Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Mishmash of different things

1. I read Away with my book club. I liked it, and so did the roommate. No one else did. It was my first book club meeting, which was interesting. A varied group of people, and just like in class, there are some people who are smarter or more intellectual than others, and you can't tell the others to shut up because they are adding nothing to the discussion. I really liked the girl who was leading the discussion, though. If I remember correctly, she's a teacher.

At any rate, you should all read it and let me know what you think.

2. A little while ago, Esther Kustanowitz emailed me (and her whole list) a blog posting by XGH about how Esther missed the point in dating. Or she isn't dating correctly. I found his piece to be very interesting (no, seriously) and it made me think about a couple things:

A. We're told from childhood that we're "special" and "unique" then we grow up, are thrown into a new environment (often a city, it's easier to date and get married in a small town/small pool) and told to find someone like us. It's a pretty large order, especially for those who don't have a tight-knit community and the automatic filters of Orthodoxy. It can seem so overwhelming, so people HAVE to define boundaries, (like I want someone who covers her hair, but wears pants) if only to be able to start selecting.

B. We're also told that we shouldn't "settle," but also that "no one is perfect" and that "people can change" but "you shouldn't try to change someone." So what are we supposed to do? Pick someone whom you like the way that they are, but maybe they could be better, but they have to be pretty good already, or else you're worried that you could "do better." It is all a bit confusing. When people are "too picky" I think it comes from a place of not knowing HOW to choose, and making, sometimes arbitrary decisions.

As a corollary to that: while the characteristics that XGH lists (looks, money, family, etc) shouldn't be the only ways that you measure a possible mate, neither should you ignore them. For instance, I have an ex whose family was totally crazy. It wasn't just an issue of when we saw them, but also the example it set for him in terms of interpersonal relationships. He was really nice most of the time, but didn't get that when you're angry, you can't make personal attacks against someone you love. Well, you can, but you shouldn't. It made it impossible for me to be around him anytime that he was frustrated or angry, because I'd be worried that he'd take it out on me. I found myself avoiding conflict, etc, etc. Same sort of deal with looks. If you aren't attracted to someone, you just aren't. That is fine. You shouldn't canonize some ideal of beauty and look for that, but if you happen to have a thing for redheads (as I used to), or smaller women, or whatever, that isn't a bad thing. You have to build a life with someone, and that includes an intimate life. If you aren't attracted to them, your relationship, no matter how spiritual it may be, is not complete*.

C. I believe that if you are unmarried up to the age of 30, that it is possible that it just didn't click for you (I also believe that, on some level, everyone has the love life that they want, but we can talk about that later), but after 30 maybe you should start looking at yourself. The longer you stay single, the more set in your ways you get. That said, I'd rather be single at 35 than compromise and marry some guy just for the sake of getting married. XGH and I might disagree on whether or not marriage is an end in an of itself. I don't want to be married for the sake of being married, I want to find the one for whom my soul calls out (NB: CJ and I have been dating for a year, this week), and I don't think that, that is unreasonable.

*This assumes that you are attracted to other people. If you're asexual, go for it. Also, you don't need to be THE MOST attracted to your mate, but there has to be something.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the corollary to B, you say looks, family, and money matter. But you only give examples of looks and family mattering. Could you please provide an example of money mattering?

Annie said...

Sure, money matters in the following way:

If you want to send your kids to Jewish day school, you need to (as a family) make a baseline amount of money. If you want to live close to a synagogue, in a Jewish community, most of those places are pretty expensive too...

I'm not saying that money should be the only consideration, but if two people in a couple each make $35k a year, it will be hard for them to live a traditionally Orthodox life. Not impossible, but hard.

montana urban legend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
montana urban legend said...

Women are so funny these days. So now physically attractive has come into the forefront of attributes (or at least make-or-break decision points) to look for. Personally, I can't find a woman physically attractive unless something about her personality can draw me in. Which has to be a good regulatory mechanism against women thinking they can look like "all that" and then get away with not having a personality, as if looks alone should comprise their sole sense of reproductive worth.

Looks. Looks. Your post assumes that what looks nice to someone one day is what will look nice to them the next day and every day thereafter, as if such a preference should remain stuck in time forever. I suppose I should feel lucky for never having had to cope with such a limitation personally.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I can't find a woman physically attractive unless something about her personality can draw me in."

I don't suffer from that condition. -TR

montana urban legend said...

