Monday, February 28, 2005

YOUR LIFE IS A JOKE. LET’S GET IT ON TAPE!

As I take a rare moment to flip through the four channels I get on my television, I come across at least five commercials for new reality dating shows. Is there anything more pathetic than watching somebody try desperately to fall in love? Lack of quality entertainment is why I stopped watching television in the first place (well, that and you know – I lost my remote control.) It’s typical that I can’t get a date, but when other people are having trouble finding love, something has got to be wrong. It seems that everybody has the same problem: they don’t know where to meet good people.

It used to be that a person could go to places like a church to meet a potential mate. But, who the fuck wants to date some crazy religious zealot? I don’t know about you, but I value not having to get up early on Sunday. Another typically safe place to meet a potential lover was the grocery store, but people are too busy stocking up on supplies for the coming apocalypse to notice another attractive person. It also used to be that you could go to a bar to find a lover, but with the advent of date-rape drugs, and the variety and wide availability of venereal diseases floating around these days, not to mention that Michelob Ultra crap, the bar is no longer safe courting grounds.

It’s clear that the American dating system of courtship until marriage is breaking down. This could partially be due to the fact that marriage is becoming an increasingly doomed enterprise. Think about it: how many people under of the age of thirty do you know that are divorced? With all of the marital problems I constantly hear about, it’s a shock that we still celebrate the exchange of vows and console those who are getting a divorce. Logic holds that it should be just the opposite.

In the days of yore (1980s), dating was a private and common practice shared between two potential lovers in the hopes that such an encounter would lead to a fruitful relationship. If successful, the first date was usually followed by a second, then a third and after a long courtship, a celebratory adjoining ceremony in which two symbolically become one (AKA marriage). But dating has evolved into an interactive, televised, post-modern spectator event. A lonely single no longer has to cruise the aisles at a grocery store for prospective dates; he can now pick and choose his lovers on a game show – live! in front of a studio audience. Likewise, the recluse no longer has to cruise the mall for ripe, nubile teenage girls, he can just log onto the internet and discreetly meet tons and tons of teenies who are eager to share their secrets with a complete stranger.

Surely we all know of people who have tried their hand at internet dating. Some may work with a casual internet dater, or have one in their family or household, or even, ahem…be… one. But, is this what it has come to? The answer is yes and I’m saddened by this fact, not because it seems creepy and cold to use a medium of technological interface to try and lure a member of the opposite sex to meet at a safe, neutral location – wait, that does sound kind of creepy – but because the world that we live in now requires you to create a login name to score. Have things really gotten so bad that people can’t relate to each other and proceed accordingly old fashioned way – awkwardly, yet casually approaching someone, striking up a conversation, hoping to god that you haven’t said anything idiotic and if you did, she didn’t catch it, then nervously asking for a phone number and walking away feeling either victorious or stupid for even approaching said person in the first place? I believe that they have not.

However, as hinted at above, I have to admit that I have tried web-dating. Initially, my interest was only superficial due to skepticism because of what I thought was lack of actual potential. Predictably, a few ladies caught my fancy and I sent them a clever and non-threatening note and awaited their eventual rejection. But then something unpredictable happened: an interested party actually responded. Then another girl contacted me of her own accord, without prior provocation. Then another. Eventually I felt as though I actually had to turn chicks away for the first time in my life.

I am happy to report that one of these courtships did come to fruition, and am equally sad to further report that it was only for a short while, as the lady in question soon grew tired of my more realistic non-internet persona. And so, I chalk that endeavor up as yet another failure. But it has become especially hard to deal with now because so many fucking people I know are hooking up over the web. Once again the masses are succeeding where I have failed, miserably. In fact, I think I know more people by association through this dating service than by any other accountable and tangible means of traditional encounter. Of course, very few people do I know as a direct result of my personal experiences with web-dating – only through the experiences of others. There is virtually a “virtual” community emerging, composed entirely of e-daters. And I may very well be at the national apex.

