I’ve read three and a half romantic comedy novels, watched two rom coms, and listened to five of the New York Times’ Modern Love podcast episodes this week. It’s cold out. Hot chocolate is being sold in packs of two at the impulse-buy station at the grocery store. I put my Spotify on Private Session as I listen to my “simp” playlist, skip the impulse-buy station at the grocery store, and spring for an entire hot chocolate box instead. God, I hate cuffing season.
Any time my friends ask me how I am, I tell them I’m lonely. But that’s not quite accurate. Loneliness implies that you’re missing someone in particular. In my case, I’m missing a feeling I’ve never experienced. I’ve been on two dates in my entire life. So I probably have a maximum of three hours of dating experience? The closest I’ve ever gotten to commitment is my regular email correspondence with my hometown librarian, Carla, as she responds to my frequent “Suggest a Purchase” requests for freshly-released romance novels.
Last spring, I remember sitting in a friend’s suite and discussing dating at Yale. Neither of us had dated in high school, filled as it was with time crunches and adolescent insecurity. Our assumption was that college would be different, that it would release our emotional inhibitions, and that maybe we’d find ourselves in relationships. Needless to say, neither of us are currently living a Modern Love story.
As it turns out, attempting a relationship requires vulnerability. You can’t give up on texting someone after the third day because their response times are longer than three hours (which objectively demonstrates that they’re not interested). You have to tell people how you’re actually feeling and wait for them to respond, stewing in the fear of rejection. When you like someone, you probably shouldn’t have a wandering eye if you want something to actually happen. Not quite a newsflash, but in today’s day and age, it’s harder than it sounds. Educators have found that Gen Z is “uniquely bad at romance.” Online dating makes us hyper-aware of the number of choices out there, and we’re hesitant to pick one person. Plus, it’s just easier to hide behind a screen. Ghosting doesn’t feel too bad when you don’t have to look someone in the eye as you do it.
So our loneliness is both self-inflicted and perpetuated by technology outside of our individual control. The pandemic hasn’t exactly helped things along. In a study conducted by Time, 75% of Gen Z respondents reported feeling lonelier due to the pandemic. There’s something sadder about texting people who you most likely won’t see in person anytime soon. This week, a close friend told me that she’d tried messaging people on Tinder “just to feel something.” But knowing that the messages wouldn’t amount to any real-life dating sapped her energy. She’s since deleted the app. Personally, I was never on Tinder to begin with. In my case, COVID has become more of an excuse than an obstacle to fresh interaction.
Holed up in my childhood bedroom this semester, I’ve found that there’s not much to do but count down the hours until a vaccine is released. I’d rather read another romance novel than ask the person I pinned in Zoom section for their number.