Then The Rooster should take credit for doing his part to ensure that women will continue to valued primarily, or at least much more so than they should be, for something so superficial as what they look like. I would think that when it comes to the overall human condition, we could evolve to a point where that's no longer the case. But not when dispositions like the above rule the day.

Anonymous said...

I don't value a woman qua human being on the basis of her looks. I don't even value a woman qua potential girlfriend solely on the basis of her looks. My "disposition" (sounds like a disease!) has absolutely nothing to do with whatever it is you are talking about. Also, it works both ways: the last thing I would want a sexual partner to think about me during the act of consummation is, "He's so...so...intelligent and interesting!"

-TR

montana urban legend said...

Hmmm... probably during consummation you're thinking about... how good the connection is, and whether there is enough intimacy in that connection to make it meaningful, so that future acts of consummation will be (at least) as likely and rewarding. But that's only if you're thinking of the long-term situation. Which is contingent, perhaps, on many things, but more likely contingent on how those many things fit together within each individual and between the two of you together.

It sounds to me like you know enough to admit that your physical prowess, etc. alone will only make future acts of "consummation" so likely, and when that's not the case, only with certain kinds of individuals.

As for looks, I'm not saying that people can't compartmentalize little (or long) mate-based "shopping lists" of individual factors, one of which could be "looks". I'm not even saying that to do so devalues their worth as a human being, at least insofar as whether or not you think that person's worth as a human being is relegated to this generation. And once they die, whether or not they've managed to be considered attractive enough to be worthy of reproduction you might very well consider to be their own problem. And that's fine, I suppose. But I can guarantee you that's not what the lady's thinking, Dude.

Long term thinking vs. short-term reward.

Reproduction. We don't get immortality. Instead we get a bargain that allows us to combine half our genes with half from someone else so that half of us continues for at least another generation. It ain't much, but it's all we've got. For now. Might as well make that "other half" someone very important - important to you, at least. And not necessarily to all the "someones" who regularly connect or confuse long-term compatibility with whatever happens to turn their head in a split second today. Which too many people do nowadays. But the transformation of mass media from a visual format to one that is primarily text-based should help.

"Got to be good-looking 'cause it's so hard to see"

Lennon-McCartney

Anonymous said...

MUL --

Who said anything about reproduction? I don't want children. Ever.

Also, you write, "probably during consummation you're thinking about... how good the connection is, and whether there is enough intimacy in that connection to make it meaningful." Uhhh...no.

-TR

montana urban legend said...

It's certainly possible for an absolute hedonist to separate sex from reproduction. But the behaviors that evolved around reproduction - including attraction, courtship, relationships, etc. - which are in part obviously sexual in nature - retain links to each other that women largely don't decouple as easily as the rooster might. It's not all just about him, but a larger dynamic that evolution won't so easily discard just for the sake of conveniently self-centered acts of sexual gratification, as available to him as modern life in a big city might make them. Imagine that.

"Also, you write, "probably during consummation you're thinking about... how good the connection is, and whether there is enough intimacy in that connection to make it meaningful." Uhhh...no."

See above. And also see the full quote for context, which includes "so that future acts of consummation [with that person] will be (at least) as likely and rewarding." One-night-stands or anything that assumes either: your lack of interest, or supremely megalomaniacal confidence, in sexually ever being with that person again, don't count.

Of course, there's no accounting for matters of individual taste, or what might strike some as not so tasteful relationship preferences. But every now and then some of us get out of bed the next morning, crow "cock-a-doodle-doo" at the sun, and decide to actually grow in what many would consider a bit of a more positive and fulfilling direction. Not that I would want to assume that whatever you're doing isn't fulfilling enough. But perhaps I misread you?

montana urban legend said...

Also, I'm not sure why you keep referring to yourself, as if your preferences represent the new trend in reproductive biology, its evolution, or its social dynamics. From the first post I've been addressing a larger picture, regardless of whatever personal anecdotes I managed to throw in as well. And I think there could be a variety of reasons for various decisions and preferences that are similar or dissimilar to those you describe personally. But your short and intrinsically personal responses seem to cover a sort of defensiveness that I can't find any other reason for than perhaps some sort of personal rationalization or self-justification. Again, though, perhaps I misread you. Perhaps you could explain. I'm really not into debating "whose individual actions and preferences in life and personal relationships are better or more representative of how things are" so much as I am interested in exploring larger trends, how they come about, what they imply. It's a more interesting discussion the more impersonal it stays. (At least if that's what needs to be done to keep it honest without the defensiveness that so often obscures true honesty).

Anonymous said...