Now, in the spirit of individuality, I have resolved to engage in e-dating no longer. I have challenged myself to think “outside the box” (computer) and assert myself in a face-to-face encounter with a woman of my particular fancy. I always imagine that I will meet my soulmate at the library or the record store and we will immediately hit it off because of our mutual love for some seemingly mundane, but personally indispensable pop-culture phenomenon. Then it occurs to me that this may not happen because I don’t even know where a library is and I usually make a habit of not talking to strangers.

Therein lies the main problem with trying to seek and obtain that one true love: people are scared. I don’t know what it is, man, but I’m scared of meeting people. I do know that once I meet a person and become comfortable, I become extremely likable. But, then kicks in what I call the 90 day guarantee: in 90 days or less I guarantee that I will have repeatedly done/said stupid/unnecessary things and will have chased off my muse due to an unconscious, but nonetheless intentional self-sabotage complex. However, I don’t feel like this neurosis is unique to me. I would be willing to bet that it’s an all too typical phenomenon for people to feel responsible for their own failures in the dating world. But the culprit may be the intense social emphasis that is placed on dating.

There are so many rules to dating: things you should do or say. Should I open the door for her? If she’s old-fashioned she may think it necessary, but if she’s a liberated feminist, she may be offended by the notion that she needs a man to open doors for her, literally or metaphorically. Should I bring up past relationships? They are relevant, in a way. History is important. But am I revealing too much too soon? Am I stuck in the past? What if she only believes in living in the now? Should I let sleeping dogs lie? And what the hell does that proverb even mean – ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’?

It’s no wonder that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a mate. Potential mates are becoming increasingly difficult. The older people get, the more set in their ways they are and the more they know what they want and the more exclusive what they want becomes. It’s stubbornness masquerading as choosiness. If you don’t fit the bill, then you get the boot. Who wants to waste their time waiting to see if something happens? Why bother if there’s no initial spark?

So it occurs to me that maybe I should try to meet my future spouse the way my parents met – in high school. Now, all I have to do is rig up a fake Never Been Kissed-style persona, go back to the eleventh grade and steal some nerdy, but potentially hot sophomore’s heart. Or better still, and even more cutting edge and less pedophiliac, I will bite the bullet and go onto a reality dating show. But alas, I have been in the presence of people several times who were approached by casting agents for these shows, all of whom look at me and say the same thing: “I don’t think you’re quite what we’re looking for – you’re too rugged.” I think to myself, what a typically Hollywood way of politely telling someone that they’re unattractive. I feel ugly, but I at least I’m ugly in a James Dean kind of way.

Reality dating shows are nothing new. The template has been around since Chuck Barris took time off from being a professional assassin to create The Dating Game. Granted, the format has changed: the drama is more real(?), the stakes are higher (??), the players are more attractive and the scenarios are a little bit “less contrived.”

The thing that continually blows my mind about these shows is just how far each contestant is willing to go. It’s clear that the people who appear in these programs are not aware of their own stupidity nor are they at all hesitant because of humility. Of course there’s always some kind of ulterior motive monkey wrench thrown into the scenario. It’s love versus money, or love versus vanity, or money versus vanity.

So if I aim to participate, it seems that all I have to do is become a little bit more charismatic, work out a bunch, attract the attention of a casting director, go onto the show, suffer hours - possibly days - of shameful drama, weather relentless gossip and criticism by fans, friends, foes and family alike, wade my way through attractive, but ultimately shallow and brainless drama queens, pick the one that I dislike the least and convince her to go out with me on a disastrous date at a location to be named later. On second thought that doesn’t seem so easy or even necessary for that matter.

So, I’m back to meeting chicks the old fashioned way: going to bars, getting drunk and clumsily hitting on them, or maybe that’s a little ill advised. Maybe the new technique I employ will be to enact an air of coy indifference. Girls love to ignored, right? Or maybe I will hire a personal matchmaker to find the perfect potential spouse. But, do I have to get married? Can’t I just have sex with the chick first and iron out the details the morning after.

Whatever method a person chooses it’s clear that the science of attraction has consistently proven only one thing: there is no science of attraction.

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