Reminder: The questions posed in this occasional column are written by actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
Please help me with my sick, sick joke of an early-twenties love life. I am a smart, clean, educated, reasonably attractive woman with a dog.
Dear Lone Sharkette,
You’re clean? Well, that’s the problem. Pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey, and dirty yourself up a bit.
KIDDING! Sex is not the answer! Though my similarly aged Research Assistant thinks that it is. But he has a penis, so for him, it might be true.
When I was in college, my girlfriends and I had a saying: Women give sex to get love, and men give love to get sex. I know, I know, it’s silly. But it holds a grain of truth – women often offer up the goods so that they can feel love, and men will say/do/give/buy ANYTHING to get some booty, particularly when they’re 20-something.
Now, for all I know you’re a virgin, saving yourself for marriage. HILARIOUS! No, no, kidding again. That’s adorable. But regardless of your sexual intake, the point is that early 20s male-female relationships are nearly always infected by sexual infatuation, particularly when the parties involved are carefree, employed, and feeling no particular urgency to get hitched, stake out a homestead and start popping out offspring.
This dynamic makes real relationships, the kinds based on friendship and trust, difficult to find and maintain.
In addition, in our 20s we are still holding on to unrealistic standards. I, for example, wanted dark-skinned and handsome. With muscles. Someone taller than me. And smarter than me. Which is hard, because I’m pretty smart. I overlooked countless guys because they were too scrawny or short. Or liked me too much. Or laughed weird. By contrast, I hooked up with way too many hot guys who were perfect specimens on the outside, but whose hearts and souls were physically located down below their navels. By hooked up, I mean….WHOOPS. And yet the perfect man for me ended up being a tiny bit scrawny and noticeably shorter than me, although now he lifts weights and is totally buff. It took him four years to convince me he was worthy because I was so worried about him being too short. How shallow is that?
My point is that in the modern age, if you are a young hipster living in an urban or semi-urban area, you do not need a love life. You need to figure yourself out, like Cheryl Strayed explains in her memoir Wild. It’s the story of how she spent three months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail all by herself so she could think about stuff. Contrary to what Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger made everyone think, women do not need men to complete them. Maybe you should go see the movie Brave, featuring Disney’s very first princess who doesn’t long for a prince.
I am not suggesting you light out for the territory. But certainly you could spend more time walking on the beach with your dog and thinking about global warming and inner beauty rather than worrying about who you’re going to marry. And do you have friends? The type who will put you to bed after you’ve had too many shots of tequila (on your stomach, so you don’t aspirate your vomit)? That’s excellent practice for coupledom. Fact: true friendships will help teach you what you want most from a romantic relationship. In particular, friendships with guys will help you figure out what you want in a man. And in many, many cases, the male friend who helps you figure that out turns out to be the man you want. How’s that for karma?
This is not to say you can’t have dates, or even open up the occasional can of whoopie. You go, girl! But don’t start trying to fall in love! Let love overtake you, and surprise you like an unexpected raisin in an oatmeal cookie or a $20 bill found stuffed in the pocket of your jeans.
In the meantime, enjoy this period when the toilet seat is always down, the dishwasher is loaded correctly, and you don’t have to write Jaguars statistics on your forehead in order to attract attention. Yes, I’m stereotyping. Still. Enjoy it.
Peace out, peeps.
the Savvy Sister