The Dating Buffet

I would just like to specify that here I am referring strictly to heterosexual relationships simply because that is where my personal experience lies. Gays and lesbians, do your thang!

 

I am a 21 year old female and I have been single for over two years.

Before I begin, what impression did the above statement give you of me? Did any part of you feel sorry for me? Did it give you the impression that I’m lonely, needy, desperate, or incomplete?

Moving on… Some recent conversations have got me thinking in depth about dating and more importantly what it may mean for males and females comparatively. Over the past two or more years I have had a bit of experience with dating in all of its tragic and beautiful forms. I have been reflecting recently on assumptions which in my experience are often made only about single females in regards to dating. To clarify, when I say dating I am not referring to an exclusive relationship between two people, but to the action of going on dates, hanging out with or getting to know another person.

So, I really like human beings. I think people are awesome, especially when they’re funny and like all the same foods as me (every food). Being naturally extroverted, interacting with others is probably my favourite past time ever. And if you haven’t already noticed, every human is unique. That means every person you meet can offer you different experiences, knowledge and perspectives on the world and all it encompasses. It’s like a buffet filled with every flavour that ever existed or is going to exist and it’s amazing, and I want all of it.

Many times however, as a woman, I feel like my ability to enjoy the full abundance of this glorious buffet has been limited. I feel like I’m only allowed to try a little bit of one flavour at a time, because if I get more than that people might think I’m greedy and fat. So then I’m expected to just sit there and watch other people (men) walk up time and time again and fill their plates to the brim, scoffing down all the deliciousness until they burst. On reflection, I’ve decided that the whole ‘limited’ thing ain’t really gonna work for me. So SCREW YOU buffet rules, I’m eating as much as I want at the pace that I want, when I want!!!

If you didn’t get what I was alluding to above, I’m talking about the way we force expectations and assumptions onto women that they are not able to participate in dating and relationships the same way that men are. When I first meet a guy and we hang out, I NEVER make the assumption that because we have hung out, I must be the only girl he talks to and is interested in. I consciously understand that he was not born yesterday and I am entering a world of his in which many other people already exist. Why then, have males not entered my life with the same caution and understanding? I think it’s because in our world there is a general societal understanding that relationships and marriage are the most important thing in a woman’s life. This means that many (but not all) men will assume that every female is waiting for a guy who will ‘treat her right’ and make her his girl, and when this opportunity presents itself it is assumed the woman will jump straight on board. Stemming on from this is the assumption that every female who is not in a public relationship is lonely.

Fellas, this really isn’t the case. And I know many of you are already aware of this. But I also know many of you aren’t. There have been quite a few times when guys I have been getting to know have been unsettled or even shocked at the discovery that they are not the only male I talk to and spend time with. I’m then branded as a ‘player’ because with this knowledge often also comes the assumption that I am sleeping with multiple people. A male in this predicament would scarcely be labelled so negatively because as we all know there is less issue with men expressing their relationship and sexual freedom. But women are trained to supress their sexuality for fear of being judged, labelled and condemned by others.

Men (for the most part) are able to follow their natural human desires, but there are so many rules that surround women when it comes to sex. I really loathe this, because these barriers and rules are associated with so many other issues in regards to female sexuality. Girls are taught how to dress strategically to draw the attention of males which consequently boxes the female body as solely for the pleasure and entertainment of men. In Erykah Badu’s video for her song “Window Seat” she progressively removes pieces of clothing as she walks down a street in a completely non sexualised manner. She referred to people’s distaste for this video in an explanation stating that people struggle to process female nudity when “it isn’t packaged for the consumption of male entertainment”. This resonated with me because I think it encapsulates the limited way in which we view the female body and females as a whole. Women are incredible creatures – they are literally the bearers of human life for the entire world. So by limiting them to such a simplistic categorisation is to sell yourself short on so many levels, whether you are male or female. 

When I first started to write and brain storm this piece it was a response to my anger and frustration at males who I felt were clingy and possessive. It infuriated me that I would be labelled as needy, lonely and incomplete and that I would be expected to act in a particular way simply because I am female, and that males who actually were these things weren’t branded as so. But when I approached these thoughts from a broader perspective I realised that to write in such a way would be to completely undermine my argument. How could I label guys as clingy and needy simply for expressing their feelings and then rebuke the labels I am given? Men are trained from an early age that to express their NORMAL and NATURAL human emotions is to deny their masculinity. As a human race we are so caught up on gender expectations and it is damaging. Imagine the type of connections and relationships we could develop if we actively tried to disregard these perceptions of males and females? To me, connecting with other people is what makes life incredible, and even though rejecting stereotypes is difficult, it paves the way for more honest and ultimately fulfilling relationships.

