Dear Every Man I Will Ever Date In The Future,
This past month, I picked up Nick Hornsby’s “High Fidelity” from outside of Strand for only 49 cents (While I don’t understand, I just don’t care enough to ask: Why not an even 50?). Three hundred fourteen pages deep, nearing the back end cover of this paperback goldmine, I had a life changing moment.
No, I haven’t converted to a religion. I still prefer dicks over chicks. I am not pregnant. So, keep reading.
This novel, in case you aren’t familiar with the plot, captures the internal turmoil and hidden insecurities of a man who gets dumped by his long term girlfriend. At first, he is minimally bothered by the breakup; after all, the relationship had been fading on its own. It was going to end, sooner or later. But, the second he finds out there is another man in her life, he is absolutely torn. Is he better in bed than I am? Does she make different noises with him than she did with me? Triggered by her newfound elusiveness, his pride takes reign over his feelings. He becomes the crazy ex-boyfriend he never envisioned to be.
We’ve all been there. It’s the classic story of “you always want what you can’t have” (which has become such an apparent idiom in my life, I’m considering having it engraved on my tombstone). Omit that he’s a fictional character — Rob is no different from you and me.
He spends the entire width of the novel trying to win Laura back; with a dead-end job, low self esteem, and unsorted emotions, he struggles to do so. Nevertheless, her new man fails to fulfill her needs the way she expected him to (might I add the obvious: the grass is not greener on the other side). In the end, he and Laura decide to reunite as a couple, despite it not being fueled by love, but rather upon the realization that what they can have is comfortable and, for the most part, agreeable. Within weeks, however, he develops a crush on the next beautiful woman he meets.
Are you surprised? I’m not.
This scene is the literary epitome of 21st century dating conventions. The irony of it represents how hookup culture justifies the habit of cycling through alternatives. Social dating apps, like OkCupid or Tinder, financially thrive because we are greedy for options and convenience. We develop a connection that sparks, then comforts, but for most, the next charming option that strolls along has us considering: Maybe I Could Do Better. MAYBE THIS ISN’T ENOUGH.
(I, thankfully, haven’t had much experience on drawing the short end of the straw, but I admit that my very own psyche has, time and time again, fallen in entrapment of wanting the next best thing. Upon realizing this, I have ditched my accounts since. I refuse to waste my time by wasting other people’s time).
And most importantly, when the protagonist questions his lusty daydream over the new woman, he does exactly opposite of what his instincts tell him to do. He does not flirt. He does not cheat. Instead, he proposes to Laura, because he finally understands that lust and excitement die, eventually losing their worth.
(Referring to the new woman) he says,
“I’m doing the usual thing –imagining in tiny detail the entire course of the relationship, from first kiss, to bed, to moving in together, to getting married… to how pretty she’ll look when she’s pregnant, to names of children– until suddenly I realize that there’s nothing left to actually, like happen. I’ve done it all, lived through the whole relationship in my head. I’ve watched the film on fast-forward; I know the whole plot, the ending the good bit. Now I’ve got to rewind and watch it all over again in real time, and where’s the fun in that?
And fucking… when’s it all going to fucking stop? I’m going to jump from rock to rock for the rest of my life until there aren’t any rocks left?
…I know what’s wrong with Laura. What’s wrong with Laura is that I’ll never see her for the first or second or third time again. I’ll never spend two or three days in a sweat trying to remember what she looks like, never again will I get to a pub half an hour early to meet her, staring at the same article in a magazine and looking at my watch every thirty seconds, never again will thinking about her set something off in me like ‘Let’s Get It On’ sets something off in me. And sure, I love her and like her and have good conversations, nice sex and intense rows with her, and she looks after me and worries about me… but what does all that count for, when someone with bare arms, a nice smile, and a pair of Doc Martens comes in…? Nothing, that’s what, but maybe it should count for more.”
Upon reading this passage, I understood why I haven’t been in too many serious relationships. I’m logical. Maybe too fucking logical.
