“Hal notes that girls always seem to slip out of their shoes when they assume any kind of spectatorial posture…Girls literally embody the idea of making yourself at home. Males, when they come in from somewhere and sit down, project an air of transience. Remain suited up and mobile.”
-Infinite Jest, 703
Being a boy, I’ve always felt like it was natural and even expected for me to be on the move. Especially when exposed to home crafted pieces of “wisdom” such as
when a boy enters a relationship, he never sees his family again. When a girl enters a relationship, she brings that boy home.
-some family member(2)
Coming up we didn’t move a lot but it was enough to brand on my psyche the idea that everyone leaves and it’s best to figure out how to adapt to that rather than making an effort to hang on to relationships(3).
Then when I became old enough to begin, seriously, dating(4) I began seriously exploring the ideas of love, relationships, and marriage. I’ve never been crazy for the idea of getting married, never have wanted and still don’t want kids, and being a minimalist(5) I was never interested in buying a house or owning property(6). This sort of lifestyle, especially in more mature adulthood, inspires some thought about one’s future and what one wants in life because, clearly, it’s going to be a bumpy road.
This mind set also has shaped my love and relationship behaviors and preferences. Even though I never dreamed dreams of white lace and black silk I still had notions about long term love because at my core, regardless of being a fairly independent and solitary individual, I still have a deep desire to be loved and accepted physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Given my state of perpetual movement(7), it’s always been a tricky proposition to find relationship happiness because in my experience I’ve found open commutation about the ridiculous improbability of expecting everyone to find one person to be “the one for ever and always” regardless of the laughably small window of time that serves as “peak” mate time (between ages of 22 and 29) is one that is generally not taken seriously or interpreted as “a scared little boy rationalizing because he’s a scared little boy”.
In the past this obstacle has been relatively easy to overcome because many girls that I’ve dated were under the impression “this is cute, I’ll change him over time” and decide that I’m worth their efforts to change because I wasn’t actually leaving for a while or was just planning my next move. However in the last two years since I’ve been single, after the end of a three year relationship, I’ve mostly had a disinterest in dating until this summer where for me it’s business as usual however for my potential partner, my proposal for a short term relationship, is not a philosophy but a reality: I am holding my plane ticket, I’m leaving and there’s nothing changing that. This reality seems to have had a negative shade on potential partners view of engaging in a relationship with me. Frequently what I’ve gotten is “it’s too bad you’re leaving” or “I wonder what could have been if…” which is deeply frustrating because I just want to say “I’M STILL HERE! I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE FOR 56 DAYS(8)! Please stop treating me like I’m already gone…”
In this five point essay, I would like to explain my proposal for why short term love should not be exclusively expressed in the language of the “sensitive hook up artist” but rather viewed more from a open minded point of view where not all love is made to last forever and sometimes short term love is not a failure waiting to happen but like anything else: something impermanent and should be valued for the time it exists rather than for the time it may not encompass.
I. The Theory of the Everything Bagel
I think about food. Like a lot. Another thing I think about a lot is metaphors. I blame my dad, also a writer, constantly explaining things in metaphors.
“Son life is like a bottle of hot sauce: sometimes it just hurts but it always has a good flavor. Until you get old and your stomach can’t handle hot stuff any more. I guess then you’ve died.”
-my best impression of dad’s quirky metaphors (he also likes food, a lot)
Anyway while working on this essay, I came up with this idea that dating is like shopping for bagels in a shop who specializes in the Everything Bagel but being a bakery they can only make so many bagels and then once they’re out they’re out. Naturally this bagel shop will sell out of the Everything Bagel first and due to a limited number only some people get one and some don’t.
However, when they sell out of the Everything what do you do? Do you turn up your nose at the other perfectly delicious but different bagels and insist on waiting until another day to maybe get the Everything bagel leaving your stomach wanting and your mood less than ideal? What happens when you do come in the next day or a week later and you do finally get an Everything bagel?
Now of course, this is a ridiculous scenario since the Everything bagel is one of the most popular flavours of all time it’s unlikely a good bakery will run out regularly and of course you’re when you get one, you’re going to enjoy it while it’s still good because you recognize that bagels don’t last forever.
Now the best part of an everything bagel is that it brings together six(9) amazing, rich, full, flavours. Everything savoury one could, reasonably, ask for on a bagel. However people, like bagels, are limited in quantity, ever expiring, and come in many many different flavours. Though people are not bagels: if you want an everything bagel you can make one at home but you can’t do that at home unless you’re a television teenage witch from the 90’s in which case you are already at a statistical advantage being a mystical being with an elongated life span.
When we’re seeking a mate, many of us are seeking a relationship that will last for a long time if not until death which is a daunting task and not only one that has so many expectations of the other person. There’s a collective myth that your lifelong partner must be:
- your best-friend
- your confidant
- a potential offspring mate
- a potential roommate
- an adventure partner/perpetual “plus 1”
- a co-accountant
- a co-nanny/house keeper
- a satisfying lover with similar interests and needs
And this is not even diving into subsets of what we need in a lover, what we need in a partner fiscally, what our emotional needs are…this list grows and doesn’t stop and in my experience doesn’t get smaller with time but if we’re lucky, it gets more clear.
