...and why that's not such a bad thing!
I can’t imagine what falling in love must be like for young people anymore.
I mean, I literally can’t wrap my head around it. I was born in the late 1970s and, since then, the world has transformed itself into something wholly unfamiliar to me.
Yes, things don’t look that different and we don’t have flying cars or affordable sex robots yet, but there are certain cultural and societal shifts that have occurred that I never could’ve imagined in my youth, particularly in how people come together and fall in love.
I mostly become aware of these shifts when I think about my young daughter. She’s not old enough to date yet, but, once she gets to high school and college, I’m realizing that her experience of forming relationships and sex won’t look ANYTHING like what I experienced at the same age.
Because I didn’t have Tindr or emojis or the concept of gender fluidity back then. I just had flannel shirts, a copy of the Singles soundtrack, and rather quaint ideas about missionary-style sex between men and women.
But today… wow, the dating landscape is something totally alien to me. I can barely understand it.
So, as I worry about what the future will hold for my sweet little girl, here are 6 ways I know that relationships will be completely different for children of the next generation.
1. Heteronormativity won’t be assumed.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, depending on where you lived, saying something like “I’m interested in both boys AND girls” was a revolutionary act. It was a Molotov cocktail thrown into the face of society’s “expectations” about good, clean teenagers. It would also probably get you beaten up (or even killed, if we're being honest).
This isn’t to say that members of the LGBTQ community don’t still face horrible discrimination (they do). But, today, the idea that a young person might find members of both sexes attractive isn’t an unusual concept anymore, which is both refreshing and confounding to my old-timey mindset.
2. Interracial dating won’t have the same stigma.
Again, I completely realize that there are many places in the United States (and the world) where racial prejudices are still hard and heavy, but just look at how the popular landscape has changed in terms of interracial dating.
The racial demographics have drastically shifted in the U.S. over the past two decades, bringing about a more multicultural America than ever, and just look at the popular celebrity couples of today.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling, Selena Gomez and The Weeknd — these are just a few of the couples that youth culture reveres today and they’re all interracial relationships. There are still major cultural differences between race groups, which can cause problems, but the same stigma just isn’t there anymore.
3. Sex positivity is a thing now.
I was raised Catholic, so sex positivity wasn’t something I ever learned about in my childhood. Sex was a shameful thing, a dirty thing. Sex was something that you were supposed to wait until you got married to do — even though NO ONE ever did. The sex still happened — it just came with an extra helping of shame.
But now there’s a movement to teach young people that sex is actually a good thing. That doesn’t mean that it should be done indiscriminately — there are still consequences — but we’re no longer teaching kids that sex will send them to hell. More kids know about masturbation, fetishes, sex toys. Boys are actually learning where the clitoris is.
I think it’s actually a great thing, but it couldn’t be more different from how I learned about sex.
4. Flirting has changed completely.
Those base elements are still there, but flirting now involves a whole new digital level. It now requires texting and Snapchat, short videos and memes. It involves using emojis with almost ninja-like precision to convey emotions, intent, and interest.
I don’t think one form of flirting is necessarily better than the other — I have nostalgia (and anxiety) when I remember trying to chat up a girl at a high school dance — but the new digital landscape just requires a whole new set of skills that I can’t even fathom.
5. Everything is recorded.
I would imagine that this is a rough one. In my youth, the worst thing I had to worry about was an ex maybe holding onto a particularly cheesy love letter or an unflattering Polaroid. Today, kids have to worry about their partners having access to so much more — huge text records of their every conversation, audio recordings, thousands of pictures, and the worst of the worst… the sex tape.
I can’t imagine how hard that is. Knowing that, just given our phone-driven culture, there’s the chance that the highs and lows of your relationship are always being recorded and that you’re ultimately going to be at the mercy of your partner when/if the romance ends.
It feels so scary to me, like it involves so much trust and has such potential for embarrassment. We sometimes stereotype the young as being weak or coddled, but the idea that they keep putting themselves out there, when they know that someone could put their most mortifying moment online at any time for all the world to see… how brave is that?
6. Kids tell parents things nowadays.
How did that happen? Was it Gilmore Girls? Was it a generation of Rorys who wanted to share everything with their Lorelai moms?
However it happened, it is now much, much more common for some children to actually discuss their love lives with their parents, which… blows my mind. I’ve been married for years and I still haven’t had the sex talk with my mom.
But romantic and sexual identities are actual topics of conversations between parents and teenagers in the 21st Century. Sure, not for every kid, but I’m amazed that we’ve actually come far enough as a society that the discussions are even happening in some households. It’s a big step forward.
Falling in love, for our children will be much, MUCH different than it was for us.
They have new priorities, new realities, new hardships and anxieties. But, fortunately, I think that, overall, they have more opportunities and options than previous generations had when it comes to romantic relationships.
And isn’t that what every parent wants for their kid? A chance for more? I hope they appreciate what they have and I hope their kids are into some really, really freaky shit.