Monday, March 24, 2008

More On Dating

There is an epidemic infecting a number of my single female friends: aversion to intimacy (physical and/or emotional).

We all have our reasons, whether those reasons are coherently articulated or not.

On one hand, I think the vast majority of "single" people out there, should they be asked the abstract question of whether they want to be in a satisfying romantic relationship, would answer: "of course."

But the next question is: what are they willing to do to achieve that?

There are other issues involved which complicate the matter: are they in a place where they can or even want to carve out the time and attention for a relationship or even look for one? Despite any stated man-fast, is it just that they haven't met the "right" person? (This second question is what has motivated my own recent dating experiments - the possibility of meeting a person who could, in a blink of an eye, cause me to rethink my own state of readiness or desire to take on the high-maintenance prospect of a man in my life). Does the usual process of achieving that goal - dating - just seem repellent and/or ineffective?

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine that was striking in its similarity to conversations I've had with numerous others, including myself: that the thought of dating, and the usual "meet someone, go out on 3 to 5 dates, have sex with them, suddenly find yourself in a relationship or in the turmoil/annoyance of unaligned levels of interest" is REPELLENT.

In recent conversations about online dating and much of dating in general, SK described it perfectly - "goal-oriented dating."

With most endeavors, having a clearly identified goal is necessary, or at the very least, helpful in achieving that goal.

But with dating, at least for those "suffering" from this particular epidemic, can being "goal-oriented" hinder rather than help?

Have I met my share of freaks? Yes. Have I also met perfectly nice guys whom I rejected after a date or two or three because in that allotted time I never had the slightest desire see them naked, but for whom I could have developed the tingles had we had the time to get to know each other as people? Possibly. Am I aware that my lack of readiness for or interest in a relationship might be preventing me from recognizing a perfectly good candidate when he's sitting across the table from me? Yes.

I have posted before about the necessity of collecting a myriad of data points about a person in order to determine attraction - data points you can't always learn after one date or two or three. And while sometimes chemistry can hit you over the head upon first laying eyes on someone, sometimes it develops slowly with lots of time and repeated exposure.

But with "goal-oriented dating," comes a slew of expectations and in most cases, a ludicrously short time line. Very rarely do men or women want to be "friends" with a dating prospect when the paradigm has already been set up as "goal-oriented." And that works both ways within this paradigm - many of us don't want to be resigned into the friend category, and many of us don't want to try to be friends with someone who is clearly interested in more.

This brings me to the heart of what I have been thinking for myself and hearing from numerous women: we want to be friends first, with no expectations, no "goal" in mind. And in this expectation and goal free environment, to be able to simply enjoy someone's company, get to know them, and naturally, almost subconsciously, collect all those necessary data points about who they are, and play the rest by ear.

Maybe what I've been hearing recently is backlash against a dynamic inherent in online dating or any kind of dating that involves a stranger or near stranger to you. Or maybe it is due to the epidemic of emotional distance and exaggerated caution and aversion to intimacy that seems to be sweeping through many of my single friends.

One thing is clear though. The question that used to clearly signal the kiss of death when it comes to the possibility of romance, might now signal something else entirely: "Can we be friends?"


Robespierre said...

Does this not beg the larger "Sex in the City" question: Can straight guys and girls be friends (when they are not physically repulsed by each other)? How many straight guys are you friends with? And by friends I mean friends like you are with your coterie of "BFF!" GFs? From my vantage if you put me in a magical world where I were no longer married [the last part of that sentence was written with my best Homer Simpson "beer" voice], I would be in full-blown leopard stalking baby Thompson's gazelle mode in about 15 seconds. Yes, yes, I know how hard it is to be single in the twilight of our youth where we are no longer so needy and don't want to put up with anything. But I think normal straight guys are for the most part not going to fit into your paradigm.

I do want to stress that I am by no means advocating against romance in any way. If you like a girl, then the courting process will take however long the courting process takes. But in the end you will ambush her and she find herself being dragged up into a tree away from other predators.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. In American culture, there seems to be a female need to prove how manly a woman can be, but not manly in a modern way, but in an emotionally calloused 1950's way.

It is repulsive.