Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Letter from the editor: Please don’t waste time worrying

Posted on November 08, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

Sarah Tewksbury

Thursday morning the New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks published a thoughtful analysis of levels of romantic and sexual interaction in this current societal, historical moment. Brooks suggested that there are currently three ways that men can be perceived, as either lovers, prospectors or predators. Comparing men to characters in novelist Jane Austen’s stories, Brooks described the beautiful intensity of being a lover. He also raised the question about at what point the perception of a man’s interaction with a woman shifts from being a mutual sharing of emotions to a form of a conquest.

In college the culture of sexual interaction has become about fulfilling an indulgence. Spending time with one another in a romantic way becomes void of devotion and fascination with the other person. In February, National Public Radio (NPR) discussed studies that show college aged students today are not having less sex than their parents and grandparents when they were at school, but that it is with a higher frequency of partners without meaningful connections.

Substantial connectivity versus empty interactions seems to be a dichotomy students cannot figure out how to navigate. Current societal rules are showing young people that regardless of what they choose to do and be and represent, they can still achieve a healthy, loving, romantic relationship.

However, there’s something that is not considered here. The ability to find someone compatible is difficult when not everyone knows what they want. This is not necesarilly their fault. Blame can be placed on the way society has been constructed. People are not walking around with signs on their foreheads that read, “I’m looking for one night with you,” or “I’m looking to get to know you.” When a connection is made between two people, each one might have a different experience. One may wake up thinking they’ve met the woman of their dreams, while the other may not bat an eye to never see them again.

While some may find it satisfying to live without constraints to the way they share their romantic love, others can be caught in an empty realm of unfulfilled desire. Today’s college aged students are living in a world that tells them societal norms should be upheld over what an individual truly wants to experience. Studies show that students at the university level crave human connection that is sustainable and that today, they are unable to construct viable romantic relationships because they do not know how to bridge the gap between love and lust. The inability to have a conversation about what each person wants to gain from a romantic human interaction is seemingly plaguing college aged students.

So here I am, a 22 year old woman who was brought up in a family that married young and had children as soon as possible. My perception of love is intense and complicated and the only reason I started believing in it is because I once found my dad’s love letters to my mom from when they were falling in love. I’m living in a world that tells me it’s okay to experience love and lust however I feel like it. While I think this is a beautiful and raw reality, I find that I am very lonely in my beliefs and desires. My belief is this: I want nothing more than for everyone in the world to be happy and to experience life and love how they want, meanwhile all I want is to know whether every man that looks my way is worth my time and energy. If you know me, you know I’m not patient at all. You know that I’m hyper and intense. Who I am makes it difficult to figure out if potential partners are willing to stick it out.

The level of appreciation I have for human connection is so very high. Hugging my father, high fiving my friends, sitting with someone new and saying hi, and above all, looking people in the eyes. Out of this degree of affirmation, I understand I am an average USM student and that as a group, we as students are all looking for something different from romantic interactions with one another. My purpose with these words is to incite acknowledgement from you that communal norms do not have to be your norms. With this enlightenment, be inspired not to be silent. We have no way of knowing what tomorrow will hold, so be extraordinary every moment and share with those around you your thoughts and feelings. I recently asked my staff to be able to go home every night and look themselves in the eyes in the mirror and know that they did the best they could that day–even if the best they could do was being honest with me about what was going on in their lives and not being able to complete their work.

So I suppose the answer is oblique. I personally have no answer to the question of how to tell whether or not someone is a lover, prospector or predator. I have no way to know at what point is a good point to ask the person you want to spend more time with what they want. And I have no comprehension as to how soon is too soon to tell someone how you feel (probably because my vote is to say it loudly as often as you can). However, it is imperceptible to not ask these questions.

It is now, more than ever, that we must experience love and connectivity within our interactions. As we were always told as children in elementary school, if you have questions but are afraid to ask them, you should ask anyways because chances are, someone in the room has the same ones. I say this with kindness and with a smile: go ask these questions. You might be surprised at how well they are received.

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