Friday, December 31, 2010

Bonne année et bonne santé !

Happy New Year to you, wherever you are... 

Of Disparity of Definitions

Lovers by Rene Magritte

            What is dating? I used to think this was a fairly straightforward concept, one that every adult grasped as an inherent aspect of adulthood. I thought that it meant two people who find each other attractive set date(s) – a prearranged time and place –to get to know each other better for the purpose of determining whether they are compatible enough to pursue a relationship together. They dress nicely, maybe have dinner, maybe make small talk or engage in long-winded philosophical discussions about the meaning of life or lack thereof – ala Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke…right? No? My sentimental celluloid education has failed me. A quick Google search reveals that I am not the only adult(-ish) person uncertain about the term.
           Apparently, my perception of a ‘proper’ date is faulty on a couple of premises -the first being that it must be prearranged – preferably via a face-to-face encounter or at the very least a telephone call. The last person I was pseudo-dating would only call or text spur-of-the-moment to see if I felt like ‘hanging out’ or if I wanted to ‘chill’. This was a person who would intentionally start all messages with a lower case letter to appear more casual. When did people become so averse to formality? 

Painting by Daniel Heidkamp
            Second, I discovered that dating doesn’t even necessarily have to have a purpose.
            “Casual dating is just that, casual, it is not done with any intent or purpose other than to be social and get to know someone a bit better. There are no clauses for being exclusive, no projections of commitments or emotions when one is casually dating. It is a social exercise that one partakes in to broaden one’s perspectives. Casual dating is key to finding the right long-term partner, as through this process we learn what we like and dislike and what we truly want in a long-term partner.”

            Okayyy, I understand the logic behind this but what about the emotional attachment factor? As someone who becomes attached to people easily, how am I supposed to navigate around this? After a certain number of dates, if I agree to go out with you again, it pretty much means I like you and am entertaining the possibility of this actually heading somewhere. Now if my definition were the original one, i.e. ‘traditional’ and the person I’m seeing is thinking more the latter, i.e. ‘casual,’ you can see how the disparity would cause confusion, possibly pain. Throw in casual physical interaction- anything from kisses to intercourse and the situation becomes even more tangled – one person thinks the train is heading for some romantic destination, the other just wants to get off at the next stop, literally and figuratively.

           I don't know, maybe at the core of my aversion to casual dating is my narcissm - indignance at the idea of being treated as an option, an extra, a side dish. The high-maintenance diva in me seems to say "Meeee? A mere option? Kid, don't you see? I'm it, the main dish, the star of the show. I get top billing." I realize it's unrealistic to expect someone to know that they want you and you alone at the beginning of a courtship (for lack of a better word). But after a number of 'dates' shouldn't you have an idea? Which probably begs the question, how many dates exactly? Just how many dates does it take for two people to decide, you know what? I'd like to keep seeing you,  I think we'd be great. But I don't think people are so open about feelings - maybe it's fear of rejection, or fear that the other person doesn't  feel the exact same way you do.. So I guess some people just allow themselves to 'go with the flow,' and try to 'read signs' along the way. I wish everything were clear cut, black and white, you know? But I suppose in dating, as in life, most of it is gray. But all I'm saying is I'd like whole-hearted sentiment, not lukewarm - all or nothing, babe, that's the only way I roll. The way I see it, why waste my time and someone else's time on something I don't see going anywhere?

            Maybe it's me, maybe I'm too old-fashioned. People are always telling me I was born in the wrong century. They're often surprised at my views on dating and courtship, (knowing my liberal views on most everything else) and probably consider me archaic, an anachronism, a feminist's nightmare. But it seems to me that the old days were much simpler. Cavemen times: loin cloths and wooden clubs. Ugg meet Olga. Ugg like Olga. Ugg want Olga be his, pull hair, make many babies. Grunt. Grunt. Unnnhh. (Clearly, I've done my anthropology research in the newspaper's cartoon section.) Fast forward to 19th century colonial Philippines: barongs tagalog, guitars and haranas, maria claras. Mahal kita, mahal kita, hindi ito bola...Ok, maybe I'm getting my centuries confused, but my point is, the path from a meeting to a marriage in those days didn't have to cut through the modern jungle of dating subspecies, ambiguities, equivocalities, that it does today. Intentions were clear from the beginning, and there was less confusion.

