Sunday, 12 April 2009

Beckoning Destiny: Deliver Me From the Dating Game

On a dating forum, I asked how people weed out when dealing with unwanted people on dating sites. Most of the women felt that you should be polite and find some neutral excuse to close the correspondence, while most men felt that you shouldn't waste your time but just leave the letters unanswered and not get into any explanations. The men felt that it was best to block the women they didn't like immediately. A friend just remarked that men actually seem to have more fears than women.

Since I re-entered the online dating game a few months back I have been subject to the rather callous way in which men just dump you without further ado when you're not to their taste. Most of us have fear of rejection. It means that the feelings or fears of rejection surface again, and again, and again... At some point you think you've mastered it and that it cannot possibly affect you that much again. Yet suddenly you're sucked into an intense exchange with great promise of future companionship only to be brutally dumped for some really strange reasons. This time one problem was that I walk outdoors with my cats without leashes and this was perceived as exhibitionism. The other was the fact that I exercise my right not to have children. The third had to do with my lack of desire to take up strict Buddhist (Theravada, conservative style) practices and that my thinking is impure and ignorant since I don't recognize a good thing when I see it and have some sympathies for another strand of Buddhism (Mahayana, which stresses the importance of compassion). "That's what the Jehova's Witness say too", I retorted. But to no avail. I think this guy was making his two-hour meditation practice and silence retreats along with the ten commandments (including chastity) into a massive ego-serving enterprise. I'm tired of staring into the Buddhist void and contemplating the illusory and temporary nature of reality. I feel I know it all too well. I'm also not interested in intellectualizing these concepts anymore. Now I'd like to enjoy this compelling illusion a little before I make my exit out of this life.
As so many before him, the guy in question also wanted to have the cake and eat it. In other words, I was most welcome to be his friends. It's funny how they think that after all that, you'd really like to still be friends. He said that he liked to discuss his path. Sure. I just didn't really feel part of the discussion since he was mostly preaching.

Nothing is more of a turn off than people who patronize you ("you may not understand this now but you will after a while when you've reached a broader perspective"), or preach ("personal growth to me means following the ten principles of enlightenement and they are so and so...") or make assumptions ("I thought you must be really nuts and eccentric to walk your cats in the city") or hold back ("I can't open my heart before I'm certain that we're right for each other") or fear committment ("I'd rather you just moved close to where I live so I can withdraw from the relationship if I feel I need to") or control you ("Well you can be as ignorant as you wish to be but you're a fool not to take a chance on the true path"), or don't support or try to understand your life's work ("I don't understand people who feel they can just write whatever they like to make others look like fools"). And all it boils down to is what this person needs, not what you feel, think or need. You are cursed to see through all this BS. Sure, you saw the good too. That's why you hung in there for a whole week.
You try so hard to feel compassion, but you're so worn out. My accidental shrink suggested that I'm tired of selfishness. I certainly am. I also mapped out my own traumas, the reasons I react emotionally to certain stimuli. It's about the childhood, about having had to ignore one's own needs in favour of someone else's, and having been talked down to because I was a child, and not getting support and guidance. I thought those patterns would have been gone by now but apparently not.

What do you do when you put so much into the contact and in the end all it does it sucks you dry? How do you keep hoping that one day, some time, somewhere...? You know you can't lie down and die, you must get up again, fight your battles, be "Liberty Leading the People" while you also wreck your brain to find things to say to all these taciturn, reticent, secretive, cynical, under-enthousiastic, opiniated and demanding men that are out there? Because you're after all a mere mortal, you can't help but have some hopes raised and feeling some disappointment when all the signs of compatibility are undermined by an abyss of differences. You feel stress and sleep poorly and wonder if this is really worth it in the end? Perhaps the right one will find you at the outbacks of a country that is the outbacks of Scandinavia which is the outbacks of Europe... Maybe you really ought to delete your dating profiles and trust that one day he will be behind your door. Just like that. And he'll be kind and intelligent, able to think outside of the box and also want to enjoy life to its fullest. Because we must believe that there is some way of miracles in this world, don't we?

