I've been single for most of my 20s. I've done the "seeing someone" thing for a few weeks and a few months. I've had flings that stretch precisely from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I've had between two and four half-relationships, depending on how you count them. What I haven't done is a lot of "dating" — going on dates with new people regularly. I used to blame my singledom on the fact that I live in New York and/or my terrible personality. The truth is: I'm lazy. If you don't put yourself out there, it is quite literally impossible to meet someone other than your Seamless delivery person.
I feel like I have some perspective on dating now for a very cheesy reason — my friend and I have a podcast about it. Yes, I'm a Millennial! It's called 51 First Dates — 100 was too many but 50 is the name of a Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler movie, and I don't want to get sued. Because of this podcast I've gone on a date a week for the past 23 weeks. Normally I mention this podcast when I'm writing for the sake of plugging it, but for this article — and any reader who has ever complained "I'm always single!" — I'm mentioning it because I have literal data that putting yourself out there works. One of our listeners even made a spreadsheet to track my dates that proves it.
First I want to be incredibly clear about something: You don't need a relationship to be happy. In fact, going on all of these dates has taught me that you might actually be really happy as a single person, even if you complain about not having a partner. I realize that I was complaining about being single without doing anything about it — well, anything other than going on the occasional bi-monthly date, getting attached, then basing my entire self-worth on whether I was rejected or not after six weeks (Super healthy! I'm in therapy!) — because I thought I was supposed to want a partner.
Now that I've forced myself to go on a date once a week, I've met some really excellent men. Some of them of were extremely high-caliber when it comes to kindness and emotional availability. For the first time in a long time, I could see myself actually falling for someone.
However, my independence (and fear of intimacy) came right back to rear their heads and say "NO! Keep growing your podcast." I decided before the first episode that if I met someone I wanted to date exclusively, I would turn over my podcast to a single friend — but that would mean losing out on the project. For me, while I love men and love feeling loved, work has simply always come first.
But that's just me. If you really do want that dream partner in your life, you must take some sort of action. You don't have to start a podcast but you do have to start putting yourself out there more. Your dream school, dream job, or dream apartment didn't just fall into your lap. So why would your dream relationship? If you want that, you need to put in the work.
One simple way to put yourself out there is to download dating apps and start swiping. Even if you've always fantasized about the perfect meet-cute in which a prince sweeps you off your feet at a ball or casually bumps you into at a coffee shop — especially if you crave that meet-cute. Satisfying relationships can stem from any beginning.
If apps aren't your thing, that's fine (but I'd highly recommend giving them another shot). Instead, next time your aunt or friend offers to set you up, or a friend asks you to go to a singles' mixer with them, say yes! You will go on bad dates. You will go on good dates. You will go on mediocre dates. You will go on weird and exhilarating and boring and tragic and all of the kinds of dates. But dating is a numbers game, and you will meet someone eventually.
You don't necessarily need to put yourself out there. It's cool to stay comfortably single. But if you're itching for a relationship, you can't complain about it unless you put in the effort to get what you want. GO ON A DATE! Or 51. (If you remain unconvinced, I'll send you the spreadsheet.)