Get hitched? Check…

My high school English teacher once told the class how he met his wife. The girls in the class had convinced him to tell the story after word got out that it was unique. He went on to tell us how he was at a church function sitting next to a girl he had never met before. His parents approached, and assuming she was with him, asked, “who’s she?” The girl turned around to see who had spoken, and my teacher jokingly told his parents, “oh her? That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” He then struck up a conversation with her and several years later, they were married.

Stories like that used to be the norm in our society. Some chance encounter leads to a relationship that withstands the test of time. Yet why have we become so scared of such encounters? Today, it’s easier than ever to fall into the trap of modern dating. You know, the trap of online sites, singles gatherings, and blind dates. It seems like most people have just added “get hitched” to their checklist of things they want to accomplish, and they don’t really care how it is achieved.

Personally, I think this is sad. The intrigue of the unknown fuels romance so well, and that just can’t be simulated over a broadband connection to eHarmony. What sites like that offer is a lazy way to meet people so you can cross of “get hitched” on your list of to-do’s and move on to the next thing. I see this over and over again, especially as acquaintances get older. They go from finding a new job, to finding someone to marry, to buying a house, to having kids, all because it’s on the list and not necessarily because things just happened that way. Plus, we’re not getting any younger, right? The chances that something magical is going to happen only decreases with time, after all…

Civilization survived for thousands of years before the Internet, which means that people must have found each other and procreated. To me, that’s proof positive that online dating isn’t necessary. The only time limit on your romantic life is the one you impose on it – and people sadly seem to do that, too. If I’m not married by the time I’m 30, I’ll just marry the first nice guy I come across. It doesn’t sound bad, except for that poor nice guy that doesn’t realize he hit the lottery rather than having a real match.

More and more, we’re encouraging people to get further away from genuine social encounters. Learning how to talk to and meet new people is an important life skill, not just for dating, but for business, friendship, and any number of reasons. The more social you are, the more of a life you have, the more support you have, and the more fun you have. If you want to get married, that’s fine, but why not put some effort into the social part of your life? You may just find that the person to marry shares the same interests and is too busy to post a profile online. Don’t just cross something off of your life’s to-do list, really make it happen.

9 thoughts on “Get hitched? Check…”

  1. Sadly, the very means we use to try to make getting to know someone more predictable are so overapplied that we have sucked all the danger and uncertainty out of it. No wonder affairs and flings are fun, even if they do go to shit in the end and in a hurry: it’s the one time where people will throw caution to the wind and take a chance. Maybe even feel alive again.

    In the modern day, you “pre-date” using all the electronic means available: you size them up virtually before you even size them up in person or exhange pleasantries. Hell, you can even call it off virtually so you don’t have to do it in person and be the bad guy/girl. With Tweet, Myspace, Facebook, texting, cell phones, and IM’s there’s no need to be without knowledge of what your significant other is doing, thinking, sharing, or saying. So much so, you expect it to the point of panic when it ain’t happening, you become tethered. Instead of defining moments in a relationship to push it along, you have artificial timetables and deadlines. And even when all this effort yields a relationship, one feels horribly disappointed and shocked if it fails, as if all of these efforts were supposed to be a guarantee of anything. The grand illusion of control is revealed.

    I had a woman recently give me a puzzled look when I gave her my phone number at a coffee shop after an unplanned but fun lunch – – – I don’t always do bars or clubs. Sensing it, I jokingly asked her if anyone recognized “land line” numbers anymore. The nervous giggle was telling. . . . scary.

  2. This blog resonates with me. As a woman, I’ve noticed over the years that men rarely “make the ask” anymore in those chance encounters, and even less common events, such as a friend’s BBQ.

    It really makes me question whether anyone is serious at all about relationships as a priority, or if the electronic catalogs of people to choose from has exasperated what was already a problem with “maybe I can do better”.

    I recently when on a date with a much younger man simply because he made the ask, in public, and even in front of a big group of my friends – he seemed unfazed by the prospect of rejection – he wanted to see me again and he wasn’t letting the opportunity slip away. He didn’t give me his card – he asked for a date, on a specific night, and took my number. He didn’t text me the next day, he called. Refreshing. The age difference was too much for me, and I knew it from the get go, but simply because he asked me out “the old fashioned way” and that’s so rare these days, I simply said yes, I’d love to join you for dinner.

