06 March 2011

Lament for the lack of civility among single men

I need to read myself to sleep at night. Sometimes all I can manage is a few lines, but a few days ago I had not one but two sodas; I could handle more reading that night. I picked up the latest copy of Christianity Today and picked an article based solely on the title - "Sex Economics 101." Kind of catchy, isn't it? It got my attention; admit it, it would have grabbed yours too. The subtitle is "Mark Regnerus, the early-marriage sociologist, shares his latest research on young adults' sexual attitudes and behavior." I started to read it with a general curiosity given that I have worked and still do on occasion with teens and young adults. What intrigued me is that, while the researcher is focused on "emerging" adults, what he describes fits with my generation as well - the mid 30's-40's. And it helped interpret how I have been struggling with the results of online dating. Quite frankly, the article depressed me. After reading it I felt like it will be a phenomenal miracle of epic proportions if I ever get married.
Some key quotes:
"Historically, sex was a key motivator for men to marry. Try to reduce that tension, that function, and all hell breaks loose—which is what we are witnessing."

"Because whoever is the minority gender, so to speak, has more power, and especially in this sense, because women want marriage more than men do. So when there are more women in the pool, it lends itself to women competing for men rather than the other way around."

"This is not to suggest that men can't commit. They can, but they have to do so today in an environment of such rich choices. It makes it difficult for them."

The end of January I started corresponding with a fella, let's call him Doug. He seemed nice enough and decent, we exchanged a few emails, then I sent one that never got a response. He had mentioned that he was going on vacation so I waited. About a week and a half later, guessing he was back in town, I decided to drop him a short note just to get my name at the top of his inbox. Silence. But a couple days later he did send a message to my roomie. Yeah, scratch his name off the list. 

Then a couple weeks ago another guy contacted me, oddly enough with the same name - "Doug." Unlike Doug v.1, I was really intrigued by Doug v.2, I wanted to get to know him. As we exchanged emails my interest swelled. Finally! A decent normal guy that had real potential, not some foreigner scamming or gross 65 year old obviously using a form letter. No, Doug v.2 was intelligent, strong faith, thoughtful, considerate, kind, creative, with similar interests. Each email he sent left me saying "wowza!" He impressed me, knocked my socks off really. But he fell off the grid as well. I sent an email that has gone unanswered. [UPDATE 3/8/2011: Apparently my theory below about a demon in my email was correct. Doug v.2 had found my blog, read this post, and sent me an email explaining that he hadn't received my last email and thought I had just abruptly stopped writing. Isn't life funny. Yay! I get a second chance to get to know this guy.]

I'd like to explain it by saying there is a demon possessing my email and either preventing it from being delivered or warping the words in-between my drafting and the recipient reading it so that I sound like a crazy person. This is highly unlikely. A girl could get sensitive about her writing, especially since it's of a personal nature. But the more likely explanation is that in a gender imbalanced pool, where men, even mediocre men, have multitudes of women competing for them, I was dropped for the newer match, the next woman who might be prettier, funnier, sexier, smarter, more better in some way. Combine the 'women rich dating pool' with online dating where people aren't "real" yet and our throw-away consumerism society and it's a dangerous combination. With both Dougs they had been considerate and respectful, so why is it okay to be rude and just stop writing? No, we haven't met in person, but those weren't just some made up stories you were reading, they are the stories of a real person, a person who was being open and vulnerable. You've changed your mind, fine. I'm worth a final email saying 'thanks for your time and sharing, wish you all the best.' It is the decent thing to do, an act of civility, the behavior of a gentleman. But the more virtual and impersonal our world becomes, the faster common decency and civility, what used to be the norms of behavior, have eroded. To be fair, it isn't just single guys who are suffering this lack of decency. My mother recently had a party for which she sent an Evite, emails, and postcards - most of the women never even RSVP'ed. 
So here is today's lesson for the guys: be men, be gentlemen, be men of character and integrity - and that means ending things, even simple email exchanges, with respect and honor.

Last night my roomie and I watched the movie (500) Days of Summer. We laughed through most of it, although we couldn't quite believe the role reversal. Neither one of us could think of any girl who says she only wants to be friends and it is the guy pushing for a relationship. In our circle, it is the opposite - or the guy who wants the instant relationship, but that's another story (a good one too). There are two scenes that stand out. The first is after Tom and Summer have broken up, but they saw each other at a wedding of a mutual friend, she invites him to a party at her place. We see the party scene in split screen on the left is the party through Tom's "expectations" and on the right, "reality." It was hilarious! So clever! And so true. Our expectations are usually dramatically different than reality and the scene exploited that to great comic effect. The second scene I liked has Tom's friend Paul talking about his girlfriend who he has been dating since junior high. He says that his perfect dream girl would have a bigger rack, blond hair, be more into sports, etc., but then he pauses and says 'but Rachel (?) is better. She's real.' And that realization seems to be something that the guys I've been meeting need to have. I am tired of competing with a fantasy, or the allure of 'the next one will be perfect.' Guess it is a good thing that overall, I don't mind being single and sometimes even enjoy it.

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