We interrupt your previously scheduled philosophical musings about religion and its place in the universe and life to bring you…another post about being single. Yay.
So I have probably done a lot more dating in the past year than I’ve done in any year previous. And while that doesn’t mean I’ve actually done a ton of dating, I have dated quite a few different people, and different types of people. I’ve dated people near my age, and people a lot younger than me. I’ve dated people I’ve known for years, people I’ve only recently met, and people I met online through dating services. I’ve dated fat girls, skinny girls, girls who climb on rocks. Tough girls, sissy girls, but no girls with chicken pox. And even though I’ve gone through a rather large range, there have been some striking similarities with every single one of these “relationships”, and one common trait in particular, which I shall dub the “Third Date Dump.”
What is the Third Date Dump? Well, contrary to what it sounds like, it’s not where I consistently got dumped on the third date. At least, not exactly. Rather, it refers to the moment, usually during the third date, where I know that the relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere. And on almost every occasion (save maybe one), it was due to the girl making it clear that she was just kind of being polite, usually something like sitting stiff as a board with her arms crossed while we’re watching the movie/watching the DVD/taking a walk/whatever, coupled with That Look. This normally coincides with a complete lack of contact after the date other than replying to me asking what their schedule is so we can go on the inevitable next date (which is especially telling with the girls I meet online, where we normally have several long and meaningful conversations in text before we even meet each other). Sometimes (OK, once) we do end up talking about it, where the girl confirms my suspicions that yes, she’s not interested and was just interested in putting me in the friend zone. Other times she just gracefully disappears from the radar (this works great with the dates found through online services). Often we go on a fourth or even fifth date, but it’s apparent to both of us that the relationship is over and we’re just humoring each other, and things just peter out after that. This, I have found, is the way that most girls will dump you: not by sitting down and saying, “I think we should see other people” or whatever, but by the little signs until you get the hint. Therefore, the “Third Date Dump.”
This has happened with every single relationship I’ve been in over the past year. Heck, I shouldn’t even call them relationships, since three dates doesn’t really constitute any sort of meaningful relationship. This is similar to something I’ve complained about several times in this blog (see that “That Look” post I linked to earlier), but with one important distinction: the first date is almost always great. We normally hit it off pretty well, have a lot to talk about, and we enjoy each other’s company, with both of us eager for a second date. And the second date normally goes pretty well, too; sure, some of the excitement of the first date may have worn off, but we still normally have a good time and get to know each other better. But always by the third date we hit that wall of “sudden disinterest”, and I just don’t understand it. A few times this wall had been hit prior to the third date, but all of those were cases where the person had known me for a while, which makes me think, “At what percentage of knowing about me does the typical girl get turned off?” or “What precise trait do I possess that always comes out at the same point in dating someone that is such a deal-breaker?”
It’s really starting to get repetitive. And that’s what caught my attention. Normally I’d be prone to think, “Well, this particular girl isn’t interested, and that’s fine,” if this had happened once or twice. But every single one? What are the odds? In fact, if we extend this back to all the relationships I’ve had/dates I’ve been on, only once has something like this not happened. And of all the times it did happen, only once did it not take place until past the third date, that I can recall. It’s seriously sapping my will to date at all. Why put so much effort into getting to know a person if we’re just going to break it off two weeks down the line?
I’m turning 30 in a little over two weeks. And the problem with being single for so long is that you get set in your ways. Your life is so self-focused that, even though you want a relationship, you really have no idea how to get one to work, or even start. I know I have this problem, and all of the girls I’ve dated around my age have the exact same problem (and anyone who doesn’t…is probably already married). They have constructed their life already, and adding a partner to that doesn’t jive with everything else that’s already been set up. And while that carries with it a certain amount of loneliness, it also carries with it a certain amount of control and comfort. While I was searching for an image to put at the top of this blog post, I came across this article (yeah, I just linked to the Oprah magazine; make of it what you will) that describes this phenomenon much better than I can. And while the analysis is spot-on, the conclusion (that people who feel this way should learn to accept and embrace being single instead of chasing unobtainable dreams) is something that I can’t accept. Is there another option to break out of this? Is this the thing that breaks up every relationship I’ve attempted? I don’t know! How come everyone who has a successful relationship is always like, “Well, I met the right person, and the rest is history?” How is that supposed to help? I didn’t make it this far alone because that “special someone” is still out there, gazing at the stars outside her tower window. I don’t believe in the “one true soulmate” story. So it’s gotta be something else! Angry rant! Frustration at everything! Inability to figure out what to do differently! Resignation that nothing’s gonna change unless I change it, coupled with the ignorance of what to change! Awareness that I keep using the word “couple” as a verb, because I guess it’s on my mind! Exclamation points!!!!