    Now, contrast that with a recent event at a friend’s birthday party/BBQ. A friend-of-a-friend seemed interested in me, great conversation, cool guy. I knew he’d suggest hanging out again, but if that happened again would be determined by whether he had the guts to just make the ask. He didn’t. He hedged his bet by giving me his business card and then connecting with me later on Facebook. The Facebook dialogue made it clear he was fishing for an opening, testing the waters. I just lost interest, he’s one of those guys who’s just 100x more appealing in person, and he’d lost that edge by hiding behind what Aiden aptly calls “pre-date” activity. If he had made the ask at the BBQ, it would have been bold. And that’s exactly why I would have said yes. Facebook chit-chat later he is squarely in the friend bucket, and that’s the bucket that is next to impossible to get out of.

    This, btw, is exactly the kind of “sort of wanna a relationship” and “will sorta make an effort” bullshit that made me take a 5-month break from dating altogether. I had honestly thought, well, I gained weight, the reality is I’m less physically appealing, so maybe that’s why I’m not getting the guys who are really serious about a relationship, why things just don’t seem to be happening “naturally”. So I lost the weight. As you can imagine, sure, a lot more in-person encounters seemed to happen….but still, the men just simply didn’t do, well, anything.

    The 5-month break wasn’t just for an external makeover, it was for an internal one too. My head “cleared” and clarity is an amazing thing.

    If a man didn’t risk anything to get me in the first place, if he didn’t put in much of an effort to obtain me, and I, as the woman, made the mistake of letting him text, email and online profile his way into my life, then why on earth was I surprised that he didn’t really value me? Why was I surprised that he wasn’t going to put any effort into the relationship?

    1. I want a man who takes chances, who will be “that guy” who asks the cute girl at the coffee shop for her number. To me, that means he’s sick of being alone and is willing to risk rejection to find a woman he might be compatible with. Litmus test.

    2. The right match for me will be an alpha-male, I have a very strong persona. Alpha-males take the lead, they don’t hand out their number, they get one. They don’t hide behind texts and emails, it’s not direct enough. They tend ask for the date real-time, suggest a specific outing, and that’s that. Alpha males don’t wait. They’re hunters, and when they see their prey, they act.

    3. I need a man who loves the outdoors. He won’t be spending a lot of time online dating, Twittering, on Facebook or the like. He’ll be kayaking on the ocean. He’ll be rock-climbing. He’ll have an outdoor BBQ. So now, that’s where I am. Outdoors. The right guy, the one who has a relationship as a top priority *and* has interest in me – he will make the ask. I will keep enjoying my interests outdoors and hope to run into him someday. When he asks, my answer will be yes.

    P.S. Aiden also made a very intriguing observation regarding affairs and the rush that comes with risk, with “just going for it” no matter what anybody thinks. It really made me sit back and think, whoa, he’s on to something. I wish we would put more risk in the upfront courtship…

  3. BTW, Serendipity, I have to throw in the disclaimer that I’m not endorsing messing with other people’s lovers or wives;)

    Funny, if people are willing to risk so little now, then what will they risk after they land a relationship, when the stakes are higher?

  4. Hi Aiden – it didn’t come across as endorsement at all, it just gave me a new perspective (which BTW is hard to do on that subject, I am fiercely opposed to cheating of any sort). You just brought up an interesting point. There’s a lack of spontaneity and risk-taking in today’s upfront courtship – and perhaps that same fear of rejection is not present when you have someone to fall back on, to validate that you’re already wanted (e.g. you have an existing relationship).

    That, in turn, alludes to another question – what people think is worth the risk. If you read Zack’s blogs, it’s clear he believes these chance encounters bring an opportunity to find someone special, and therefore it’s worth the risk to at least try. Likewise, as a woman, I have found that a man who has the guts to at least make the ask is worth the risk of at least giving him a try.

    In my experience, men who have enough self-esteem to give it a shot – ask out the cute girl they meet in line at the supermarket – also have enough self-esteem to say “no thanks” to temptations down the road. Further, because they had to work to get the girl, they tend to be less willing to risk losing her.