Juan Luna's Tampuhan, 1895

            Studies have shown that men are more likely to prefer casual relationships and 'hook-ups' than relationships. How astonishing. And women are more likely to prefer dating, but overall, both genders showed a preference for traditional dating over hooking up. I think the issue underneath all this is fear of emotional availability, of being vulnerable. People crave intimacy but are afraid of it at the same time. Why? I've heard some say that they avoid interacting emotionally with the opposite sex because of some painful experience in the past. Others, cynics - people  who probably haven't witnessed a long-lasting fulfilling union, don't believe that relationships ever last, so instead pursue casual flings. Others still, probably date casually for purely hedonistic, self-indulgent reasons  - the Dorian Grays of the world to put it one way.

           I think maybe the key to avoiding any sort of confusion is honesty. I'm back to the full disclosure theory, again. If  you don't feel like seeing me anymore, say it to my face, and I'll extend you the same courtesy. If you're one of those people who doesn't believe in relationships and don't ever intend to be in one, tell me early on  (explicitly) so I know not to expect anything and again I'll extend you the same courtesy - I'll tell you that I don't put out. Cards on table. Quick and clean. Don't lead me through the sludge of your emotional hang-ups, your collection of baggage, because I don't think that's fair.  

            What do you think, lone person reading this seemingly interminable post? (I promise, it's almost done.) Do you prefer traditional to casual? Hook-ups over relationships?I'd like to know.

            All I know is I'll take traditional any day. Oh, and that I'm not afraid...anymore. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Of Focused Study

          I have had little experience with men. Okay, that’s an understatement. I have had close to zero experience with men. That’s slightly more accurate. The few ‘encounters’ I have had the misfortune of  experiencing left me more confused than when I first started.  As a result of said confusion I have resolved to amass as much (scientific) information about men and human relationships in general as to aid me in future dealings with the inferior and under-evolved sex. (I’m kidding, boys, don’t get your boxers in a bunch.) Maybe with enough theoretical knowledge, I’ll be able to assess my feelings more accurately in the future and as a result make better decisions, as opposed to just ‘winging it’ and ending up completely lost - a disheveled caricature of a girl with a thought bubble containing the characters: “W-T-F-question-mark-exclamation-point” above her head. Because, my ignorance notwithstanding, I do know that emotions muddle the mind. My mind, in particular, is susceptible to affection-induced muddling. When caught in the clutches of a romantic interest, I become inutile. My emotions hijack my brain. I can think of nothing else, speak of nothing else, I become the most insufferable bore. I sit for hours staring into space with only the red-orange glowing end of a lighted cancer stick piercing the darkness created by my thoughts, real and imagined. I forget to eat. I bump into things. I fall down stairs.I forget my keys and lock myself out of the house. Cigarette sales spike in my area of the city. I spare my friends the agony of having to listen to my agony, and instead take my aggressions (it seems all my affection is accompanied by some aggression) out on my moleskine journal, the poor thing.

            Anyway, the point of this post is that I’m focusing my studies and blog on the male psyche, human relationships, and love in this day and age in the hopes that it may help other single and confused girls out there. Happy New Year, guys and gals!

Painting from this blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Of Simplicity and Freudian Free Association

Summer Interior - Edward Hopper, 1909

          I read that Sigmund Freud would have his patients lie on his couch and exercise what he called 'free association'. He would have them speak of anything that came to mind, as a way to let the contents of the subconscious, thoughts normally suppressed, surface and communicate with the consciousness. Lying in bed yesterday afternoon I tried it for a few minutes. This is what surfaced (after some editing).

          Two books currently on my nightstand include Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World which may explain the nature of some of the content.

          If you find poetry or the imitation of it tedious (as I usually do), just skip this post.

Kisses, embraces, and nowhere places,
Forgotten faces, not my own
I hope.
I believe, but what is belief?
Reality exists and is what it is,
Who can change it, not me?

Curtains and laces and blended faces,
Abandoned places not my own
Maybe ours, if only for a summer past,
But certainly not forever gone

I see you there, and here, and everywhere,
But nowhere, not my own
I miss you, I hate you, I may actually love you,
My perpetual indecision is known

Semantics, hysterics,
Philosophic, neurotic
Oh, when will I be free?
Of these cages and wages
Of war against nature
Of Unbearable Lightness of being.

