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Let me paint a picture for you.

It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday night in June. At the time, I think I’m on the best second date of my life. The scene is a rooftop patio aglow with string lights. The mood is surprisingly intimate for a second date. We’re cuddled up on a couch in a secluded corner, sharing a bottle of red wine. I’m leaning into him, starting to feel the buzz of my second glass of wine, thinking that I’d love to have many, many more nights like this. And that’s when he utters those fateful words:

“I’m just not looking for anything serious right now.”

“No, no, no, that can’t be right. We have such obvious chemistry,” I thought.

He was in med school, and I was studying to become a registered dietitian. We both played sports and frequented the same bars (which is how we’d met). We even had a couple friends in common and lived less than a mile apart. What’s more, the conversation was good, and the kissing was even better.

It wasn’t like I’d planned our future together, but I definitely saw potential there, and now he was throwing me a major curveball.

In that moment, I said what most young women afraid of ruining a “good thing” would say, “Oh yeah, I’m definitely not looking for anything serious either!” trying to mask my obvious disheartenment with nonchalance.

“Good,” he replied. “Let’s just see how things go.”

Well, I’ll tell you how things went.

I proceeded to spend the next eight months hopelessly hung up on this guy. I continued to pretend not to want anything serious, all the while thinking that if I could just run into him enough times at the library, gym, and on the crowded dance floor, he’d eventually want something more.

However, he did not, despite the fact that I’m charming as heck (or at least I like to think so!).

I’m sharing this embarrassing personal admission with you because I learned a lesson from it.

The story goes something like this: boy meets girl. There’s some flirting, a little bit of romance. Girl catches feelings and thinks that boy is also catching them. Why else would he take her on multiple dates? Boy says he’s “not looking for anything serious.” Girl decides to go along with it to the detriment of her happiness. Sound familiar?

Why do we do this?

Why do we tell guys that we’re cool with casual hookups when, deep down, we’d happily be exclusive with that person? Why do we lie about our true intentions to the guy in question and even, to some extent, ourselves?

Hookup culture tells us that there’s value in being a “chill girl.” A chill girl is non-committal, unassuming, and unimposing. She’s low-maintenance, down to hook up whenever and let herself out in the morning. She would never dare ask for a more substantial relationship from the guys she’s “seeing” because that would mean admitting that she cares, and caring is very unchill.

This is the type of girl that both my experience on dating apps and my, uh, extracurricular activities in college taught me that guys want. To be anything more is to lose the war on not giving a damn. And since women are already accused of having “too many feelings,” we really wouldn’t want to do that.

But pursuing a serious relationship, one based off more than just witty banter and drunk hookups, isn’t something that we should be ashamed of. The hookup culture already does a pretty good job of making us feel weird about looking for a deeper connection with the person we’re sleeping with. But we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by playing into the “chill girl” identity.

I think it’s okay to be unapologetic about what we’re looking for in a romantic relationship. If a guy doesn’t want a serious relationship and you do, then he isn’t the one. In retrospect, if I could change anything about that fateful Thursday evening, I would have sat up and looked him straight in the eyes. I would have said, “Okay, no problem. I had a great time with you tonight, but I’m actually looking for a relationship, so I’m going to go now.”

There’s no point in wasting time on someone who is giving you clear signals that he doesn’t want to be with you, no matter how great you think he is. Reflecting back on my past relationships, I’ve realized that I’d rather be single until I find the right guy who’s ready to commit than live out another half-assed relationship with a non-committal guy. As I look forward to a truly fulfilling relationship, I’ll be unapologetic about what I want and be patient until I meet someone who’s looking for the same thing.