Here’s the thing. My most recent relationship is currently right at this phase. It’s a girl I met online. We’ve had the third date. The 3DD (you know what this stands for) signs were there, coming from her. At the same time, she wants to go see the current Poison Ivy Mysteries show with me. There’s always the chance that she’s just not sure how she feels and maybe this relationship will work with some effort. Or there’s the chance that she’s done with me but wants to go see the show anyway because it sounds fun and hey, free dinner. I want to actually discuss the topic with her, but I don’t know how to bring it up without the dreaded “DTR” talk somehow pushing things too fast and killing off an otherwise salvageable relationship (which has also happened in my past). I like her. I want to like her more. Everything that implies. But I feel like a fourth date at this point will be the same as the previous fourth dates I’ve had recently: we’re just kind of humoring each other, and it will peter out after that. So there’s the impasse.
Thanks for reading this rant. I promise next time we’ll go back to questioning the foundations of my faith, which garners a much larger response from people.
(Note: while this post is called “The Undiscovered Country” and is inspired somewhat by the Star Trek movie of the same name, it is not a review or even really a discussion of said movie. You can either stop reading now or breathe a sigh of relief and continue on, based on your reason for being here.)
Recently I watched an online review of Star Trek VI (yeah, I know I said this wasn’t going to be about Star Trek, but I have to start somewhere) done by Internet reviewer Chuck Sonnenberg, also known as SFDebris. His reviews of both Star Trek and other sci-fi franchises, such as Babylon 5, Farscape, Doctor Who, and even Red Dwarf are excellent and highly recommended. Anyway, he discusses the title “The Undiscovered Country” and what that means in the context of the film. The title originates from the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, where Hamlet is discussing whether he should kill himself or not, but decides against it because whatever awaits after death might be worse. To quote that specific part:
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
In the film, which is basically a big “end of the Cold War” allegory, Chancellor Gorkon (pictured above), who is a transparent Gorbachev stand-in, comments on this speech, but uses it to refer to the future, rather than death. This explains a lot about the other events of the movie: how perfectly rational people on both sides ended up working together to preserve the war; that is, working together for a chance to work against each other. Not only that, it explains why otherwise moral people (such as the Vulcan Valeris) were willing to go to extremes by assassinating several people, getting Kirk and Bones arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on an ice planet, and other heinous acts. They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown (in this case, a galaxy where the Federation and Klingons were at peace). This completed the Cold War allegory and the uncertainty of the early 90’s after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. Heck, there were even comedies made on the subject, such as Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, which featured some Brits and Russians working together to try to restart the Cold War to restore their lives to something they were used to.
But let me go back a bit and repeat a line I said: They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown. One more time: They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown.
Using the allegory that an unknown future was as frightening as what lies beyond death (you know, without a religious context) gave me a whole new perspective on several issues I’ve been struggling with, both recent and long-term. As pretty much anyone who reads this blog would know, I am single. Extremely single. And it’s been getting worse, if that’s even a possibility. I’ve been living at home, where I’m lucky if I have a conversation with my parents once a week. I’m fairly isolated in my ward, where most people don’t even know who I am beyond “the redheaded guy I don’t talk to.” And now I’ve been working a job at the Little America hotel doing audio/visual work. This basically means setting up and taking down microphones, lights, projection screens, etc. whenever groups come in to use the hotel’s conference rooms. It’s a solitary job, especially since my only A/V co-worker works a schedule opposite mine, and even in the hour we overlap he doesn’t talk much. About the only friend I have left who lives within a 40-mile radius and hasn’t passed through the social wall of being married is Josh Reese, and while I do hang out with him on occasion (probably about once a month or so), it isn’t exactly socially stimulating, considering what kind of person he is. Other than that, the only social things I do mostly revolve around Annelise and her family, and even then we’re usually talking shop about murder mystery stuff.
In other words, I’m not just single in the married or dating sense. I’m single in a social sense. I’m single in an emotional connection sense. For the vast majority of my time, I’m single in a physical sense (i.e. not in the presence of other people, or at least interacting with them other than a nod as we pass in the hallway). If it wasn’t for this job, I could go for nearly a week at a time without seeing another soul (which did happen several times before I got hired back in June). There may be others in my type of situation, but even so they’re all isolated from each other by nature.
I stand alone.
It’s a sad story, you may be thinking, but what has that got to do with the Hamlet thing? Or you may be thinking, “Well then, go out and make some friends! Nobody’s forcing you to stay by yourself!” I suppose that’s true, though I could justify it by saying that I don’t have the opportunities due to my schedule, or that my ward keeps scheduling activities I have no interest in, or living in my parents’ basement hardly provides opportunities for me to meet people my own age. However, I think that, while these may be obstacles, the root cause runs much deeper.
