This post by Eric Immel, SJ is also featured on The Jesuit Post.
“Will you go out with me?” It’s a terrifying question once awkwardly muttered by romantically untried youths everywhere. No longer. I may have first uttered the words during a teen night at my local YMCA, or perhaps over my family’s landline on a Thursday – the one day of the week I was allowed to call friends on the phone in 6th grade. It’s a dead concept now – going steady – dust clinging to the soles of in-fashion shoes too cool, too free, too noncommittal.
I’m a little slow on the uptake regarding popular trends in post-adolescent romantic culture, but I’ve recently heard of a dating phenomenon referred to as ‘Chill.’1 This epidemic, as one article calls it, seems to be the norm and the goal: cool, unconcerned, open, and easy relationships. ‘Chill’ is a way to get out of the “will you go out with me” question. People seeking some form of romantic involvement hold each other at bay with a ‘Chill’ attitude that says, “we’re just having fun,” and, “we’re in no rush to commit ourselves to each other,” and, “there are lots of people out there that we deserve to experience.” It takes many forms, from openness in casually dating multiple people to the cryptic ‘Netflix and Chill,’ which I gather is some new articulation of an ever-growing hookup culture. Some defend the concept, albeit not fully, and others find it unpredictable and unsafe. I lean more towards the latter.
I’m worried that, at least for a moment, people forget that we actually feel things – real, emotional things that matter deeply, things that shatter us, that then define us. When we pretend we don’t feel these things – desire, disappointment, longing, loyalty, affection, anxiety – we may become complacent or numb, we may lose passion, and we may lose our ability to love. These results don’t feel ‘chill’ to me. Numbness disconnects us from reality. Lost passion leads to apathy. Love never manipulates, never seeks a selfish, one-sided end, and never leaves a wake of brokenness in its path. ‘Chill’ doesn’t ensure that we will become callous and fractured, but it can be a green light to set things in motion.
‘Chill’ may offer protection from fear of rejection, but it doesn’t really offer peace that comes with authentic connection and companionship. Perhaps we should look for a new form of ‘chill.’ One that admits that we’re comfortable with the reality that we need each other in deep and intimate ways. One that never pushes away, always drawing us closer to what we hope lives at the center of all relationships – a crazy little thing called love.