“I made a deal with myself a long time ago: My column needed to capture the things I discuss with my friends. Last week, I realized that wasn’t totally happening anymore.”
Bill Simmons, the Patron Saint of Writing on the Internet, wrote these two sentences a few weeks ago in the best piece that he’s published in years. The rest of that piece isn’t relevant to this one, but the introduction struck me so hard that I wanted to include it here.
Whether or not I’ve ever said it, I’ve always approached writing my Gavel articles the same way – especially recently, as I’ve been getting ready to say goodbye to a lot of my friends in a few months. Two weeks ago, I regurgitated four years’ worth of conversations into a piece about stereotypes in CSOM. And last week, I turned things that bothered my co-workers and myself into the 10 Late Night Commandments.
This week, I want to address something a little more (okay, a lot more) sensitive. I’m not saying those last two topics are unimportant, only less important; they’re the type of things you can crack jokes about with people you vaguely know in a classroom or at the Reservoir bus stop. This week, I want to write about a topic that for whatever reason never expands beyond a two-person conversation.
Now, before you bail out on me for sounding like a pretentious insert-four-letter-word-here, let me clarify: I did not come up with these ideas on my own. They’re the products of more conversations with more people than I can count since September 2009. They’re the products of those people trusting me and me trusting those people, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I’m not about to blow anybody’s spot up and drop any names, but if the people I reference after this paragraph read between the lines and recognize themselves and their stories, thank you and I apologize – if you want to physically damage my face, you know where to find me.
Still (and I promise we’re almost at the end of this overextended introduction), I had some talks over the past two weeks with some people very important to me that led to this Simmons-y revelation. If I’m going to keep doling out advice about things of this magnitude to people who might actually listen to me, I better have the stones to back it up and put that advice out there for the whole world to see.
And now, to hopefully prove that I’m really not a pretentious four-letter word, allow me to introduce the first of four categories into which I’ve broken down the messy, messy topic of finding love, as well as the inspiration behind said breakdown: the music of Justin Bieber.
“I think it's really important these girls have something so they can be one less lonely girl.” Deep words from the Biebs. Okay, despite the ridiculous obviousness of this statement, even from an at-the-time 15-year-old, we shouldn’t laugh off the sentiment behind it.
Everyone gets lonely sometime. I’m sure it sounds just as obvious, but I’m also sure that you know at least a few people who you could not picture laying in bed late at night alone, wishing they had someone important lying next to them.
I am destroying this myth right now. It happens to everyone.
The problem is that when we’re feeling this way, we feel like nobody else does. We feel like nobody else would care if we had the courage to articulate how we felt, and we feel like even if we did it wouldn’t make the pain go away. So we feel ashamed and trick ourselves into thinking we don’t feel this way and won’t ever feel this way again.
What’s the result? People who point to every activity they’ve chosen to partake in as “proof” that they “don’t have time” for something that they know would make them happier than any of those said activities. People who proudly fire off the benefits of “not being tied down” at the start of the night and end up crying about the girl who got away back in high school by the time they get back to the dorms from Mary Ann’s. And perhaps most commonly, people who “just haven’t met the right person” while making little to no real effort to actually get to know someone new.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying everyone in the world who’s single is in a state of denial about being perpetually miserable. What I am saying is that if you know the feeling I’m talking about, and you also know the coping tactics I’m talking about, then you are far less alone in your loneliness than you think.
You shouldn’t lie to yourself about feeling a basic human emotion and if you really want to know my thoughts on “how to find love at BC” (which I assume you do because you clicked on a link that led you here), the process starts with admitting to yourself that you do want that someone you’ve stayed awake thinking about however many nights in the past. Once you do, we can listen to our next Bieber song.
2. Fear Of Rejection.
Confession: I am a finance major.
Much more awkward confession: When I’m talking about relationships, I always end up quoting Wu-Tang Financial and explaining why our love lives are like investing. How? Two simple concepts: diversification, and risk and reward.
