Readers, if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been writing dating advice columns at Thought Catalog recently. At first it wasn’t a conscious decision; I just felt I’d run out of things to say on the topic for the time being, and I didn’t want to beat a dead horse so hard that it turned into glue. You get stuck to it. You become one of those one issue people, always harping on the same subject. I have a friend that’s obsessed with bisexual invisibilty, and it’s all he can ever talk about. We were having a conversation the other day about something completely unrelated — the Boston Explosions, Chechnya or something of the like — and he stops the conversation to ask, “Well, what about the bisexuals?” “What about them?” I asked.
We all do this, and as a fellow bisexual person, I understand the compulsion, even if the context was utterly inappropriate and tone-deaf. We have topics we nourish in our brains, feeding them more information and obsessing about them as if we were Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. However, when we get too involved, our obsessions have a way of changing us, until we walk around as a half mutant creation, asking those around us to kill us already. Just put me out of my misery.
As I’ve been finding out, there’s no better example of this than our dating lives, which we often treat as the only thing that exists. It’s like we have a satellite dish full of options, but the Dating Channel is the only one we pay attention to. Dating is like Lost. It takes over our lives, dominating our conversations and our thoughts. We go on message boards to try to figure out what it all means, trading theories and trying to make connections. Dating is our constant, the thing that keeps us grounded in space, and without that, we drift through time without purpose. It’s our only reason for being.
Look at the number of internet articles and books devoted to telling us how to behave in front of the guy who likes us, how to get the girl to call, how to win friends and influence people, how to trick people into liking you and how to not die alone. Our lifestyle is created for us — by magazines that tell us we’re nothing if we’re not dating someone, but it’s okay to be single, we swear! We become that friend who always tells us how great it is to be single or that they are “taking some time to date themselves for awhile.”
The empowerment of the single person is an important critique of Singleism — the notion that your self-worth is tied to your romantic potential, as if we’d internalized the dowry. However, even when we obsessively affirm our singledom, aren’t we still obsessing about dating? If we really want to shove it to Dating Culture, we have to stop talking about it so much and stop prioritizing it in our lives. We don’t have to be empowered singleton or an empowered husband. We can just be an empowered person. I’m not happy because I’m single. I’m happy because I’m alive.
When the internet lashes out at Ann Coulter or the Westboro Baptist Church for being problematic, a common response is that we just need to ignore them. It’s like a four-year old through a temper tantrum. If we ignore them, the histrionics will cease. They’ll go away. Why can’t we do the same for dating?
The other day I sat at lunch with three of my best friends who are all engaged in various forms of non-attachment. We’re all dating or not dating (technically) or not not dating but really dating either or dating work or dating our Netflix accounts. (I don’t know about you, but Netflix is the most loving boyfriend I’ll ever have. He gets me.) We spent our entire conversation picking apart our mates’ behavior and trying to figure out how into us he is. With Netflix, I’m just not sure if I sense the connection anymore. He’s always finishing early, just shutting down and going to black.
Or with his crappy buffering, it takes him forever to finish. I wait for him to finally unload, until I get bored and move onto Hulu Plus. Hulu is better at communicating. I can read his signals.
Does endlessly overanalyzing our love lives make us feel any happier or more fulfilled by them? No. We just get exhausted by them, looking for meaning in everything — the clouds, our Horoscopes or even the shape of the mashed potatoes. We are intelligent people capable of conversing on a number of different subjects from the geopolitical lessons of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis and a peaceful solution to the escalation of conflict with North Korea to what happened on Scandal last night. (Hint: it was probably epic.) We can use our capacity to overanalyze to unpack grand concepts or pick apart pop cultural minutiae, finding treasure in another man’s trash. Chuck Klosterman even made a career out of it.
We have an endless capacity for intellect and thought, and we do ourselves no service when we only use our brains for one thing. We should be as diverse and fascinating as the neurons and cells inside us, a testament to the wonder with which we are created. Our brains are hardwired by neural maps by our daily function. How we respond to things and what information we take in creates a pattern, one that dictates our habits. We are hardwired to be creatures of habit, navigating the daily roads of our lives with familiar routes. Where we’ve been before dictates where we will go. We create the map and we create the destination.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with human beings’ potential for love and emotional transformation, but we should use our hearts to take in other things and care about more than our own romantic happiness. Our love can be boundless, but we have to force ourselves to think about love differently and to love greater and more profoundly. We need to love with our brains, our hands and a force greater than what they’re selling on OKCupid. Humanity, in all its beauty and terror, is the greatest love we will ever know. That’s the love that’s worth obsessing over.