The Existentialist’s Guide to Dating

You’ve been waiting in line for the bathroom at the most popular bar at school for almost half-an-hour now. As you ponder what could possibly be taking the last posse of girls so long in the one-stall bathroom (they wouldn’t dare go alone!), you finally get to the door and see a well-groomed blonde sobbing, wearily looking into a Clinique compact while her friends take turns rubbing her back and wiping streaks of mascara off her blotchy cheeks. “It’s okay, he’s totally not worth it,” each girl says to the semi-hysterical girl, who apparently has found her most recent love interest either buying a drink for Kappa Beta Psi’s Rush Chair, flirting with his ex-girlfriend, or making out with a nameless freshman. Whichever the case, you repeat the mantra to the vaguely familiar girl, in hopes to get the line moving. She looks at you as her friends escort her out of the bathroom and says, “What a jerk—I hate guys!”

Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but you know the scenario. Boy meets girl, girl becomes hopelessly devoted to defective boy, boy disappoints girl, girl bashes boy. It seems to happen to everyone, everywhere. Through drunken mishaps and endless settling, women on college campuses become disgruntled by dissatisfying relationships with college men. As easy as it would be to agree with the girls in the bathroom that all boys are evil, I’m wondering if boys are the problem.

Thanks to the Sexual Revolution, college women have gained the right to make the sexual choices that we believe are best for ourselves. We are liberated. We control whom we date and when we date them. In a word, we are responsible for our dating destiny. Our dating has evolved into a sort of existentialist experiment.

The idea of existentialism is based on the “freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequence’s of one’s acts.” Nietzsche and Sartre, two of the most famous existentialist philosophers, recognized that life is a series of choices. American society accepts and thrives in this culture of options. Just look around. You have choices everywhere you go, from the color of your hair to having a burger “your way, right away.” Dating today seems to offer the same cornucopia of selections. Yet, as proven by crying episodes in bathrooms and male bashing in sorority houses, girls seem to be a little lost.

Here’s one solution to the heartbreak epidemic among college girls—try taking back the date. And remember, you control your romantic destiny.

1. Make a list. Any girl entering the dating world should have an idea in her mind of characteristics she’s looking for in a boyfriend. This list should not include a wardrobe from Abercrombie and Fitch and a Landrover, but ideals that go to the heart of his character—like honesty and intelligence.

2. Remember the list. Once this list is compiled in your mind, it must be ever-present, like a permanent post-it note on your brain. When you are considering a guy for boyfriend status, go down the list. If he does not possess any of the traits you originally hoped for, save your time and tears. As a colleague of mine told me, you can’t change anyone. Mismatching socks aren’t a deal breaker, lying is.

3. Be aware. If you have acquired a boyfriend, don’t become complacent. That’s how all great empires have collapsed. Instead, monitor your relationship. Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for the man in your life? If so, it’s probably a sign that he’s not worth your time. Use common sense. It really is better to be single than with a guy who doesn’t respect you.

4. Be stubborn. Lastly, and most importantly, the existentialists said that when you make a decision, follow through. If you decide that a guy isn’t for you, stick with it. Don’t, in a moment of lonely despair or drunken weakness, call him and ask if you can come over. This type of reconciliation will get you nowhere.

This guide to dating is meant simply to be just that—a guide. Everyone falters sometimes, including me. If you’ve fallen into a relationship rut, don’t get down on yourself. Just recognize it and move on. Bottom line: You deserve a relationship that makes you blissfully happy, but you have to be assertive to make it happen.