The concept of dating is so primal, so animalistic, so... fundamental to our existence. But the question is, when? When are we supposed to be ready to engage in the ultimate commitment? A lot of people start dating pretty young, the most common time being in middle school or junior high. High school is widely considered to be the "right time" to start dating or to get into a relationship that people will take seriously. And if you don't date throughout high school, then people often assume that college is when you definitely should start meeting people.
But how important is dating really? Even if you've gone 18 years without it, is that really too long? Knowing how to go about things in the realm of romance, especially in this day and age, is almost a lost cause. Dating in college will probably be a bit of a challenge for me, but I think it's a challenge I'm willing to face.
Growing up, my parents never let me date. They wanted me to focus on school and on being a good person, and they just viewed that as a distraction. My mom would always tell me that I could start dating once I was 18. Back when I was 12, this seemed really far away, and in some ways, that was a relief because it took off the pressure of "having to get a boyfriend." (Which was a good thing, because I had no idea who I was even attracted to at the time. I probably would've ended up getting a boyfriend just because it's what everyone else did, not because I liked him.)
College always seemed so far away, even during my senior year of high school. I didn't care whether or not anyone was hitting on me; I never noticed it at all because it wouldn't have even mattered either way. It was nice not having to overthink things or become obsessive about relationships because that was another factor I didn't need to add to my life. Besides, I never really had that desire to be in a committed relationship so young. I needed to focus on myself and figure my own life out before even considering bringing someone else into it. I got all the romance I needed from my TV shows, movies and books. On some level, however, I felt that no one would ever even like me enough to want to date me and so telling my friends that I wasn't allowed to or that I didn't want to was partly just an excuse at the time.
I had always been really introverted throughout high school, which I feel like might be part of the reason why dating would have been so difficult for me at the time. I could never put myself out there. So I told myself that I would start fresh in college, with nothing holding me back. I would be honest and open with everyone I met, and hopefully this change would make me more attractive to people.
Easier said than done.
I've tried to put myself out there more, but to be honest, the topic of dating has never really come up for me so far. It doesn't really help that I'm at a university that's known for being hard to make friends at, let alone meet significant others. I realize that 18 may be a bit too early to be worrying about this, but I feel that at this rate I may never meet someone in college, and I probably won't meet anyone after college, either. Then I remember that if I forced myself to meet someone, I'd only be doing it because it's what people expect of me and if I slept around while in college, I'd end up turning into one of those people I mentioned earlier who jumps from person to person. That's not who I am, at least that's not who I think I am.
I've decided to address this challenge of dating in college, but not in the way you'd think. I've decided that I'm just going to be myself – my introverted, sarcastic, dry-humored self – and see where that takes me. If I happen to meet someone, then it'll be because I really wanted to not because I forced myself to. I'm no longer that 12-year-old who thinks she needs to do things simply because she's supposed to.
If I don't meet anyone who wants to be with me (or vice versa) throughout these next four years, then that's okay, too, because I'm not doing it to please my parents. I'm not doing it just so I can tell my friends. I'm not doing it because society expects college to be the "deadline" for getting your first boyfriend or girlfriend. I'm doing it for my own happiness.
Like I said, I need to focus on my happiness and prioritize myself before bringing anyone else into the equation. If someone happens to come along then that's great. But in the meantime, I'm going to remember that the only "right time" to start dating is when I'm ready for it, whether I'm 12, 18 or 65. It's college, the time to have fun and discover myself! And whether or not that discovery comes with another person? I guess I'll find out.
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