My Insta Cleanse

No, I’m not a self-professed Instagram health and fitness blogger about to share with you all my overnight oats recipe and my best 15 minute bum and thigh workout. When I say Insta Cleanse I am referring to the decision I made a few weeks ago to delete my Instagram account. I wanted to document the reasons for this for both my own and possibly others benefit. Although only recent I wanted to write this while the feelings that contributed to this decision were still fresh.

Before I begin a disclaimer. Firstly, if you are not on Instagram you probably won’t understand this – stop reading now. And secondly, I think the Instagram app is mad, this post is specifically about the negative ways in which people (myself included) can use it.

I remember back about a year ago when I first got Instagram. It was a completely foreign world to me but I was intrigued. As I explored its different facets and discovered the Valencia filter the beauty of Instagram slowly unfolded and made itself known. One (embarrassingly) notable moment was the first time I hit 11 likes. It was on a photo I had taken of the sunset. I made a pic stitch and imaginatively hash tagged ‘sunset’ as the caption and boy did the likes pour in. I remember my joy when that little orange love heart thing popped up showing how many likes I had received – 12 to be exact. From this moment on I was hooked and my obsession began to develop.

The obsession remained somewhat subconscious (or possibly denied) until a few months ago when I began to assess my life and what I gave my time to. It became obvious that an unjustified proportion of my thoughts and time delegation were Instagram related. This is really embarrassing for me to admit, but having had much experience with the app I know I am not the only one to feel and act this way. I have created a list of symptoms as follows that I believe can signify an unhealthy obsession with Instagram. Do you:

–          Plan and wait for the optimum time to upload a photo in order to pull the most likes?

–          Delete photos if you think they don’t get enough likes?

–          Feel the need to get photo evidence of everything you do? (E.g. reading a book, drinking a smoothie, doing the Bronte to Bondi walk)

–          Have the Followers app?

–          Scroll all the way down to the last photo you looked at when you re open Instagram?

–          Post hashtag spam on your photos?

–          Regularly stalk certain people who are not celebrities?

–          Purposely do/buy/say/eat/drink/wear certain things just to put it on Instagram to get a particular reaction?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above I want you to ask yourself some questions – what effect is Instagram having on your life? Is it bringing out the best facets of your personality or encouraging the worst? Is it helping you feel content or creating narcissism? Is it allowing you to capture memories or is it distracting you from making them?

When I thought about all these things in depth I didn’t like the conclusions I came to. Instagram was preventing me from living in the moment and enjoying the experiences I was having. It was bringing out bad qualities in me – jealousy, greed, discontentment and a complete misconception of what is really important in life. It was encouraging my own self-obsession – the desire to document what I was doing in order to attain ‘likes’ and as a result the approval of others. But this approval was coming from people who I either didn’t really know or didn’t give a shit about. What did their opinion really matter to me? Instagram provides the perfect outlet to construct a persona of what you want yourself to be. It creates the façade that there are so many perfect humans out there because it allows you to pick and choose only your best traits and then put these forward, edited to perfection with the desired filter. When you step out of this bubble you can come to see it for what it really is – fake and frankly, embarrassing. The fact that people (myself included) put so much effort into building this persona that only exists in the cyber world is weak and unproductive. Imagine the person you could be if you cut this bullshit and put this same effort into being the best person you can be?

Overall, I realised that to a certain extent I was using Instagram and specifically ‘likes’ to validate my own existence. That is depressingly unsurprising considering I am a social media baby coming from a generation where ‘likes’ = self-worth. When I finally took the plunge and deleted my account, I immediately felt a very noticeable sense of relief. I found myself asking why I hadn’t done it sooner. The whole idea of Instagram very quickly felt foreign to me now that I was no longer a part of that world. Since deleting it I have felt empowered and free. Empowered because I am going against the social norm and taking control of the way I view myself and the world. And free because it is like a weight off my back, an entire world which once mattered to me no longer exists and I am able to spend that time any way I please. I find this surprising but there has not been a single moment where I have seriously regretted deleting it.

A couple of days after writing this I found this video which I think illustrates perfectly some of my thoughts and feelings towards social media and specifically Instagram:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Bkr_udado