The Dating Game: The Ins & Outs of College Dating

In a place that can sometimes feel so hopelessly romantic, why is that New York dating has turned us hopelessly cynical?

Photo Courtesy / Unsplash Christian Lue

This story is part of a weekly dating and relationships column by Alejandro Yau, a single college student fresh to New York City, who tackles dating, sex and everything in between. 

It was the perfect date. Brunch and then book hunting, my two favorite things. As I was riding the Subway, perusing the new books I purchased, I thought to myself that everything was going great. Before I knew it, they blocked my number and now I can’t walk in the East Village without fear of running into them. Thus began a downward spiral of masochistic torture, or what some people call: dating in your early 20s. 

In a city like New York, there are not enough Taylor Swift albums to prepare you for the hell your dating life is going to become. In a place that can sometimes feel so hopelessly romantic, why is that New York dating has turned us hopelessly cynical?

Relationships and dating have become something so foreign to us thanks to the isolating reality of the internet. Our society has been divided into two categories: singles and non-singles. The singles are dying to join the non-singles and the non-singles are secretly hoping they’ll join the singles again. In high school, we thought relationships and sweethearts were part of the experience. Has that expectation seeped over into our college years? Is dating in college an extracurricular or is it part of the degree? 

I decided to first think about the non-singles. What was it about them that made us so envious, and what was their secret? A quick census made me realize that almost everyone I surrounded myself with was happily committed. Perhaps I was subconsciously torturing myself. According to these couples, relationships are not essential at this time in their lives, but they could not imagine where their lives would have led them had they not become immersed in those relationships.

It made me ask myself, ‘Where would we be if we were all in relationships? Would we be better people? Would we be at a better place in our lives?’ Apologies to the single people, because that is an incredibly lousy thought. Still, I asked myself, ‘Would all my problems be solved if I was in a relationship?’ However, the more I heard them talk about their relationship and how happy they were being committed to other people, the more I realized how tortuous dating someone can actually be. Needless to say, I obtained much-needed clarity. 

In contrast, I thought about the singles. People who I deemed ‘hopelessly single.’ The ones that cling desperately to being with someone and hold out hope that they are just around the corner. Be honest, we all have that one friend who yearns for someone in their life and wonders why it has taken so long. In our heads, we think we could never be that person.

Let me be the bearer of bad news: we are ALL those people. In a city like New York, the desire to be in a relationship can be as high as the rent. Everything we do would feel a whole lot better — secrets, lunches, cab rides, cigarettes — if we shared it with someone. 

Or, at least, that’s what the voice in the back of our heads is telling us. We have all had the universal thought of seeing couples holding hands while walking down the street or having a romantic dinner date and thinking,’Why couldn’t that be me?’ 

The thing is, that could be us and we can be these people. Just because we aren’t at the moment, doesn’t mean we never will be, and it is completely okay to not be. The world needs single people. People who are miserable in their relationships need someone to look up to. All jokes aside, Single people just want what everyone who comes to New York wants: something comforting to call their own. 

A couple months ago, I got out of a relationship and, since a few weeks ago, I’m teetering on a new one. It seems everywhere I turn I just keep falling into these people. But, as quickly as my rolodex of failed relationships fills up, I have to stop and think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I fluctuate between the single and non-single mindset that not even my therapist can keep up. That is the most emotionally damaging part about dating. When you get out of a relationship, you are happy to bask in the single life, but soon that happiness can turn into desperation and you’re secretly hoping they will take you back. 

College can be a very lonely experience at first. Studying in a city like New York does not necessarily help the situation. It is hard to feel isolated in a city full of so many people. If your heart is set on committing to someone, commit to yourself. The relationship you have with yourself is the only one that won’t fail you.  That’s the best kind of relationship; one that will constantly surprise you and always leave you wanting more.