Ok, fair enough. Let me say a few things:

1) You misread me a little bit. My initial point was that most people are perfectly capable of being attracted to someone whose personality they don't like. When you said (about yourself) otherwise, my bullshit detector went off. I don't know you, but it's hard for me to seriously imagine that you are exactly like you claim. In fact, on your most recent blog post, you refer to Amy Lee as "unattainably physically inviting," and then spend the rest of the post deriding her vapidity. So that's my point, in a nutshell: even stupid people with whom you might not want to talk about philosophy or politics are physically attractive. If I found out tomorrow that Eva Longoria was a seething racist, my desire to have sex with her would not attenuate one bit. But she'd have to pay for her own cab the next morning!!

2) You seem to be moralizing in a bad way. In a holier-than-thou way. In a way that, most of the time, is self-aggrandizing and hypocritical. "Look at me! I am so enlightened that I don't want to fuck you unless I find you interesting! Because I am all about connection and commitment!" Any more pedantic and you'd probably be leading some double life as a meth-addled sexual compulsive really into leather.

Ok, let me reel it in. I don't mean to insult you, but I feel totally alienated from whatever interpersonal theories you are talking about. Talking about sex as if its only ever positive when there is deep connection and/or procreation on the line is the kind of moralizing fiction that crypto-fascist theocrats use to "sanitize" our thoughts and actions. I say to hell with all that. Life would be pointless and boring without a little bacchanalia to keep us distracted.

Also, God does not exist and George Bush is a mass-murdering scumbag.

-TR

montana urban legend said...

I'll concede that bacchanalia is fine, especially a little bit of it, every now and then. It can even be a bit refreshing from time to time. And I wasn't moralizing - not one bit. I'm actually much more the pragmatist and moderate than you seem to "detect" me for. A moralist wouldn't have painted bacchanalia as immature in the abstract or in excess, as I did. A moralist would have called it wrong. Period. Which I did not. And I can make arguments in the abstract with varying degrees of personal distance from them, and with varying degrees of elements of a nature that others would consider moral about them. It doesn't mean I'm arguing solely, if dishonestly, for my own benefit OR that I am a moral absolutist. It means there are shades of gray. And it means that cries of "bullshit" are best reserved for the kind of moralist who thinks hypocrisy is a worse crime
than gaining unwarranted access to the insides of someone else's head. (Really, how well do you know me! Or anyone else, for that matter, to whom you would ultimately apply generalizations that are at least as broad even if they merely conform to the "norm" of your own experience?)

As for the Amy Lee thing, I think what I pick up on is whether someone might "fit in" well on the cover of a magazine. Believe it or not, to do so can actually be an objective judgment of what others, not necessarily I, will see in someone - (I know, some of my friends even doubt that, deep down, I would really stoop to being that way too). But I do. Absolutely. Women make objective judgments about other women's physical "beauty" all the time without having a personal reaction - (at least when, for some reason, what constitutes said beauty is no longer relegated to the eye of the beholder). You don't have to believe that I do, but appeals to popularity (or personal experience) do not a truism make. Except for rich guys, who can get EVERY woman they want! And except when they have to pay for seminars in the seduction community on how to do so without coming across as a true pick-up artist, of course.

That being said, I have not found it an uncommon experience that a woman who looks like she feels she could be on the cover of a magazine has done zilch in the way of developing a personality. And that's often because she knows certain (many) people will let her get away with not having much else to offer in life. But I reserve the right to not be much impressed by it, even if I only(!) differ from you and go that extra step - by applying my "been there, done that" attitude sexually. That being said, it's kind of cool that my current gf can manage to not let her model-style looks (as confirmed by others) get in the way of her incredibly warm heart, kick-ass personality, and lack of any fear or insecurity in the open-minded, be yourself and achieve-whatever-you-want-in-life departments.

In any event, I regret that you feel alienated from the points I mentioned, but it's hard for me to guarantee that you should personally identify with them, or that you should even want to. I'm not much into the "anticipate others' reactions" thing. Again, it's hard to talk in the abstract about something that so many people immediately draw irrevocable links to the personal with, moreso than probably almost any other topic. But it can certainly be attempted. We do it whenever we expect intellectual or social progress or enlightenment when it comes to anything else. Despite all the apparently glaring deficits in my approach, why not when it comes to this stuff?

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Esther Kustanowitz said...

I have no idea what that last comment means. But whatever.

And just to clarify, I didn't send the post to everyone. Just to a few special people for whom I thought it might be interesting. So don't sell yourself short!

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