I’ll admit that I take part in my fair share of “man bashing.” Any evening with my girlfriends used to involve talking about how much we “hate men,” how terrible our dating experiences have been, and how foolish our exes were. But we also spend hours getting over ex-boyfriends and complaining about being single, often to the detriment of our other pursuits. Our obsession with dating took valuable time out of our lives that we could have spent on self-improvement and learning, while we created an atmosphere of negativity and hopelessness instead.
When I broke up with my ex, I spent several months trying to maintain some kind of friendship with him, only to force my roommates to put up with my inevitable crying and confusion. Not a single day went by when I didn’t prepare for a text from my ex, saying that he wanted to get back together. I worked out so that I would look better, read more books so that I would sound smarter, and bought new clothes so that I could dress more elegantly. I did everything for him, rather than for myself. I took countless hours out of my day in these pursuits and even more time out of my friends’ lives through my complaining and emotional breakdowns.
It got to the point where my roommates sat me down and told me that my fixation on dating and relationships was harming everyone — and that I had to stop. And, over the course of several months, I did. I stopped ranting about how frustrated I was with men in every conversation. I started doing things for myself — and not my ex-boyfriend. I maintained friendships with the people who will continue to play large roles in my life, no matter what relationship I’m in.
I’ve had numerous meals with peers to hear them voice similar feelings: that dating is exhausting, that they “hate all men (or women),” and that they don’t want to be single anymore. Although I can absolutely empathize with them, I feel the duty to encourage my friends to focus their energies elsewhere. Romantic relationships can be incredibly fulfilling, but stressing about them as often as I did earlier this year can seriously detract from our other relationships and endeavors.
We have a limited amount of time at Princeton — and to spend it complaining about dating is a waste. We should spend every moment grappling with our intellectual pursuits, engaging in meaningful relationships, and discovering new interests. If dating happens to fall into one of those categories, so be it. But if it negatively impacts our overall experience — it’s not worth it.
In my case, complaining about how much I “hated men” dragged me into a vicious cycle of unhappiness. Breaking down in front of my best friends tired them out and made them want to spend as little time with me as possible. Pursuing activities for my ex-boyfriend rather than for myself meant that I was ignoring my own health and happiness just so that I wouldn’t have to be single. Somewhere along the line I realized that it wasn’t so bad, and that by stopping all my dating-related neuroses, I freed up so much time in my schedule to do the things I loved with the people I cared about — whether I was dating them or not.
And I won’t lie to you: a small part of me still hopes I’ll get that text from my ex. But another far greater and happier part of me knows that there’s so much more to life than the pain that comes with waiting to hear from someone who doesn’t care anymore. We should, rather, spend our time on those who do care, and on the things that make us happy.
So I urge everyone: spend your limited time here on improving yourself. Spend it on taking proper care of your mind and body, getting to know your friends better, and on the things that make you happy. If the right person comes along, so be it. But with that said, if they don’t right now, don’t worry. You’ve got plenty to do in the meantime.
Leora Eisenberg is a freshman from Eagan, Minn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.