1. Diversification: The need to “DIVERSIFY YOUR BONDS!” refers to the idea that having a good number of different investments protects you if or when one of your investments flames out. In non-CSOM terms, just because that cutie from Principles of Microeconomics friended you on Facebook, you shouldn’t immediately attach all your emotions to that one person.
You should still be looking out for cuties in your other classes to friend on Facebook. Maybe Microecon Cutie blows off the plans you two made to meet at that off-campus party next Friday and suddenly stops returning texts. Would you rather be miserable about it all weekend, or have someone else you could potentially meet up with on Saturday?
2. Risk and reward: This concept comes into play in the event that Microecon Cutie does show up at that party, and another one the next weekend, and another one again until you two reach that point where you’re not dating but it’s kind of expected that you see each other at least one night a week. The point when it’s normal to get nervous about saying anything about how you two obviously like each other (at least you think it’s obvious!) and move the relationship forward to more intimate situations in which alcohol will not even be present, let alone a potential factor.
In finance, risk and reward refers to the concept that in order to earn a big return on an investment, you have to accept a significant risk that you will lose that investment. The bigger the risk, the bigger the possible reward. The same is true for your love life – the simple fact of the matter is that until you accept that you have to take a risk and make yourself vulnerable to potential rejection, you’re never going to earn the reward of getting to know Microecon Cutie any better.
Sounds easy enough, until you think about what “taking a risk” really means. It means shredding your personal comfort bubble to tiny little pieces with a chainsaw. It means going places you’ve never gone, talking to people you’ve never talked to, and asking a lot of questions that you’d much rather wait to be asked. Ladies, this applies to you, too – it’s the 21st century after all.
All of this obviously sets up the possibility of failure, and to be honest, chances are things won’t always work out – that’s the definition of risk-taking. But if you’re unsatisfied with what you’re getting out of your same old social routine, just remember that, according to the smartest dude who ever lived, insanity is just doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Before I delve into this, can we all just take a moment to appreciate the ridiculous difference between “Baby” Bieber and “Boyfriend” Bieber? It’s like one is Bieber when he lived on Upper and the other is Bieber living in a Mod.
Anyway, the topic of commitment is probably the one that receives the most attention in my conversations. A few people will admit to wanting to meet someone, some will admit to being afraid of getting rejected, but literally everyone has a stance on commitment.
Those stances have changed over the years, and for the sake of brevity (LOL) I’ll just tackle the two that seem the most common among seniors, because it’s where I’m at now and if you’re not, you will be in one year, two years or even three (I AM SO OLD. AHHH!):
- Stance 1: I am a senior in college. In a few months, I will be off in “the real world,” far away from anyone I have or will meet on this campus. I don’t want to pursue a relationship right now because it would end very soon and would cause myself and the other person significant heartache. I just want to “have fun.”
- Stance 2: I am a senior in college. In a few months, I will be off in “the real world,” far away from everyone I have or will meet on this campus. I need to pursue a relationship right now because the best opportunity I will ever have to meet someone is going to end very soon. I no longer have time to just “have fun.”
I’m not going to say that either of these stances is right or wrong. What I will say is that the factors that cause people to spit them out can be a little dubious. Let’s break them down, starting with Stance 1 (and yeah I'm going to color code again to break up the monotonous block of text you're about to encounter).
Stance 1: I don’t want to generalize across the 2,000-something students in the Class of 2013, but I have overwhelmingly heard this one from guys, and very rarely from girls. And let’s be real – these guys are usually the ones who start off the night like this:
And end it like this:
I call this the “Entourage mindset.” If you aren’t familiar with the show Entourage, it’s basically about a movie star named Vinnie Chase who is rich, handsome and famous. In fact, he is so rich, handsome and famous that not only can he get any girl he wants; his not-rich-handsome-or-famous buddies seem to be able to do it too.
As someone who watched every episode of this show, I can definitively state that it is 100 percent more damaging to society than Game Of Thrones, American Idol and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo combined. It is the best example in a huge pool of TV shows, movies and songs that convince unsuspecting young men that the world actually works this way; that they can fling aside an amazing girl in the morning and find an equally amazing one that night.