The thing is, I’m apathetic (if not against) placing a label between me and a person of interest, because by labeling a connection you DEFINE it as such. You restrict the development of its dynamic nature by dictating what it is and what it should be. Both parties then try to fulfill expectations of what you believe it is supposed to be (i.e. friends with benefits should not develop feelings, so you stay emotionally distant).
The reason why, many times, relationships fail is not due to irreconcilable differences, but because the level of expectation is pre-determined on an individual level. When the expectations do not match or are not communicated properly, one or both are sure to be disappointed.
Whether my past interactions were open or closed, emotionless or loving, it always worked for me to keep things simple. Skipping over the fine print. But I’ve learned that feelings are inevitable, and with feelings come possessiveness. Most ultimately desire to answer the inevitable question: what are we? (I am tempted to reply with “Human” but there’s a time and place for smart ass jokes). It seems my exclusiveness and commitment just aren’t enough; perhaps the declaration and distinction of something significant, something we can share with our grandmothers and siblings, makes a relationship seem more real. Stable.
This is where I’ve been too stubborn. To avoid the unnecessary stress and drama of it all, I’ve kept most interactions fairly casual. I’ve been in romantic situations, but detached, with the mentality of This Will Not Go Anywhere. We are creatures of prediction and imagination. When I dubbed every relationship as “a fling” that’s all that could come from it. I limited my own growth and development with some great people because I set a cap from the beginning. When you believe it, that is what it becomes.
Right now, it’s different. I’M SO SICK OF CASUAL DATING. I’m exhausted from playing it cool. I’m really good at it, but I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s hard enough as it is to invest in one person; so, to do it again and again, cycling through the same shit, is tiresome. It’d be nice to have a real, emotional connection with someone. I don’t want to browse the societal catalog for the next hot date. I’d like to wake up beside the same face in years from now and not have to worry if it’ll be there the next day. If you find reassurance in a last name change, then so be it.
If you knew me from before, you might find it strange that I’m saying such things.
It’s surprising to myself, as well, how I now believe I’d be okay with being with one person for the rest of my life. I’m not looking for a ring this second, but I’m not abstaining from letting myself get close enough that the situation may (or may not) require one. It’s not the commitment that has always turned me off about it. It’s that we praise the concept of marriage for being the holy grail of social norms.
What we fail to account for is that marriage itself doesn’t equal or guarantee love, nor does it entitle one to commitment. Marriage is merely a legal agreement on a piece of paper. Marriage is a tax deduction. In some cases, it’s a bottle of Hennessy and a taxi driver as a witness.
Since there is usually a significant age gap between me and you, the topic of marriage does arise (almost always). Some of you will say the age difference does not bother you. Most of you will be lying through your teeth. And all of you will assume that a 25 year old considers marriage the way a first time marathoner thinks of the 26th mile: that she’s hoping it’ll happen, that she hasn’t ever reached that point, and that while she plans on it happening, it’s too far away to assume it will happen as soon as you’d like it to. Thing is, age is merely a marker of physical maturation. It doesn’t mean I’m any less serious or mindfully conscious than a 38 year old; at the very least, it’s an insult to see me as a statistic rather than an individual.
Majority of marriages end in divorce, so personally, I never saw how an unmarried couple who stays together would be any different from a married one, thus adding to my apathy towards labels… but I can understand why others seek the reassurance that comes with a public declaration of love. Though I don’t see a need for it, I would still marry you if I ended up falling in love with you, because love is about giving.
But let’s focus on getting past the third date for now.
My point is, all types of relationships (including platonic ones) are easily molded. You can call it a marriage and dress it up like one, but all of it means nothing if the unrelenting, blind relationship –what marriage is supposed to represent– is not actually there. The moment you start looking for something in particular is the moment you will begin SHAPING pieces to fit the empty holes in your life.
Rather than a specifically cut hole, think to fill a general open space; you’d be surprised how much room there is to grow. In no circumstance has extra leg room been considered disadvantageous.
PS — I drank so much fucking tea I am writing this at 4:50am. I’d say good night, but it’s morning.
PPS — Immanuel Kant once said, “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.” The reason why I combine the two, when it reveals such personal thoughts, is because being vulnerable is far less hounding than steering without sight or leading as a backseat driver. Take it or leave it. *drops mic*