On the rise of standards and decline of romantic action

…there is nothing romantic about love. Only the most naïve believe it will save them. Only the hardiest of us will survive it. And yet. And yet! We believe in love because we want to believe in it. Because really what else is there, amid all our glorious follies and urges and weaknesses and stumbles? The magic, the hope, the gorgeous idea of it. Because, when the lights go out and we sit waiting in the dark, what do our fingers seek? Who do we reach for?

The Last Romantics, Tara Conklin

If you were to put a gun to my head and force me to open that hidden folder on my phone, you would learn that I am an active user of five dating apps. You read that correctly: five. How many dates have I been on in the last month? A whopping zero. And yet, every night before bed I sit on my phone and swipe — left, left, right, left — until the profiles blend into one undeterminable blur. Am I too picky? Probably? But is that a bad thing? Or is it just something ingrained in the population when it comes to selecting a “life partner” — a phrase that I have actually come to hate instinctively?

Of course, there’s the obvious option of meeting someone in real life. “Rose, just go out and meet people,” you may say. That, reader, is easier said than done. And it offers the same outcomes as dating apps (in my case, a lot of ghosting). At least with the apps, you have the dependable knowledge of what exactly the other person is looking for: no guessing, no head games.

In late 2018, Match.com released its annual Singles in America study, this year helmed by anthropologist Helen Fisher, with the mildly shocking discovery that Millennials as a whole are actually having less sex than their predecessors, despite all the movements towards “no strings attached” language and norms (see all the data in an article in The Atlantic). I say mildly shocking because this decline has actually been on the data forefront for years among wealthy first world countries for several reasons: shifting attitudes towards in-person approaches (is it creepy or is it flirtatious?); the rise of access to a wide selection of pornography; Millennial discomfort with nakedness (I’m not kidding), etc.

I have been very, very open about my romantic searches and endeavors on The Mindful Millennial. Perhaps too open — sorry Mom & Dad. But growing up spawned (quite literally) from their example, a marriage that never once fractured towards divorce in the thirty years of adoration, continued respect, and puppy love infatuation…well, it sets a standard that makes it hard to not wish for that level of intimacy with a partner.

My trial and errors have led me to a point in my life that often results in sitting on my friend Rebecca’s couch with a heavy pour of cheap white whine in a plastic long-stem wine glass with heavier complaints of falling too deep in infatuation with men who reciprocate less than half of the effort. And yet, she listens and contributes her own mirrored behaviors of her own amorous challenges, leaving us quite honestly fulfilling the cliché of the blind leading the blind.

When we heard of Vanessa Valerio and Anita Flores’ Party of Two monthly comedy show having a spring edition for (cheap cheap tickets) Saturday, we quickly hopped onboard with the tagline:

“If you’ve ever watched You’ve Got Mail, Maid In Manhattan, Kate and Leopold, Serendipity, Hitch (F*CK THAT MOVIE, SERIOUSLY), or any rom-com that takes place in NYC and thought “dating in New York isn’t NEARLY this fun and sexy,” then PARTY OF TWO will be your new favorite monthly show! Hosts Vanessa Valerio and Anita Flores are bringing some of New York City’s best storytellers and comedians together to recount their absurd experiences about dating in the modern world.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/party-of-two-spring-edition-tickets-59145844814#

Perhaps it sounds too much like a “get rich quick” scheme, but for dating. Perhaps it sounds too much like a loosely thought through knock-off Love Actually (first of all, how dare you). But what it turned out to be was truly a reminder that there are people who will gather in the basement of a sex toy shop (I’m not kidding) to commiserate in the fact that singledom and dating are equally brutal but the realities of dating a person ill-suited for you are far more debilitating, although humorous when presented properly. From comedienne Tracy Soren’s honest confessions on why — and I’m not making this up — “getting my ass eaten is my nightmare” to storyteller Susan Kent recounting her two great loves and how she finally, finally moved on, it was a night of humor and depth.

Better yet, when hosts Vanessa and Anita asked people to raise their hands if they’re single, almost everyone in the room obliged and lifted. A shock to this Maryland girl whose parents were at a wedding for a — get this — 22 year old that afternoon (nothing to make you feel like a 25 year old spinster than a fresh faced bride).

In all fairness, at the end of the night, I was back on Bumble, hitting my rhythm of swipes with the same frequency as the nights before. Because there’s still that hope that Conklin talked about. And one day, I’ll have that person to reach for in the darkness. But for the meantime, I’ll have wine on Rebecca’s couch and friendship.

That doesn’t sound too bad, to be honest.

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