The last thing I was aware of as a freshman during an online, Covid-19-filled year was relationships. It wasn’t until 2021’s “National Girlfriends Day”––during the summer––when I scrolled through my friends’ Instagram stories, realizing they were and had indeed been in relationships throughout the year. According to the 2020-2021 State of the Academy survey, 15.3% of the school population had a committed relationship last year. Just last week, I posted my own poll on Instagram–– “do you like anyone?”––and received these results: 61% yes, 39% no. “Do You Like Anyone?”
Thirty-nine percent is no small number. That accounts for 28 individuals (out of the 71 Andover students who voted) in the same position as me. Yet, we’re in the minority. In society today, dating occurs as early as high school. If you don’t like someone, you are viewed as “missing out” on a big part of high school. And to me, I feel like the odd-one-out, latching onto societal trends later than everyone else. I imagine others in the same position. Why is there a natural tendency to associate not having feelings for anyone as negative?
One potential explanation could be––ahh the cliché phrase––peer pressure. You and your friends sit together during lunch, and the inevitable question pops up: “Hey, do you like anyone?” We’ve all been there before. Regardless of your answer, the follow-up questions flow in. If your answer is a yes, the goal of the day will be to discover who that special person is. If the answer is a no, you will encounter denial, doubt, and disbelief. It is no longer a “who don’t you like?”––but a “why not? How? Really?” These instinctive reactions tell us that liking someone has become natural, even though our natural state is independent of everyone else. I would argue that we are born without feelings for someone, and that liking someone is, in fact, an emotion that develops over time. In other words, rather unnatural.
The very inevitability of the question “do you like anyone?” suggests the heavy dependence on romantic ideals in our time. Romance is discussed in a wide range of media and settings ––literature, music, school gossip, and even within a family. In this state of mind, not being romantically interested in someone restrains what you can resonate with.
A second, less obvious explanation is the pressure put onto yourself, by yourself. Personally, I feel mediocre at PA. I don’t wear nice, meticulously planned-out outfits. I seldom go to public events. I don’t know that many people. I don’t have those Netflix shows to talk about. I get average grades, and not that many passions to expand upon, no big dreams to pursue… or else why would I be writing about high school relationships for a school newspaper. I’m just a 15-year-old trying to get through high school. I consider myself average, awkward, and slightly boring initially, traits which society has told me are unlikeable. In turn, I tell myself that the chances of reciprocated feelings are low. As expected, in this case, I will most likely not like anyone either.
Here’s why we should normalize not having feelings for anyone: we are all focused on different things. Ask yourself two realistic questions––If I do get into a relationship, what do I envision it to be like? And what do I think my role in that relationship will be? Personally, I cannot imagine myself maintaining it. I have a hectic schedule (as I am sure all of us do), and not the best or most-effective time management skills to accompany it. On an easier day with no assessments, my biggest goal is to get my homework in. On a normal day, I’m in the library during lunch, cramming that last French vocab in. In reality, Andover stresses me out. I am rarely in the mood for anything that won’t “help me get my homework done,” neither having the time, energy, or willpower.
The outcome: a focus on only school. I think this is shared within the Andover community. At Andover, it’s normal to zoom through our days, rushing from one class to the next, one club to another. Sometimes, you happen to develop feelings for someone along the way. But amid life at Andover, it is unreasonable to expect that we will.
Being single, or even just not liking anyone, is natural. While it is widely viewed as negative, there’s also a whole lot of advantages. You get to focus on yourself completely, not having to adjust your schedule for others. In China, November 11 (双十一) is equivalent to Single’s Day. People celebrate this day by going on shopping sprees with huge discounts. The nature of the celebration reminds us of our individuality, letting us know that there is nothing “wrong” with being by ourselves. We’re still young. We’re changing. Now, that being said, if anything exciting ever does happen, I personally will not hesitate to embrace it. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to get a glimpse of what the 61% from my poll (do you like anyone?) experience… or maybe even the 15.3% from SOTA (are you currently in a relationship?).