“How can you be happy if you don’t have a girlfriend?” my mother asked me for the umpteenth time. “You’re 22 years old, is there something wrong with you?”

Time after time I’ve had to shrug these words off and go about my day, but there are times I’d like my mother, or any parent putting pressure on their child who is single, to understand that dating isn’t so straightforward these days.

As some may find this month the perfect time to profess their love to another, what with Valentine’s day and all, I wanted to stress upon those who are single to not place any pressure on yourself to find love. It shall come when the time is right. Take the time to get to know someone, and understand who they are before jumping down their pants. I am writing this for you as much as I am writing this for myself.  

No, in fact there is nothing wrong with me (not in regards to this, anyway). While I’ve had a fair bit of experiences with women, I’ve just not found the right one to bring home. It was always the case of wanting different things. But these experiences are not ones I’ve ever felt comfortable enough to share with my parents, as any other person, particularly around my age, would agree.

But as my mom mentioned, I am 22 years old. And the conversation she’s having with me began after I received an invitation in the mail to the wedding of my two closest friends. Your 20’s is such a tumultuous period in your life. People are either getting married, still in school, getting their career on track, or in the process of buying a home.

For some perspective, my parents got married at a young age with my mom being 19 years old, and my dad a few years older. And this was socially acceptable in Haiti, where they are from. In my earlier years, my dad would regale me with the tales of how he met my mother — how he’d pursue her up until she finally said yes to a date, and the rest was history. Eyeroll.

My friends who are just a few months younger than me are also on track to make their own bit of romantic history. And in their defense, they’re not just some other Facebook couple one scrolls past and you find out in shock that they’re tying the knot at such a young age. No, they’re a couple who’ve been high school sweethearts, whose love is as genuine as any married couple who would be celebrating their 40th or 50th wedding anniversary. They’re a couple that I’m absolutely certain are in it for the long haul, which is more than can be said for a lot of married couples these days.

Call me old-school when it comes to dating, but the hookup culture that so many people in my generation are engaged in is terrifying. One can simply dive into sexual relationships without having to worry about commitment, and the concept of an open relationship is becoming more common. Gone are the days of toughing it out through a rough patch. If you’re unhappy in a relationship, you can easily quit and hit up the next person in your DMs. To those who have loved someone, but were easily cast aside, it is important to recognize that the love was never there to begin with. If you’re looking for something concrete, you will not find it in those who are short-sighted.

Love is meant to be selfless, and I think a lot of people have lost sight of that. A relationship is only solid when those involved are able to contribute. A relationship predicated on hooking up is doomed to fail because the intentions behind it (in my view) are more so about the individual, than it is about sharing yourself with someone else. It takes a certain type of person to actively engage in this practice, and I am certainly not that person (believe me, I’ve tried). I’m not strong enough. I’d rather get to know someone and build from there.

I don’t know if I’m cynical about today’s dating climate, but I will say that it is important to stay true to your own standards. DO NOT SETTLE if at any point you’re feeling alone. Yes, we’re in the month of February — ”love” is in the air, but use that love to spend time with friends, family or anyone that you know is capable of making you feel special. Put your love where it counts.

So to all of my fellow single people on Valentine’s Day, know that you are loved by those who genuinely care. But to those who are hooking up and getting some, I’ll see you next Valentine’s Day.

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