playing hard to get

It’s almost sad, but I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me on an actual date, regardless of whether they intended to pursue a relationship with me or not. It’s always let’s watch a movie at my house or let’s smoke or come over and hang out later. Getting hit on is one thing, but it’s only face value attraction. No one wants to get to know each other as of late. Genuine ties to other people have become a burden to us. Emotions are a lot of work. We would rather just get our rocks off and be on our way. Relationships have gone out of style. We live in such a disposable culture, we’ve constructed a mindset based on being transient, ephemeral, without strings, without authenticity. We used to date to see if someone was worth fucking, and now we fuck to see if someone is worth dating—flawed logic. Sex doesn’t always mean a relationship and god forbid you actually want to get to know someone without sleeping with them the first time you cross paths. This hook-up dynamic we’ve started to partake in is so toxic. It teaches us that we’ve always got to be readily available to offer up our body to someone without ever expecting any sort of deeper connection, genuine relationship, or—dare I say it—respect from anyone we’re romantically interested in.

Casual relationships aren’t bad, I don’t have anything against them, but those are not what I’m referring to. It’s fine to have a relationship where you don’t move too quick, give explicit labels, take them home to your parents, or really think about the future too much. The dynamic we’ve entered is a completely different paradigm of casual, if it can even be classified as such. In the world of hook-ups, we seem to be moving towards not casual relationships, but deliberately meaningless ones—devoid of any type of genuine feeling or attachment in any form. Anything offered up that isn’t inherently sexual is deemed bête noir. We don’t feel the need to get to know each other enough to see if we can even hold a conversation. This is where I get lost. If someone won’t put in the effort to get to know me, even on the shallowest of levels, what about that would make me think that they would care about my pleasure or experience if we were to hook-up? Everyone seems to think that having a real relationship will inevitably lead to some Full House-like world of being married with children and devoting your entire life to your partner, when—in reality—being in a serious relationship doesn’t have to take up all of your time or energy. They can be so much more fulfilling than the endless cycle of meaningless sex-motivated conversations and cheap physically intimate interactions that we continually partake in.

People tell us to have fun because our early twenties are supposed to be the time of our lives. Genuine relationships have a negative connotation here, it’s taboo to want to really date someone during this segment of our lives. It’s all about having fun, not committing to anyone or anything, having a good time without anyone to hold you back. Maybe we do this because we are forced to make so many other major life decisions in such a short period of time that it’s comforting to be able to put this one off. By doing this we get to bask in our blissful ignorance for just a bit longer. The root of the problem is that we cannot even bear the thought of commitment, however, the intense fear of commitment is not entirely the true problem here. The problem is how this irrational fear of commitment has manifested in these extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms. For some reason, our generation has come to fear being stuck to one person. We want to have our cake and eat it too. Instead of just being alone when we don’t want to be in a relationship—while we’re busy or focusing on other things—we waste time sleeping with people we don’t want to see in the morning. It’s scary, really. It’s almost like we’re drawing a line between people who have the capacity to be in a serious relationship and those who don’t possess the skill set to sustain true intimacy. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s almost rude, and I think it says something about our generation. Not only do we not respect ourselves, we don’t respect our partners. Why sleep with someone you have no intention of ever associating with again? We have labeled these people as not good enough to be romantically involved with, but good enough to use for the night. It’s all so disposable—use once and discard. We can’t even decide what we want to do with our lives, so why should we have to choose who we want to spend the rest of our existence with right now?

Why do we waste so much time pursing people we don’t see ourselves with in the long term? Why do we entertain ourselves with these short-term, meaningless flings when we could be doing other, more important things or seeing other people that may actually want to be with us? Is it to fill some hole in our psyche that wills us to crave intimate affection? Is it to feed our egos? Is it out of boredom? To me, being with someone who I don’t see myself with long-term—or even in the near future— is a complete and total waste of time. Why would I want to spend my precious time with anyone who I don’t want to keep around when I could—for example—be bettering myself, furthering my career, or in general not wasting my time?

