How to be a happy romantic in a hookup culture

One student’s experience with romance and realizing why it begins when you stop partying

It took years for me to realize that it’s possible to be a happy romantic in a hookup culture. And it all started in April 2017, when I made the conscious decision to stop partying.

Throughout my years of partying, I surrounded myself with hookup enthusiasts who constantly told me that my romantic aspirations were juvenile. They warned that I was “too serious” for my own good, and a big part of me believed them. YOLO and FOMO smothered my brain like thick cobwebs. I wanted to experience the euphoric young adulthood talked about in all those hype dance songs, and portrayed in all those badass Hollywood movies. Consequently, I became desperate to emancipate my heart from emotion.

I wanted to go out and dance with cute guys, without caring whether they asked for my name. If they asked for my name, I wanted to answer without hoping they’d ask for my number too. If they asked for my number, I wanted to flirt without expecting the conversation to blossom into something more meaningful. I failed miserably. Every time a cute guy would prove that his interest in me was purely physical, I’d feel a pang of disappointment deep in my belly. Every time a crush flirted with other girls the way he flirted with me, I’d feel a punch of rejection bruise my heart.

Hookup culture was crushing my inner romantic and the desire I had to find someone legit. At the time, however, I didn’t see it that way at all. I resented the pain, and told myself it was proof that I desperately needed to get a handle on my emotions. When I stopped partying though, I was no longer under the influence––not of friends, of alcohol, or of hookup culture. I was able to weed out anxieties and facades that I kept having to live up to while in the skin of a social butterfly.

Without a shadow of a doubt, abandoning nightlife was integral to my confidence as a romantic person. It was step one along a path that, almost two years later, led me to a wellspring of happiness and peace. I do not believe I would’ve been able to access this wellbeing had I continued partying.

We live in a culture that constantly encourages us to believe that we can be anything. And in some ways, that’s inspiring. However, too many millennials are trying to transcend desires that they’d be better off embracing: feelings of wanting more from one person intellectually, emotionally, and romantically. It saddens me to think that I ever villainized my desire for loyalty. I bought into pop culture’s highly manipulative lie, which says that the happiest young people are those who are down for anything, anywhere, with anyone.

If you’re a romantic millennial, I urge you to tread cautiously in environments that propagate hookup culture. These scenes will trick you into believing that you’re your own worst enemy. But in the words of inspirational speaker Alexander Den Heijer, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” If in your heart you are hoping to meet somebody special, the dance floor isn’t so much a place of freedom as it is a vortex that forces you to be something you are not.

To my fellow romantics: I can confidently assure you that none of those parties will go down as the best nights of your life. Conversely, they’re liable to endanger your happiness, and demotivate you from seeking the loyal relationship you deserve. Your person is out there, but they’re not waiting for you in a room that ridicules the real you.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


Knowing when to skip the damn party

University lifestyles often promote binge drinking, but how do we know when to stop?

In April 2017, I made the decision to take a break from partying. No more frantically clearing my schedule for an event in fear of missing out (FOMO). No more rushing to clubs at midnight, hoping to meet someone special on the dance floor. No more anxious cab rides holding in a queasy stomach. No more making excuses for an activity I never really enjoyed.

Of course, it took me years to realize I don’t actually like partying. I used to be one of those people who hyped my friends up; I’d hear an electronic dance music song on the radio during the day and remember a time the DJ dropped it at 2 a.m. Immediately, I’d get this overwhelming itch to gather everyone I knew on any dance floor. Oh, and to drink half a bottle of spiced rum by myself.

This was until the day I finally accepted that this behaviour was squeezing the life out of me. From anxiety to disappointment, the majority of my nights always drifted into gloom. I mean, sure, there were those exceptional moments of hilarity, hype or authentic conversation that made me think going out that night was worth it. Those exceptions kept me coming back for more and, ultimately, had me romanticizing a toxic lifestyle.

Partying is an integral activity in university culture, and for many, it’s a source of freedom. However, that’s not always the case. How could it be, when alcohol is a depressant, clubs are loud and crowded, and drunk actions are typically frivolous and forgotten? For old souls, pouring time and energy into a lifestyle that provides fleeting satisfaction is more draining than fulfilling.

If you’re constantly making excuses for the negative emotions you experience during or after a night out, I urge you to take a step back from partying. Don’t overlook your feelings in the name of being “hungover,” or thinking that you’re simply “too sensitive.” Don’t blame a bad night on logistics, like a cheap venue or crappy weather—it’s quite possible that, like me, partying just doesn’t cut it for you.

One great way to assess whether you should party less is to make a list of your top 10 life memories—moments you remember fondly and would relive in a heartbeat. How many of them happened during a night of binge drinking? If the answer is less than five, I’d say party in moderation; that list is proof you won’t be missing out.

If you’re still unsure, consider this: in 2014, a study about drinking habits around the world found there’s a whole slew of millennials who don’t actually enjoy binge drinking; and no, it’s not because they’re under some repressive religious or political regime. I’m talking about countries like France, Italy, Spain—places plenty of North American millennials dream of visiting. In these cultures, the majority of university students actually think drunkenness kind of sucks. The nausea, irreversible texts and embarrassing mishaps all make the idea of losing inhibition much less appealing. These millennials don’t owe each other explanations as to why they’re not overdoing it. They’re free to go to the party without actually partying.

How does one do that, you ask? Well, here are a few tips: don’t stay out too late. Drink less. Go out with people who like you when you’re sober; go out with people you like sober. And before going anywhere, ask yourself why you’re going. If FOMO is the reason, just skip the damn party.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


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