Artwork: "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix 1830

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Friendship - the Good and the Bad

The anatomy of friendship used to be something very self-evident to me. In short, it was about unconditional support. The whole point was to find things to share and thus focus on the similarities. The dissimilarities were tolerated because most friends were people you didn't have to deal with every day. On the rare occasion when toxicity arouse, one or the other would just drift away. Talking things through rarely worked out; people are not very eager to look at their own faulty behaviour unless specifically motivated to. Personally I often felt that it wasn't worth the trouble. I mean, you just preferred to get on with your life rather than stay in something that was complicated and where you didn't feel respected. I'm sure many have felt the same. What most of the people who drifted away thought of me I will never know. Of course it's quite possible that a few were mad at me for some reason that they never disclosed. I used to wreck my brain as to why someone never got back to me, but learned in time that on most occasions it was just a question of "life" and a simple lack of motivation that was not to be taken personally. I'm quite a loyal person but also had to realize that many people aren't. They just move onto another stage in their lives and leave people behind.

I'm not quite sure why so many people have come and gone in my life at a fast rate. What I find remarkable is that I always had at least one friend to talk to and share my life experience with. My life has always changed quite rapidly and so perhaps these people served a purpose in my life only for a little while. I didn't worry too much about it until later in life when I was more in touch with my emotions and started to get weary of all the changes. I was craving for more stability and thus also people who would not disappear after I had invested a lot of time and energy into getting to know them.

Unfortunately at this point I entered a strange phase marked by the fact that I was now middle-aged. People were busy with their families and all of my long-term friends had babies because they had decided to get them quite late in life. I was child-free and single, and now the resident of a small town where no one ever asked you to come and visit. Trying to play the dating game after a wrecked relationship was arduous and not very gratifying. Suddenly I was sucked up into the virtual world and making "friends" with all sorts of people online. Only very few of these people were sincere and seriously interested in me as a person. Quite a few people were in fact primarily looking for people to convert or someone who could function as a scapegoat that would carry their negativities. This has led me to distinguish a few signs of a non-productive friendship. Apart from the obvious one where there is no balance between talking and listening, envy and co-dependency, some of my most important deal breakers are the following issues:

1) a person keeps nagging about how much better your life is compared to theirs; this is usually a sign that they don't want to look at their own crap but rather project guilt on others so as to gain sympathy and feel better about themselves at the other's expense.

2) a person tells you that you're hard on yourself and wonders why you hate yourself so much. This is often a sign that they don't understand your self-criticism because they don't have any themselves. They also try and place guilt on you so as to feel that they are superior.

3) a person starts lecturing you about how to lead your life. For some odd reason they think that they know better than you. This is another sign of low self-esteem and a desperate attempt to raise it at your expense. Only when you know someone really well and both are clear that there are no power games going on, can a certain "lecture" be warranted. It can be very gratifying to hear a clearly voiced second opinion on something while knowing that there is no manipulation and attempt to bend your will behind it.

4) a person is overly secretive about their thoughts and feelings and argues for their right to be this way with very clever words. They are probably trying to appear mysterious and interesting so as to keep you captivated. What they want is your attention, energy and support, but they won't give much in return. You keep wondering what you're doing wrong so as not to earn this person's confidence, but when you try and talk about it they turn away and argue that friendship shouldn't be tiring. Since trying to come up with things to talk about is wearing you out for real, you had better leave this solitary ship. Friendship is about sharing and opening up to another person!

5) a person's irony becomes cynical and sarcastic, or they ignore you and keep you waiting. While I sometimes balance on the border of an unacceptable form of irony myself, I wouldn't want to be downright mean towards people who have done nothing to deserve it. To be unpleasant towards people you don't know that well is plain disrespectful. Having met many guys like this online I have become a little tougher myself, but it certainly worries me! I then turn to good female friends who bring out the niceness in me again.

Within the framework of a friendship you should be able to work out your issues without feeling judged. Some people who get into conflict with their friends like to argue back and forth in an attempt to sort it out but that's not really the kind of friendship that I care much about. When I see judgmental behaviour and feel negative vibes towards the person I am, I prefer to leave. This is because in most cases, talking doesn't help and the differences are at that point usually irreconciliable. In my reality, love relationships provide the intimacy and motivation to dig deeper. When you enter this arena, so much more is at stake and so the need to work in order to get a harmonious connection 24/7 should come quite naturally. The best case scenario is no doubt when you are able to establish a hybrid relationship that is based in friendship but takes everything several steps further towards the creation of a deeper and even more meaningful connection. In my opinion, however, the two should not be confused. In reality they serve different purposes and I don't think the adage that friends last longer than lovers is warranted. It's just plain silly to compare the two!

Artwork: "Choose Your Friends Wisely", handmade collage by author, all rights reserved 2008