Thoughts on modern dating’s ’18 Ugly Truths.’

In his fabulous April 5 Thought Catalog post, Christopher Hudspeth listed 18 “ugly truths” about modern dating — experiences so common, you have to deal with them (so the post’s headline says); experiences so universal, nary a young adult who dates can read them and not cringe a knowing cringe.

Modern dating, as Hudspeth describes it, is a game. And it’s not like Jenga, the game that brings laughter and joy to all who crowd around the tower. No — modern dating as Hudspeth describes it is like the game that ends with crying, kicking the air and a projectile deck of cards because your partner tricked you into picking the Old Maid.

The ugliest truth about Hudspeth’s post is that Hudspeth is right: dating as he knows it gets ugly — and in my observation and experience, especially in five of the 18 ways he lists. Below are my five “favorites,” and beneath each, my thoughts:

Because we want to show how cavalier and blasé we can be to the other person, little psychological games like ‘Intentionally Take Hours Or Days To Text Back’ will happen. They aren’t fun.

The worst part about the need to be blasé is that we will act that way even if we aren’t. We are aloof when we don’t want to be because, as Hudspeth pointed out in another ugly truth, “the person who cares less has all the power.” We are terrified to express ourselves, lest what we express or how we express it result in our striking the people we like as creepy. But we all know another of Hudspeth’s ugly truths to be true: “The only difference between your actions being romantic and creepy is how attractive the other person finds you.” — which means intentionally taking hours to text back is a manipulative defense against having to accept that someone doesn’t like you. It is a preemptive strike that requires us to forego a facet of relationships on which a relationship’s success is actually hinged: authenticity.

A person being carefree because they have zero interest in you looks exactly like a person being carefree because they think you’re amazing & are making a conscious effort to play it cool. Good luck deciphering between the two.

People who act blasé when they aren’t don’t solely complicate dating for their potential partners. They also complicate dating for themselves. I agree with Hudspeth: a person who actually isn’t interest behaves exactly like a person who is pretending not to be interested. But a problem arises for people who have acted not interested when the people they like are aloof. They be all like, “IT’S BEEN TWO DAYS AND HE HASN’T RETURNED MY TEXT. …but I know exactly what he’s doing. He’s making a conscious effort to play it cool.” — when what he’s actually doing is moving on. Or, they be like, “IT’S BEEN TWO DAYS AND SHE HASN’T RETURNED MY TEXT. …She hates me.” — when what’s she’s actually doing is making a conscious effort to play it cool. People hate this, but people resist changing this. But changing this is what I propose we do: if you’re interested, express interest explicitly. If you aren’t, don’t (and when necessary, express that explicitly).

Set plans are dead. People have options and up-to-the-minute updates on their friends (or other potential romantic interests) whereabouts thanks to texts & social media. If you aren’t the top priority, your invitation to spend time will be given a “Maybe” or “I’ll let you know” and the deciding factor(s) will be if that person has offers more fun/interesting than you on the table.

Do people opt for “Maybe!” to avoid missing out on better plans, or do people opt for “maybe” because they’re wusses? The fear of yes indeed has power, but so does the fear of no. There is great discomfort in discovering that a person in whom you have no interest has misread your social cues and invited you out. And what about an invitation from a friend, but to do a thing that doesn’t interest you? No is hard to say because no is hard to hear. But when we want to say no and don’t, we create false hope.

The text message you sent went through. If they didn’t respond, it wasn’t because of malfunctioning phone carrier services.

With the exception of an app I use to text (which is notorious for not notifying me when I get new messages), this ugly truth is true, too. But it is not necessarily true that silence is the result of hatred, anger or offense. Phones die. People have jobs. While sometimes, a person doesn’t text back because they don’t want to, more times, a person is on the toilet and didn’t bring the phone. (Consider that “assumptions are the termites of relationships,” to borrow a quote from Henry Winkler.)

You aren’t likely to see much of someone’s genuine, unfiltered self until you’re in an actual relationship with him or her. Generally people are scared that sincerely putting themselves out there will result in finding out that they’re too available, too anxious, too nerdy, too nice, too safe, too boring, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not some other person enough to be embraced.

It is because of this ugly truth that we “want to show how cavalier and blasé we can be,” as discussed in an earlier ugly truth. It is this ugly truth that stamps out any shot we had at creating a relationship conducive to what all of us truly crave: love. But we want it without the discomfort of discernment — without the discomfort of disclosing who we are before we agree to commit so a decision to commit (or not) is informed. But we can’t discern a relationship with a person if we don’t know who a person is. And we can’t receive love if we aren’t being who we are. 

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Click here to read Hudspeth’s 18 ugly truths in full.