Home inspections hopefully reveal flaws before buying a house, but what I really need is a people inspector before mortgaging my emotions.
— Wombat Kissnblog (@kissnblog) July 18, 2016
I blame the iPhone.
The iPhone is at the peak of the techno/design pyramid, which is an enormous pile of man-made goods that began accumulating with mass-produced buttons in the English midlands 250 years ago. Along the way we added shoes, guns, lights, Model-T Fords, washing machines and air-conditioners, and now the whole lot is capped with the smartphone. This is the history of the industrial revolution and consumerism.
And what, you might ask, does this have to do with dating? Fair question, Hortense, and the answer’s pretty simple: quality. The stuff we buy today is enormously durable, well-designed, thoughtfully manufactured and aesthetically pleasing. Everything from automobiles to bed-sheets are of a quality unimaginable even fifty years ago, which is the problem.
Perfection is the problem. Although we’re not there yet, we’re closing in on making universally flawless things, stuff that works right out of the box, machines that are intuitive, long-lasting and work with each other. Yes, there’s still a lot of junk around, but that’s because perfection costs, and folks will compromise quality if they don’t have enough dosh.
People, however, are just the same as we were 250 years ago. We are not user-friendly. We’re all quirky; none of us exactly fits the technical description; few of us are consistent throughout a day, let alone a lifetime, and even fewer come within hundreds of miles of perfection.
That’s the iPhone dilemma. When we use an iPhone we (reasonably) expect consistently high technical and emotional feedback. When we are with people, that expectation leaks into our thinking, with predictable results.
Alice’s adventures behind the looking glass are nothing compared to the life of an active dater. Dating life will vex us with misjudgments, unintended consequences, people who aren’t what they seem, people who are what they seem, dead-ends, roads to nowhere, unexpected events, disasters that aren’t, successes that might be and mad hatters. The result can make us nuts or philosophical. You choose.
Frustration at this messy business is natural. Look at what we’re trying to do. From a pool of many, many possible candidates, we’re attempting to pull one fish who can:
- mesh with our life, both interior and exterior
- understand our desires, wants, needs and expectations
- be attractive to us physically and intellectually
- maintain our interest over (hopefully) a lifetime
- share spiritual and character values
- possibly agree to devote decades to spawning and raising chill’un
- be our best friend, confidante, backer, rock and in-house comedian
Just one. And we need to bear in mind that this ideal individual has a list of requirements for us that will look remarkably the same.
The random testing of candidates to fill this position remains a very hit-and-miss affair. Trouble is, what is the alternative?
I dated a girl. She was very close to the ideal for me. At the beginning, she even said that if ever I felt it wasn’t working, I must say so, and we could figure it out – split – amicably. Respectfully.
When I told her that it wasn’t working for me, there was month of silence-filled conversations and tears enough to un-drought California.
Her expectation for the relationship and me was, sadly, misplaced. Expectation and imagination overwhelmed reality.
We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting.