You’re probably on your 1000th swipe – you’ve been down this swiping left and right rabbit hole for a minute but with very little success. It’s tiring and draining. There’s really no formula to this dating thing in the 21st century – the COVID-19 era.
You’re not even sure it’s love you’re looking for anymore because going by the quality of dates you’ve been on – there’s very little hope of finding a genuine connection. But you don’t give up, do you? You’ve uninstalled that dating app 10 times now – will the 11th installation make the difference? You hope so but deep down there’s a critic asking you why you think this time it’s going to be different. We don’t know that for sure but we can hope, right? I mean, there are success stories ----- #WeMetOnTinder is a real hashtag!
As you weave through profiles and sieve the faces, don’t forget that your worth isn’t defined by your acceptability rate based on an algorithm. Dating in 2022 looks a lot like going through the process via the DM or zoom calls and repeatedly doing that with no tangible end results can be frustrating and time-consuming. It’s also an addictive process – one that feels like a game of probability and if you play well enough – you’re rewarded with a match!
This relatively easy process fans the flame that is hookup culture – which refers to casual sexual activities that demand no emotional bonding, commitment, or even accountability. Great as sex might be, hookup culture is more damaging than it is good. And now that you’re young and explorative, it might seem like the way to go because it’s socially acceptable and it doesn’t ask too much of you.
We don’t even need to know each other’s last names as long as we’re hot enough for each other! That works all the time otherwise we wouldn’t strive to show our highlight reels on every app – the very best of ourselves. Beyond the hullabaloo that is modern dating, you’re still a real person – in need of emotional safety, reciprocity of love, and care. I’m just here to remind you not to lose yourself in the matrix.
With the fear of not sounding like a gatekeeper of modern dating – which I’m not, here are three things up my sleeve that I think you should remember as you navigate this process;
1. Put your heart, health, and safety first
Think of yourself as the most important person you need to take care of. Not everyone has good intentions in the dating pool so guard your heart and keep your trust before giving it away. You’re not in a competition to collect the most jars of other people’s hearts – slow down.
Don’t be in a rush to get to those physical dates, especially with COVID-19 still hovering in the atmosphere and if you must have them – practice health guidelines.
The CDC reports that 1 in 5 Americans has a sexually transmitted disease and that half of new STIs are from people aged between 15 – 24 years. Your health is quite literally your wealth – as cliché as it sounds. If you’re not operating from a place of optimum wellness then your quality of life dwindles.
The last thing you want is to worry about contracting a disease that can be avoided when you take the utmost care of yourself. Stay vigilant when it comes to protecting your health because nobody else will do it for you.
2. Practice healthy sexual boundaries
Let’s talk about sex – yes! And these conversations aren’t the easiest ones to have but they’re necessary. You need to be on the same page with the person you’re giving the privilege of touching your body. Own the process and don’t give your power to communicate away. If you suppress your needs and your voice, people can take advantage of you easily.
Setting healthy sexual boundaries can look like this;
Agree on what consent means between you and your partner(s) and that consent can be revoked at any time during the process.
Discussing what you like, don’t like, your limits, expectations, and any other information you should know about each other.
Setting safe words for when either party isn’t comfortable with what’s happening. In the same breath, understanding that “no” doesn’t mean “yes” and that “no” is a complete sentence.
Owning responsibility for safety precautions like using condoms and birth control.
Leaving the lines of communication open at all times about any concerns.
Sex should feel safe and comfortable for you and anyone that doesn’t make you feel safe should not be anywhere near you. If you don’t feel seen and heard where you are, you have the power to walk away and choose better.
3. Your value isn’t defined by your sex life (or lack thereof)
Sex has become such a fast-moving commodity that is readily available. In this hypersexual environment, one can feel like they’re missing out on this great sexual adventure that everyone else is on.
Don’t cave in to the pressure if all that your peers seem to rave about is how good their sex lives are – maybe they aren’t that great anyway. Take your time with these things – especially learning about your body and what it likes. How to take care of your reproductive health and things they didn’t teach you in sex-ed class.
The other side of the coin is that if you choose to be sexually active as a young adult, it doesn’t mean that your worth declines – particularly for ladies. You’re not defined by how many sexual encounters you’ve had or not had and nobody has the right to make you feel otherwise or label you unkindly. Your personal choice sits with you. The message to remember is to stay safe and guard yourself - mind, body, and soul. Not everyone deserves access to you and your most intimate parts.
You’re now coming into yourself in your teens and twenties. A lot is exciting in terms of sex and all there is to it. Keep in mind the big picture of your sexual choices – they all lead to something – pleasure, pain, disappointment, lessons, excitement, etc. Don’t treat this as a destination but a journey of learning and unlearning what sex is and what it isn’t so that you can make the best decisions for yourself. This is your lane, stick to it and make the rules.
As Kacey Musgraves has said before, “Follow your arrow wherever it points.”