Sex & Life
Sex & Life August 10, 2017
Dating can be rough. And it only gets worse when you realize that everything you were taught about dating is, well, outdated.
When you don’t know yourself or how dating works, you can quickly find yourself in a cycle of failed relationships. That is exactly what happened to me.
And you know who I blamed for these failed relationships? My parents.
A little bit about me: I was raised in the South by parents who took a relatively traditional approach to educating me about dating. My parents were extremely strict yet simultaneously caring and inspiring. My father instilled in me the confidence to always trust my instincts, and my mother taught me to never settle. You’d think I hit the jackpot in the parents department, but every family has their “thing.”
You see, both of my parents were teenagers in the 80s. They spent their teen years smoking cigarettes on pontoon boats, sneaking out and listening to heavy metal music (Devil worshipping music, as the women in Bridge Club would say).
Who knows how many people my parents collectively dated during their high school and college days. I don’t even want to think about it. But their many, many dating experiences added to their immense knowledge on the subject of dating. Not to mention, the tons of helpful advice that they would eventually pass along to me when I started to date.
I entered my first “serious” relationship during my junior year of high school. The decisions I made in that relationship haunt me to this day.
And you know who I blamed for those decisions? My parents.
When it came time for me to go off to college, my mom stressed the importance of dating around and staying single. “But, mom,” I whined. “I’m totally going to marry my high school boyfriend.” And yes, I actually believed that I would at the time.
When that relationship crashed and burned in the second semester of my freshman year, I had no idea how to date. I was with that person for nearly four years. I was young, and I didn’t know myself at all.
Was I a shell of a woman? No, the breakup wasn’t that dramatic. But I quickly came to realize that I had a lot of learning to do — about myself.
The first couple of months of living life with my newly single status were difficult. I wanted so badly to be back in the comfort and safety of my former relationship.
“Date around,” my mom said. “Just tell him you want to see other people,” she would tell me when I was frustrated with my on-again-off-again situationship.
“Mom, that’s just called ‘being slutty,’” my 18-year-old self would argue. “You can’t just date five people at once with technology and social media.” Note: I definitely wasn’t as PC as I am today and had no idea about the harmful effects of slut-shaming. To be frank, you really couldn’t do that on my small college campus without people finding out.
I struggled understanding my mother’s advice and constantly questioned her mentality. Why the hell would she want me to date so many people at one time? That was what most Southern mothers warned their daughters not to do!
Eventually, I decided to take her advice and date around. And you know what happened? I was completely ostracized by every one of my ex’s peers. His fraternity brothers would drunkenly come up to me and voice their opinions about my “actions.” Members of his baseball team would tweet about me and call me names when I would go out to bars. I was living in a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.
And you know who I blamed? My parents.
A couple of months passed and the slut-shaming storm calmed. I moved out to Los Angeles for the summer, single and ready to mingle with men in skinny jeans. I met so many amazing people and really learned a lot about myself during the time I spent away from the South. For the first time in my life, I was truly single and confident in myself.
And you know who I didn’t thank? My parents.
So this is a letter to you, Mommy and Daddio. Even as an adult, it still pains me to admit when you’re right. As it turns out, your “outdated” dating advice is actually pretty classic. Being single and dating around is a right of passage, and I encourage every woman to take that journey. The only way to ever know how you really feel about yourself is by being truly alone.
By dating around, I learned so much about what I want in a future relationship, what I need from the person I’m with and how I want to be treated. And while I’m currently in no place to settle down and enter into a long-term relationship, I know who I am. And I can thank my parents for that.
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