Rhyme and meter and picky eaters
And fishing in the sea
Or lake as the case may be.
Cheese and tomatoes,
Green beans and potatoes
All of it I see
Or saw
Or will see
Time is playing tricks on little old me.

Advance, retreat,
No one to beat me but he
Submission, admission,
Repression, cognition
Oh, how I long to be free

Secrets, where is he?
Lonely road, Where is she?

Warm hands, soft lips, wet tongue,
Your tongue on me…
Sensitive places, tips and spaces,
Maybe sensation will set me free.

‘Exit here,’ I wish it said somewhere
Just exactly how to be
Liberated, non-frustrated,
Nihilistic, emancipated;
Gone, this inertia of ennui.

Angst, self-doubt,
Self reproach, self-abdication;
Emotion, you treason of reason,
Leave me be!
It is transcendence I seek,
Sweet, and unencumbered~

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Of December

Scream by Edvard Munch
         December always makes me want to scream. All I want to do when the first of this month rolls around is hole up in my house until it's safely January 1st. I don't know when exactly I developed this aversion for the holiday season. I suppose I'm a bit of an oddball. Most Filipinos love the holidays - the noise, the hustle and bustle. I don't like noise. I don't like crowds. I don't like the hustle and bustle. I don't like Christmas carolers. I want nothing more than to curl up with a good book or a Criterion collection DVD and a cup of hot cocoa. It might also have something to do with the fact that I'm an agnostic and most of my family are church-going Catholics. My mother takes it as a personal affront when I express my dislike for going to church. It's just that I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't believe in the whole thing, it would be hypocrisy for me to be there making the sign of the cross. I feel like an impostor. If there really was a God, I don't think he'd be too pleased having a non-believer amidst all the 'faithful'. But she makes me go anyway. I think Philosoraptor  got it right when he said,

          "Force can make a hypocrite, but not a convert."

         My friend Nancy Drew once accused me of being unhappy during the holidays as a direct result of everyone else's happiness - the polar opposite of schadenfreude, I suppose. This is not true, I love seeing other people happy... I just don't quite know how to be it myself. Whatever. This is just a holiday rant. 

          Merry Cristmas, Christmas Lovers and Haters! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Of Courage Without Cognition, the Impunity of Idiocy, and the Separation of Reason and Emotion

            I once knew someone who was infatuated with a girl. Despite repeated   (and utterly undignified) rejection he continued to pursue her. In the face of humiliation he pressed on, constantly trying to win her over. We all told him it was futile, that his self-immolation for someone who clearly didn’t give a damn would only end in disaster; that he was beginning to look pathetic. But he wouldn’t listen. It seemed what little brain matter he had that should have been reserved for the faculty of reason and the comprehension of reality had been completely shut down by whatever primitive emotion he was feeling – it had completely taken him over; inducing the delusion that this girl harbored some hidden affection for him as well, when in actuality all she had for him was revulsion and disdain. Such a fine line we toe between sanity and insanity, don’t you think?

            I have always had both pity and a warped sort of admiration (not without some condescension) for people who wear their heart on their sleeve. It takes a unique sort of bravery to voluntarily place yourself in a position of vulnerability time and time again in the name of love (or even the mere chance of love). But is it bravery, or stupidity? To be brave you must be able to comprehend the risk of harm. To be truly courageous you must have fear. If you have no fear, or if you recognize not only the possibility of pain, but the inevitability of it, and still forge on with impunity you can only be one of two things – an idiot or a masochist.

            It would seem we are all idiots and we are all masochists. When it comes to the human endeavor of finding love I think we become the most stubborn of optimists, as well.  Even when hope is reduced to a momentary glimmer, and all our reason tells us something can only end badly, can only end in pain, we insist on fixating on the 1% probability of a good outcome.

            “It may be improbable,” we think. “But it’s not impossible.”  

            Why are we so willing to throw ourselves under the train? Is it the notion that happiness is the presence of pleasure and not merely the absence of pain? (Hey, that kind of rhymed.) Why do we tend to abandon reason and judgment when emotions overwhelm the senses?