We play these games and we waste our sweet time trying to mold ourselves into a specific person, conform to someone else’s lifestyle, and that’s where we go wrong. Why would I want to change who I am or hold back what I have to say for fear of coming on too strong? Anyone who wants something real has had to condition themselves to avoid sounding desperate. We wait a couple of hours to reply to their message, try not to be too inquisitive and spare our intrigue for the moment, or drive separately to the midday coffee date so we can make up some stupid excuse to avoid going home with them even though we know that’s exactly what they want. We try not to sound too excited when a common interest surfaces, and we wait to make any sort of plans that sound like a real date for fear of scaring them off with something too serious. We put up these fronts until they show enough interest outside of just wanting to get in bed with us to maybe sit through a few outings.

And then come the lies. I’m interested in you. I want to get to know you. I care about you. Let’s do this. Let’s do that. And then you start to trust them. You let them in on your life a little bit, but so much as to give away that you’ve been fooled by this façade they’ve put up. You finally let things escalate to intimacy, shallow or otherwise, and then, just when everything seems to be smooth sailing, they rip the rug out from under you. They’ve gotten what they wanted, and they’re gone. You may not realize it at first, because they may not be physically gone—yet. The interactions will start to become few and far between. You’ll run out of things to talk about, you’ll try to keep one-sided conversations going with them—to no avail—regardless of their blatant lack of interest. You’ll start to question yourself. Are they getting bored of me? What did I do wrong? Will they like me more if I give them more? Can I change them? We have the tendency to want to change people when we realize that they don’t want the same things as we do. We want to give people a chance, because we like to think that we can see the inherent good in things, whether that good is our version of the idea of good or not. We get mad at people for only wanting shallow love, but expect them not to get mad at us for wanting something more. We always want our way to be the right way, and we don’t know how to react when people don’t conform to our standards.

We, because of our commitment issues, love to string people along, and we think it’s perfectly okay to do so. We give people false hope that we’re into them, or that we want to be with them, and then they open up to us. We let them lower their defenses, and as soon as we see them getting attached, we want to run. I’m one of those people who genuinely believes that everyone has good intentions with me. I take everything everyone says to heart. Every move I make is cautious and calculated, but sometimes—most of the time—my instincts are wrong. It never occurs to me that someone may be lying when they tell me they like me, or intend to be with me. It’s something ingrained in the way I think, I would never lie to anyone about how I feel or what my intentions with them are, so I just assume that they would not do the same to me. In my mind, it’s a waste of time to tell someone I have no intention of pursing that I intend to pursue them. As of late, I’ve conditioned myself to be more observant of red flags, due to the fact that I’m particularly tired of wasting my time.

Because of our lack of willingness to commit to someone with the title of boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, what have you, we have concocted this notion of friends with benefits. This involves two separate relationships; one being purely platonic, and one being purely intimate, neither romantic. This is an apparent side-effect of the dynamic we’ve entered that leads people to think that forming emotions is something that has become a sort of anathema. These can be somewhat messy as they involve people spending time together as friends, seemingly oblivious that they sleep together on a regular basis. I have never been the type to be able to separate myself like that, being intimate with anyone is only a precursor for developing an attachment to them in my experience. I cannot disconnect myself—participate in two separate relationships with one person—it’s too confusing.

Not only has this string-free culture we’ve entered created new dynamics and destroyed old ones, it is destroying perfectly good longstanding relationships. Fear of commitment doesn’t only exist preliminary to a new relationship, but now further down the line of a long-term relationship as well. I was involved with a guy awhile back who decided to call it quits with me because he was still too fresh out of a serious relationship and just didn’t really want to be around anyone—much less try to start a new relationship with someone. I was fine with this, I harbor no resentment, and we are still friends, but here’s the kicker: He and his girlfriend had been together for seven years and were perfectly content, she left him because he was the only person she had ever been with and she “didn’t want to be thirty and regret not seeing other people.” By being surrounded by people who looked to be having fun bouncing from one meaningless fling to another, his girlfriend could have been led to believe that she was missing out on something, when, in reality, she had someone who was in love with her that she had a great thing going with. She left it all in the dust to engage in meaningless interactions devoid of any real feelings. I’m not one to judge other people’s romantic choices, but, had it been me, I would not have wasted seven years before I made that decision.

Maybe I’m just set in my ways. Call me an introvert, call me a hopeless romantic, call me plain hopeless, but I don’t think I’m the problem here. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea of sleeping with someone—or engaging them in general— without at least some sort of segue as to whether we are compatible even in the slightest. Wasting time isn’t in my best interest, and I don’t think it will be at any point in the near future.