“I guess it just kind of evolved,” says Paige Cantlin, when talking about her unusual schedule-maximizing strategy, which is not to date.
Cantlin is a 28-year-old investment adviser as well as the founder/CEO of the restaurant-bill-payment startup Full Society. About four years ago, she ended a serious relationship, and after that she did try to date for a bit. “I just didn’t really enjoy it that much,” she says. “I started spending time doing other things I enjoy.” Like founding a company, for instance. And running–including, recently, a marathon in Antarctica.
Here, it helps to define what Cantlin means by “dating.” Cantlin doesn’t eschew all male romantic company. “I love men–they are fascinating and valuable creatures,” she says. She’s hardly a misandrist, nor is she celibate.
But the game she finds so many of her women friends playing–spending countless hours, using countless apps in the search for a Mr. Right to turn into a husband–doesn’t appeal to her at all. When Cantlin does spend an evening or two with a man, “It’s based on convenience and, I guess, coincidence, really.” She says that she feels she meets higher-quality men simply by pursuing her interests anyway.
Cantlin has tons of friends getting married, and a few already getting divorced. “I think at this age, women feel like they should already be married or in a serious relationship,” she says. “But all their stories were miserable sounding.” The ones in long-term relationships seemed unhappy; the ones out of them seemed to be desperately chasing a ring. “If someone comes along who meets my lifestyle requirements, maybe I’d consider being with someone,” she says. “But I don’t see any reason to spend time looking for someone when I could be doing fun stuff in life I actually enjoy.”
Once Cantlin articulates her non-dating philosophy, the questions inevitably come pouring in, be they from friends, or from a reporter. Doesn’t she want a go-to person with whom intimacy builds over time? “I think that can be true,” she counters, “but the question is: Are you really spending that time with the right person? I feel like most people are doing it with someone who’s not the best person to be growing that intimacy with.” For her part, she has a male roommate whom she calls her “best friend” and a “great partner in my life.” Maybe she’ll want a go-to mate later, but “a lot later,” she says. “I don’t know why people are in such a rush to find that kind of intimate connection when they’re 25.”
But are there, perhaps, biological reasons to consider choosing a mate in youth? Far from it, says Cantlin. If a healthy American might live to 100, “the idea of making a decision that affects the next 75 years seems ridiculous to me. That’s like saying you’re going to live in the same house in the same city for the rest of your life, and can never change your mind about it. It seems like that’s what happens when people get married and have kids early.”
And here it helps to know what Cantlin thinks about child rearing. First off, she sees no hurry. If modern technology can allow her to freeze her eggs and delay parenthood, why shouldn’t she take advantage of that fact? She plans to save some money to do just that as soon as next year, since younger eggs are healthier.
But even having a biological child doesn’t feel like her preference. (She says she is freezing the eggs only in case she later meets a partner for whom a biological child is essential.) For nine years, in Baltimore, she has volunteered, through a nonprofit, to oversee cases of children placed in the foster care system. “I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of cases of misplaced children,” she says. “It made me feel like I was kind of selfish to have my own kids, when there are so many out there that need good homes.”
At about this point, anyone Cantlin has permitted to grill her about her life choices begins to sniff about for whether something is “wrong.” Was her own family life traumatizing in some way? Far from it, she says. “I come from an incredibly normal family,” she says: two married parents and a loving younger sister. “That’s the only thing that would make me want to have kids, to have a family like my own.” Maybe that breakup four years ago blindsided her? Not at all. It was mutual, she says. “He wanted to get married, and wanted me to work less, and to be around for more stuff than I was able to be around for,” she says.
There’s a feminist case for her stance, too. An unfair double standard in our society prizes age in men, but youth in women. “You’re not getting any younger,” Cantlin’s father hinted recently. “I’m like, Dad, it’s totally crazy. Sure I won’t be as good looking in 10 years, but neither will anyone. When I think about having a long-term relationship with a guy, I sure as hell hope it doesn’t have to do with what I look like. That should be fought against.”
The hardest thing for Cantlin has been persuading men that she is serious when she says she wants to keep things casual. She says she hurt a lot of feelings in the beginning. Now, she almost exclusively hangs out with guys who have already seen firsthand how busy and independent she is.
Cantlin says many of her friends–particularly women–are curious about her choices. “The more people I talk to about it,” says Cantlin, “first people are like, ‘That’s totally crazy.’ But then when I explain the logic, they’re like, ‘That kinda makes sense. Maybe that is a good idea.’” She estimates that at least half of her friends would probably be happier if they followed Cantlin’s model.
Ultimately, it all comes down to her time, and how she wants to spend it. Fittingly, she got the idea for Full Society while on a bad date she couldn’t wait to escape. Her app lets users pay their restaurant bill faster, right on their phones, to allow for quicker exits.