Love on Paper

One of my biggest beefs with the universe is that there is no reliable way to get to know someone well upon first meeting them. Initially all we have is the physical presentation, and that seems to suffice for most people[1]. It’s always seemed unfair to me, though, that conventional methods for meeting new people (i.e. bars or other social gatherings) take so much time and are so often unrewarding. My problem I suppose is that I’m looking for rare people[2], and they are, by definition, hard to find.

I’ve noticed that when I’m attracted to someone that there are specific things I can point to about that person that appeal to me. Generally, the more I’m attracted to someone, the longer the list of things I love about them. In fact, my ex-girlfriend Natalie once gave me a list of over 100 things that she liked about me. I gave her one as well. And I could do something similar for all the women on whom I’ve had crushes.

As I look at other people’s relationships, I tend to think that they’re just running on random emotional/psychological attraction: tiny causes and effects too subtle or unconscious to be verbalized or quantified. Most people have a physical and emotional template that they’re attracted to for whatever Freudian/evolutionary/behavioral reasons. For myself, I know that in addition to that stuff, I’m also attracted to talents and passions. When I see an attractive woman, I can appreciate the physical beauty, but a part of me stops and says, “you don’t know this person, how could you love her at first sight? Chances are far greater that she’s boring.”

I am reminded of one of the final episodes of Freaks & Geeks where Sam finally gets to date the girl he’s been idealizing all year, and it turns out she’s pretty and sweet but dull. I wonder how many of my junior high and high school crushes would fall into this category. Given the benefit of time, and knowing who those particular women became, I’m sure the answer is: “the vast majority.” Had someone pulled me aside and asked me, “why are you attracted to this girl?” I would have had no demonstrable answer other than “she’s pretty.”

Still, the instinct remains. I could fall in love every day with a pretty girl on the street, but what’s the use in acting on the attraction if the odds are so heavily not in my favor that she’ll be intelligent, insightful, creative, etc.? How does anybody fall in love and have it all balance out?[3] I sense that it’s probably easier for uninteresting people to fall in love because uninteresting people are largely interchangeable. All they have to do is achieve whatever level of socio-economic success and wear whatever clothes meet the societal standard of the day. Being charming and clever are helpful, but those alone won’t help you in the dimly sparkling social jungle that is the New York bar/club scene where love, sex and romance are just another sport at which to compete[4].

So what do oddly shaped, non-interchangeable people do? How do they find each other? Is it even possible?

1.) The fashion industry as a whole is predicated on this predicament.
2.) The Internet has greatly expedited this process, thankfully. Even at a local level (thanks, MySpace).
3.) Based on a discussion I had with two divorcees recently, the answer is, “they rarely ever do.”
4.) I’m trying to think of a satirical swipe to make at Sex and the City here but frankly it’s not worth the effort.

4 thoughts on “Love on Paper”

  1. we are planning to come to the city for a long weekend this summer and would love to see you! jess just graduated on saturday and all the RISD kids are moving to ny and a few to your hood in brooklyn (which i think is where we will be staying). no dates yet and it depends on what happens with this insane project at work, but it will most likely be mid-July.

    we’ve decided to stay in providence… its a wicked little city and totally the right speed for us. you should come a visit sometime :>


  2. i (mostly) agree πŸ™‚
    frankly, joel reminds me a lot of my dad in many ways… and with all the psychobabble I was taught getting to become a psychotherapist, i sometimes fear joel will become like him in ways i Don’t like, too.
    we talk about it and realize all we can do is now, with a little prep work.

    God, i hated dating in LR, i can’t conceive of it in NYC. you are a brave man. represent.

    ps joel’s mama and i are both sorta (ok, really) bossy and independent πŸ˜‰ amongst other things, i’m sure…

  3. I really do LOVE this blog.
    100 things you like about your significant other…that should be a requirement in every relationship. πŸ™‚

  4. Ha, I do feel like I’m reading Carrie Bradshaw’s column. Okay, at the risk of sounding like your mom here: Be yourself. There are so many posers out there; I imagine there are more posers (per capita) in NYC than anywhere else on the planet. Smart, interesting girls can surely spot the posers. So, be you and you’ll be golden.

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