Dating in the 21st Century


S I M B A    M A J U R U

Love. We see it depicted in movies and songs, and we see it commercialized on Valentine’s Day. It’s the ultimate human satisfaction. Glorified by writers like Shakespeare, and aggrandized by poets like Maya Angelou. Requited love, to be loved and to be loved back, is that brass ring we all look to reach at some point in time.

It’s embedded in the human psyche from the day we’re born. Love begets love, and as Frank Ocean aptly states: it is a marriage of the mind between love and love. It flirts with you when you get that weird feeling of butterflies in your stomach (could be gas) when your crush says ‘hello’.

Your idea of love often changes with time, but the premise stays the same: it’s a magical moment in time that two people share. Time pauses and souls intertwine, regardless of any imperfections. Love is when someone lets you into their darkness but you choose to stay because you feel the light.

Romeo and Juliet, Jack and Rose in Titanic, Quincy and Monica in Love and Basketball had THAT. That thing that you can’t touch but you can sense. That thing that lets you know that this is my person. That thing that says I will go to war for them unconditionally. That thing that says I want them and only them. That thing that says I know her at her worst, and that doesn’t change how I feel about her.

That thing that says society and patriarchy don’t dictate the terms and conditions of our relationship. That thing that says we may fight with each other, but our feelings aren’t fleeting. That thing that says she frustrates me half the time, and I do the same to her, but there’s nowhere I would rather be than here.

Man, that’s what I want.

It’ll be odd for a lot of my male contemporaries to find that this intense level of companionship is what I seek. It’s understandable, because men are taught how to love through experience, whereas women are born with the capacity to do so. Some men are fortunate enough to get it right on the first try, but most aren’t. Love is informed by our vantage point, and men and women are often at odds because of the lack of parity when it comes to why or how we fall in love.

The nuances between men and women’s perception of love are simple. Men are problem solvers, and women want listeners. When women tell us their problems, men want to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Women, however, want us to put the damn cube down, understand why it exists, and empathize with its existence in our lives. Men love by logic; women love by reason.

For women, love is all or nothing. Either she loves you or she doesn’t. There’s no middle ground or grey area: its absolute. For men, this is not necessarily the case. Being interested in someone else doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t love you. It may mean his mind is – for whatever reason – in another zone, and a total diversion is what’s needed to get from one day to the next.

This is totally unreasonable, and I’m not condoning it, but in these cases love concerns itself with mentality rather than sentiments. Therefore, for men love is a state of mind. For women, love is a state of affairs that consequentially reflects their verisimilitude.

Take for instance how a woman is groomed to believe that the most important day in her life is her wedding day, whereas men often equate it to their doomsday. Or how women are encouraged to fall in love by their sisters, and when they do they are celebrated for it, whereas men are often ridiculed for finding their purpose in love through someone else.

Phonte Coleman raps “women often pay the price because a woman’s life is love, and a man’s love is life”. Men are taught how to love. Men grow into the experience of love whilst women never have to… because it exists in tandem with their being.

For women, their livelihood is dedicated to finding companionship. For men that companionship finds us in the midst of living, and is often unassuming when it does. Regardless, we all desire to exist in that endless expanse at some juncture in our lives whether we like to admit or not.

In the twenty-first century, with the introduction of dating sites such as Tinder, and the deconstruction of time and space through applications like Facebook and Whatsapp, it’s conceivably easier to get to that destination. Or so we think. Ostensibly we may become desensitized to that interaction that fosters the intimacy we seek because of the options at our disposal.

Nostalgia hits me hard, though, when I think of how I used to court a girl, and when taking her out was a big deal. That first date meant something, and people were focused on the long term outcome rather than what would happen at the end of the night. Also, the advent of the smartphone accelerated the destruction of the genuine in-person connection. Many things are left unsaid in today’s relationships. And matters of the heart are no longer or rather rarely articulated by action. They must be orally stipulated.

Moreover, the technological era has introduced an element of passiveness and laziness into our lives. It went from home cooked meals to fast food. The movie theater to the laptop. Feeding birds in the park, to feeding your ego and your pride. You don’t even have to face the nervous task of asking a woman for her number in person anymore. As the young people like to say “it goes down in the DMs.” The game has changed. The courting stage is now uniform, and it rarely needs modification for those people we consider a bit more special than most.

Maintaining love is also comes with various temptations in the 21st Century. Because of the access to beautiful women at your fingertips, you don’t need to love her until her hair turns grey anymore. Because you can swipe left, you don’t have to carry on loving her if she gains a little bit of weight.

Love loses its meaning and its fabric loses color because it gets torn by our misdirection. What was once magnificent, what was once the greatest story ever told, has been diluted to something pecuniary, and you don’t have to stick around to mend what’s broken. What’s new is just a click away.

The sad thing is that society justifies this: by telling women that as long their man is doing right by them they need to let him be who he is. But if a woman does the same, its unacceptable. This notion presents a dichotomy because it seems to presume that men are wanderers by nature, and women should just accept that. Or that women should be the reflection of purity, and therefore its harder to stomach if they cheat.

But we are all fallible.

It’s hard for many people to fathom, because our egos can’t accept that everyone has faults and flaws. This doesn’t mean that everyone cheats, or that you should accept it if someone does – no, not at all. What it means, is that men and women could arguably be perfect by form (depending on what attracts you to someone) but they are categorically never perfect by substance.

This fantasy of what a man and woman should be, cannot be simplified into one unilateral or monolithic view. If love is so intimate and sacred, why would you let a group of people influence your decision? It’s often said the loser is the fool who doesn’t play love by the rules. But those rules are yours, determined by you. The minute you start compromising yourself, it’s not love.

But I guess there’s a benefit to dating in the 21st Century. I guess love becomes a state of time, and not one of mind.

You can free yourself to doing all you want to do, knowing that the person is ultimately replaceable. Its cruel but its true. Grandma and Granddaddy didn’t have the options we have. If they did, would their love have endured? I guess that in itself is an answer to the evolution of dating as well as the concept of love.

Also the working woman doesn’t have time to waste when she’s thirty, when all her friends are either expecting children or engaged. The rules have changed. She can choose what she wants for herself. She is no longer held at ransom by men whose life goals aren’t in line with hers. She can be dismissive, and her role as a matriarch does not have to define her. She can do what she wants, when she wants, and with who she wants – and she can do all these things unapologetically.

Feminism has arguably found some form of expression through dating in the 21st Century.

We go through pain and heartbreak to get to the one person that is meant to be a panacea of all of our ills. We pin our hopes and our dreams on one person as being the conqueror of our souls, and the captain of the ship that is our hearts. That is A LOT of pressure.

I mean, how is someone supposed to be at peace with the idea that they have to fulfill all these burdensome requirements? Moreover, how is someone supposed to be okay with the fact that they hold these person’s vulnerabilities in the palm of their hand, and that they’re the arbiter of your personal goals?

This is where the often misconstrued statement of fighting for love comes in: The one where you have to be a soldier, and fight whatever threatens your love, whether its time or infidelity. Love is a meeting of the minds along with everything else, and the lucky ones are in the minority, but you shouldn’t have to fight for love. Its either just there, or it isn’t.

Love is responsibility. Love is maturity. Love is compromise. Love is building. Love is growth. Love is you and love is me. Falling for someone doesn’t mean you fall on your face for them – it means your guard is down, and whatever happens will happen.

Love is when hope intersects with faith. In fact, in actuality, maybe we don’t even fall in love with the person. Maybe love is when you fall in love with your fears, and your ego ceases being your lawyer, and you accept the moment for what it is, for what it’s worth, and for what it could be…


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