WRONG. First of all, no one at BC is nearly Vinnie Chase-level rich-handsome-famous. And second of all, EVEN THE DUDES WHO ARE DON’T LIVE THIS WAY. The guy who made “Big Pimpin’” has been with the same woman for over a decade. The guy who brought sexy back is a married man. And most obviously of all, [SPOILER ALERT] VINNIE CHASE GETS MARRIED IN THE LAST EPISODE OF ENTOURAGE! EVEN ENTOURAGE DOESN’T LIVE LIKE ENTOURAGE!
The justification for the “Entourage mindset” is of course that even if our aspiring Vinnie Chases did settle down, they would be setting themselves up to "get hurt” when they graduated. I personally love it when I get someone to say this because it means I get to be all nostalgic about my semester in London and how it changed me forever and why yes, that cliché is in fact real.
To make a tremendously long story short, from the moment I touched down in London I knew that no matter what or who I got involved with while I was there, I’d have to leave it all behind permanently in three months. Did this mean I played it safe and spent all my time studying and doing touristy things? No! I went and made a bunch of non-American friends who I would absolutely take a bullet for.
Obviously I ended up leaving them. I really do miss them every day, and obviously that’s awful. But would I have changed a single thing I did? No! They made me a better person, and taught me just how important it is to do all that risk-taking stuff I wrote about in the “Baby” section. Even leaving them made me a better person in a way, because it taught me that just because something has a set ending doesn’t mean that it’s “pointless.”
The point is, that if you meet someone who makes you happy and who makes you feel like a better person, you shouldn’t let the thought of having to say goodbye prevent you from taking everything you can from that relationship. I can think of a lot of words to describe that type of mindset, like “wimpy” and “childish,” and using it to distance yourself from someone who cares about you is definitely not “unselfish” or “admirable.”
Plus, unless you know for a fact that you are going to marry the next person you date (brilliant plan by the way), you’re going to have to say goodbye or even (gulp) break up with someone at some point anyway. If you think you can somehow mentally prepare yourself between now and then for that moment, which you already admit is too overwhelming for you to deal with now, think again.
Lastly before we move onto Stance 2, I know some people just read those words and thought, “well yeah, that’s why I’m not even looking for someone who makes me feel that way right now.” Let me be frank: I have literally never heard of any type of situation involving regularly seeing Microecon Cutie (see section 2) that didn’t end because someone got to the edge of “Boyfriend” status and the other person didn’t. And the person who wanted it more usually got emotionally flattened, and worse off, didn’t even let the other person know. So just know that if you’re ever involved in one or more of those Microecon Cutie relationships, you are absolutely, 100 percent playing with fire in terms of someone else’s emotions. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you aren’t. Which brings us to Stance 2.
Stance 2: As you can guess, I personally hear this one more commonly from my female friends. I can definitely see the logic, even if I think its view of “the real world” is a little too pessimistic – after all, how many of the married couples you know even met in college?
The main problem these girls have is being attracted to guys who don’t want the same thing. The girl feels like the guy is lying when he says he’s not ready to commit, and in reality just doesn’t like her enough to make her his girlfriend. But the girl feels like a four-letter word if she’s doing what she’s doing without a commitment. So then the girl feels the need to pressure the guy into a commitment immediately or else break off contact with him completely. It’s not a fun time.
The problem with this ultimatum is that it misses the point of being in a relationship in the first place. The reason two people commit to each other is that they already make each other so happy that not committing no longer makes sense. Girls, I’m not going to lie and say that if a dude commits to being your boyfriend, he no longer finds other girls attractive. What his commitment does mean, though, is that the awesomeness he feels when he’s around you outweighs that physical desire other girls might instill when you’re not around. And yes, part of how awesome you make him feel is based on his knowing that if you saw him with another woman, you’d be crushed.
For this reason, I don’t ever advocate telling a guy you like that you’re okay with him seeing other people at any point. Don’t freak out on him about it on the second date, but if he ever hears those words out of your mouth, you are never going to get a commitment out of him. If you really want to be in a relationship with him, don’t let him think otherwise.
