This weekend is Valentine’s Day, or as I call it, “National Sucks If You’re Single Day”. I don’t have any positive experiences or memories from this holiday from the past and I don’t expect to have any in the future, either. No end of articles have been written about how this “holiday” was invented by greeting card companies and so on, and I don’t dispute it. This is America; nearly anything and everything we do is about buying or selling something in the end. When I was in grade school, Valentine’s Day was slightly more fascinating because as it was a Catholic school, it involved an obligatory lesson about St. Valentine and without hormones to worry about in the early grades it was more innocent. You handed out cheaply produced and bought Valentine’s Day index cards and handed them out like Halloween candy (sometimes with Valentine’s candy, because kids are all about candy). It was only as everyone got older (3rd grade or so) when any of us kids really started getting the meaning behind such stuff. The older you get, the worse it is. Roses and candy boxes would be strewn all over in the days leading up to it throughout junior high, high school, and college. If you’re single, it’s the physical manifestation of every dark thought you may be thinking about yourself. If you tell yourself that it’s all in your head, that everyone else out there really isn’t in a relationship but you, it’s the day where at least for a little while, you see that you’re not crazy and it really is true.
But I didn’t want this to simply be an article where I complain about Valentine’s Day. Instead in leading up to my next flashback to my adventures in dating I wanted to touch on something else. Much as with the “Everyone is Doing Better than You Party”, it ties into the notion of online dating and why I don’t bother with it much anymore. Because I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, I keep a lot of my angst and repressed feelings inside of me, and while I do have some bitterness or resentment for life in general, I tend to blame a lot of my failings on where they belong – myself. In theory, that should be a positive thing in that I became aware of my own faults. I don’t wallow in ignorance or oversell myself like many do. But that creates a problem all of its’ own which I call the Self Awareness Paradox. When you already know all of your faults, reactions, as well as how others have always reacted to you, it becomes easy to calculate ahead of time how many encounters are going to go. And it becomes easy to get into a rut.
There are few states of being out there which are completely flawless. Every technique and philosophy has its’ own strengths and weaknesses; that is why there are so many to choose from. Many people are either ignorant about their true selves or are in some state of active or passive denial of it. Both ways of life come with their share of problems, but one of the key advantages is that those who are stuck with them can trudge on a bit easier towards goals because they don’t see the obstacles in their way. It can be like blinders on a horse. Self awareness has its’ own share of strengths and weaknesses. By having some understanding of myself, I can better avoid some mistakes or poor courses of action in my life. But the disadvantage is that it becomes harder to psych yourself into new territory because you know yourself too well. Those wallowing in ignorance or denial are able to lie to themselves successfully every day; those who are not, can not. There are times when lying to yourself is dangerous, and times when it isn’t.
Dating, online or not, seems to involve some level of deception. Unfortunately, not being able to deceive yourself limits your ability to deceive others, and it becomes harder to get involved in new attempts when there is nothing different from past ones. I thought long and hard to come up with a proper metaphor of what I represent in the world of dating, and I think I have come up with one: cake. Everyone likes cake – even the mythical hound of the underworld, Cerberus. Some people are everything; the plate, the cake, the icing, and the candles. Some may be a pretty plate with nothing on it, while others may be a fine cake but with nothing to spiff it up. I’m the icing. I have plenty of good qualities that, were I to have some of the core things which people come for, would enhance what I offer. Unfortunately, I don’t have that core. I’m nothing but the frosting and the sprinkles. And while there are people willing to eat just the icing of a cake, it’s usually not for long.
I’ve said in a few posts how I am “stuck as myself”. By that I mean that it doesn’t matter the setting, or the time, or the format, or the place where I am. I am always the same. In the end I know what I do and don’t offer to a perspective partner. I am not tall, or handsome; those alone are major hurdles. But were I even to ignore or overcome those, I don’t have many other things needed for any relationship to work. I don’t have my own place, or a car, or much money to spend on anything. These are major hurdles in New York. Beyond that, I don’t have any positive relationship experience, no sexual experience, and a laundry list of esteem and emotional shortcomings. Above all, I am a boring, repetitive person; I work, I go online, I sleep, I repeat, barring some brief interludes. Now, I possess many positive qualities, but they are not qualities which alone can overcome the lack of a core. I have a sense of humor, I have reasonable intelligence, and I write well enough. I am perfectly entertaining in low pressure small talk for brief intervals. However, those qualities cannot overcome the lack of a core. I am the man for no seasons, the black hole through which romantic and sexual desire can neither enter nor escape. And my greatest fault of all is that I am totally aware of this. It is not a fault I can successfully hide from anyone, not even myself, not even when I want to.
One could argue that something I fear more than being alone is genuinely disappointing someone I have feelings for, whether long or short term. Part of the initial introduction phase of dating, especially online dating, is offering a pretty picture of yourself metaphorically. Your “best foot forward”. Be it an performance at a bar or a well crafted profile online, it’s about selling yourself. The self awareness paradox makes this difficult because in the end, I know I don’t have much to sell in this circumstance. I know I can’t offer any prospective lover the same or more than any other man in any given setting we’re in. And I would hate to lie about doing so, only to have to watch the crushing realization form on someone’s face, to watch them realize they’ve drawn the joker card in a game where it’s far from wild. Even were I to try to do so, I am a poor liar and actor. There is no positive way to tell someone, “I really like you and would enjoy every moment you allow me to spend with you, but you’d be better off with literally anyone else. Even the bloke who sleeps in the park. He’s at least probably a military veteran.”
Knowing this, why bother with an online dating profile? Even if I could figure out some perfectly worded introduction to garner someone’s attention in their inbox (which for women is usually flooded with many misspelled and lewd comments or solicitations for sex), in the end I know all it’s going to do is end in disappointment for her. There’s nothing in it for her, nothing she gets out of it with me that she can’t get with someone else who does have that core, or at least is savvier at hiding that lack than I. Why bother trying to figure out if someone at a bar is single or trying to figure out a way to pry her from her friends when I know I’m a plant which offers no flower? I know every single way I am going to fail to live up to any reasonable expectations in a relationship with anyone, before it has even begun. Perhaps this is why so many people rely on alcohol or other substances to mask their doubts. but such drugs also rob people of their ability to consent, or reason. At this point, few things would spark my suspicion more than a woman who professed interest in me. I’d fear she was seeing something in me that wasn’t there, at best, or that she was under the influence of some powerful stuff. Thankfully, that has never happened yet, and I doubt it ever will. And that’s in the end a good thing, for everyone.
The ability to know thyself is a double edged sword, and one that can cut just as deeply as any other.
Another year of ignoring the chocolate hearts and plastic roses other people throw at each other. At least the day after, all the candy is usually 25% off or more!