"All that I genuinely knew was a projection of my personal preferences and attitudes onto her person, while she [he] remained reticent and grudgingly accommodating."
This is the truest, most universal (with my added ) assessment of relationships I have ever read. I see this unfold daily in the world, among friends and acquaintances, across borders and oceans.
You put it succinctly! These conditions make dating and finding a match for where you are in your life nearly impossible.
I so totally agree with you. There seems to be a large number of this sort in atheist groups :(
Simple twist of fate... And, a hell of a lot of bad decisions!
I'm single because:
1. Perhaps I'm too picky. I want an honest intelligent atheist that can forgive common minor human faults. I've never met a girl like that. My ex-wife was intelligent except she was extremely religious, a lying con-artist, and could not forgive minor faults.
2. Perhaps I'm a coward. I don't ever again want to experience the sadness and pain I went through in that marriage and divorce.
3. I'm not good socially. I get embarrased too easily with my poor dancing abilities and other things connected with being social. I also get disgusted listening to the religious (and other) BS that emanate from most people.
Here is another question about dating in general, do you suppose Hollywood chick flick movies have muddled some women's brains? I believe the "knight in shining armor" is a load of crap. I don't there is ANYTHING wrong with seeking the support or love of another nonetheless those with that mindset are disenchanted by reality.
One more question, the male sex is guilty of separating the "ideal" woman they find attractive in movies and magazines vs. women of reality who have flaws. Do think the media has a part in this male mindset?
The media-inspired muddling of brains (female and male) on dating-angst has been going on since Daphnis and Chloe (http://www.amazon.com/Daphnis-Chloe-Penguin-Classics-Longus/dp/0140...), some 2200 years ago. All that's changed is the medium. Today we read fewer books and watch more movies, and the pace of communication is more intense. We have more leisure time and more opportunity to consume information. But the message and the befuddlement that it engenders remains invariant.
Idealization of the opposite sex, and dejection upon reality failing to comport with the ideal, goes both ways. Men are no more guilty than women. Both objectify the other, and then become resentful that they’re misunderstood by the opposite sex.
But the problem of misplaced physical attraction is not of reality vs. media-idealization; it’s a problem of accessibility. It's summer now, even in the Midwest. Young women are dressing, ahem, appropriately for the season. They go about their business, and we men do not keep our eyes pointed to the ground with sullen humility. What we see amongst "regular" women really is not inferior to what's in movies and magazines. This is even true in my town, which is small and comparatively poor, where there isn’t much of a fashionable high-society. People's appearance varies widely, but I assure you that there is no dearth of examples in regular life that titillate the eye no less than what's on magazine covers. The problem isn't that real women are homely while airbrushed magazine women are beautiful! I don’t think that the media creates unrealistic physical expectations. What it does create is unrealistic expectations about accessibility – that people can just “click” and find their perfect soulmates with comparatively minimal effort, and that there’s some one out there for everyone. Maybe there is not. Maybe there is no ideal mate, and even if one exists, finding him/her is impossible.
I must disagree slightly with your observations, I do think both sides are guilty of idealization of the opposite sex. However, women take the greater constructive criticism a little more. For instance, we have shows that allow you to have your dream wedding and plastic surgery or a show like the "Bachelor" that shows one guy opting for an array of lovely women. I think magazines are finally taking responsibility for their part however it doesn't stop men seeking out pictures on the internet.
Women have come to a crossroads between marriage and being single, children or no children, and independence vs dependence. Women are still trying to have it all yet they are failing miserable.
The message that is pounding in women's head frequently "you can't be happy without the perfect man", "your image is more important than your inside, and "Women need to have a fairytale wedding to be recognized as "fitting in" with society.
I do agree with you on accessibility to a point but I diverge from your path when you say regular women are inaccessible. I think single women today are choosing to stay single than deal with someone who doesn't meet their criteria. Criteria means basic information and personality.
I would say that here it's a more urban setting. The street call out hasn't gone out of style. The men in my neighborhood are mostly married with children, Christian or Catholic, and have settled into a constant rhythm. I'm not saying it's like that EVERYWHERE but I wanted to give you an example of one of the demographics we have here.
Appearance seems to matter more and more on both sides. I read a profile header that stated "Kids? Overweight? Disqualified."
I agree with you about the ideal or perfect mate. I think that's where we set ourselves up for failure when listen to friends and family saying "The perfect guy or girl is out there".
The matter of level of exposure is also a good one. I have lived all over the Canada, and in the far North, people are constantly covered, and the expectations to perfect visuals are quite high here. In my years spent in Florida and the Caribbean, people constantly expose their flesh, the good and the bad, and I found the expectations are much more reasonable in Florida than anywhere I've lived in Canada, and even better than other areas in the USA, even California. Being constantly clothed has allowed humans to live by delusion and projection instead of realism (which is also well reflected in Canada having a higher level of penetration of social media than even the USA, Canadians are often content with the 'idea' of people rather than the real thing). Hanging out in nudist groups is humbling and freeing.
I think the difference between false expectations and reality, as you say, has always existed, but the modern lifestyle, our sedentary, cubicle/screen driven lifestyle, has shifted that perspective to a much wider degree of psychological penetration.
I'm not much of a television watcher, but isn't there a reciprocal female version of the bachelor shows, where the girl picks from an array of guys?
Not ever having been a woman, I can only view women’s perspectives from implications or inference, so of course I can’t speak with any authority on how media influences or societal influences make women feel, or even whether generalizations about such influences make sense. I concede that women are under greater pressure than are the men, to form families and to pursue a self-identity of parenthood. But at least in our part of the country, the message to men and women alike is that "you can't be happy, fulfilled or even a decent human being, unless you have a wife/husband and children". The single person is viewed as an overgrown adolescent, while the childless are wanton ingrates and sociopaths.
