Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hopeful Romantics: Transcending Dating Games

What We Seek
Claire and I like to see ourselves as hopeful (as opposed to hopeless) romantics. For us, this means approaching life with childlike wonder as opposed to arrogant cynicism. The least interesting people, for us, are the ones who pride themselves on their jaded and “cosmopolitan” outlook. If this is the “grown-up” version of “too cool for school,” neither one of us wants to grow up.  If you think you “know it all” and “have seen it all,” then you have a lot to learn and have “seen” nothing. In contrast, the Zen Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind,” advocates openness to learning and getting beyond your preconceptions, no matter how advanced you are in a subject.

Audrey likens her search for the Romantic Ideal to Humbert Humbert’s obsession with his adolescent love, Lolita, in Nabokov’s book of the same name:

“The neighbor boy was my Lolita. There was a time up until age 7, when I was still cute and looked like a little Midwestern Scandinavian doll. This was before I started getting bullied, and went through a chubby phase (that lasted until age 25) accentuated by a series of bad perms, haircuts, and regrettable fashion choices. It doesn’t matter that I now look like the adult version of the attractive Scandinavian girl, the person I am inside reflects the two earlier states: The time of Innocence and the time of (painful) Experience.
Art by Jana Brike

In my Age of Innocence, at age six, one sunny summer day my blond haired, cherubic Lolita kissed me for the first and last time, under a birch tree. The experience imprinted itself on my heart, so that subsequently, I found myself longing to return to that moment under what I began to call wistfully, “the Love Tree.” A few years later, now deep into the Age of Experience, I found and placed a heart shaped rock under the tree, as a tribute to this romantic ideal. Ever since that day, I have been chasing that neighbor boy, and the moment we shared together, pure and innocent, without baggage, connecting for just seconds to Eden and the Other, the sacred opposite. In adulthood, I find more beauty than most in a kiss. I could pursue this pleasure until my lips chapped if a partner would so indulge me.”

In the beginning we are unconsciously innocent. Then we fall from Grace. The goal, once we pick ourselves up from the Fall (and some people never do) is Resurrection, to be able to transform ourselves, like a Phoenix, into a state of conscious innocence.

The Beatles in “Golden Slumberssing, “Once there was a way to get back homeward, Once there was a way to get back home.” Joni Mitchell in “Woodstocktells us, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.” Thomas Wolfe informs us in his famous book of the same name: “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  We are all stumbling and fumbling and trying to get back home.

In this time, we were both vulnerable and more open to the world, free of the baggage that would later weigh us down. Poet Charles Bukowski speaks of a “Bluebirdin his heart that’s trying to get out and get back to that state before the world shit on our souls.

Connection With the Other

There’s this desperation in online dating, where people are dying to get their needs met. Most people seem to be looking for something very specific, It’s this desire to make an unknown other person fit into a one-stop shopping mold, whether it’s a desired physical type, sexual chemistry, or emotional chemistry, like they are looking for a car with a certain set of superficial specs, as opposed to being open to getting to know an actual other person. They want the “Stepford” date.

This is the teenage male-designed fantasy girl from “Weird Science” or “Pygmalion,” if you are more literary -- the magical designer, blow-up doll: who doesn’t talk. It’s like they are ordering a dish off the menu. Short of paying for this dish with cash, aka a hooker or a mail order bride, we wonder how often these men find her or how that “happily ever after turns out,” per Eddie Murphy’s classic comedy skit “Raw” where he talks about his search for the ideal “Bush Bitch.”

When we anticipate a new connection with a person, it is natural to project our desires onto them. The journey to connection is moving beyond projection and into being in each other’s presence and “seeing” the other person, not just as the projection of our fantasies, but as an individual person with their own hopes, dreams, and desires. Subconsciously, when we seek connection with others, we are seeking the missing parts of ourselves, those parts we have lost or desire. We also seek the other person’s validation of us, as being worthy of love, connection, or physical desire. From a Jungian perspective, we are encountering our animus (for women) or anima (for men), respectively the missing masculine and feminine sides of ourselves. We’ve been conditioned by our society to neglect these aspects of ourselves and become enraptured when we idealize them in another. 

Art by Eugenia Loli
There is a certain type of person who is all about seduction or is in love with the idea of “being in love.” CS Lewis described falling in love as diving into a pool of water. At a certain moment, we encounter the resistance of the water and have to do the work of swimming. Many people do not enjoy this work, so they simply get out of the pool and dive into a new pool, every time the drug wears off and the inertia sets in.

The Dating Game

There are two dating paradigms that Audrey and I both abhor. For women, this is the “Rules Girl,” immortalized (but certainly not created, this type of girl has been around forever) by the self-help gurus, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider in their book: “The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right.” Simply put, the Rules strategy is all about how to play hard to get so you get a man. The payoff for playing by The Rules is that you get Mr. Right and get to live happily ever after. What Fein and Schneider neglect to point out is that, thirty years later, he may morph into Suburban Golf Dad (see dating stereotypes in previous) and you may morph into Suburban Starbucks Mom.

The male equivalent of “The Rules” is the “Seduction Community.” This is a movement of men whose goal is seduction and sexual success with/access to women. The community was brought to greater mainstream awareness with the 1999 drama film "Magnolia," in which Tom Cruise portrays an uber douche and pickup guru, loosely modeled on pick-up artist Ross Jeffries.

Basically both these strategies are based on manipulating the other person to “get what you want,” whether it’s sex in the male dating stereotype or marriage and kids in the female dating stereotype. If ever two groups of people deserved each other, it’s Rules Girls and Seduction Community Men. These inauthentic games advocate establishing a “relationship” based on false pretenses to entrap another human being.

Wild Women Do…

...and they don’t regret it. As attractive, self-confident women, who know what we want, neither Claire nor I respects the idea of playing by “The Rules.” If we like a man, we are more likely to tell him. We won’t chase him, but we aren’t going to play “hard to get” either.  

We are not out there to enslave you and impregnate ourselves so that we can morph into domesticated “basic bitches,” the type of woman who holds out for a diamond tennis bracelet before “giving in” to ___ [exotic]  sex act. We are not going to force you to watch a romcom, read “50 Shades of Grey,” or go to a Maroon 5 concert with us. We would rather smoke weed, watch Louis CK stand up, and fuck our partner’s brains out. We do hope for emotional and eventually romantic connection, but we are not going to force anything on anyone. Our needs might be just as much about what the guy’s recovery time is.

“I’m not ever going to be the crazy girl that sends the crazy text: YOU DIDN’T WRITE BACK AFTER 3 HOURS!!! DO YOU STILL LIKE ME???!!! No, that will never be me. That’s where consciousness and mindfulness…and of course, a sense of humor comes in.”

We don’t need to chase boys and we certainly don’t need to chase men. A good relationship is a back and forth. It does not reek of desperation or a one-sided chase. It’s 1 + 1,  not ½ + ½.

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