We’re part of a generation that thinks feelings are toxic. “Catching feelings” is an expression that characterizes them as something bad as opposed to what drives much of humanity’s actions. As a result of this patho-phobia, as I’ve decided to call it, we’ve come up with a myriad of ways to expedite the hookup process. Tinder, Grindr and other apps make it so people who want hookups feel entitled to sex at first swipe, and the rest are looked down upon as a gross minority — those pariahs who’d dare want a relationship. At this point in time, marriages are expected to end in divorce, and your romantic first-date story has the same chance of taking place at a drunken party as in a cozy section of the library. Is it any wonder that we’re all terrified of commitment?
What’s intriguing is that within this framework of apps, websites and glory-holes to help you get yours, there are actually people who manage to be in functional relationships — they’ll just never admit it. It’s actually ingenious, and it’s probably sexist to assume that it was a man who first decided that friends with benefits was the best idea ever. Sex with no strings attached is the definition of the term at its barest, and it seems to have taken on a new role in our culture. We define our obsession with a slew of movies and shows that use the friends with benefits situation to sell us a fear of commitment. It appeals to men because they see a situation in which they don’t have to commit but get their end goal, and it appeals to women because the situations depicted often show a level of intimacy more associated with, well, actual relationships. When you begin to analyze our obsession with this whole affair, you start to see that the friends with benefits mechanism is a way to sell relationships to the commitophobes. Don’t most of those movies end with the couple in question admitting their feelings and starting a relationship?
It seems as though a lot of people actually want more but are afraid to ask. If you doubt that you’re alone in wanting something more than just a one night stand, look at YikYak. The UCSB area looks like a sounding board for the lonely hearts club. At some point the definitions have shifted, and that’s the only explanation I can come up with. How can one be in an exclusive hookup? If it’s an exclusive hookup, it’s a relationship, just not as “serious” as it would be if two people had actually agreed to be in one. Now, on the eve of 2016, the relationship state of the union has changed. Fucking is the new hooking up, hooking up is the new relationship and dating is the new getting engaged. If you’re getting married you might as well be sewing yourselves together given how foreign it is to some of the people in our generation.
It’s easy to understand. Many of us are children of divorce, and we’ve been told our whole lives that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, so a lot of us have probably taken the cautionary tales to heart and don’t want to get ourselves too tangled up. Even more relevant is that most recent heartbreak you had from dating young that made you say you weren’t going to be in a relationship until you were really ready. But having feelings for someone else is a sign you are ready, especially if you’re willing to forgo sex with other people to be with them, and even more so if you hang out with them outside of your bedroom. Those of us in a college town, especially one with a reputation like UCSB (whether or not it’s deserving) bear the brunt of this hookup culture atmosphere that permeates our generation. College is a place where you go to learn independence, which can definitely mean sleeping around and sampling what the best frats have to offer. But it can also mean learning about love in a less sheltered setting, dealing with a breakup and having to go to school or work and be strong without a parent or your best friend from home to help you do it.
Dating in college, and actually calling it dating, provides us with valuable lessons we can’t learn later in life. If you forgo a relationship and deny your hookup any legitimacy, when you start dating as an adult, you’ll be jarred when relationships actually turn serious, and you’ve denied yourself the opportunity to dip your toes in the proverbial pool. College is fun, and so are hookups, but why deny yourself intimacy because you’re afraid you’ll get hurt? Life is about taking risks, and if you care about someone, don’t cheapen a relationship by saying you’re just hanging out. I guess to put it simply: Can’t we just admit we want to cuddle?