But just as being child-free is a disadvantage in dating and in one’s social standing, it ought on the contrary to be an advantage in overcoming the invidious trap of “gotta have it all”. By explicitly desiring less of one particular thing (having children), it should be possible to desire and to attain more of other things, and to feel less hounded by the tension between inapposite priorities.
Then there’s the question of women’s criteria for men. If you’re looking for a genetic complement to your progeny, of course you have to be choosy. But if reproduction is not a factor, if you are individually successful and secure, then I would imagine that the criteria become: (1) not a boor or a parasite, (2) a person of some integrity and responsibility, (3) a modicum of intelligence, and (4) some level of physical attraction. Not all men meet these criteria, but assuredly a great many do. One should not “settle” for a mate failing in any of these criteria, but if a candidate meeting them is found, then why not “settle” then? This is truly a time to invoke the adage, “The optimal is the enemy of the good”.
Another great essay... only one point missing from your 4-pt enumeration, sexual satisfaction. From all the girl talk with the females I've known, that if the male is able to make the female happy in bed (I'm not limiting here to ejaculation), it may overcome failings in one other sector.
Thanks for the new word: invidious
1. calculated to create ill will or resentment or give offence; hateful: invidious remarks.
2. offensively or unfairly discriminating; injurious: invidious comparisons.
3. causing or tending to cause animosity, resentment, or envy: an invidious honour.
May I say your insights are fascinating and thought provoking. I'm curious, how old are you? Plus, I love a good philosophical discussion on social and economical issues occurring presently. I'd be hard pressed to find someone in my city that thinks or observes like in that way.
Yea, "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" are shallow attempts to create romance and intensified emotion in front of millions of viewers. People often wonder why they turn each other down once the cameras are off. I think I already know why. I stopped watching TV as much when I noticed how formulaic sit-coms have become. The shows are so far removed from the viewer that the viewer is essentially excluded. I noticed the trend of bringing women together in a group in some convoluted way then they are involved in embarrassing situation that often involve dating. I has often been said that there is a "whitening" of American TV shows. It seem like people of color only make it on comedy shows as fodder. For instance, "Friends" and "Sex in the City" both make the nonverbal claim that only white people live in the city. I understand that they are trying to hit their target audience but when will become more realistic? I only see people of color in shows like "House MD", "Law and Order" (almost most of them), and "CSI". I'm not saying there is a BIG conspiracy however I can't help but notice this facet of the entertainment world. I apologize for digressing.
I agree with you about the societal pressure of marriage and children. I think it is manifested in slightly different ways depending on the sex. For example, when you explained how both are considered infantile and seen as an adolescent in some cases. I think men are labelled more often as "infantile" because they aren't "settling" down. As you pointed out before, in this country a man isn't considered a man in society unless he has married and had children. I think it's deplorable that society thinks of men that way. I have been guilty of believing this as well until I REALLY look at it from a different angle. The typical male Hollywood comedy film involves the man "growing up" or "needing a good woman to fix him". He hasn't gotten serious about his life because he hasn't assimilated to the societal norm. What's your take on it? Being a male, do you think societal rules for me have changed?
For women, it's more about "finding Mr. Right" or "snagging a man". I can tell you that those stupid romantic comedies centered on the woman "getting her man to the alter", "being unhappily single until Mr. Perfect appears", or my least favorite "planning the wedding and disaster ensues". All these women centered films deal with the woman being satisfied by finding a man AND the wedding. The wedding is the gold standard of ostentatious displays. I've known numerous women who have shown off the engagement ring then went into a long diatribe about planning the wedding. They seemed more exciting about the wedding than the marriage. I have to admit that I find this feature of my sex disappointing. "Bridezilla" is a sad case of this point; the premise is a spoiled bride who is a terror up until the wedding. I've noticed too that when my friends feel disenchanted after the music has faded and the cake eaten. They often found themselves asking who am I married to? Do you think that more thought is given to the compatibility of the couple itself or is the wedding the "opium of the masses"?
I do agree it should be praised to follow your own path. After working for years with these people, I've noticed that they don't like anyone who isn't a part of their tribe. It almost seems evolutionary. I don't fit the cookie mold therefore can I be trusted? I have many coworkers I call friends on a slightly shallow level. Most of them are married with children, Christian, immersed in their child's world, and detached from their own personalities. I think that's why I don't want to have kids because pre-baby the women are themselves nonetheless when kids arrive it seems like the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". I understand why this is so on a purely biological reasoning. I scare the people I work with because I'm not miserable enough. I don't have diapers to change, husbands to placate, and piles of laundry waiting at home. I'm not saying the feelings are conscious. What has your experience of being atheist and childfree in the workplace been?
On your last point, I think both sides are catching up to each other on the "dating must haves" list. The standards are way too high to obtain in reality. Personally, I've only had three criteria that are important to me: childfree, atheist or agnostic, and not interested in getting married to maintain a relationship.
I have found that the first two deal breakers have caused me much trouble. Recently, I was crossed off the list of a particular male who pursue me for years yet only to find that the ideal image in his head of when we dated doesn't match who I am now. Also, he was certain he did want children and he was Christian. He was certain the latter point because we had disagreements about this. He often tried to "convert me".
Lately, it appears to have come down to these three criteria that has kept me single. My best friend asked if I could pick out the two most important ones and settle on the last one. I told her that it would be no kids and doesn't want to marry however I'm of the opinion that it's important to share religious or nonreligious opinions. Would you pick two and settle? If you had to choose, which two would you pick?