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After reading Alison Freer’s letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, as well as Susan Patton’s article that it was responding to, I have to say, I’m on Team Patton.
Let’s not kid ourselves: being single sucks! That’s why most people look for significant others. Even animals like to travel in packs.
Given the choice, would you rather spend a Saturday night doing which of the following?
A: Dinner and a movie with your husband or boyfriend, followed by falling asleep in each other’s arms.
B: Obsessing over your hair and makeup and outfit, then going to dinner or drinks with a guy who you met on Tinder and hoping he’s the one, or at the very least hoping he looks somewhat like his picture.
C: Ordering in pizza and watching “This is the End,” for the third time on the couch with a four-legged friend.
My answer is A. I’ve done A, B, C and A is really the optimal choice here.
C is fun every now and again. But I’ve done B way too many times to count. B is excruciating. I am at the point in my life where I am completely frustrated with dating. OKCupid messages make me cringe. I’d rather get an update on my phone from a news app telling me it’s the apocalypse and I need to stock up on tuna and bottled water, rather than another match from Tinder.
Half of my frustration with dating is because I’m very picky, and half of it is because I am a moron who makes bad decisions with complete lack of foresight. Yes, I just said that.
I really enjoyed college because I worked hard and I played very, very hard. I was that party girl who was friends with all the boys and danced on top of bars. My party girl stage began even before high school, when I ran around as if I were Drew Barrymore, going to nightclubs while far too young. I had enough fun for the entire underage population of Manhattan. My motto was Bill Clinton’s famous response to being asked about why he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, “I did it…because I could.”
As you can imagine, there wasn’t much long term thinking other than what VIP room had the best bottle service and who I was going to hook up next weekend. Because I knew I was going to move to Los Angeles from New York after college, it didn’t behoove me to consider the consequences of my actions or look to be with someone who was serious about dating and relationships.
I was sort of in a long distance relationship on and off in college, and I actually thought I was going to end up marrying him, but for many reasons, not simply distance, our relationship didn't work out.
I was also in love with a guy who had a girlfriend at another college far away. We became good friends. When he graduated, I ended up sleeping with him, hoping he would want to date me. He’s now married to someone else. What a brilliant decision on my part.
Looking back, while incredibly fun, all the partying I did in college was a complete waste of time. I had four whole years and two different colleges (I transferred for academic reasons, shockingly) to pursue all of these amazing and available men who were right in front of me, and I blew my chance.
Realistically, many of the men I encountered in college were just looking to hook up, but not every single one of them was. I overlooked a lot of great guys and wasted my time with the bad ones. I wasn’t thinking about who would make a great husband one day. I choose not to take relationships seriously because I just assumed life would work out the way I wanted it to, because at that point, it always had. In college, I had a type: unavailable.
And to a certain extent, that still is my type, as I’m writing this article from New York, a city where I no longer live, while I am visiting a guy who I am seeing long distance. It’s complicated. And I don’t want to do this. I also don’t want to be on Jdate, Match, Tinder or OKCupid either. I hate being single. And it’s not just because I don’t like being alone, but because I’m angry with myself for ruining many good opportunities.
In Patton’s WSJ article, she says:
College is the best place to look for your mate. It is an environment teeming with like-minded, age-appropriate single men with whom you already share many things. You will never again have this concentration of exceptional men to choose from.
This is beyond true. Post grad, you have to peck out men who have similar interests. There’s a reason why mutual interests are listed on Tinder, because you need to start somewhere. In college, it’s so easy to talk to guys in your major. You don’t need to ask your friends to make an introduction, and you don’t have to sift through countless internet profiles looking for men who like to eat sushi and listen to Phish. In college, you can just turn to the guy sitting next to you and say, “Have you studied for the mid-term yet?” It’s easier said than done, but far less so than the alternative.
Patton goes on to say:
Can you meet brilliant, marriageable men after college? Yes, but just not that many of them. Once you're living off campus and in the real world, you'll be stunned by how smart the men are not. You'll no doubt meet some eligible guys in your workplace, but it's hazardous to get romantically involved with co-workers.
I agree and disagree with Patton’s statement here. There are obviously less men post grad, but I don’t know how that correlates to their intelligence. Also, my parents met in the workplace. And my dad was my mom’s boss. There can be great options in the workplace, unless you are a freelancer and work from home like me.
Of course, happiness in life isn’t just about finding a mate. Obviously, it’s very important for women to establish themselves in their careers. That takes a great deal of energy. You know what else takes up a ton of energy? Looking for a husband. It is emotionally, sometimes physically and most certainly spiritually draining. You know what the energy could be re-directed towards? Your career! Do you know what gives you more energy to direct towards your career? Having emotional, spiritual and hopefully financial support. Feeling loved and having that support gives you confidence that exudes from your entire being.
Confidence in your personal life will ultimately feed into your professional life. Being stressed out from dating and bad relationships cannot be beneficial to your career unless you’re Carrie Bradshaw. While marriages take work and energy, it’s nowhere near as exasperating as being single and looking for a mate is.
And of course there is that ever-present biological clock factor. Patton says:
Think about it: If you spend the first 10 years out of college focused entirely on building your career, when you finally get around to looking for a husband you'll be in your 30s, competing with women in their 20s. That's not a competition in which you're likely to fare well. If you want to have children, your biological clock will be ticking loud enough to ward off any potential suitors. Don't let it get to that point.
While technically the pool of available men dwindles as we age, I think she has the whole competition aspect of this issue way overblown. If a woman is smart and attractive in her 30s, her age won’t automatically make her unappealing to a man who is looking for a relationship. Yes, a potential mate might be also be looking at women in their 20s, but if a woman is interesting, she stands on her own.
There are plenty of extremely attractive women that Hollywood (which clearly has the highest standards for women) still considers ideal, such as Heather Graham, Halle Berry, Brooke Shields, Cate Blanchett, and Helen Mirren (who is 68 years old). Women can be attractive at any age, and any guy who is ready to settle down isn’t just going to automatically disqualify someone who is attractive, accomplished and together exclusively because of a number.
Who would be interested in a guy like that anyway? But, as Patton implies, the truth is that age breeds desperation. And men will notice that way before they notice your $800 stiletto shoes. Desperation is the opposite of sexy. No one is attracted to desperation.
Certainly there is evidence regarding the rate of divorce decreasing as the age of marriage increases. I’m not going to question those statistics, but who bases their love life in statistics? Has anyone ever made a major life decision based on math? Of course divorce is a possibility at any age, but in college, you have four years where you will not be focusing on climbing up a hypothetical corporate latter, why not use those years wisely instead of wasting them?
Even if you don’t end up graduating with an Mrs. Degree, relationships make us grow, we learn from them, we make mistakes. If you can use that time wisely to learn what is really important to you as a person and what you need and want in a relationship, even if you don’t meet your future husband, you will be so much better off than I was, and all of those girls who weren’t serious about relationships in college.
Follow Amanda on Twitter @amandalauren.