(I realize this happens with the gender roles flipped too, as well as with two people of the same gender. We're going back to gender-neutral.)
Don’t force the commitment issue too early on. Nobody, male or female, likes to be controlled or pressured into something. If you tell someone “be mine right now or I’m gone,” and that someone is already iffy on committing to anyone at all, you’re probably not looking at a storybook ending.
Still, don’t lose faith. Just because someone hasn’t committed to you yet doesn’t mean it will never happen. People change their minds every day. If you’re really right for that other person, just keep doing you, stay confident and remember that every time you hang out, it’s a chance to strengthen your relationship and move closer towards a commitment. If the other person has a functioning brain, eventually he or she will want to make it.
Clearly this way isn’t how it always plays out. If you feel like you’ve reached a breaking point, and you feel like you’ve let that other person know exactly how you feel and what you want, and that other person still doesn’t have the stones to step up, then I don’t advise starting a fight about it or issuing a threatening ultimatum. I say cut that person off and move on as quickly as possible.
If that person doesn’t have the opinion or the intelligence to recognize that you’re worth it, just don’t waste your time or energy. You need to be confident that you can go out and find someone who is worth all that effort. Obviously it’s easier said than done, but if you aren’t already this confident in your own awesomeness, what right do you have to ask anyone to commit to you? It’s an important question that also brings us to our last section:
4. Making It Work.
No one I know has been on the Bieber end of a threatening speech from Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs. Literally everyone I know at BC, however, has said that “being too busy” is the biggest problem with being in a relationship at college.
It’s true. No matter how happy you make each other or how “right for each other” you really are, time will be a problem. When you’re single, you spend your time in class, studying, working and at extracurriculars, with anything leftover devoted to your friends and getting your sleep in.
When you enter a committed relationship, you have to take a huge chunk of time from those other ways you spend it. You can let your grades drop, you can work fewer hours, you can cut back on your extracurricular involvement, you can spend less time with your friends or you can stop sleeping. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can simply “find the time” for a relationship. Time does not work like that.
The issue seems to almost inevitably arise when one person in the relationship finds more time than the other, or at least, when one person feels this way. Remember when I asked that rhetorical question about being self-confident? You need to be in order to keep yourself from freaking out if your significant other doesn’t have time to lie in bed doing nothing with you on a Tuesday afternoon. You knew the deal when you started dating the captain of a dance team – in fact, the dancing talent was probably one of the things you initially found attractive. You can either get angry and resentful when practices ramp up before ALC Showdown, or you can find ways to keep yourself busy.
This part is just as important, if not more so. Yeah, you two need to find time to spend together, but you as an individual need to keep doing what it is you’re passionate about outside the relationship. Not only will it keep you sane, it’ll give you the self-confidence to stay as awesome as you were the day you two met. And don’t forget that if something that your partner was involved with impressed you when you first met, your partner probably felt the same way about you.
To put it simply and maybe to be a bit cheesy, many people get so wrapped up in being a good boyfriend or girlfriend that they stop being good at who they were at the start of the relationship. If you want to avoid the “clingy” stereotype that splits up so many couples and scares a bunch of other people away from even trying, treat the time you spend away from each other with the same importance as the time you do spend together.
End Of The Bieber Breakdown.
(Note: this video is a lot more powerful if you pretend they never broke up. Sigh.)
To close this ridiculously bloated piece (like, as bloated as the media's treatment of Valentine’s Day), I just want to say that obviously none of this is foolproof, everyone is different, and blah blah blah blah blah. This piece isn’t about guaranteeing you a boyfriend or girlfriend before the heart-shaped boxes are all gone from CVS. It’s about putting down in writing what many different people all seem to feel but never say to each other.
Hopefully you read something here that you’ve felt before but never heard someone utter in public. I hope that if you have someone special to spend this day with, that he or she is reading this sentence right next to you. And if you don’t but you wish you did, I hope you find him or her, whether you have three years or three months left on this campus.
Most of all, I hope you appreciated the Biebs.
That’s all I’ve got. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Call Robert Rossi a naive sappy wimp to his Twitter face @RVRossi