I’m of the music video generation, which is to say that much of my late pubescence and early adulthood is tinged with the memory of music on television.
Australia in the late seventies and early eighties saw the tipping point from English influence to American. Until, say, the end of the Vietnam War, our social organization (note the “Z”) reflected British mores – not a surprise considering the number of Poms around the place, all escaping the nuthouse they’d all created in Europe. From that point our rituals gradually took on a more American tone.
So it is with fondness and regret that I look back on how dating changed accordingly. My home town of Adelaide was defiantly and aspirationally upper-class British, despite the waves of German, Italian and Greek immigrants who added piquancy if not steering input. That meant my generation was raised with some curiously mannered habits. Correct use of English. Standing when a lady entered the room. Assumption that any woman entering the room WAS a lady. A reserved distance mimicking what we thought was civilized behaviour.
This was all nonsense of course, a kind of homage to a cult that had no basis in the way people actually relate to each other, nor the best way to – as they say – get close to someone. It was a case of maintaining a social order for its own end.
And that is the end. The way we think about relationships is so different now, that the modeling of my generation is all but useless, like so much ballast in a yacht. But losing the imprints of one’s early emotional life – including those damned music videos – is difficult, if not impossible.
Still, we work with what we have, right?
Given the choice between comfort and pain, our tendency is toward comfort. It’s natural; why endure suffering, torment or pain when there’s another choice?
Not as natural is the uncomfortable learned truth that effort and discomfort are the ways to somewhere better. We see this all over our history as a species and in individual lives. Someone had to set sail over the horizon to find what lay beyond. We had to dismember human cadavers to learn about our own bodies, and we have to push ourselves in exercise, business and relationships to make them succeed too.
The latter is of interest, because a kind of sluggish fug lies over how to behave in relationships. Weddings appear to signal some kind of end-point, which I believe is the opposite of the truth. Routine and ruts typify many couples who share a life but gradually revert to being individuals without the elastic glue couplehood requires.
Meshing is work. It means facing up to yourself in the light of another’s wellbeing. It often means extending yourself beyond the point at which you thought you might stop. The irony is that if we want comfortable relationships, accepting – or even seeking – the painful recesses of ourselves is the necessary route. No pain, no gain.
Meshing is an arcane and chaotic art, so when there’s a milestone to celebrate it’s smart to do so, even if it’s merely the six month anniversary of your first dog-walk together. (Presuming someone other than the dog remembers.)
Kregg and I dismantle and then rebuild coupling and making whoopee.
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Dating, courting and all that stuff revolves around figuring out what the other person’s thinking.
We cannot do this directly, in the sense of plugging in a computer, downloading what’s inside and riffling through the contents at our leisure. What we do is talk, listen, prompt, observe, react, note and synthesize. Problem is that all of these methods are indirect at best, and mostly misleading.
Talking is the way we communicate for the most part. Unfortunately this is the least reliable route to accurate assessment of someone. That’s because much of what we see is filtered through the higher, complex mechanisms of the brain. Every bias, mood, emotion, predisposition, experience, love, hatred, miff, disappointment, triumph and childhood disaster has an input to our communication. Motives are masked, truths cloaked. Deception is a part of the thrust and parry of conversation. Irony too. Sarcasm. Attempts at wit. None of these helps to gain much insight into what’s really going on.
Eventually we build a picture of the person standing opposite, but it does take time. The camouflage of language is imperfect and can be stripped away, which is why it takes years – yes, years – to figure the risk-worthiness of a potential mate.
Dark and moody might work in movies and fashion models, but who wants to couple with dark and moody? Especially those fashion models; they seem overstrung and underfed to me. Ahem.
Happy people do better than those with a gloom-cloud sitting over their head, not least when attracting and keeping someone close. There. That’s the answer to everything. Unless you want to hear Kregg and me expand a little upon that idea…
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