  5. There, honestly, needs to be a paradigm shift when it comes to the way we date. But there will be blood and people will have to get a thicker skin. Fact is, all things have occupational hazards. Paper cuts for office hacks, bullets for soldiers, falling for construction workers. People need to come to terms with the notion that all relationships are fraught with peril; that as much as honesty hurts to hear it’s what allows us to improve, for things to progress and move forward surely; that we will be stripped bare,lay exposed, and be transformed; that one should just take pleasure in the process because even the best relationships end but that doesn’t necessarily negate all that came before. Today’s person almost wants to hedge a bet against failure despite the fact that the House of Chaos holds all the cards! Unless people get a backbone quick, some people will make nothing happen while someone else moves the earth even a bit at a time;)

  6. The Internet has opened up the world to us, and maybe as a bad consequence, we can see all the possibility that lies out there in the world, which makes us wonder. With all of the possibility in the world at my fingertips, why settle for something mundane in my own backyard? With all the possibility in the world at my fingertips, what makes me think I’m going to find the one right here in my city? Maybe all this Internet dating has made us cynical, that “the one” even lives in our town.

    In previous generations, people didn’t worry as much about the rest of the world. They dealt with what they had in their own city. There wasn’t really much of a choice, was there? They saw a girl/guy that caught their eye and they went for it. These days, as a guy, sometimes I see a woman, and think well maybe, but why would she pick me? It’s not that I don’t think I’m a catch. Let’s just say that my treasure is a little harder to see. You’re gonna have to talk to me. I’m funny and engaging and smart, and I suspect that if you got to know me, I’d be a lot more attractive than I may seem at first. However, with all the competition out from the rest of the world it’s rather daunting.

    Combine this with the parenting technique of filling our kids with self-esteem rather than self-reliance. We Gen X’ers got a little of it, but Gen Y, and later generations are getting ridiculous sums of it. We have a generation of people, now adults, who have been told all their lives that they are “special” and “unique” and “the greatest thing on the earth.” All of that may be true, but what no one bothered to tell some of them is that SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. You can see it in the way some people behave, treat others, and act with their peers. These people are the ones who say, “I’m so wonderful; I got it going on, so why should I settle for anything less than what I deserve.”

    No one deserves less, the problem is some people were filled with so much self esteem, they think by their very existence they deserve more. In the article “Generation Me,” from Newsweek a study cited that, “30 percent of college students agree with the statement: “If I show up to every class, I deserve at least a B.” Stunning!

    Folks, take a deep breath. In a lot of ways you are just like everyone else. That should give you some comfort because that means you’re not alone. We’re all in it together, so everything you’re feeling, somone else is feeling too. So relax, enjoy yourself, improve yourself, and your special one will make themselves known.

  7. Interesting conversation. I agree with Serendipity that men have become more submissive and that we need to toughen up and realize that women still do want to be romanced the old fashion way. I also sometimes feel the same sadness that Zack does about many of us hiding behind the internet avoiding genuine social encounters.

    With all of the changes like the Internet it is good to become aware of the challenges and the opportunities. Thanks for the post!

  8. Actually, I disagree. Most people tend to hate online dating, even a notable section of those who are on there.

    They want “serendipity”, “chance-encounters”, and immersed in RomCom plots that will make them feel special, and it seem validated… because of someone’s story, like your English teacher.

    Well, guess what? Same type of story is out there too, except the English teacher says “What was I thinking? I liked some chick, it was a notable situation where I said I married her, and I did — because I figured that we should have. And then she did Jesus, the ripped gardener, 10 years later…”

    Point is, it’s not about HOW you meet someone. That is sooo childish. It’s about if they’re a good match for you. Problem with online dating, it becomes more like a supermarket comparing prices for some, and they utilize it the wrong way (peer pressure assists in that).

    Bottom line — find a person who ends up being right for you. You’re not going to know the first time you see them. You can only put them in a “decent probability” until you settle in with them.

  9. With respect, it’s not about Rom-Com plots. Those are mostly ridiculous. But they are popular with women, because they tap into a deep vein of need – the desire to be wanted, that a man will risk public humiliation (or worse) to obtain her.

    That’s why HOW you meet someone matters. It’s a question of risk. The man who has met some trial-by-fire has demonstrated a commitment, or at least some level of initiative and courage. That’s why we admire these these stories. Because someone had the wit and courage to approach a total stranger and bluster his way into getting a date.

    As Serendipity laments, it’s all a bit to bloodless and risk-free these days. SMS, Facebook “friending”, and hanging-out are comfortably ambiguous, taking the danger out of the whole endeavor.

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