Foolish attempts to make love out of thoughts

A woman in North Dakota, no longer waiting ‘for someone to complete me’, has married herself, according to this column in the Guardian. Her wedding to her ‘inner groom’ is a move that is celebrated, albeit with a healthy dose of cynicism, by the columnist who is ‘always cheered to hear that anyone has learned to live happily alone. That’s true empowerment. […] People who need people are the unluckiest people, mainly because other people are cretins, especially the ones that don’t agree with me.’

I’m pretty sure I disagree, even if that makes me a cretin in her eyes, but her column does draw attention to the extreme ends of the continuum along which I wander: complete independence and complete dependency. On the one hand, I refuse to believe that another person will ‘complete me’ and I’m certainly not going to sit around polishing Denby and waiting for life to start when the prince shows up. On the other hand, I don’t feel like this woman’s ‘dates’ with herself really tick all the boxes. As trite as it can sometimes sound, it just seems intuitively true that we are, in the widest sense, made for relationship and that it’s not good for us to be alone.

What then must we do? (If anything.)

A friend, who’d probably like to remain anonymous, has just been given a new book about dating. The book says that the trick is going on lots of dates, not to find a marriage partner but to get to know yourself better. The problem is that the more I get to know myself, the less I seem to like myself. Putting me and my idiosyncrasies under a spotlight held up by a stranger just isn’t all that fun.

For example, me to waitress: ‘is it possible to mix the drinks and have half orange juice and half carrot juice?’ Him: ‘do you ever just order what’s on the menu?’ My self-defensiveness about a simple drink choice suddenly stopped being about the stupid juice and became an issue of character. About my innate contrariness and dislike of constraints, even in the form of a menu. I realise how utterly irritating I am. I think he wished I was a bit more normal. I think I wish that too.

Anyway, this dating book says that you need to A) ditch your checklist and B) join a dating site.

Regarding point A (ditch your checklist), Rosie told me ages ago that my checklist was too long and unrealistic. Fair enough. It does grow longer by the day and adds up to a perfect male version of me. He’s everything I like in myself and aspire to be, but better. He also possesses all the characteristics and attributes that I lack. In that way he completes me. He’ll be organised and actually finish things, he’ll understand computers, he’ll open bank statements, he’ll oil my bike and know how to fix a puncture. He’ll be great. And he’ll think I’m great. It’ll be perfect. But possibly unrealistic. Maybe ditching the checklist is no bad thing. I can hear Rosie’s cheers already.

But when you then introduce point B (join a dating site) into the mix, you end up in a paradoxical pickle. If you join a dating website, you’re obliged to compile a profile, which is, I suppose, an inverse checklist: a set of criteria against which you will measured and judged. People, with their checklists, as explicit or implicit as they are, see how many of their boxes you tick. You, like it or not, are forced to do likewise. Is it possible to join a dating site, which requires categories and listed attributes, while also ditching the checklist and recognising that there’s more to relationship than superficial criteria?

Were I to base my friendships on a checklist and search based on self-presented hobbies and opinions, I’d be a lonely person. I can’t think of a single friend who ticks all the boxes at once. I have friends who vote Tory, others who don’t see the attraction of the trans-Siberian railway, some who are content to stay in the place they were born, many (in fact, most) who think that my current phase of making papier maché bracelets is ridiculous. But we’re still friends and it works and we care for each other regardless. Life without them would not be true empowerment. It’d be rubbish.

I’d hate to dampen my friend’s enthusiasm, but I don’t think that this dating book holds any magic secrets that are going to solve the debates. Nor do I feel like marriage to an ‘inner groom’ is the solution or that it can all be fixed by a stoical abnegation of the need for relationship. The quest, methinks, continues.

I end these ponderations with my Miriam Jones song of the moment, which captures the ambivalence I feel towards it all. I dedicate this one to a good friend in Oxford who I miss big time, with thanks for the many recent texts, coffees and chats in which we’ve torn our hair out at downsized dreams and rationalised compromises, journeyed together through the joys and the possibilities, and laughed with/at each other to ensure that a sense of humour and the funny side always prevail.

Squander:

I have squandered a lot – another foolish attempt to make love out of thoughts
What we’re willing to trade for the warmth of another, the hope for an always
Good will is lost on this one, and I want but I don’t and I try but it won’t be made

Anything but what it is, I need much more than this and you don’t need no one at all
Anything is what I’d take to not feel like yesterday’s ‘might have been’
Kiss me again and say I’ve not squandered it all

You were a light I had never seen – a face for the free shoved down inside of me
You made me feel like a real girl, and your laughter expressed my delight for the world
All of my ideals are so lost on this one, and I want but I don’t and I try but it won’t be made

Anything but what it is, I need much more than this and you don’t need no one at all
Anything is what I’d take to not feel like yesterday’s ‘might have been’
Kiss me again and say I’ve not squandered it all

We all wish for our dreams to come true and I hate that my dreams were just one size to big for you
And I would do well to guard who I am – don’t need to be what you want and I don’t need no man
Because I’m not beautiful to you anymore anyhow
And still I want but I don’t and I try but it won’t be made

Anything but what it is, I need much more than this and you don’t need no one at all
Anything is what I’d take to not feel like yesterday’s ‘might have been’
Kiss me again and say I’ve not squandered it all

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2 thoughts on “Foolish attempts to make love out of thoughts

  1. Love it, Em. The dating sites = reverse tick box approach is truly insightful. Oh, and I’m QUITE pleased to be honoured with your song of the moment 🙂

  2. Pingback: Help! I’m older than Jesus | emilyintheworld

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