I'm trying not to have a breakdown about dating but there is no getting around it: dating can, and often does, suck the big one.
In a rather timely move, the latest issue of the Westender
has a cover feature about begin single in Vancouver. There are two main articles that focus a lot of attention on the aloofness of Vancouverites and how even visitors from typically "tough" cities like New York and LA find our closed, icey social habits alarming. We like to make nice, but we seem pathologically rooted to our defenses. As dating expert Lisa Ronis puts it: "People are generally very cordial, but they don't let you in." Well I'm all for avoiding self-fulfilling prophecies but I do believe these are valid observations. Women and men tend to hang back a bit more here and this timidity amps up the dating game-playing rituals to unwieldy levels. It drives me nuts sometimes.
In the grand scheme of my life thus far, singlehood is what I know best. I've actually come to really enjoy the advantages of the single life. In a year where I have been bombarded with weddings and wedding announcments, I have kept my perspective and realized that a whole realm of possibilities still lies before me. My friends and acquaintances have their committments to their life partaners and I have my free-wheeling singleton status and that is the way things are. There is no better or worse in the equation.
But in the last 2 or 3 months I have recommitted myself to getting back into the dating game...and it's been a fun, albeit rough-ass ride. I won't mince words: I want to meet someone good. I have no qualms about leaving behind the single life for an extended period of time. I want to meet someone good, but I don't have crazy expectations either. And I don't mind trying something new now and again. Modern dating is just so messed up, for lack for a better word. It's almost like dating services and online dating have deluged us with too much choice and turned dating into a series of business transactions. Meeting people in the course of daily life is no easier and it's still the same deal: everyone's stuck in window shopping mode, always holding out for something better. I've certainly been guilty of this, even up to this past Canada Day weekend. My question is, when does it stop?
I recently made friends with a British expat, who I'll call J. J's a real gent and is probably the nicest alpha male character I have ever met. Spending his work week as a writer of financial proposals, J retreats into the wilderness every weekend to camp, hike, rock climb, bike and work as a river rafting guide. We were at the Naam one night and he shared with me his observations of the Vancouver dating scene. He talked about the unending series of smart, beautiful women he'd meet, all in their 30s', who for whatever reason were still floundering around as singles. He also commented on the very strong vibe through out of most of these women wanting to settle down already, if only they could meet Mr. Right.
I could only shrug ruefully. I answered, "No one knows what they want." Maybe it's always been this way, but it's never just about real emotions anymore. There's status, prestige, image, economics, beauty, upbringing and a myriad of other factors that come into play when people are sizing each other up during the dating ritual. What would happen if we all just dropped our acts for once and committed to relating to each other as real people... people are aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but people who are all the same, just looking for a meaningful connection. But we're still window shopping.
And dating is so unpredictable. There is no other human endeavour more prone to bizarre randomness. For me, I had the rug pulled out from me so suddenly, my head spun off its axis. One day two people can't keep their hands off each other, only a few days later, there's suddenly talk of "intuition" and staying friends. How can you explain these things? Surely, I was not innocent in all of this. Remember my boastful report of having 3 dates in 2 days? Whatever. I set a new record for myself and it means absolutely nothing. I made a choice and whittle it down to one girl. As if the power of my intention sent ripples through the fabric of life, the person I choice to stick with decided it wasn't going to work. Fabulous. You can't predict shit like this.
There are, of course, lessons to be learned from everyone that comes into my life, dating partners or otherwise. What choice to people have but to keep plugging away, whittling down the candidates, reassessing their own expectations, working the numbers and striving to fulfill that one simple, basic need that has become such an obtuse, intricate and even cold process. I will be among these hopeful singles. In a city of singles, we are all searching, hoping and waiting. And we are all blind.