Relationships among the youth in America, between girls and boys, are broken. How do I know this? Well, because I am a young man, living in this society, and thinking to myself the other day, I unfortunately realized a sad truth in my life: I simply feel more comfortable, more at ease, more self-confident in bed with a girl than asking a girl out on a date. This is the scary truth that I have been living with for a while, it seems like forever. How could we, as a society, get to this point is a question that I continue to ask myself. How could I, as an individual, find myself at this point as well?
It is a very scary thought. I, at age 23, have never been in a relationship, I have never connected with a girl on an intimate level. Sex to me, unfortunately, at this point in my life, is not considered an intimate action. This sounds terrible, but it is true. To me "getting intimate" means telling a member of the opposite sex (or same sex) all of your hopes and dreams, your fears and failures. I've never been intimate like this, I've never even been close to being intimate. I certainly do not mean to speak for my entire generation, or for anyone other than myself, but I do want to venture out there and say that by no means do I feel alone in my experiences and my feelings. I will say that I feel like this is a consequence of a very certain type of college experience.
Obviously hook-up culture is a big deal in all college settings, but I think at my college, an elite school in North Carolina, and in many other similar schools this phenomenon has taken different shape, in many ways amplified, and enforced more rigidly. Everyone was so busy in college, even if I think about it in high school too, but dating did seem to be more prominent there. It seems that just as fast food developed for the busy American lifestyle on the go, hook-up culture developed for the busy college student who wanted all of the fun, and none of the time commitments of a real relationship. It was great, and it seemed great, until now.
I often wonder if I am even emotionally mature enough for a relationship at 23, and let's just say for the sake of this discussion to continue that I am mature enough (by mature enough I mean that I have the ability to not be completely selfish). I don't think I could ever find myself in a relationship. Why? Because I simply have a paralyzing fear of asking a girl out on a date. I've never done it. I've never gone on a date where both parties involved (myself and the girl) would call it that, where "it" was called that. It is a fear of rejection. I have been "rejected" two times in my life, but both times I protected myself, I never used the word date, I never said anything similar to "I like you." I did it to protect myself, in order to save face. I never put myself fully out there, so that the rejection wouldn't be so bad when it came. Both times the rejection, that I sensed coming, wasn't that bad.
But I still found myself with this overwhelming fear that I simply could not quite place. I mean I'm smart, funny and good looking. I'm not trying to brag or be some sort of narcissistic jerk, but these are real things that I have heard all my life from people that didn't give me birth, and even from some people who aren't even related to me, so these things must have at least a little truth to them. It is just now that I realized when it comes to asking out a girl what I am fearful of even more than rejection, and what moves me practically to paralysis is the overwhelming fear that someone might say "yes" to me and that then eventually I would have to "get intimate" with someone, to be vulnerable essentially.
I think in the past, without this hook-up culture, if people wanted to have sex, or hook-up, or do whatever, it would take a while, and that people "de facto," in order not to look like a slut, or a manwhore, or whatever, would need to engage on some personal, emotional and vulnerable level. Essentially, a type of emotional training for when someone right came along, so that you could be vulnerable enough with that other person to fall in love, marry, have a family. I am worried that I will never have those last three things listed because I, like so many other people in my generation, have never needed time in order to "hook up" and as a result this de facto "side effect," never developed. Essentially, I have never been trained to be vulnerable and intimate with someone else, particularly not a family member. I am worried that when someone right comes along I will be too scared, too paralyzed to be my true vulnerable self with her, and that as a result I will never have any of the things that I want so badly in my life, like someone I love, a wife, and, you know, kids too.
As a said earlier I think this phenomenon is worse in elite schools because being vulnerable with someone, being in love, means that you may have to sacrifice ambitious careers for this, and it's better to avoid love so you never have to deal with such a choice between love and a career. Or worse, people from elite schools do not want to be vulnerable -- to be intimate -- with potential competitors in the workplace.
These last points are rather cynical and I hope there are not true, but I don't find it hard to believe that either of those last two points could be true, or even that one or both are true for me. All I know is that the hyper competitive nature of the world, and the hyper scheduled nature of the lives of college kids, and to a lesser extent high school kids, has taken away a very important training ground for developing the necessary emotional skills to have a meaningful, potentially lifelong relationship. Ultimately I think I will be ok, mostly because I am sitting here writing this, thinking about this, recognizing that there is in fact a problem. But, I am fearful for those in my generation who haven't realized it.