I like to think that I’m up to date with modern culture. For example, just today I found out what a Billie Eilish is: a device that mumbles so that 12-year-olds can feel something. But recently a friend mentioned the term ‘Dracula-ing’ in the context of modern dating, and I was clueless. My first thought was, “Is that a fetish where you get turned on by the sight of your lover in a coffin?” but nope, that’s just called divorce.
No, ‘Dracula-ing’, according to this young, forever-tormented generation, is when a romantic interest / future-therapy-topic surfaces only at odd hours of the night to text you the classic ‘hey u up?’. This text is seen as disrespectful to the English language and also to people who do not want to be treated like Orgasm Vending Machines.
There are other terms that I’ve learned recently: Zombie-ing, which is when a hook-up who had ghosted you ages ago, re-appears with no explanation or apology, asking to be let into your pants. There’s also ‘V-lationshipping’, which is when a long-lost ex contacts you around Valentine’s Day to see if they can cut open your chest and fill it up with excuses again.
There are a million such dating terms, because coining names is easy and adds a nice blanket of humour over the festering roadkill that is your love life. But in all our hand-wringing about modern dating, we sometimes forget a few basics.
First of all, we wanted this. We wanted to defy tradition and have the freedom to pick our next drinking problem. Even when we didn’t have the technology to simultaneously sext three people while taking a dump, we knew we wanted choice and that’s the weird thing about choice – it turns out that other people have it too. Someone could be your main window and you’d just be one of fifteen open tabs or vice-versa, and that’s just how it is, according to this browser analogy that I feel we should now minimise to avoid shitty puns.
And sure, tech is an enabler, but the core behaviours aren’t really new. Previous generations just called them ‘Trust And Communication Issues’ (and then went out and got scurvy or whatever they did for fun back then, I dunno.)
My favourite manifestation of these issues are the ‘No Label’ relationships. They sound great on paper, except you dig in a little (two drinks) and realise that one person would actually like a label but can’t really ask because the other person will leave and then nobody will ever love them and they’ll die alone and all their exes will turn up at the funeral to sneer and laugh and swap stories about their weird birthmark shaped like Rajpal Yadav.
Look, it’s not inherently cooler to have “no labels”. Being “Undefined” is also technically a label. And what are the rules? Are you allowed to hook up with other people? Will you meet each others’ friends? Do you go dutch on the abortion bill or is it like drinks – ‘I’ll get this one, you get the next’? Because it doesn’t matter what you call yourself – ‘Friends With Benefits’, ‘No Labels’, ‘Poly But Upvaas On Thursday’ – if you haven’t discussed the rules, then one of you will spend several nights sobbing along to the sad sounds of Kumar Sanu’s nose. (Spoiler Alert: It’s probably you.)
So is there a bright side to this nonsense or are we all doomed to spend our lives chugging from the Fountain Of Perennial Disappointment? Of course there is. This churn is good, because every Dracula, every Zombie, every Goblin (that’s when you date a tiny magic banker who’s a dog-whistle for the Jewish community) – every one of these encountered is a bad option eliminated, paving the way for better ones to come along and meet a smarter you. (OR you’ll just build an emotional Great Wall Of China and push away anyone who tries to get close, but hey, save that worry for the 2 a.m. internal monologue.)
In my personal experience, it does get better with time simply because you get better with time. I remember how frantic and hyper we used to get in our 20s, and how much garbage we would tolerate. We’ve all been on both sides of conversations like this:
Friend: Woe is me, why do I keep dating shitty dudes, why why why? This one keeps yelling his ex’s name during sex.
Me: Dump him.
Friend: Nooo, maybe it’s an honest mistake?? ‘Cos her name is so similar to mine?
Me: Is her name also Pooja?
Friend: Close. It’s Eyehfuwjjføjasihkhfhghyykshjull.
Friend: She’s named after that Icelandic volcano.
Me: So you gonna ignore my advice now or later?
Friend: Never mind, marrying him tomorrow!
Things improved only once we discovered this wonder drug called self-esteem. Oh man, you try it once, you never wanna go back. Sure, it’s not the easiest to manufacture, although society deals it to you quicker if you’re a dude. But take one hit and suddenly you’re doing things like “being confident” and “setting boundaries” and “not settling for bullshit behavior just because they have a nice butt that fills the parent-shaped hole in your heart.”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still extremely single and my last intimate encounter was with a packet of Peppy Chips. But now there’s a certain equanimity about the situation, which helps tackle the biggest dating fear of them all i.e. settling down with someone only because you’ve hit a certain age and not because you feel, in every atom of your body, that this is the person whose adult diapers you would hate changing the least.
I know modern dating is way more complicated than before but we also have more freedom than anyone’s ever had. If we use it well and keep our spirits and standards high, then maybe one day it’ll work out. Yes, I know that statement makes no objective sense but neither does the assertion that ‘It’ll never work out’. Both are equally baseless from a logic perspective so why not latch on to the nicer thought? The thought that maybe one day, the universe will notice and it will give in and whisper in our direction those powerful magic words, ‘hey u up?’.