            I have always been a proponent of reason. Even at the age of six I was never satisfied when I asked a question that began with the word ‘why?’ and received an answer of ‘Just ’cause,’ or ‘Because I’m your mother,’ or ‘Because I said so.’ It always made me want to pull out my hair.

            “That doesn’t make any sense!” I would shriek.

            So I was surprised when I started to ‘not make any sense’ myself in my recent banal tale of unrequited love affection. The use of the word ‘banal’ may be redundant because all love stories are banal and trite. What irritates me most about this emotion is that it reduces the feeler to a cliché. It is inescapable, it is inevitable, but we will all be reduced to kitsch by love.

            This philosophical rant shall be continued at a later date as my dirty laundry beckons.

            Please visit again soon, Idiots and Masochists! (I say that with utmost affection as I am the most idiotic of idiots.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Of Useful Information

I've always been one of those people who likes to be prepared. Knowledge is power, I say. The best way that I learn is to study theory and then practice (repeatedly) til perfection. If you're anything like me and like instructional videos, here's one you might find useful. Exercise caution when climbing over the gearshift.

Be safe, automotive acrobats!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Of Double Takes and Surreptitious Glances

Chopsuey - Edward Hopper, 1929
            I was recently on where I go to lurk and to air out (what would otherwise be) unsolicited opinions and I came across a thread started by some guy that went something like this:

            “I caught a beautiful girl glancing at me, what does it mean?”

          “It could mean a number of things,” I replied.

            Here are your possibilities:

 a.      She thinks you’re cute and she wants you to talk to her. Strap on a pair and make like Nike, Just Do It!

b.      You look familiar to her, like she knows you from somewhere. Another excuse to walk up and talk to her; “Hi, dili ba friends man mo ni * insert random name here* ?” 

c.       You’ve got something on your face. It could be food, dirt, a booger *ew* Now, you could still use this to your advantage. Laugh it off and it becomes a conversation starter, plus she’ll think it’s cool that you’re not too uptight to laugh at yourself. (Ok, it might not work if it were a booger, cause that’s just too gross.)

d.      She thinks you’re absolutely hideous and regularly stops to stare at freaks of nature. (Can’t help you there, kid. I guess you could still talk to her and try to impress her with your personality…Yeah, good luck with that.)

            I think all single guys should just let go of any shyness when they’re out in public. You never know if that girl you so fortuitously bumped into at Starbucks or Rustans or wherever could be perfect for you. She could also be terrible for you, but the point is, you’re never going to know until you find your balls and act like a man.

           I was sitting at Bo’s Coffee one day in the not too distant past and was thoroughly impressed by a guy who had the cojones to take his game past stares and glances. I was by myself, sitting at a table near the back and I was just settling down to read a chapter out of the 4-inch thick Textbook of Information I Have Yet to Learn Despite the Fact I’ve Graduated Already. I had caught him doing a double take through the glass, and again when he came inside, but I shrugged it off, not thinking too much of it.  Later, he was sitting at an adjacent table talking to a couple of colleagues (from what I could make of their conversation, they were all lawyers or law students) continually casting surreptitious glances my way. And in the middle of their conversation, he excuses himself, stands up, walks over to my table and asks if he can sit down. I was a bit taken aback, but quickly recovered. We proceeded to have a pleasant, lively discussion about law (which has always interested me as my mother was a lawyer) and current events. I learned that he wanted to go into litigation and I told him about my future profession. At the end of our conversation, he had to leave, but not before he asked for my number, which, to my own surprise, I gave him.

            Now, this cat wasn’t really much to look at, he wasn’t bad looking, just not my type. (He looked a little too neat for my taste which leans toward the um…rugged.) To top it all off, I was 5’9” that day and he looked barely 5’5”, but the reason I decided to give him my number was this: sheer confidence. His confidence which never strayed into the area of cockiness (cuz there’s a fine line between confident and downright hambugero.)

            The thing is, when a guy shows that he’s confident and self-assured, it makes me curious,

            “Well what is he so confident about?”

            It makes me want to find out more about him.

            So get over your fears, shy guys. The next time you see a girl you like, and regardless of whether or not she's looking at  you, go up to her. Girls like confidence. Girls like assertiveness. If something comes out of it, if she turns out to be the future mother of your children, great! If not, it's her loss.

          Plus, life is too short to waste any opportunity for happiness. 

         Come back soon, Surreptitious Glancers!