You can't have a conversation about the utter failure that is the millennial generation without a grandiose and reductive statement that avoids the context of the issues you're discussing. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, an entire panel was centered around one such statement: "Kids these days, they just don't know how to fall in love."
A group of millennial experts who have never been millennials threw out their theories for the so-called "decline of college dating."
Erika Christakis, a lecturer at the Yale Child Study Center, is a former co-master at one of the student residence halls at Harvard. She says that during her time there, students would repeatedly tell her that they didn't have time for relationships—a sentiment that was starkly different from her own college experience.
I think it's necessary to point out that Christakis observed this at Harvard. Harvard, the most prestigious university in the world, is not really representative of the greater college-attending and/or millennial population. I attended a non-Harvard college in Boston and encountered a number of Harvard students who attested to the fact that the social scene of the most elite university on Earth was certainly unique—and not necessarily for the better.
Christakis thinks it's because college students these days are too focused on resume-building and career preparation. They're indoctrinated into the cult of extracurricular activities in middle and high school, and the involvement obsession continues throughout college almost as if by inertia. "It's 'I'm secretary of this' and 'I'm director of that,'" she said. "And even they admit that a lot of it is kind of bogus."
Yes, why would college students spend all of their time trying maintain academic excellence and build their resumes in an attempt to be successful adults in a world that has become increasingly difficult for them to succeed in, in large part due to the actions of the middle-aged adults lecturing them on their inferiority?
She also argues that "Relationships make us happy, and they can be a part of what we need to feel successful." Sure, but relationships can also be time-consuming and stressful, particularly if you feel outside pressure to be in one.
It wouldn't be a discussion about millennials without blaming all of our issues on the ominous hookup culture. This honor was left to dating expert Rachel Greenwald.
"In gearing themselves up for sex, they're draining themselves emotionally," Greenwald said. "They are in training to ... discard, to ignore, to swallow their emotions so they can participate in the anxiety-provoking but common dynamic which is the hookup culture."
Let's talk about hookups. For starters, millennials are not, in fact, having casual sex at a higher rate than adults before. A study by The Journal of Sex Research, found that "Respondents from 2004 to 2012 did not report more total sex partners, more partners during the past year, or more frequent sex than respondents from 1988 to 1996."
In addition, the word "hookup" encompasses a wide variety of relationships. Of course it can mean a situation where a couple is having casual sex with no real emotional feelings or responsibility towards each other. But I've seen plenty of hookups where the couple is only having sex with each other—monogamy, however short-lived—and will also hang out together when they're not having sex. Is that not just casual dating by another name? The fear around the "hookup culture" also ignores the fact that some hookups do turn into "real" relationships.
Baby boomers seem to assume that just because millennials won't put an official title on a relationship, it somehow means that they value it less. Perhaps they don't care about labeling something as long as they're happy. Or maybe they're afraid of the weight that comes with being in A Relationship and would prefer not to commit themselves until they feel comfortable—particularly when the adults in their life put so much pressure on the idea.
Finally, the panel blames the inability of millennials to understand and cultivate love on our parents.
Lori Gottlieb, an Atlantic contributor, author, and psychologist, thinks it's because Millennials have been so coddled by their parents and teachers that they are now unable to accept others' opinions and realities. Which makes it hard when, in a relationship, your reality is that you will go to the farmer's market and make a healthy salad together, and your partner's reality is Starcraft.
What's ironic about this is that the panel's suggested solution to the college dating problem is to offer classes on dating. They cite a course at Boston College where students are assigned to go on dates and workshops at the University of Illinois titled "College Dating: Uncovering the Dating Scene."
If helicopter parenting is part of what caused the problem, why would it be part of the solution? Making kids take classes on dating is simply bringing the same helicopter parenting technique into the first space where many kids are independent for the first time in their lives.
Just leave them be! They'll figure it out—just like human beings have figured out how to start and maintain families and relationships for centuries. Coupling this with the fact that studies show that millennials actually do want to get married, it's just taking them longer to do so.
You know what else we're taking longer to do? Die. We've got time, ok?
As long as millennials do eventually procreate and start families, what the hell difference does it make how they got there?
Image via Listal