Written By: Caitlin Herdman

Dating as a millennial is hard. And some of those advice columns are just making it harder.

To begin, there is no scientific explanation for why I’m so hopeless when it comes to dating.

Standing mere milli-meters short of six-feet-tall, with the genes of an 80’s pageant queen, I’ve never had problems reaping the benefits of complimentary shots when forced to leave the safety of my own apartment.

Unfortunately, inherited sex-hair and willowy limbs aren’t as effective in securing the love of a strong-willed man as Nicholas Sparks would lead one to believe.

I’ll admit that at twenty-one years young, it’s hard to put aside my own narcissism and accept that maybe my failed attempts at courtship may have more to do with my inability to stay until the morning than it does with my excuse “maybe he’s gay”.

He’s not. Truth is: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

This leads to the question that prompts the highly anticipated plot twist of any good love story: Have my efforts been a detriment to dating, or has dating been a detriment to my efforts?

Aside from my inability to go a night without the use of my retainer, I have no self- proclaimed faults that would make me completely inept to the art of seduction. This being said, no matter how seamlessly the night flows, I will still flee the scene of the crime, leaving behind half of last night’s outfit in my wake, in order to collapse into the comfort of my own sheets. This would assumedly give me an ‘untouchable’ and ‘mysterious’ air; if it weren’t for my post-date follow ups that have a tendency to come in the form of half-cut and caps locked Facebook messages.

Personally, I would find flattery in receiving deferred and inebriated lyric riddled e-mails from past lovers. However, seeing the reappearance of the ‘add friend’ link on a recent conquest’s Facebook profile leads me to believe that it may be a less than effective approach.

Now, this ex-“friend” knows well enough that I abandoned standard discourse and exhibited poor form, yet at three in the morning, clumsily typing my saga professing my hopes to one day become reacquainted with his face, I thought I was doing what was expected of me.

Thank you for that, Cosmopolitan.

Herein lies the problem: Generation Y whole-heartedly believes that dating can be condensed into, and conquered by means of a template. Instead of sending a nonchalant message of my own accord, the abundance of how-to’s provided to me by the highly educated writers of gossip magazines forced me to follow impossible guidelines which -unless executed by someone with the finesse of a pick-up artist- will certainly make me the subject of a Fatal Attraction themed screenplay in the future.

Though I’ll admit that nowhere in these ‘How To’ guides does it advise you to romance a bottle of tequila into your system before embarking on the quest for love, these “proven to work” step-by-step instructions for finding “the one” are really just a recipe for disaster.

What these guides fail to mention is that the advice provided within them has usually worked for one person and one person only*. The author.

*I can tell you from experience that the only thing I’ve ever gained from casting subtle bedroom eyes across the room towards a cute stranger is a spot on the Suspicious Customers list at Pizza Hut.

So much time has been put into the act of standardizing the dating ritual that unless we adhere to the clear-cut dos and don’ts of dating, we assume we’re done for. However, what we ever-impressionable millennials fail to understand is that our parents before us didn’t have this protocol to depend on and they seem to have done just fine for themselves (you’re alive, aren’t you?).

Between instructions to “play hard to get” and to “wait three days before you call”, never will you read the sentence “scrap the rules and play it however you want”. Instead, we are expected to abandon both our instinct and character in order to fulfill a checklist that may, or may not, land us someone to wake up beside on Sunday mornings.

If my personal anecdote hasn’t made this fact clear enough: in most cases, it will not. While simultaneously trying to play hard to get, put yourself out there, appear fun-loving, act professionally, and do so all while wearing red lipstick and stiletto heels, it’s easy to panic and f*ck it all up. Hence yours truly.

The problem not only lies within the haphazard advice we choose to blindly follow, but also within the way we have come to define dating as a whole. After three glasses of wine and a horrifying heart-to-heart with my mother over the winter holidays, I have come to realize that I have not been on a date (in the traditional sense) in three years. Drawing from my own experiences, as well as from what I’ve read in group messages that I have accidentally been added to, it has become clear that the act of dating itself has lost its substance and now comes to be loosely defined by clumsy hook- ups and half-hearted time-kills.

This circles back to my initial question: Have my efforts been a detriment to dating, or vice versa?

Time and time again I have seen wonderful men and women get passed over for trivial reasons, left feeling dejected for simply trying to play the part that society tells them to play in order to be desired. We have been programmed to participate in counterfeit interactions in the hopes that we can keep a dying practice alive and then act surprised when it doesn’t turn out like the magazines say it will.

As I attempt to navigate dating as a millennial I have come to realize that in trying to simplify what used to be considered second nature, the act of “dating” has become complex and chaotic. Truth is, there are no “facts” when it comes to falling in love. But if there were to be one, it would be that attempting to follow the alleged rules of the dating game just ends up robbing both our relationships of quality and ourselves of character.

Or was that the tequila?

Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that abandoning modern advice column compulsion will immediately land us where we want to be either. However, through trial and error, it’s bound to get us closer to a happily-ever-after.

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