“Are you dating anyone?” he asked. I hadn’t seen this teacher since middle school. “Yeah,” I said, “Almost a year now; it’s going really well.” He had a little smirk, “Hm. Well, alright. Just remember that you’re only young once.” I thought for a moment, smirked back and said, “Oh, well then I’ll just break up with her.”
His was the sort of advice a lot of guys gave me growing up: that I was a teenager, that I should try and get a feel for the sort of person I’d want to be with and that the only way to do that is date a lot of people. Now, of course, they didn’t mean that. The whole thing is one complicated way of saying, “Sex is fun, and you’re a guy and you should have lots of it.”
I can totally understand why being single during college is fun; I’m not casting some prescriptive judgment on the guys who told me it was. I believe them. But it becomes this whole other thing when it’s made to seem like the only way to be if you’re 19 and living at a residential college. It’s a mentality that can ruin every real relationship a person has after college ends, provided that they take the bait.
Let’s paint the picture of me taking that middle school teacher’s advice to heart: I stay with my girlfriend until I get ‘bored’ and try to jump to the next one. Next one. Next one (Let’s assume I’d even be charming enough). College ends; it’s a bit harder to meet people now, but let’s say I manage it until I find someone I love and I feel like I’ve gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I marry this woman.
Now I fast forward three to five years into that: where am I going to find myself if not bored? You don’t get wanting to sleep with other people out of your system. Relationships get boring because they inevitably get boring, and settled life will compound that feeling tenfold. The problem is in thinking that this is intrinsically bad, that you’re not supposed to feel this way, that love is supposed to feel different. Love, successful love, is always difficult, always a periodic function of boredom and the sparking of that old flame. Those guys think that if they had only had more exciting times then they’d be okay with things being dull now, are wrong never realizing that the only thing that can make their lives more interesting is them and not their relationship.
Bringing it back to how I am now. Sometimes I really want to hang out with a couple of friends, but I go with my girlfriend to a religious service because she doesn’t want to go alone. There are ways in which I’m not as free as I sometimes think I’d like to be.
But then I’ll think about how we went up the hill to the cemetery and stood together, hearing the sound of breath and crickets. I’ll tell them how we talked every day when she left the U.S. over the summer. I remember that when I’m bored, there’s usually something to do on campus that fixes that, and that she can come with me. That I’m two hundred miles from home and I found someone to take care of, and who takes care of me.
So if you’re watching a rerun of Friends and staying in with your partner tonight, and you’re worried that you’re throwing the ‘best years of your life’ away, remember that…
A: ‘The best years of your life’ isn’t a real thing and was made up by people who are miserable.
B. Sex won’t make you more interesting, and guys who think so forgot how good it is to have someone on call every time you want to make an ice cream run.
Contact Daniel Dougherty at [email protected]