love. week twelve.
city. new york city
To be honest, I haven’t been feeling all that loving lately. I’ve been allowing myself to get swept up in work, friends, dating, myself, and just haven’t had the energy to devote much time to this project. But, now that I stop to think about it, there have been a lot of things going on, kind of in the background. So, here they are in no particular order.
1. Over the last month I started and then stopped seeing someone. At first, I was very excited about her. Already from the first date, I felt a connection to her that I very rarely feel (like once every year or so). At the same time, I know that I have a tendency to get way too excited about connections like these way too quickly, setting myself up for disappointment. So, she and I spoke about that and agreed to take it slowly. We even set up a kind of schedule for our physical intimacy (just kissing the first date, then touching, then… you can imagine), and she didn’t seem at all freaked out by how strange I am. In fact, she might be just as strange! I don’t want to get into too much detail, but we shared a ton of emotional, personal spiritual, intellectual, creative, cultural, and social similarities. We seemed like an ideal match.
What went wrong? I’m not quite sure myself. Actually, it wasn’t until our final date that I realized that there was anything wrong in the first place. This was our first night sleeping together, so I should have been excited, but in reality I just felt vaguely uncomfortable. By the next morning I was forced to recognize that, for all of the things that I admire about her, we just didn’t have enough chemistry. I enjoyed hanging out with her, but at a certain point I just wanted to be alone.
We’re really good at discussing things, but not that great at schmoozing. We had fun dates, but when we were just chilling together it felt stale. We hardly texted between dates, and as we grew progressively more physically intimate, it was becoming clear that our lack of chemistry extended to our bodies as well.
Anyways, I don’t like to be negative. I was just disappointed that a relationship that seemed so promising could so suddenly be interrupted by something as vague and immaterial as ‘chemistry’. WHAT DOES CHEMISTRY HAVE TO DO WITH LOVE? WHAT DOES CHEMISTRY EVEN MEAN? It’s like god throwing a wrench into my heart, just for a laugh.
2. Well this whole ordeal (along with some other shit I reallyyyy don’t want to get into) has got me feeling emotionally exhausted. As a natural introvert, I suppose it requires a bit of energy for me to put myself out there and interact with the world. It’s so much easier to just retreat back into myself -- with my books, my work, my music, my friends, my family – and enjoy my own company. At least for a bit. We’re supposed to be quarantining, aren’t we?
I’m not sad. I’m just tired.
A younger version of myself would have protested and refused to admit defeat! But in my old age I understand that my own needs and feelings deserve to be respected (“all love begins with self-love”, yadda yadda), and I’ll just allow myself to relax a bit and catch my breath. The world isn’t going anywhere.
3. One of the books I’ve been reading, The Anatomy of Loving, has a chapter on Freud that was very similar to the idea I discussed in a previous post about loving another person for their differences, rather than for their similarities. I suggested that you can love someone for their differences, but only if their unique traits in some way compliment your own. Freud comes to the same conclusion, but through another route: by distinguishing between narcissistic (self) and anaclitic (attachment) love. Here it is in his own words:
A person may love:
(I) According to the narcissistic type:
a. What he himself is (i.e. himself),
b. What he himself was,
c. What he himself would like to be,
d. Someone who was once part of himself.
(II) According to the anaclitic (attachment) type:
a. The woman who feeds him,
b. The man who protects him.
Now, this is of course an outdated, sexist way of phrasing it, but the ideas are still relevant. To paraphrase: I can love someone because they represent something that I love about myself, or I can love someone because they represent something that I love about another (in Freud’s case, my parents).
4. On an entirely different note, I think that I’ve been subconsciously trying to make the jump from compassionate love to romantic love. And it is this jump that’s been causing me to lose track of my goal. As long as I was focused on the kind of love that is embodied by Jesus, the Buddha, and psychedelics, all was good. It was a simple, one directional relationship: I noticed others > I cared about others > I helped others. But when the issue of romance appeared (e.g. in my attempts to date), everything got topsy turvy.
At first I tried to use the same strategy, and would go on dates with anyone and everyone I matched with on whatever app I was using. But then when do I call it quits? I’d also internalized my sister’s advice to allow myself to be surprised by love, and not turn anyone down after a first date. So here I was, going on second, third, fourth dates with girls that I probably shouldn’t have been going out with in the first place. Romantic love is not like compassionate love. I can’t give it out freely and unconditionally. (At least not yet.) Compassionate love can be poured into the world, without expecting anything back. Romantic love seems to require something different, something tricker, perhaps even something conditional. But okay, lesson learned.
5. And soooooo, I’ve deleted my dating apps. Well, that’s not entirely true. I deleted the apps with endless swipes, profiles, broken conversations and ghosting, and downloaded an app called Coffee Meets Bagel which sets you up with one person each day. Maybe this can introduce some stability and calm back into my dating life. During the last couple of months, while devoting my time and attention to the dating apps which have become the go-to solution for people who are searching for love, I would often guiltily recall the following paragraph from Erich Fromm's Art of Loving:
At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, a man had to be aggressive and ambitious - today he has to be social and tolerant - in order to be an attractive 'package'. At any rate, the sense of falling in love develops usually only with regard to such human commodities as are within reach of one's own possibilities for exchange. I am out for a bargain; the object should be desirable from the standpoint of its social value, and at the same time should want me, considering my overt and hidden assets and potentialities. Two persons thus fall in love when they feel they have found the best object available on the market, considering the limitations of their own exchange values.
I am out for a bargain. I think about my own desirability (okay looks, intelligent, not much money, pretty funny, educated by professionally unambitious, etc.) and then decide which kind of girl I can 'catch'. Okay, I clearly won't attract the '10s' of the world (at least not on an app), but maybe I could swing a 7 or 8. That's doable, right? I deserve that, right?
I keep realizing that I'm playing a horrible game, and slowly turning into a horrible lover. A lover who first checks for your street value, before asking myself about your intrinsic value. (That's not to say that there's anything wrong with dating apps, just that they do seem to encourage this sort of economic perspective of love and self-value. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to use the apps, rather than have them use me.)
So, au revoir to dating apps. Au revoir to online shopping for a partner. And, I suppose, au revoir to my dating life.
Oh well, it’s all part of the experiment ¯\_(ツ)_/¯