Clarifications is a column featuring raw, unapologetic commentary on all things gender. From women’s rights, to dating culture, enjoy as Claire VanValkenburg discusses the topics everyone is afraid to talk about.
Wet shoes traipse over the sticky night club floor. Drink is spilt as they slip past each other, bumping shoulders and cups. They exchange chin-dipped, eyelash-flicked glances. But not too long, or they’re desperate. And not too short, or they’re hard to get.
How peculiar it is that night after night they play the same game. She straps on her heels, pounds on foundation and traverses the cobbled streets like a badass gazelle. He sings poorly to Eminem as he strolls confidently around the bar with his perfected smolder and high and tight buzz cut.
This broken culture where music is an elusive binary of beats that rock your chest, yet everyone is lurking static and immobile. This broken culture where the rules of the game go hushed and hidden under rotten layers, like an onion far past its expiration date.
First, they take a lap to scout out the cute specimens. Then they position themselves with their best angles in front of the desired. Maybe they catch his eyes and giggle, and each one picks her poison. God forbid they pick the same one. If all goes well, in about an hour they’ll all be dancing to trap music and perhaps be kissing under an aura of smoke and sweat.
But I’m no outsider. I’ve laced up my sassy shoes, done up my face like a birthday cake, and worn clothes two sizes too small. I’ve stepped through the beer-sloshed floors and waited exactly 24 hours to Snap him. Yet still, I haven’t mastered all the rules. I haven’t decided if I want to.
Dating culture is an inside-out origami fortune teller made of tissue paper. It is easily ripped and if someone cries it melts into watercolor puddles. It’s littered with non-descript, confusing messages for us to decipher. The rulebook says first we shift, then we sit cordially across from each other and chat over coffee. First we shout into each other’s ears pretending to follow the conversation over undulating sonic booms, then we have in-depth conversations about your dreams.
It would be easy for me to condone nightlife and modern dating culture, but that is not what I think the problem is. Going to the pubs, meeting new people and dancing are all important facets to being young, dumb and broke. I believe where we are broken is in our expectations for great things to come out of trashy nights.
We are wrong in our thinking to believe that playing the same game of hunter versus hunted while under the influence at late bars night after night will lead us to a healthy relationship of love and support. Just like how Tinderella is a rarity harder to find than someone without a nose piercing at the Roisín, finding true love from playing the drunk and ditzy game at pubs is simply not a reliable reality.
Now, I don’t have a solution. But I can offer you this: what if we transferred some of the energy we spend dressing up and dropping it low to being amicable, open and intentional in situations where the sun is still up. Join societies where people with similar interests will gather, and devote yourself to learning about the characters you meet there. Ask that person who sits in front of you for a pen, and don’t be shy when he asks you to grab coffee at Smokey’s.
This game of trial and error is too much of a broken record. Love is rarely found falling off barstools at 2am. If we want to have the same the deep connections we see in our grandparents’ relationships we must open our hearts with intention and meaning to finding connections in alternative situations.
By Claire VanValkenburg