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Why dating feels like a nightmare for young women right now

Video: anyahaas, ryanspencer51

On a Saturday night in Austin, Anya Haas went out to meet someone. She wanted to secure a seat at the bar of a trendy restaurant and explore her options, but when she arrived, it was packed. While she waited, an older man offered to buy Haas dinner; she politely declined and left to grab some sushi before heading to a comedy show. There, she thought, it would be easier to connect with people her age. But when the 32-year-old hostess arrived at the club, it was almost empty. She was also the only person sitting in the front row, and the comedians noticed that she was alone. Humiliated, Haas then got a ride home from a single 75-year-old woman who said she drove for Uber to meet people. I will be thatthought Haas as he stroked the driver’s dog.

When she got home, Haas recorded a video recapping her embarrassing experience. “I'm not one to post on the internet or cry,” she says, “so this is something new for me.” Haas, who has been single for seven years, tearfully talks about how tired she is of people telling her that her dream man will “come when you least expect it.” “I'm so sick of hearing that,” she says, slamming her hands on her kitchen island. “There are some people who just don't find their dream man and don't get married.”

Haas had only posted three times on TikTok before, but the next day her video Millions of views all over the internet. People began reposting her TikTok alongside other videos of crying single women in their 20s and 30s, and the reactions highlighted how genders differ when it comes to the state of dating in 2024. Many men criticized Haas for her “unrealistic expectations” or seemed confused by her dilemma. “Why are so many 29-year-old boss girls from Tiktok publicly freaking out about not finding a man?” one guy wrote on X. Meanwhile, legions of women expressed their sympathy. “I'm in the same boat,” wrote one 30-year-old, adding that she, too, hadn't been in a relationship in nearly seven years.

Single people have always complained about meeting someone, but lately straight women seem to have reached a breaking point. They not only cry on camera and renounce Dating apps, they're voluntarily celibate like Julia Fox or becoming “boysobers.” When Bumble launched an anti-celibacy campaign last month, the company received so much backlash that it was forced to pull the ads and apologize. Overall, it seems like single women in the U.S. are just one bad date away from starting their own version of South Korea's 4B movement, in which women refuse to date, fuck, marry, or have children with men.

Ryan Spencer vented her frustration on TikTok in mid-May because conversations with a new lover remained superficial. None of the five men she previously dated offered the 29-year-old the deep connection she seeks. “How much longer do I have to pray, manifest and wait?” she says in her video. Choking back tears, she wonders, “Should it be me alone?” Spencer tells me she grew up with parents who still “absolutely love each other,” and in addition to marriage, kids and a house, she wants the fairytale romance. “I don't deny that I'm a little dumb when it comes to falling in love,” she says. “I'm sorry, I grew up watching Disney movies!”

Taylor, who only wants to be addressed by her first name, could identify with Spencer's video, even if she is not planning on proposing marriage. “She has a solid life, but no one to share it with,” the 30-year-old pastry chef says of the TikTok. “I recently realized: 90 percent of the things I do every day, I do alone.” Taylor, who lives in Brooklyn and wants a relationship, says many of the men she meets suffer from what she calls “porn brain”: They value performative masculinity over real connection. During sex, she says, they focus on dominance rather than pleasure. Her only relationship ended a year and a half ago, and although she has had a few dates since then, it has been difficult to have meaningful conversations.

All the women I spoke to said they felt like dating through apps had become transactional. Haas swore off Bumble and Hinge over a year ago because she found that most men were just pretending to want something serious to have sex. (Since posting her video, two men she'd previously matched with have sent her unsolicited penis pictures.) Anissa, a 31-year-old corporate lawyer who wanted to go by a pseudonym, tells me that the men she meets seem interested in “conquests,” while she and other single women are “just trying to find their partner.” She describes three male archetypes she's encountered on the apps: “Either he wants sex with you right away. Or he's already in a relationship and is just so obviously noncommittal. Or he's obsessed with you.” One guy lied to her about his job and where he lived, another confessed at the last minute that he was in an open relationship, and the last guy she went on a date with became overly attached to her after just a few hours. She canceled her follow-up plans. “There's a disease where we don't see people as people because of the apps,” she says. “We always think there's something 'better' out there.”

Anissa doesn't find it easier to meet men offline. In her experience, men her age tend to pick up younger women in bars. “He'll go to the scantily clad 21-year-old having the time of her life,” she says. “Not three sullen 31-year-olds.” Taylor also had no luck in the wild after giving up on dating apps. She says that in her 20s, it was easy to meet someone every weekend at Union Pool, the notoriously raunchy club in Williamsburg. Now, she finds the bar crowd is more closed off and tied into cliques. When she saw Haas' video, she thought: Someone sitting alone at a comedy show? Sounds right“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone by chance in the last five years out there,” she adds.

Each woman has a different theory about why dating is so boring right now. Taylor blames technology, and Spencer finds that men her age are more interested in “getting drunk every weekend in New York City” than committing to a committed relationship, in part because the COVID-19 pandemic derailed her prime sexual years. Another woman in her early 30s tells me she hasn’t dated men for eight months because she believes they have become more politically conservative. (Some studies show that young women are becoming more liberal than young men, though experts are skeptical that there is a significant political gender divide.) Haas is concerned about the online network of men’s rights activists who want to “turn men against women.” The common denominator in these conversations, however, is that the women believe their romantic priorities are fundamentally different from those of men their age. This may not be a new problem (see: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus), but in the age of Andrew Tate and “Swipe Left,” it feels especially urgent.

Taylor still hopes to meet someone, even if she doesn't know when. Anissa isn't so sure. Like Spencer and Haas, the thought of being single long-term terrifies her. She doesn't want to spend her Friday nights eating sushi with her cat. She also hates it when people tell her that a relationship will happen if she stops trying. “I think that's the biggest lie we tell each other and ourselves,” Anissa says. “You have to look.” But where exactly should she look? For her part, Haas wants to be more proactive about flirting in real life by complimenting hot guys she sees at the grocery store or a coffee shop. Instead of going to a bar and hoping to get hit on, she's also forcing herself to get off the couch and hang out with friends she doesn't normally see. “I'm just going to try to have fun and see if that helps,” she says.

She currently has 180 unread messages on Instagram, but the direct messages Haas is most excited about are from other Austin women asking if they want to hang out. If the video gets her a few new friends, it will have served a purpose — though she's already considered deleting it. “If I magically meet someone,” she says, “I don't need that person to be able to go on my TikTok and see me cry all over the internet.”