This is, frankly, overly ambitious and even arguably not a fair set of expectations for another person with whom we are claiming to be in love with. We all have different friends for different reasons and we can accept these people as they are and recognize their short comings and even love them more for those flaws however when we introduce the wet kinetic exchange of bodily fluids SUDDENLY EVERY HAS CHANGED!! My naughty bits touched yours therefore everything is different now.
However having more realistic expectations, knowing that your lover will be imperfect and being willing to accept that, one can begin to see the logic behind experimentation. Short term love doesn’t have to exclude the chance for life long love, but it opens our minds to the possibility of trying out new flavours of bagels and discovering that maybe the Everything bagel is still our one and only but other flavours have their own merits and some really strange flavours offer a unique satisfaction for something we didn’t even know we liked. When we open our selves to experiencing new flavours while waiting for an Everything to become available, we are able to keep our selves satisfied because instead of starving ourselves until we find that one specific roll with a hole, we can find joy in the mean time with a different flavour even if it isn’t our all time favourite.
II. The Quarterly Review is Bringing Sexy Back
There’s a lot of fear in the unknown and for good reason too. From an evolutionary POV we are conditioned to fear what we don’t understand because we don’t know if it poses a threat or not and dating/relationships are chock full of the unknown. I’ll be honest, the overwhelming unknown variables have paralyzed me into inaction both as a single guy and as a lover. In fact, this fear is why what’s kept me both single and in relationships: fear of getting to know a new person, fear of rejection, fear of lifestyle changes.
One advantage to the the short term love or as I’m proposing “the modular love model” is that going into a relationship knowing that there is an end date of our choosing takes a monumental amount of the unknown (read: fear) out of the relationship experience. In my case, it’s relatively simple: come October first, I’m leaving. However not even most cases are that simple and this is where my idea of “the modular love model” comes into play.
From the outset, if couples agree to date in terms of up to three month intervals and at each interval (each quarter) they have an appropriate and anticipated space to talk about the state of the relationship. Allowing for and advocating for these regular reviews allows for a couple to have a built in time to bring up issues and concerns that each may have either due to changing life situations or due to a change in emotional chemistry or even something as mundane as discussing each other’s desired roles in the relationship. This also allows for the ability to have a compassionate and deliberate termination to the relationship rather than the generally fiery and passionate scuffles that end in heartbreak regardless of how much the couple may still otherwise care for their partner that so often wreck any hope for a healthy post-coitus relationship. This burning pile of wreckage is, in my opinion, one of the biggest travesties of what used to be something wonderful and becomes tragic because it is so very preventable.
These regular intervals of commutation removes the power of the fear allowing us to make more logical decisions that are more likely to lead us to greater long-term happiness regardless of the outcome. In recognition of the fact that the relationship could end at the end of each three months, helps encourage the earning of one’s lover’s respect and affection daily rather than perpetuating the idea that couples own each other and that once relationship status of “going steady” has been reached, nothing either can do will cause it to end which, given divorce rates, is a silly thing to think.
III. A Relationship is Significant because it has an Expiration Date
Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it.
When we begin thinking of relationships and love in terms of “forever and always” we enter at terminal velocity this notion that anything short of forever is not only meaningless but a waste of time because if it ends it was a failure and where there if failure, blame is somewhere close by.
There are a few very large problems with the idea of equating the end of a relationship with failure. The first and obvious being the fact that we all die (for now). Death is the lurking element that will end relationships no matter how happy or healthy. Given the existence of death “forever and always” is a notion of those too young to appreciate mortality. However, it it likely with in my life time, that this first point will be made moot with the elimination of the aging process (not, however, the elimination of natural death) but until then this point stands (I have already started thinking about what love means in a age-less world and it’s odd, an entire essay of its own someday).
Another issue is that this value of longevity over happiness is one that frighteningly mirrors a model of addiction. At a point, when the continued sustainability of an action becomes more important than what that action means it becomes unhealthy because the value is now taken away from the action, making for a happy relationship, and given to a superficial element of the action. Let me provide an example.
Before I quit drinking, I was in love with beer. I brewed beer, I read books about the history of beer, I made art projects in praise of beer, I savoured the complexity of flavours and mouth feel and colour and in general I deeply appreciated the many facets of the fermented, hops-steeped, elixir. At some point in my life, I lost my love for beer as an evolving culinary masterpiece and cultural axiom and rather valued her for the one shallow aspect of ethanol which enabled me to get out of my skull so I didn’t have to share cranial space with the more unpleasant things in life. Over time I began to identify with my relationship with beer, “I’m a beer nerd”, and ignoring the fact that our relationship was sustained not through respect but because I needed it to be “forever and always”. I couldn’t imagine a life with out her. I was addicted to us rather than being able to appreciate her for who she was as an individual and, more importantly, appreciating myself for who I was as an individual. A part of me always knew this relationship would have to end. However knowing it will have to end someday, I still got involved and today with out her in my life I have grown as a person and would never ever give back our time together regardless of the harm, pain, suffering, it’s caused because I wouldn’t be the person I am today with out passing through that part of my life.
