really important to be single, since “a lot of people lose themselves in the idea that university is when you need to find another person,” whether it be way to cap off a great night out in the Hub or having a partner to cuddle every night. There is a sense of spontaneity and adventure that comes with being single, as you are only accounting for yourself, and it can make decisions like going abroad for exchange or a summer much easier as you don’t feel like you have strings keeping you back home.
However, there is an unspoken policy within student culture that separates those who are fixated on dating , and those who see these 4 years as complete freedom and only want to fool around. Those who are single, however, are expected to have someone “on the go,” even if it never amalgamates into a thing. There is more pressure to have continuous hookups to the point that being in a relationship could be a scapegoat. I’ve known people who swore off dating in university and walked out of first year in a relationship.
It’s widely observed how acceptable toxic encounters are when participating in the hookup culture. Ask any group of people about their previous flings, and there will be numerous stories of emotional abuse, gaslighting, ghosting – or the even the newly defined “orbiting,” where you stop talking but aren’t completely out of each other’s lives (e.g. they watch every single one of your Insta stories but won’t text back). Then there are those who are too broken over previous relationships to trust someone again or are set on having the freedom or irresponsibility that is inherent in single life. While we often give these people the benefit of the doubt or blame ourselves for it not working out, the reason we become so affected by flames burning out is that we are not respecting the other person during the process. Perhaps, we need to reframe the analogy of the braces: those who are ready for the upkeep of the wires and elastics get the braces, and everyone else settles for crooked teeth until they build up the confidence to see an orthodontist.
There is more to dating than just avoiding the mess of the immature. One friend, who has been seeing her partner for the greater part of the past two years (they became official in November), mentioned how nice it is to have someone to go to who isn’t a friend or parent. I can see the benefits; there are certain aspects of your personality that you have to entertain or rely on more depending on the friend, and, well, parents are parents. And while some of my friends are extremely reliant on their S.O., they feel more fearless facing the world. But while the amount of work and responsibility of having a partner are working for them, it might not be for everyone, especially during one of the most chaotic periods of our young lives.
It is evident that there needs to be less stress around finding a partner – whether it’s for life, a couple months or the night. We are at university to enrich our education, interests and social lives, not participate in the new Canadian version of “Are You the One?” Despite our collective maturing from fresh-faced frosh to sleep-deprived grads ready to take on the real world, our journeys don’t look similar, and our expectations for a “good” university experience are not the same. So whether you’re addicted to tinder, oblivious to flirtations or already planning your wedding, do it because it feels right for you.
PS. Visit the SHRC or your local sexual health center for some good info on safe sex/healthy relationships and ~all that jazz~