Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hey NYT pls hire me

Hi, I’m a freelance writer recently relocated from Nashville, TN, to Brooklyn, NY. I'm fascinated by food systems and food cultures, so I try to write about that as much as possible, though my topics have ranged from health tech to ultimate frisbee. I grew up in rural Eastern North Carolina and attended UNC-Chapel Hill — where I wrote for The Daily Tar Heel, cut my long hair short, and worked hard to find a balance between my deep-rooted sense of responsibility and my lifelong craving for adventure.

Today, I swipe through hundreds of dating app profiles, wondering what these men mean when they say “adventure.” And what they mean by “decent guy,” and why they think I’ll take the time to memorize their Instagram handle, leave this app, pull up Instagram, type in their username and browse their mundane personal photos.

I keep swiping because I’m fascinated by the way people choose to present themselves online. I analyze why they think those particular photos showcase them well, and what impressions they might want their dating prospects to have of them.

However, I’m generally disappointed by how generic these dating-app profiles are. I'm frustrated because I know there’s more to my generation than Instagram accounts, Snapchat filters and mirror selfies (no matter how defined your abdominals might be). There’s more to millennials than brunching and craft beer and “the search for the best Greek food in the city.” I’m annoyed by the dating-app population because I know they don’t fully represent my generation. In some ways, they seem to represent the worst of my generation.

People write about my generation as if we were as generic as the men on Bumble. I could write many an essay railing against the norms and oddities of dating apps — but I’d never frame those as critiques of my generation.

When I look at my friends my age, I see some very responsible folks who studied hard in school and got the right medical shadowing internships and did well on the MCAT and are now following the conventional path to med school. I see some very adventurous folks who, immediately after graduation, climbed into their untrustworthy 2001 Subaru Outback and drove west, zigzagging across the country to visit national parks and to find a welcoming place to settle down as a ski bum/waitress/world traveler.

It’s actually very strange to be 24 in 2018. I have friends who are celebrating marriage anniversaries and friends who don’t believe in marriage. I have friends who check social media every day and friends who aren’t on social media. I have younger friends whose slang I can’t follow at all, and older friends for whom I have to tone down my own slang. I have a very close friend my age who literally lives in her parents’ basement, and a very close friend the same age who’s paying off his mortgage. (Incidentally, the two matched on Tinder, both sent me screenshots of the other’s profile, dated for a few months, and then decided to be just-friends-but-actually-best-friends.)

I’d like to contribute to the NYT a nuanced perspective on my own generation. My personal social network is culturally diverse enough for me to question all generalizations about my generation. That same circle of friends also includes younger and older people who provide contrasts to help me understand my own cohort. I’d especially like to write about modern dating culture. Here's to white men holding dead fish.

Caroline H. Leland

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