In September, life begins anew in the academic world, precipitating an increase in social gathering frequency. Perhaps it is the chill in the air, or the aphrodisiac of alcohol, but without intending to, I feel attracted to everybody and nobody and it weighs on my mind that I am less of a calculating creature than I thought I was. The dance of companionship (or dare I say love?) is a dogged one for many of us, but does our approach make it needlessly difficult?
It starts with television. We analyze the relationships in every show and ride the emotional roller coaster of the characters’ love lives. Given the plasticity of our minds and the endorphins produced while enjoying quality entertainment, it’s no surprise that we perpetuate what we see on the tube—those same behaviours, social cues, techniques, and preferences.
By this point I hope you, too, are frightened that television is doing the dating for us. Stereotypes cannot help but flourish in the context of mass media, because the condensed information cannot help being a message about the world around us; it has to do with how our brains are wired. Our wonderful mind is so susceptible to the information gathered when we are emotionally enraptured in our favourite programme that we do not know that our views are being channeled.
To bring this back to dating, there are some important stereotypes I see fit to debunk. In their survey of 6,000 people, Match.com gained some insight from the trends. Some interesting tidbits include: 85 per cent of single people report having been in love previously (men and women in equal proportion), 30 per cent of single women and 44 per cent of single men wish they had someone to share their daily life with, and nearly one third of the dating pool has committed infidelity.
Further statistics suggest that all genders are more apt to settle for someone who isn’t a perfect match but shares similar values and stability in personal lives. This can be played off as a kind of maturity, but I read it as a kind of hopelessness and impatience when searching for deep and passionate love. Fear of loneliness is also a factor. It is nothing short of a crime that anyone feels pressured to be with someone for any reason other than a peaceful and clear inner desire to do so.
My point is that we must not be taken in by the notion of a ‘normal relationship.’ There is no ‘dating approach’ that will yield a perfect match, or even a guarantee that the other person will hang around, especially at young ages when life is in a constant state of flux. Instead of being frustrated by this, we should embrace the discovery of our own individual preferences and desires. They emerge from within us, not from a twisted notion of social norm. If your preferences change, that’s a healthy sign of growth and there is no shame in having altered your criteria.