Yesterday, in typical fashion, my friend Laurel called and inspired a new perspective on life. She ran the numbers on how many hours she spent thinking about, pursuing and dating men and came to the conclusion that for the usual outcome, her investment was not worthwhile. She then brought up the important point: imagine what we could accomplish if we just stopped. She has decided that for the next two years and three months (the length of her previous Peace Corps service) she will refrain from any type of romantic involvement with anyone. She is allowed to hang out with and get to know people she could potentially date, but will be keeping things on a strictly platonic level with the hope that if anything romantic should grow, it will do so from a strong foundation of friendship.
After having mulled over Laurel's fresh outlook all day, I shared it in a late night conversation with my friend Kaitlin. Today she sent me the link for a This American Life broadcast from 1995 about Quitting (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/7/quitting). Being one who has little to no problem walking away, I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives on what it takes and what it means to quit. I had never thought about it this way before, but quitting is a form of letting go that opens up space in our lives for something new that could potentially be healthier and make us happier. Although quitting tends to destabilize my life, I do not regret quitting any of the things I have, whether they be jobs, living situations or relationships. When I sense that the situation is reaching its natural conclusion, I will be gone (or begin the process of leaving) almost immediately.
What has eluded me thus far is quitting behaviors. The behavior up for eradication now, thanks to Laurel's new program, is the compulsive need to find a suitable mate. She and I actually gave it a clinical name, Lamppost Syndrome, because we could theoretically be capable, under the right circumstances, of falling in love with anything. Like lampposts. Stop signs. Can openers. You get the idea.
All this is totally counter intuitive for my generation of women, raised in our formative teen years on the women-can-have-sex-like-men, casual relationship approach glorified by that show about four single friends in New York City. On one hand, we want to be in a committed, loving relationship, but we're not supposed to think like that because it apparently scares men away. So we pretend to be cool with a casual somethingerrather when we're actually neither happy nor fulfilled by this. Eventually we become resentful because the relationship is not on the level we want and the dude's reality in no way resembles the fantasy we crafted to make him a suitable mate for us. Fighting and breaking up ensues, then too many women blame themselves for wanting the "wrong thing" and feeling what they feel, and the cycle continues. Because they don't stop wanting to be with one person and continue not to date men who do.
Boys and girls are different. Duh. This is an old, well covered topic, and I'm not up for a big gender politics debate. What I would like to propose is that men could make an attempt to be more flexible. Women in relationships with men consistently bend their will, their desires, their needs around their partner's. We make great attempts to better understand and act like men. But I rarely meet men who are genuinely interested in better understanding women and using that knowledge to connect with them. Very generally speaking, it's within a woman's nature to be more mutable and flexible (like the moon), and within a man's to be consistent and unchangeable (like the sun). It would be terribly refreshing, though, to see men actively working on becoming more worthy partners for the graceful women they date. But perhaps that's what happens when a man really falls for a woman- she inspires him to his greatness. It's a mystery of chemistry that I'm still trying to understand.
In any case, it's high time I quit this insidious Lamppost Syndrome and free up time and mental energy for all those other things that I'm passionate about. Like, uhh...oh yeah! Yoga, writing, cooking, traveling, live music, and figuring out what to do next with my life. I'm not sure that I will complete the full two year program, but it will be a relief to stop trying to find a mate long enough to realize that I deserve to be with someone who is amazing in reality and not just fantasy. I've spent an inordinate amount of time cultivating excellent skills and traits, and I have a lot to offer a partner. I'll be on a Dating Romance Blah Blah Break until I meet someone who brings as much to the table. Come on, fellas. Make me an offer I can't refuse. I'll be over here being awesome while you evolve.