Making a Selection, Making a Connection

20 Mar

“There’s fish in the sea for me to make a selection
I’d jump in if it wasn’t for my ear infection
Cause all I want to do is try to make a connection
It seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction oh”

After a long career-driven stretch of writing about office politics and complaining about my job, Betty’s got boy drama. Buckle up, ladies.

The above Passenger song, and particularly the lyrics at the top of this post, have been on my mind this week. Note how Passenger makes a lyrical contrast between “making a selection” and “making a connection.” Whether or not the adorable Brit meant to do this, I think that he gets at a key difference in how we approach dating and relationships. Are we making genuine, organic, valuable connections? Or are we selecting out of a predetermined pool of fish in the sea? And if it’s the latter,  what criteria are we using to make that selection?

The reason this question has been on my mind is because the newest boy in my life feels….well, he feels like a selection rather than a connection. On the surface, this guy is perfect for me. Before I really knew much about him, I told everyone “OMG, he’s my soulmate” (because clearly that’s what girls do when they barely know a guy. But actually. But that’s a post for another day). And everyone agreed once I described him. Another way of putting it is: he’s marriage material. He’d be perfect to bring home to mom and dad. He checks a lot of the boxes. And yes, I hate to say it, but a lot of those boxes involve the social expectations of the sort of guy someone from my socioeconomic/cultural background and  with my values “should” date. Slash marry. My main appraisal of our compatibility comes, frankly, from things that shouldn’t matter: like how similar our families are, what he believes, where he went to school, what kind of life he (probably) wants. Check, check, check.

The problem?

HE’S LAAAAAAAME. UUUUUGGHHHH.

I don’t want to prejudge the poor guy, and I also don’t want to get into too much gritty detail. But suffice it to say, he’s kind of an awkward dude, his jokes fall flat, and he just seems…kind of all-around boring.

You would think that would be a dealbreaker, right? End of discussion? We don’t have a “connection” (intellectually, socially and mentally that is – let’s leave aside physical connection for another day because that’s just….a whole other ball game).

But what’s bothering me is that it’s NOT the end of discussion for me. And I worry that it’s because I’m letting his “good-on-paper” status influence my thinking. In other words, by going for him, I’m “making a [cynical/calculated/etc] selection out of the pool of available guys, based on a lot of factors that seem kind of superficial. Based on….the guy my friends, who, God love ’em, aren’t in my head or my heart, think I should be with. Based on the guy my mom sees me marrying someday.

Is that just another way of saying “the guy *I* want to marry someday”? Is that what I’m doing? Allowing the ‘meat-market’-y nature of dating in your 20s to override the fact that I’m just not that into him?

There are two versions of this critique. The first is harsher: that I’m dating by resume, that I’m prioritizing surface qualities and therefore giving into social expectations rather than allowing myself to be happy. The second gives me a little more credit, and it’s a little more nuanced: perhaps I’m allowing the ‘surface qualities’ to carry positive weight even while I allow my aversion to his personality to carry negative weight. I mean, both should matter, right? And even if the surface qualities don’t matter, can’t they serve as commonalities that (and shoutout to Stacie for making this point) allow me a little breathing room to explore whether or not there is potential for a deeper compatibility? In other words, I made a selection – can’t a connection grow out of that?

But on the other hand: if I’m not into him, why do I need that breathing room at all?

And thus I go around and around and around in my head. 

This speaks to a larger question that bothers me about dating and relationships: the social expectations (which also turn into personal expectations we have for ourselves) just seem to be so at odds with the ideals of romance that we’re brought up with. Going online where you can slice and dice the data and make the perfect “selection” of guys to message just seems so at odds with the way books and movies tell us we’ll meet a guy – making a “connection” out of nowhere in the line at Starbucks, or what have you.

Similarly, if you glance at the NYT wedding section, you see all these seemingly perfectly tailored couples from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, Ivy League educations, future doctors, etc etc. And you know in the back of your head that that’s the ideal, at least as far as your grandma is concerned. But didn’t any of those perfectly airbrushed girls ever feel like there wasn’t anything to her man behind the glowing NYT bio? Or didn’t any of them ever fall in love with someone whom they absolutely, no way in hell could bring back to Mom and Dad, or even to their best friends?

This is just one aspect of the debate – much of this also overlaps with a very worthy inquiry on dating guys that you know will treat you right versus “bad” or “douchey” guys who will break your heart, but who reel you in all the same. Hopefully the other SR ladies will be able to weigh in on these and other questions in the coming weeks.

Until then, readers, I want to hear your thoughts. How much of dating is by “selection” – and is it a bad thing? Is it even possible in this day and age to make a true “connection” anymore? If not, should we mourn the loss?

Cheers girls,

BB

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2 Responses to “Making a Selection, Making a Connection”

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