Thursday, April 11, 2019

In Love with Love

Being as I respect your sensibilities and sensitivities I will not report Polly’s remarks about the letter in question. I know that your time is valuable. I will not even hint that there might be something worthwhile in her commentary.

The interesting part is the letter itself. As happens with many of the letters written to advice columnists, this one gives us a close-up and personal view into contemporary mores. In this case, dating mores. The letter writer, who calls herself, Need Negative Space, tells us nothing about her family, her community, her work… and so on. She is in love with love, to the point where she wants it to be a constant and permanent presence in her life. Being a millennial, she has no concept of how to conduct a relationship. She has no sense of loyalty and no sense of responsibility for her own behavior.

She begins by telling us that she is happy with the way her last relationship broke up. Most people would feel some regret at the loss, but NNS is apparently beyond regret:

I am 27 years old and recently ended a two-year relationship, my first long-term “adult” one that ran its course. It was a wonderful relationship and a mature, loving breakup. Before I met him, I thought I would never be “loved in that way.” Now, I don’t believe that’s true.

She does not tell us why the relationship broke up, but in her next paragraph she tells us that it was an open relationship, conducted part of the time at a distance. And, while she did not cheat in the standard sense of the term, she was certainly disloyal. Young people do not quite understand that open relationships are fraught with dangers. And that cheating is cheating, even if you have agreed to allow each other to cheat. Being enlightened these people cannot even identify the cause of their relationship breakups.

During the last month of our relationship, we were long distance and open. I chance met a guy through a friend and ended up talking to him for three hours while the bar cleared out and then we kissed good night. I was consumed by obsessive thoughts about him for weeks after, even on my solo trip to Mexico City, even though he didn’t respond to my ask to hang out for 2 weeks!

Shockingly, she is throwing herself at men. And she does not quite get why they do not want to deal with her needy and disloyal self. Many men, discovering that a woman is in an open relationship, will not see her as relationship material. But they will happily take advantage of her. 

I suspect that her next paragraph refers to her post-breakup behavior. So, she was crushing on someone she met at a bar. She broke up with her boyfriend. And then she left town for a gig—we do not know what kind of gig it was, of course.

And, being a woman of her time, she was not looking for a relationship. She put up a dating profile in which she defined herself as a woman of loose morals. That is, she went out looking for casual encounters and was shocked, to the root of her soul, that these intimate encounters remained casual.

I left town for a six-week gig shortly after, and set up an online dating profile looking for “fun casual connections with like-minded folks.” I don’t really know what exactly I was looking for. I ended up seeing one person with some regularity and an intense intimacy that I didn’t expect. He’s moving to a city a few hours from me in the fall, but from what I can gather he’s not interested in continuing our romance beyond its transient nature. I’m back home now, moved my boxes out of my ex’s to a new apartment, but back in my real life, all I can replay is our time together. But my question isn’t even about either of these men.

She is not in love with love. She is putting out and getting rejected. She does not even know that that is her problem. Another enlightened millennial… as though our world was short of them. True, her question is not about any of the men. It’s about her weak character. But, she doesn’t know it and is not about to find out.

Anyway, she’s in love with love. Unfortunately, she seems not to know whether she wants to be with a male or a female. And she certainly does not seem to know what kind of relationship she wants. If she merely wants cheap thrills, she is getting them. If she wants something more permanent, she does not say what it might be.

I can’t remember the last time I truly didn’t have a crush on someone. Looking back on my adolescence, I was always fixated on some boy or girl who more often than not didn’t return my feelings. I can only think of two distinct phases in my life where I didn’t “like” anyone in that way — between fifth and sixth grade, where I have memories of intense creativity, and right before I met my ex, where I was so fed up with dating that I “gave up.” Online dating makes it easy to always HAVE someone around in some capacity — and if I have chemistry with someone, I tend to obsess over them. These crushes get so all-consuming I’ve even considered attending a sex- and love-addicts anonymous meetings. If nothing else, I feel like I’m constantly pining over someone from my past. I look at all the goals I have for myself and think about all the things I could accomplish if I just had a little more negative space in my mind and heart.

For some reason, she thinks that the solution is to fall in love with herself. Speaking of idiotic expression, this one is on many lips. It comes from therapy, even if NNS has not done any therapy:

I have so much going on for me in my career and life. I want to make more time in my life, carve out more space in my heart, to fall in love with myself, to really be okay alone. I want to watch more movies, learn how to cook beautiful meals, spend more time with friends, take more long walks by myself, finally finish all these half-done writing projects. I have already taken down my online dating profile and already feel much more clearheaded. But what if I chance meet someone and end up talking to them for three hours while the bar clears out again? I don’t want to lose my fierce belief in love and magic that, miraculously, is unmarred by my breakup. If nothing else, my six-week lover taught me that my heart is open. I miss falling in love, and I want it very much. But I don’t have enough space in my head to become the person I want to be and also love someone else. At least right now. I want to want to be alone.

Need Negative Space 

No, dear, the problem is not going to be solved by being alone. The problem is only going to be solved when she does a moral inventory of her own behavior, of her own weak character, and when she figures out what she wants from a relationship. If she merely wants the thrills, she has them. If she cannot adjust to a long term relationship that might be more sedate and less exciting, she is doing just the right thing.


Anonymous said...

For some reason falling in love with yourself appears to be a completely untapped romance novel category. Catches sight of self in mirror, heart flips a beat... that hair, those eyes.. that... pimple?


Ares Olympus said...

"...fall in love with myself", sounds like the definition of narcissism, but maybe useful in a truer sense of necessary self-care and setting boundaries to keep self-respect. You don't really love yourself if you betray yourself and act destructively, against your own interests.

Calling this "weak character" might just as well be saying "young", even if traditional religious education must help. Overall I see when we can't bear to see ourselves as we are, we will create fantasies that protect our ego over painful truth of our predicaments. And the real problem isn't the fantasy (which exist to teach us with the least irreversible consequences), but the more successful you are in applying them to your life, the longer you can go before a painful crash, and the young and most attractive have the furthest to fall.

Anonymous said...

In a decade or less she'll be getting zero attention from men. She'll then become the angry feminist spinster type.

Among all the men she dumped along the way there were probably several who said "I love you" and would have stayed with her if she could have been faithful. Then she could proceed along the normal path of marriage, children, and community that seemed to keep most women happy for centuries. None of this will penetrate her angry loneliness - it will all be somebody else's fault.

Sam L. said...

And it will be the man's/mens' FAULT. Because who else can she blame? Certainly not herself.

UbuMaccabee said...

After she hits the wall, things will change for her. Her fierce belief in magic might soften the blow.

I have a soft spot for an honest slut, but she’s not very honest.