I try to stay out of the internet fray. In my 20s I remember getting steamed over all the articles about about the baby boomers. You couldn’t pass a newspaper or magazine without seeing a headline about how many of them there are, their spending habits, who they were marrying, where they were choosing to live. And the TV shows! I let “Thirtysomething” piss me off every single week. (Apologies to my beloved sis who loved that show — love you!) There were way more of them than my Gen X, and it seemed to me they were just this giant vacuum cleaner of materialism sucking up all the resources in their path. The media coverage of it led them to think they were entitled to it. Meanwhile Gen Xers were left with their crumbs and dust and a string of Republican presidents to try to patch together a life. So, yeah, that’s why they call us cynical.
Did me getting pissy about it change anything? No. Did I manage to patch together a life? Yes. And maybe I could have done it faster if I hadn’t wasted so much energy getting my panties in a twist about them. Or maybe that’s just the nature of being a 20-year-old. Your fairly new life panties get twisted about stuff. You are at the start, and while you know the most you’ve known in your whole life, it’s still not actually that much. You have to figure it out as you go. One thing I learned from those years is that I am happier if I don’t get caught up in the media stories about stuff that is only a thing because they are writing about it. Sometimes it’s insightful or entertaining, but mostly it just makes you feel bad.
So I set up a bubble against what I think of as pseudo news stories (as opposed to fake news — that’s a different post). Pseudo news is: yes, it’s true that the boomers are a very large and influential generation; however, that fact alone does not make them news. Of course staying in the bubble was much easier when it was just print and TV. The internet pummels the bubble much more, and it’s inevitable that things slip through. Just retrieving my email on Comcast, I get pelted with clickbait headlines and pictures of people I don’t recognize, “ripping” other people I don’t recognize. But no matter, I’m older and crabbier now, so even when the bubble is breached, my alter ego Blanche takes a drag on her ciggie, downs a shot, and says we don’t give a flip. I get my real news elsewhere.
Except on rare occasions when my pissy 20-year-old is poked.
I read a story about how all the #metoo and attention on sexual abuse has got men in their 20s questioning their own behavior. That’s a good thing. The situation also seems to have men and women in their 20s allegedly confused about the rules of dating. The article earnestly quotes men and women who say they don’t know how to act, and interviews with concerned therapists who say their male clients are so befuddled they are afraid to even go on dates. Wah, wah, wah.
Cue eye roll. This, my friends, is pseudo news.
Just because you have more information about something, especially about sexuality and dating, don’t expect it to make things easier. In fact certain information will make it a lot harder. But that’s what is called “growth,” which often hurts like hell when you are going through it, but can make you a better person.
Twitter alert: Life is just awkward and uncomfortable, if you’re lucky. It can also be much, much worse. If it’s just awkward, count your blessing and move on. And if you happen to be a confident, focused 20-something, you will hit a confused patch at some point. There’s no skipping stages.
So forgive me if I’m rolling my eyes at the 20-somethings who are confused about dating. Since the cavemen were trying to hit cave women over the head as a way of asking them out, or hoping her brother was home instead, or she was more interested in gathering nuts and berries with the hot cave ladies, dating has always been confusing. More so when you’re 25, but it’s no picnic for anyone. If you work at it, you just get better at knowing your worth and what you want. And even when you do, you still sit across from your date and think, does he like me? Should I go home with him? Is spinach in his teeth and his collection of antique dentist equipment a deal breaker?
Wah, wah, you’re confused about dating. Welcome to Human 101. Now you’ve forced my hand, and I have to tell you a Story. One of those Older People Stories you hate, because who gives a flip about older people? Well, you brought it on yourself, so listen up.
When I was in college, my friends and I went to a frat party, and did all of the usual things one does at frat parties — drink, dance, and then sneak past the “Private Do Not Enter” sign in the stairway to raid the refrigerator on the 3rd floor when our drunken snackies set in. What? Like anything in a frat house is private, and BTW we were the ones in danger — it was food that 20-year old boys were pretending was edible. It was slim pickins, believe me, but we represented ourselves well.
Anywho, a very large, drunken frat brother named Quentin started dancing with me. As a nerdy, introverted woman, I had ZERO experience with boys. In high school I had an unrequited crush on a friend, and as a junior I went to the senior prom with THE king nerd of the class, pocket protector and all. He was a nice enough, but two shy nerds do not a make out session produce. Freshman year in college was no better. Another unrequited crush on a friend, and I had been hit on by a super awkward guy in a chem lab class (it mostly involved staring, so I have to take my friends’ word that he was hitting on me). Another friend had professed his like for me while he was drunk and I was trying to get him home safely. Not a super turn on. Oh, also, I had been told plenty of “scared straight to virginity” stories. And I was brought up Catholic. See? You think you have dating problems? Puh-leaze.
So there I am dancing to Micheal Jackson with Quentin; then a slow song came on, and I was enveloped by his gentle, yet giant bear-like arms, and suddenly there was a tongue in my mouth. A sloppy, drunk tongue, if I’m going to critique it 30 years later. Okaaaay. I was not really enjoying it, but here’s the thing. He was black, and I thought if I pulled away, he would think I was a racist. See? This is what I’m saying about awkward, stupid shit in your 20s. So I let it go on for a while, plotting my escape. I think he may have asked me if I wanted to go back to his room. So I took the opportunity to say, “Wait here, I just have to tell my friends.” I know, I know! Why not just say “No, thank you,” and move on? Because you’re 20, and you don’t know what the hell to do because Catechism never covered this, except to tell you never have sex. So all you are left with is to do dumb stuff like try to prove you are not a racist and running away.
So I ran off and found my friend Rosemary, who I unceremoniously grabbed and marched her home with me. And during the 20-minute walk home I was on a drunken, sobbing loop to her: Dance, tongue, big arms, he’s black, I’m not a racist, I just don’t like tongue in the first 5 minutes of a non-date; Dance, tongue…and on and on until we got home.
The next day found me immobilized with the double-whammy of physical and emotional hangovers. I sought out Rosemary to apologize and studiously avoided Quentin (who of course lived in my dorm). But here’s the thing:
Neither of them remembered anything about that night. Rosemary stared at me blankly during my apology and then laughed at me. At one point Quentin saw me, and I saw the same blank face. Had I gone to his dorm room, he would have surely had that face in the morning. Awkward.
The racism guilt lingered until finally my friend Sonia, who is black, told me to knock it off. So I did.
As the Who sings in “Another Tricky Day,” “You irritate me my friend, this is no social crisis … just another tricky day for you.”
I get it, it is confusing. We’ve all been there, and there is no magic way around life’s obstacles. Keep your good friends close, have an escape route, do your best to learn what you can from each awkward encounter. Oh, and stay off the internet. That thing will make you crazy.
Photo credit: Flashbak