Love in a time of friends with benefits

October 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

First appeared on my News24 column on 5 April 2011

I’m beginning to sound like Felicia Mabuza Suttle who when she still had a show on TV would say during every episode, “When I was in the States.” I find myself saying, “When I was in the States,” and I’m still in the States. Worse, I’ve only been here for two weeks. Barely. And I’m leaving in a day.

Anyway. I read a very interesting story on the front page of USA today, “Is Dating Dead? Less commitment and more ‘hookups’ but also more virgins: The new face of sex and relationships among young adults.” I know. Long subtitle. Is it still a subtitle if it’s longer than a tweet?

The story says that 72% of young adults “hook up”. What is hooking up? 35% say it’s kissing and touching, 12% say it’s (parental guidance is advised for the next line. Oh, sorry, this is not TV) hand-to-genital stimulation, 12% say it’s oral sex and a whopping 40% say it’s intercourse, or sex if you wish.

What the study concluded is that dating has taken a back seat and casual sex or, “friends with benefits” has taken the driving seat. The study states that because there are fewer men than women, young women are competing with each other for access to men, and often, that leads to sex sooner, says Regnerus; author of How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think about Marrying.

Now you could say this is an American study and doesn’t reflect on South Africa. Truth is I know many people who are living like the study that I just quoted. The question is why? Of course there are seemingly logical reasons like working late. No time for relationships. Focusing on building careers. But there may be deeper reasons than that. Those are just the reasons behind the underlying problem. Yes Mr and Miss Column Commentator, no one died and made me a psychologist. But I will make my hypothesis nonetheless.

There is a pain that is caused by a perpetual search for intimacy. Although we are not lonely, we feel alone. When we are not alone and we see a happy couple, we long for what they have but still want to be alone because it’s easier. Even though it’s easier, we are still miserable. It is an interesting cycle. Yes. There are those of us who are happy being single, then there are those of us who are unhappy being single but do not want to be in relationships.

I wrote something that seemed to resonate with a lot of people on Twitter on Sunday. A little emo. Some may say it was a little more than emo. I have decided to expound on these a little bit more.

There is a profound loneliness within our generation. It is not the I want to kill myself because no one likes me kind of loneliness, nor the I’m a loser with no friends kind either. It’s the one that lays hidden behind the happiness. The emptiness that we try to fill by going to clubs in order to meet girls and guys so as to fill that void. Of course this is not to say that is what people will go there to do, as undoubtedly some of the comments will say.

We tell ourselves that before we meet the person of our dreams we have to be the person of our dreams first. Many of us are fully aware of our idiosyncrasies, and cannot begin to fathom anyone wanting anything to do with them. Often times we know that we will never be that person of our dreams. That person is as elusive as Cope victory in the upcoming local government elections.

Funny enough, we know we could be captains of industry, achieve all other goals, but the goal of achieving the ultimate self is most elusive, and therefore most fail to try to be that person.

A lot of the time, when a person falls for us, it’s probably because they think more highly of us than they ought to. But these are the fundamentals of a relationship according to another study. Relationships where the each person in the relationship puts the other on a pedestal, those last and are happier.

Maybe we don’t let others in because we’re afraid they may realise that we are even more imperfect than they think. So we push them away because a twisted logic tells us that we need to protect them from ourselves. Then we become emotionally distant because we don’t want the other person to want to come in. The sad part in all of this is that we still want them to want us. But we chose the unsatisfying “hook-up” zone.

Love is when you choose to let someone into your own little imperfect world and them letting you in theirs.

But hey, let’s hook up! I kid. I kid.

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