A couple of weeks ago in a sacrament meeting I did try to jump-start my social life. I sat next to a girl with whom I’d had a short, small-talk conversation the previous week. However, the entire time I was extremely uncomfortable and when the meeting was over I politely excused myself and left (the room, not the church). She didn’t do anything wrong or particularly cold but putting myself in those kind of situations activates a “fight or flight” response in me for some reason. (It also didn’t help that she was nearly a decade younger than me, but I think her being closer to my age wouldn’t have made a big difference.) Why the fear? I’m obviously not happy with my life. Getting to know people leads toward a potentially brighter future, one with marriage, kids, or at least something to do on Friday nights other than play Heroes of Might and Magic III by myself or watch Internet reviews of Star Trek again. What kind of future would be in store? A world of possibilities! An “undiscovered country,” if you will! Ah, you may now see where I’m going with this.
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of
Fear of an uncertain future is such a driving force that it drove otherwise rational people to kill in order to preserve the status quo (in the movie, anyway). I have no idea what dating will do to my life. I’ve never had a successful relationship before, and even the unsuccessful ones I’ve had either never got off the ground or didn’t last longer than a month. And that’s only been with two girls ever, one of which got into the relationship because of a “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot” attitude. How do I conduct myself? What’s the difference between the way you treat a girlfriend and the way you treat, say, a sister (besides the obvious physical things, I mean)? Will I still be able to play Heroes? Will that even matter? Where’s the line when it comes to how much of my own life, habits, and customs will I need to change to keep a woman? Do I even need emotional support? I’ve gone a long time without it, and I’m still alive, right? Wouldn’t it be better off for the ladies in the world to end up with someone who doesn’t have these issues? There are probably about a thousand questions I haven’t even thought of on this topic! This puzzles my will! I’d rather bear those ills I have than fly to these others I know not of! At least I know how to set up a 16-channel mixer with several lavalier and handheld Shure mics, along with an SM-58 or two for the lectern, combine them through a Kramer VGA switcher to output on three separate screens, while hanging some parnells to provide a nice podium wash, etc. etc.! Or failing that, write a rock song about cooking! I have no idea how to sit next to a girl in church without it becoming so awkward that I consider fleeing after the sacrament has been passed and spending the rest of the hour in the bathroom! It seems my native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought!
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.
Fear of the future can drive some to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. It also can paralyze those who should do something. I could go on more dates. I could talk to more people. Heck, even Josh goes on more dates than I do. Looking back on my life, it seems every time I’ve been successful socially it has been due to others taking an interest in doing it for me (usually relatives, or Steve Porter). And when that person leaves my life, or at least leaves my daily life, then all the sociality seems to disappear as well. Back at BYU I used to host a game night every week, and we had quite a nice bunch of people show up every week, at least until Steve got engaged. Then it dropped to the five guys who were just into gaming. I moved to a different apartment and set it up again, and once again we had a pretty good turnout until two of my roommates got engaged, at which point it dropped off. But the main reason I held game nights was because that was where I was comfortable socially!! I don’t know how to approach girls at a dance, or at some social dinner, or whatever. But when I’ve got a set of Bang! cards or whatever in front of me I know exactly what my job is. I’m playing this game. I’m making sure everyone else knows how to play. I’m making sure that everyone gets a fair chance to play. I’m trying to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves. I honestly don’t really care if I win or lose, as long as everyone played fairly. (This behavior, by the way, is somehow wrong? I guess? A lot of people seem to resent it, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. When playing with family, I’ve noticed Mickey is just as much of a stickler for rules yet seems to catch a lot less flak for it. Maybe I’m just an ass.) My point is there are very few situations in which I am socially comfortable, and they are often ones in which others do not thrive socially. So it’s obvious that I need to step out of my comfort zone in order to progress in life, especially socially. And it’s obvious I’ve got to do it, because there’s nobody left to do it for me, and no girl is going to suddenly call up and ask me out.
I believe I am capable of learning. I believe that if I put my mind to it, I could learn to like dancing, or basketball, or small talk, or whatever, if it served the greater good of meeting people, social support, and dating. But it frightens me. What kind of person would I turn into? Would I be recognizable as me? Would I be betraying everything that currently makes up who I am? Does that really matter? How can one really betray one’s past self, anyway? He’s not going to know. Continuing as I have been has been producing diminishing returns, to the point where, as I said before, I stand alone. But being alone is an ill I know how to bear. Thus conscience makes a coward of me, and I sit alone in the back of the chapel, or at home on weekends.
Marriage, dating, life: all enterprises of great pith and moment. But paralyzed by the fear of the future: with that regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action. Thus this weekend I will be playing computer games.