The craziest thing I’ve ever overheard in the girls’ bathroom is: “If you cannot win the lotto with one number, why should I have one partner?”

I laughed, looked over and spotted two girls fixing their makeup in front of a mirror. They smiled at me, as though they had shared a recipe for happiness. As soon as they left, I realised that none of us knew what “winning the lotto” actually meant. I had no idea what anybody was trying to achieve and why there was a need for more than one partner. It could be that I was much younger at the time but that was my introduction to a generation with different (often confusing) intentions for dating.

In that bathroom, those girls gave me a snippet into reality that only dawned on me when I started dating. Each encounter or relationship I stumbled onto did not turn into the ‘Happily Ever After’ I assumed it would. Instead, it felt like walking into a game.

I remember meeting a guy that I thought was absolutely charming. He approached me with a sweet smile and kind words. However, the honeymoon phase of what I thought was a ‘relationship’ was quickly slaughtered. By the end of the week, he was standing on a street corner with another girl. Upon asking for an explanation, he told me to, “loosen up because everybody, belongs to everybody else.” The girl, who turned out to be his girlfriend, laughed.

The next person I encountered, tarnished the thrill and idea of dating in less time. Girls would call me at all hours of the night because of him, asking me to leave their man alone and questioning what I could possibly have that they did not. It was one of many encounters where I was expected to compete with strangers for a man.

I have met people who mentioned that they were in complicated relationships, where they were hanging onto other people by a thread and needed my help to move on. Not to forget, the outright honest person who told me that he needed a girl in every province to keep him happy or the guy expecting nothing more than a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement.

The most cringe-worthy of these experiences was receiving a call from a woman one night, asking me to find myself a man that would love me instead of kidnapping hers. The irony of it is that I was single that time and she had dialled the wrong number. Anyhow, we ended up talking. I questioned why she chose to call up random people instead of confronting the person she was dating. Her answer was “I don’t want to lose him. He wants to keep playing with other girls but eventually, he will get tired. All I can do is eliminate the competition and hope that he picks me at the end of the day.”

That is when I truly began to question the point of dating. To date, can be understood as a way to learn about the next person. Words are exchanged, a few casual meetings and hopefully, the opportunity to figure out whether you want a future with someone (or not). It sounds easy but I discovered hiccups to that simplicity because I could not figure out why I chose to do it. I had always assumed that people date because they are afraid of being lonely or because others were doing it, if not pressuring them to try. Just as I hoped to date so I could have something to discuss with friends. I had watched a million movies that gave me the idea of finding ‘The One’; the soul mate who would love me and always find their way back, just as that woman on the phone believed. And songs, all which had me singing to the idea of ‘Love at first sight lasting forever’. I had to shy away from the romanticised versions of dating displayed in the media to be able to question myself, my expectations and my intentions.

I accepted that I am a hopeless romantic, who still believes in the old-fashioned values of loyalty, honesty and respect. I wanted to find someone who was willing to make a relationship work with me through effort and equal compromise. For me, it would be a way to get to know a person with the opportunity to walk away if they did not respect me enough. I shrank away from dating to find those answers. I do admit, I got laughed at and even fell behind when it came to most conversations. However, by the time I was able to pluck up enough courage to step back into the ‘game’, it did not swallow me whole.

I figured that there will never be any rules to dating unless I set my own. On my side, it meant never to jump into a relationship with any person who just happened to pass by and never at first sight. That one person at a time was enough for me and if I could help it, I would never allow myself to become a number. I learnt to let people go if they refused to respect that. My plain refusal to play with time, trust or the emotions of others, has earned me the respect I desired over the years. Hence, dating can be what I make it to be.

If dating is some kind of a game for my generation and can be played in any way, with any or as many numbers, maybe, everybody is winning. As long as we are happy with what we have at the end of the day, “winning the lotto” can be anything from ending up in a relationship, getting married or choosing to be alone. This generation has the freedom to choose.


Need some tips for online dating? Read about two writers’ experiences here

Tell us: What has your experience of modern-day dating been like?