IV. Relationships and Chemistry
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
— C.G. Jung
The world has been changed accidentally because of chemistry many times over. 1879 Fahlburg discovers Saccrharin (aka Sweet n Low) after a long day of working with coal tar and finding his hands to taste sweet, 1943 Hoffmann discovers the strange beauty of lysergic acid diethylamide when looking for a chemical to stimulate labour, and 1992 Viagra was discovered when seeking treatment for angina (heart/chest ache). Point being is none of these revolutionary chemicals were found in the pursuit of the original purpose.
None of these discoveries are normally considered “major failures of the modern age” because they didn’t achieve the original intent and there by if getting involved in a relationship with someone doesn’t result in the way one expected it’s not inherently considered a failure. Every relationship that ends leave us more complex and multi-faceted individuals which encourages growth and even if the relationship was unhealthy and the reaction leaves us hurt, recovery is also a form of positive growth. This being said even if the intention for your pilgrimage is to find that Everything Bagel trying different combinations statically increases one’s chances of making a breakthrough discovery. A discrimination against anyone who seeks not to have a long-term relationship reduces the chances of making a surprising discovery and that would be an ironic tragedy that you don’t likely deserve.
V. The Writer’s Plea
Henry Miller said the best way to get over a woman is to turn her into literature.
-(500) Days of Summer(10)
Love and loss is a common theme among writers (I can’t speak for other artists since most of my studies covers the lives of renowned western writers) in their works and in their personal lives. It’s a complicated thing to explain to non-artist/creative types but the emotional ecstasy and turmoil that accompanies falling in and out of love is one of the greatest fuels for beautiful works of art. One of my favourite examples is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:
“I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of [Ezra] Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land.”
In which I realize that it was a long term relationship that caused deep suffering but the intensity of relationships in general tend to help writers, this one included, push ourselves deep into the discomfort of discovery that yields not only something wonderful but something that helps the reader learn how to see things from different perspectives, empathy, because the artist him/her/em self is actively trying to communicate to someone else the things they’re processing which helps them work through the pain and come to find meaning in that suffering. With out people being willing to take a chance on a “flight risk” relationship, the artist is deprived of emotional stimuli which ultimately robs future readers of the beauty that could come from that episode in the writer’s life.
Besides, “tortured writers make awful husbands” but you can bet that we’re passionate and that there isn’t likely to be a dull moment between the meeting and the inevitable end.
In conclusion, I believe that not only is praise for short-term love a brave notion because it expresses acknowledgement in one’s imperfections but also an awareness of the impermanence of life and relationships. This humility and focus on the present moment being important values in a person is a deeply healthy sign of a well grounded individual. To discriminate against us, to call us scared and shallow, to wistfully wonder but not allow oneself to engage is not only a crime but also grounds for self exploration. Why does the idea of a short term relationship make you so uncomfortable?
- I haven’t found a scholastic authority for when to use “en” v “in” however stylistic reasons aside (I really do enjoy the alteration) in my experience/my writers intuition tells me that “en” is best used when expressing the passage through space/time aka movement (Ex: en route) and “in” is best used when expressing a state of being (Ex: in love). I realize as my interests in linguistics are amateur at best, this explanation is likely to have technical flaws but this is to express my strong feelings that language shapes our thoughts and being able/willing to make these distinctions enriches both the writing process and reading analysis.
- Maybe it was a family member of lover, I cannot entirely remember now.
- I’m 27 and didn’t get my first social network identity (does anybody still use/remember myspace?) until I was 18 and even then I didn’t use myspace/facebook until I was closer to 22. What would be interesting to me to see is how social networks help shape relationships that would have been easily otherwise lost via distance otherwise.
- I don’t count having a real relationship until when I was 22 and I was dating a girl where we were thinking about longer term future, sorta, than “what do you wanna eat?” More like “What are we going to eat when we live together in California in like 3 years even though we’ve only been dating for 4 weeks?” Ahh…young love. So blindly ambitious.
- I own, not counting books, around 100 items. I have been living out of a backpack for the better part of the last 7 years but my pilgrimage began closer to 10 years ago (2006).
- I have moved a very little bit in my “no house” stand, as I mentioned in my very first post I’m really partial to the idea of a “mini-house” or a “pod-home”.
- My former best friend and I, complete opposites, used to think of our selves in terms of the joker and batman “the unstoppable force meets the unmovable object”, after 10 years though something changed. I’m still moving and he, as far as I know, is still unmoved but we both are now changed.
- As of 06/08/2016 (for my American readers, in an effort to forward the logical approach I have adopted the “dd/mm/yyyy” or the “small to big” formatting)
- I’m counting salt and pepper as apart of the flavours of an everything bagel.
- I’ve tried to find a source that Henry Miller said this but I have to give credit to the screenwriters of (500) Days of Summer. Thank you Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber for attributing this to Miller but from my search it looks like you should be crediting your selves.