There is a problem with the way we see each other (particularly while “dating”); the people we meet are usually described in books or articles as characters, but very rarely does writing do justice and characterize them as human beings. I think this is a big problem, one that probably boils down to lack of patience, frustration, and loneliness, but one that can be worked on if we take a deep breath and examine things with some perspective.
I. Small, Boring, But Necessary Intro
I like the notion that most people fortunate enough to have sight, only see with their eyes. These eyes’ photoreceptors take in the world and present us with a 2-D representation, and make us aware of a third dimension with depth perception via binocular vision. Science aside, we remain ignorant of any dimensions past our own, and oftentimes don’t fully master the third dimension (athletes and the like are the exception).
The best example of dimensional perspective I know of is thinking of a being confined to two dimensions, some sort of shape. This shape (let’s call it a triangle) only knows the XY plane and can move around freely, if only on a fixed plane. Should this shape come in contact with a three dimensional object moving through its plane, say a sphere, it would note a circle growing and then shrinking until it disappeared. Normal shapes can’t disappear, so this is beyond the comprehension of our sad 2-D friend.
Our sphere knows what it is and how it operates in a 3-D plane, but without some outside the box (err, square) thinking, the shape simply cannot relate.
II. Enter Jane (She’s 3-D, don’t worry)
Jane is a girl you (for this example, a straight male) see sitting at a bar with some friends. She is beautiful and fits your ideal description of a desirable female. You make eye contact and go talk to her. After hitting it off, her friends deem you okay and serendipitously notice some other people they need to talk to at the other side of the bar.
There are two ways this night ends:
A) Things go wonderfully, and assuming you were up for it, you and Jane hang out after the bar closes. The night ends with the two of you having sex.
B) You get her number. You get a generous hug goodbye and you text a little before calling it a night. Both of you plan on seeing each other again.
Let’s explore some ways society has us look at these situations in stereotypical ways.
III. One Dimension
Ending A’s a one-nighter. Nice. In ‘n out, there’s a notch on the belt. This ending is one that is predominantly viewed “One-dimensionally,” where Jane is essentially objectified. There is no human aspect about her other than the body that you had your way with the night before. People in one dimension are boring, but easy to work with. A night at the bar will feature many people surveying the population with a 1-D approach. Consequently, those “on the prowl” will not be thinking of Jane’s personality, or any of her soon-to-be described two-dimensional features.
IV. Two Dimensions
Ending B is more open-ended, so we’ll expound on the situation. After the first night, you go on multiple dates with Jane, who is a fantastic woman, and as previously stated, is everything you would look for in a girlfriend. She seems to like you too, and conversation and flirting is natural and grows organically. After a while, you’ve become intimate. However, after five dates, she cuts it off, apologizes and says you’re a great guy, but can’t continue seeing you.
What gives? Jane is not a piece of meat here, she’s a person you’re genuinely interested in, and she liked you, too. On a personal level, you relate to her. She’s a hard worker, ambitious, enjoys the same activities as you. You were about to ask her to be your girlfriend. Like a triangle trying to observe a sphere, your 2-D perspective of Jane leaves you puzzled and hurt.
On the darker side of the reaction spectrum, your hurt turns into spite, and Jane becomes a two-faced bitch in your mind that was probably talking to multiple guys and got bored of you. Come to think of it, some of the things she said sounded fishy anyway… maybe it’s time to get checked for any STDs.
On the other side, you’re crushed, but just as confused. Trying to talk to her gets you nowhere, and she just becomes more distant. What the hell could be wrong with you?
V. Three Dimensions
Jane has been single for two years after ending a relationship that spanned half a decade. She spent that time working on herself and figuring out if she was ready to try and meet someone new. She’s come to enjoy her independence however, and while meeting the right guy would be great, she doesn’t feel like wasting time she could use to pursue her passions dealing with someone she doesn’t think she would mesh with long-term.
Still playing off ending B, when she met you, she was excited because you were attractive, and didn’t seem to instantly objectify her. You were charming and after she got to know you, she was ready to meet up. After some time, the two of you were intimate, and although it was sooner than she preferred, it had been a long time, and you felt comfortable. It was different from her distant memories of another relationship, but nice.
By the third date, she noticed some mannerisms that weren’t bad, but weren’t good either. From past experience, those were things she didn’t care for in a guy. You were still a good person, and there was no need to stop seeing you based on small assumptions. Unfortunately, by the end of the fifth date, Jane did decide that you were not the one she was looking for. And while you were a fun person to be with, Jane either wants to work on her passions, or spend that time with a guy she can see a future with.
This short doesn’t even describe Jane’s family life, or other aspects of her past that shape how she deciphers the present. In short, this doesn’t even do the third dimension justice. Just as the second can be from the first, the third dimension of a person is infinitely more complex than the second, so one who can only see Jane from a two-dimensional perspective will find themselves lost.
VI. What’s Lost To Us
The books and movies that are most successful deliver us characters that we can almost perceive in this third dimension. We relate with these characters best because we grow with them. Others are presented to us in a limited light, but with the same perspective that we may be used to seeing or reading of others (think two-dimensionally).
I think this translates to the way most of us look at the world. People aren’t given chances for the wrong reasons, and when we are given chances, if it doesn’t work out, we’re completely lost because we don’t have the capability to see into another’s thought process (though we shouldn’t, because then none of this would be fun).
It’s difficult to fully see someone else’s situation and how exactly they are working with us at the time, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand anyway. When we understand the characters better, the story gets better. I don’t see why that should differ in actual human interaction.