In August, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth shocked the world by announcing their separation after eight months of marriage and nearly a decade of on and off dating. At the same time, it emerged that Miley was dating Kaitlynn Carter and photos of the two on holiday in Italy went around the internet. A few weeks later, Miley and Kaitlynn had split and the singer was again attracting media attention when pics of her and Cody Simpson kissing went public. Of course, the world responded with compassion and respect, understanding that Miley is a young woman who can do what she likes.
Oh wait, that’s not what happened at all. My bad.
No, instead the tabloids took great pains to shame Miley for the “turbulence” of her dating life and the many gossip-gobblers took it upon themselves to call Miley a “confused woman”, “desperate”, “pathetic” and “sl*t” or “wh*re”. Whether Miley’s crime was *gasp* getting divorced or not immediately retiring to a convent following the split was not clear. She responded to the backlash by posting a statement on Twitter pointing out that men in the public eye could date as many women as they wanted and rarely attracted the level of criticism that she was receiving. She also defended her right to enjoy dating without fear of slut-shaming.
Miley’s comment that men and women are treated differently when it comes to dating hits the nail on the head. While men might be shamed for not sleeping with women (and may be considered “legends” if they sleep with many), the opposite is still true for women. After a big break-up (like Miley and Liam’s divorce), you’d better not date anyone else for a while, otherwise you’re desperate, have low self-esteem, are incapable of being single etc. etc. I’ve heard it all, sometimes even to my face.
I’m twenty-three and I’m still working out how the whole dating thing works. I’ve had a long-term relationship, a few short ones, and a smattering of casual dates in between. In four years, I’ve barely spent two months without going on at least one date – and I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve tried to be honest and upfront. I’ve never had any crossover. I don’t believe I’ve led anyone on under false pretenses. Of course, I’ve made mistakes and cried a lot and spent time with people who weren’t right for me.
But guess what? That’s life.
If I had remained celibate, I would have found something else to cry about, trust me. Some people find a person they want to spend the rest of their life with at a young age and that’s that. Some people don’t want to share their life with someone. The rest of us have to work out who we are and what we want and who we want to be with via the time-tested method: trial and error.
Does dating soon after ending a relationship mean you are desperate? Is it a sign that you are somebody who fears being alone? Well – possibly, if you are going out with people you don’t even like or you make great sacrifices to keep someone around. If you are constantly unhappy, perhaps there is a problem going on. But there are also many other possible explanations.
I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I really like people. I like flirting. I like going out in London and discovering new places. I suffer from mild anxiety and pushing myself to go a little outside of my comfort zone gives me a great self-esteem boost. Dating reminds me that there are amazing people out there and you just never know who you might meet. I can be fun and laugh and enjoy myself and then if it does lead to a relationship, even a short one, I’m grateful for those experiences too.
I would be lying if I said there were any downsides to dating, casual or otherwise. The end of a serious relationship can be devastating. Being with the wrong person can be emotionally draining. Disappointing or awkward dates can be embarrassing. And you do have to learn how to brush off rejection. For some people, a long period of celibacy is needed after the end of a relationship, and there is nothing wrong with that either. But there’s no need to push celibacy on everyone – belittling people for quickly getting back into the dating scene is just another form of slut-shaming.
Actually, at the moment I am taking a break. It’s been a weird year and I’m suddenly way busier than I’ve been in ages. I have new projects I want to focus on and I’m back at university, so I need to save a bit of money anyway. I know that I’m not looking for a serious relationship at the moment, because I don’t need the stress. However, life can be funny sometimes and I’m aware of the problem of making arbitrary resolutions based on the feeling of a moment. Should I meet someone who fascinates me tomorrow, I can’t say what I’ll do. But that’s the fun of it and if I don’t have a problem with it, why should anyone else?
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