As someone who has spent the last year and a half without definition in my intimate connections (though certainly with plenty of defining moments, and yes mom, that’s all I’ll say about that), I placed my chin in the palm of my hand like a teacup rests in a saucer as I read Jordana Narin’s New York Times article, No Labels, No Drama, Right?as if such intensity could give her answers I’m still trying to find.
Narin writes both honestly and critically of current Millennial dating culture, a generational way of going out – or staying in – that I both am part of and baffled by (for reasons well explained by Anna Garvey):
I’m told my generation will be remembered for our callous commitments and rudimentary romances. We hook up. We sext. We swipe right.
All the while, we avoid labels and try to bury our emotions. We aren’t supposed to want anything serious; not now, anyway. But a void is created when we refrain from telling it like it is, from allowing ourselves to feel how we feel. And in that unoccupied space, we’re dangerously free to create our own realities.
The question of What are we? isn’t relegated to young adults who have spent a quarter of their life dancing in and out of each other’s iMessage inbox. I know full fledged adults who have been orbiting one another for a decade, or two, or three – through Palestine and second marriages, back when letters had to be written because sending an international text was so expensive it was holy.
When we don’t define what we are, even if what we are is casual, a problem emerges. We’re not making it up as we go along, so much as just trying to see whatever it is we want to see. The dance becomes wilder, the orbit wider.
Still, we were never more than semi-affiliated, two people who spoke and loved to speak and kissed and loved to kiss and connected and were scared of connecting. I told myself it was because we went to different schools, because teenage boys don’t want relationships, because it was all in my head.
I told myself a lot of things I never told him.
Without definition, are we just nothing? And if we are nothing, then does anything matter? Does having an extra ticket to the baseball game matter? Does having a concussion? Wherein lies the line?
Are we, or aren’t we? is a simple enough question, but it’s not one we necessarily want the answer to – because as the phantom of the opera says, “In the dark it is easy to pretend that the truth is what it ought to be.” It’s nice to play pretend. But does fantasy really eclipse reality?
Instead, we spend our emotional energy on someone we’ve built up and convinced ourselves we need. We fixate on a person who may not be right for us simply because he never wronged us. Because without a label, he never really had the chance.
My brother often reminds me that at some point, we have to stop auditioning for the role of “partner.” Either you want me as your girlfriend, or you don’t.
Not that we’re casting votes or anything, but I’m voting for labels, if only because a label means two people had to sit down and have a conversation about wants, needs, and expectations. I don’t want to hover my thumbs over my phone, wondering if I’m supposed to tell you about a mild head trauma. I just want to know.
If you are not a New York Times subscriber, your are able to read ten free articles a month. I highly suggest Jordana Narin’s piece, No Labels, No Drama, Right? be one of them.
Post Tagged with dating, jordana narin, labels, modern love, new york times, relationships
So-called millennials may be 80 years old before we can shake the biggest myth about us: We're all about that "hookup culture." Much ink has been spilled about this generation's proclivity for half-hearted dating, emotionless sex, casual relationships and endless flaking. Intimacy and love are foreign words to those in hookup culture, the narrative goes. The booming popularity of Tinder and its branding as a "hookup app" doesn't help.
But it's about time those mythical narratives got the boot, and the New York Times might be able to help. On Thursday, the New York Times' much beloved Modern Love column announced the winner of its College Essay Contest, a submission that will earn $1,000 and be published in a special Modern Love column.
It will also act as a much-needed voice against the hookup culture myth.
Columbia University sophomore Jordana Narin's winning essay is called "No Labels, No Drama, Right?" and it centers on her relationship with Jeremy, someone who came into her life at age 14 and has lingered, sometimes on the periphery and sometimes smack dab in the middle of it, ever since.
"We stayed in touch for the rest of high school, mostly by text message," she writes. "Every time his name popped up on my phone, my heart raced." (Sound familiar?)
She and Jeremy never quite made it to "boyfriend and girlfriend," and their relationship never moved beyond occasional connections. But that tenuousness didn't reduce the relationship to a hookup; on the contrary, Narin writes, "while we're hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them. But by not calling someone, say, 'my boyfriend,' he actually becomes something else, something indefinable. And what we together have becomes intangible." The emotional connection was nameless but nonetheless real.
"While we're hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them. But by not calling someone, say, 'my boyfriend,' he actually becomes something else, something indefinable. And what we together have becomes intangible."
If that doesn't sound anything like the media's descriptions of hookup culture, that's because it's not. Not only is a generation's proclivity for rampant, unattached sex statistically unfounded, it also overlooks the deep emotional bonds we're forming, something Narin expresses beautifully.
"From what I see in college students' stories," Modern Love editor Daniel Jones told Mic, "the term 'hookup culture' is too broad and simplistic to describe the behavior of a generation. Many still talk about hooking up just for sex while others are in or seek committed relationships, and some are looking for a new way of making emotional and physical connections that stops short of something more serious."
That doesn't mean millennial romance doesn't have its pitfalls and discontent, as Jones said, particularly when it comes to the cult of "chill" and the resistance to labels.
"In Jordana's essay, she was able to articulate the potential consequences of label avoidance in a way that struck our readers as being fresh and true, particularly in how a lack of labels can lead to a lack of accountability and closure," he said.
But they're consequences that can be addressed if we start talking about them. An essay read by millions isn't a bad place to start.