Well, this was timely…

Dating new people is fun and exciting. It’s also likely to cause even the most rational, level-headed people to make really dumb decisions. Don’t worry, though. Your brain is supposed to do that. Sort of. Scientifically speaking, human attraction is still a pretty big mystery. (Source Link)

The article also mentions emotional intelligence as a stopgap against making bad decisions while awash in goo-goo feelings (or panic attacks, depending on what spectrum of the emotional prism you’re dancing around here).

I wonder how our decision making process is affected after the feelings dissipate. What do you do at that moment when the bloom comes off the rose? When Elvis has left the building? When the cheese has slid off the cracker? When the pizza was delivered without the pepperoni? When the Broncos are playing without Peyton?

Do I decide then that the feelings I had were never real to begin with? Or maybe perhaps they WERE real, but they needed a foundation to stand on in order to be reignited again, becoming stronger and more powerful over time? I always likened relationships to a fire, first starting with that initial “spark”, but a spark that can die off quickly if you haven’t added kindle to keep it going, and then finally and slowly, the logs so the fire can grow and sustain itself in a slow burn. After the relatively difficult effort to build a fire after you’ve created that spark, it becomes much easier afterward to keep it alive, as long as you toss in an occasional log or two.

Seems simplistic, but it rings true to me.

Lessons about true love from Stardust

A while back I saw the movie Stardust. Fantasy is not usually my cup of tea, but I had to admit this was a pretty good film. Here we had a guy who was doing his darndest best to win over the love of a beautiful (and shallow) town girl, but unfortunately, she sees him as nothing more than a lowly and clumsy shop boy. One night both of them witness a shooting star landing somewhere in the magical land of Stormhold, and desperate to prove his love for her, Tristan promises to retrieve the star and bring it to her as a birthday gift.

The star however actually turns out to be another beautiful woman named Yvaine. Apparently, learning that the star was actually a person didn’t seem to faze Tristan one bit, and he uses enchanted rope to tie Yvaine’s hands so he can take her with him:

Tristan: Now, if I’m not mistaken this means you have to come with me. You’re going to be a birthday gift for Victoria, my true love.

Yvaine: But of course! Nothing says “romance” like a kidnapped injured woman!

At this point Hollywood starts to do something weird here, like actually tell the truth about love. Yvaine points out the fallacy of pursuing after a girl who clearly would never reciprocate the same level of love and devotion Blaine had for her:

Yvaine: The little I know about love is that it’s unconditional. It’s not something you can buy.

Tristan: Hang on! This wasn’t about me trying to buy her love. This was to prove to her how I felt.

Yvaine: Ah… And what’s she doing to prove how she feels about you?

Tristan: Well… [stares blankly for a moment]

Yes, we men have a tendency to skip over that minor, niggling detail don’t we?  I suppose our rationale here is that by jumping through hoops of nuclear fire to prove our love for someone, it will somehow evoke the object of our desire to equally love us in return.

Does this really work? I guess, probably as frequently as people win the lottery though. Regardless, I don’t think being a dancing monkey to get someone’s attention is really the best way to start a relationship. If the attraction doesn’t spark easily, that’s a lot of energy wasted on someone who’s probably not even a good match to begin with.

But sometimes, it just happens, and you don’t really have to do anything to MAKE it happen, just merely LET it happen, as it (predictably) did between Yvaine and Tristan:

Yvaine: Yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. [begins to cry] Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.

I know there are plenty of things I can do to boost my appeal to women, but ultimately, that ever elusive moment where I finally experience mutual attraction seems to be largely out of my control. Either I’m attracted to her but she isn’t to me, or she is to me but I’m not to her. And so it goes.

I hate that I can’t seem to conjure up attraction in return when a woman genuinely likes me. I try to force it, try to give it a chance, try to do something to stoke the fire, but the magic never materializes. I don’t know why, or why it indeed seems to be so unpredictable and random. I do know that too many people give up and marry someone they’re not attracted to, and the results are almost always disastrous. Having chemistry is vital it seems, and yet there appears to be no way for me to nail down the mystery behind it, at least so I’d have better luck finding someone compatible.

Or maybe, I should take a cue from Stardust, and instead of trying to MAKE things happen, I should merely LET things happen. It’s frustrating to be sure, but as I grow older I learn frustration stems from not being able to let go of the things we ultimately can’t control.

Propinquity: A Lone Wolf’s Kryptonite

I discovered a new word that helped me understand a few things about attraction, things that I had already figured out for myself in a way, but it’s nice to see a little bit of science backing it up too.

This is why online dating is such a difficult endeavor for men, even when you’re gorgeous like me.  If there’s no visual attraction right off the bat, it’s very difficult to spark attraction, unless the effort is made to meet in real life and on a regular basis to see if we can click from there.  Most women will not bother, partly because they get bombarded by prospects and hence have to find a way to quickly filter out undesirables, so only the top alphas of the alphas are going to make the cut (and sometimes not even.)  If you don’t look good and your profile is badly written and generic, it’s out with you.  And since I’m a dude and thus especially visually oriented, if the photos don’t depict even a mildly pretty girl, it doesn’t matter what their profile says, I quickly click on to the next profile.   Propinquity?  Never heard of it.

Although sometimes I try to force myself to dig a little deeper, if a girl seems kinda cute, I’ll read their profiles to see if there’s anything that might offer the promise of chemistry:  similar interests, beliefs, personalities, etc..  This is where propinquity comes in.  The attraction is very meager, but with physical contact and compatible personalities something might eventually spark.  This is why I always want to get to the face to face meeting as soon as reasonably possible.  Online correspondence (where propinquity is weak or nonexistent) is just not a good substitute for real life.

Real life though doesn’t fare much better for me, because generally speaking, I just don’t like people.  Once I was out of college there was only the work place and the bar/social scene where one can regularly meet and interact with women.  There are no single girls at my job, and I eschew the social scenes (including church) for a variety of reasons, so the prospects of benefitting from a propinquity driven attraction were daunting indeed.  My life as a deep-seated introvert meant I’ve had to rely on the initial, immediate spark of attraction more than the average person would probably need to.

Via a combination of laziness and idealism, I let the fallacy of  believing that the right girl will simply love me for whom I am, and not based on how I looked or presented myself in public.  And I would still agree, BUT if I’m a complete stranger to her and I’m not giving her ANY incentive to get to know me better (read: make her immediately swoon before my manly presence) then it wouldn’t matter who I was.  I don’t need to be Don Juan, but I don’t have to go dousing any sexual appeal I had with a fire hose either.

I guess this means I can’t take anything for granted when I go out.  Even if it’s a midnight run to 7-11, I should still go looking my best, and not sporting say, a stained undershirt and lounge pants like I used to.  Or like I’ve seen some guys do, go out wearing SLIPPERS.  *face palm*  Although when I see that, I wonder if the competition isn’t nearly as bad as I think it is.

In the meantime I can try to find at least ONE social group or circle out there that I can participate in (whether it’s a church, book club or whatnot) but ironically, I find that an even more daunting prospect than meeting a sweet girl by chance while squeezing my melons at the local supermarket.

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