A Valentine’s Day Review: In Search of My Customized Boy Toy

Flickr/Dusty J

It’s that time of year again when the few lovebirds out there pop champagne while the rest of us resort to chugging hard liquor at a series of F*** Valentine’s parties.

It’s also that time of year, when after failing most of our New Year resolutions, we start evaluating the significant others in our lives. After “accidentally stumbling” (who am I kidding?) on an ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page, I recognized how he and I chose opposite routes to heal the same wound. He fell in love with the rebound girl, et moi? I went to explore McGill’s tempting, beguiling and yet strangely warped world of commoditized dating.

As a new student to McGill and Montreal, my ticket into McGill’s contorted dating scene began at Frosh. I was a product, a “froshie,” who was streamlined into the Air Frosh One factory. “Est-ce que vous êtes des alcooliques?” we chanted. “We’ll drink and dance without our pants.” But more than just chants, these spoke accurately of what actually happened behind the phrase “getting to know McGill and meet new friends.” It involved chugging a lot of beer.

Keep chugging though. Chug this casual, exhilarating, single-life attitude. Get a buzz from the guy you met last night with Channing Tatum’s abs. Get high while bragging to your friends how many chicks have graced your bed sheets. Oh! And while you’re at it, please, take this tequila shot off my belly – I’ll have the lime waiting for you between my teeth.

I hope you heard the sarcasm there. But now try to read it again without the sarcasm because that is the attitude the Frosh factory manufactured and stamped on many of its froshies before they left it, ready for sale. Enter McGill’s hyper-commoditized dating market.

Just like the real world, our dating market is predicated on a central philosophy: you should have whatever you want, whenever you want it. If you are seeking something longer-term, look at social circles. Something shorter (read: one night), try clubs. With all of these options, we’ve become more picky in who we date.

What are your “must-haves”? I bet they include looks like Henry Cavill’s. Maybe we can settle for Bradley Cooper if we like the older type. Your “can’t-stands”? No psycho ex-girlfriend. Not too young. And definitely no camping hobbies.

We have the luxury to choose exactly who we like, yet so often, we end up just taking another shot and settling for the goods we find with our beloved vodka goggles. This is because now your match doesn’t have to be Mr. or Ms. Perfect. Relationships are offered with warranties. Don’t love it? High maintenance? Doesn’t meet expectations? Just return it. We’ll refund you and you’re welcome to pick up another few to try out.

Back in 8th grade (it’s only been 4-7 years actually), we used to label the relationship, start going on dates and then maybe play spin the bottle and spend seven minutes in heaven. Coming to college, I keep seeing the norm reversed. We hook up, start dating and then perhaps after scrutinizing consideration – if we can’t find a good enough reason not to – decide to label it “boyfriend/girlfriend.”

In fact, Facebook-labeling the relationship is probably the largest commitment we’re willing to make. Yet while we make such a fuss about making it Facebook official, breaking-up has become just a click away. Commitment is a thing of the past. Marriage though, is definitely a bigger deal – it’s a sheet of tangible paper after all, right?

Since we have become very picky about who we see yet never commit, we have found even better ways to find “the one” (for tonight) by expanding into the blue oceans of unorthodox dating. Dating sites. Dating shows. Don’t tell me you haven’t tried Tinder. Casually flipping through all our choices and making a judgment based on appearance alone? This app should win a medal for the extent it’s tailored to our dating habits. We shop for men and women the same way we flip through Ikea catalogues for furniture.

Comparing people to a commercial product may be an absurd analogy, but it echoes an important truth about our strange dating habits. As a fellow McGillian myself, I know about our high intensity schedules, our short attention spans, and our ambitions to get exactly what we want. We have a lot of stress and little time. We want the quick and easy solution that works every time ,and that is how many of us adapted to zero consequences, zero commitment and zero constraint relationships. Streamlined, yet customized. Just how we like it.

It’s a science to break down the pros and cons of this 21st-century dating scene. And I’m certainly no scientist, so think of this piece less as a research paper and more of an acknowledgment of the bizarre commodification of dating. How did I get so off topic? We just passed Valentine’s day: boy toy wanted!

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.