Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why You're Single

A lot of times you'll hear someone say, "I don't know why he's still single." It's often coupled with something like "he's a great guy" or "he's so handsome" or "stallions feel inadequate when he walks through the locker room," but it's essentially the same sentiment. And it's always disingenuous: you always know why the guy's single. It's not the same reason for every guy, but there are a limited number of reasons, and you can pretty much tell which one it is. Sometimes you'll hear it more directly, in the form of "I don't know why I'm still single." That's a question that you can never answer because if you tell the guy why he's still single, he'll almost certainly take offense. Worse yet, he won't accept what you tell him, let alone act on it, so you'll have given offense without having done any good. That's why the answer is always "You know, I've wondered the same thing myself, and I just can't think of anything: you're a great guy, you're handsome, and stallions feel inadequate when you walk through the locker room." (How they got that horse in the locker room, I'll never know.) Alternatively, you can say, "You know, I think the problem is that you're just so perfect that you intimidate people," but while I can probably pull that off without laughing, I'm pretty sure you can't.

Anyway, since we can't deal with you directly (congrats on intimidating the stallions, though), let's deal with your hypothetical friend. Why is he still single?

Let's dispense with the most obvious reason first. 1. Some guys prefer to be single, either temporarily or permanently. And more power to those guys. If you're secure enough not to need a partner, then you're lucky. And you probably have guys falling all over you because nothing is more attractive than security. But men who genuinely prefer to be single aren't the guys wondering why they're single. And a lot of guys who say that they're perfectly content being single are fooling themselves. They're not fooling anyone else, though. Unless you prefer being by yourself most of the time (and, again, there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that), you're better off with a partner. True, partners can be tiresome now and again, but it's a good thing to have someone you can rely on, and it's a good thing to have someone rely on you. It's not always the big things, either. Most of us probably have friends or family we could call on in a real emergency. But if you've had a tough day at the office and you just want to whinge for three minutes about your boss or employees, neither your friends nor (especially, trust me on this one) your blog readers want to hear about it. I guess your dog doesn't mind hearing about it, provided you've fed him, but venting is really a lot more effective when the being hearing it can at least pretend to understand and care about what you're saying.

And, of course, the financial benefits of having a partner are not to be underestimated. Even if you're in the sort of relationship where you don't live together, you'll save a lot on hotels by having someone to share a room with. And if you do live together, you will have the opportunity to amass a great deal more wealth before you retire if you're in it with someone else. Plus, he might leave you something in his will.

2. He's too fucking picky. If you read any number of gay blogs, you'll soon come upon a posting wherein the author tells you his list of requirements for a relationship. Often, these lists are ridiculously long and detailed, because, you know, how could this guy possibly be in a relationship with someone who didn't agree that Madonna's fifth album was better than her fourth but not nearly so good as her third. I exaggerate, but only because I haven't read enough of these lists. (Full disclosure: I don't own any of Madonna's albums, but it seemed a safe bet that she's released more than five.) There are two problems here: one, if you have two many requirements, then your pool of potential partners will be severely limited; two, some of the requirements are ridiculous. You want a list of requirements? Fine, here you go:
a. The sex has to be good.
b. You have to enjoy each other's company, even when you're not having sex.
c. He has to be a kind and polite person.
d. He can't be a deadbeat.
e. He has to respond well to legitimate and well-intentioned criticism.

That pretty much covers it. You get three more of your own. If I were still dating, for example, I'd only date liberals. I've violated that rule in the past, always with disastrous consequences. I can't think of two more right now. I used to think that I couldn't date anyone who isn't culinarily adventurous, but, truth be told, b&c isn't all that out there with what he'll eat, and it hasn't been much of an issue. I also used to think that I couldn't possibly date a smoker, but a couple of years ago, b&c resumed smoking, but he's polite, so he doesn't smoke in the house or when I'm around. Also, on the off chance that I ever find a safe and steady way to procure weed, I figure the tobacco gives me permission.

Anyway, I think most guys should make their list of must haves and then see whether they can't move anything more than the five plus three into the nice to have category. If your list needs to be longer, then fine, but understand how the extra requirements affect your chances of finding Mr. Right.

I'm mostly going to gloss over the whole monogamy issue here, but if monogamy's important to you, then you might have to give up something else on your list to make it fit in. I'm not saying that monogamy is an unreasonable expectation per se (you can go to Joe.My.God for that point of view). I'm just saying that if it's on your list then it has to be on your partner's list, too, and it's probably on fewer people's lists than you think it should be. It's possible, with time and effort, for you to make monogamy not so critical to you, but it's not easy, and I'm not sure it's worth the effort. You want someone who accepts you for who you are, right?

3. He's too fucking selfish. This one's a little harder to discuss because, frankly, being too selfish isn't the deal breaker that it should be for a lot of guys. That's because of the corresponding problem where he's too much of a fucking doormat. Selfish guys and doormats come together with some frequency, but the relationship is so unequal that it doesn't last. When one guy makes all the accommodations, either he comes to resent the situation, or the other guy comes not to respect him. You have to stand up for your own interests. Doormats have trouble doing this; selfish guys think they're doing it when they're really totally ignoring the other guy's interests. This is the sort of problem that, if you're looking for it, you can see in past failed relationships and then work to fix in the future. Therapy wouldn't hurt, either.

4. He's too fucking unreasonable. This problem is closely related to the too-fucking-picky problem addressed earlier, but there are differences. You might have perfectly reasonable requirements for a man and still be completely unreasonable about dating and relationships. If you're out on an initial date with someone, you really shouldn't be thinking about whether he'd make a good partner. For one thing, you can't possibly know that someone would make a good partner from one date. For another, even considering the issue puts such heavy expectations on a date that you're likely to conclude that a guy wouldn't be good for a relationship based on faulty data. We'd all like that love-at-first-sight experience, but that really only happens when you're physiologically or emotionally an adolescent: i.e., when you're really vulnerable, and most of us aren't willing and able to be that vulnerable. (Also, your judgment sucks when you're an adolescent.) Infatuation is terrific, and if it happens, you should definitely enjoy it. But lasting partnerships are more likely to be built on a slow accretion of connections: common experiences, mutual likes, that thing he does with his tongue. What I'm saying is that it's unreasonable to expect magic. It's reasonable to expect a nice guy that you have fun with. And if a guy's pleasant to be with on a first date, then chances are you'll have fun on a second date, so why not go for it? Love will (some time later) catch up to you, or it won't, but either way you'll have spent good times with a good person. You probably don't like being rejected based on having made a bad first impression, so maybe extend the same courtesy to someone else.

Being reasonable also means understanding that people who make mistakes (and that would, I think, be everyone) can and do change. So sometimes you might want to try giving people a second chance, even if they've done something you really dislike.

5. He's too fucking insecure. If most people to whom this category applies were as big losers as they think they are, they'd never get a first date. If you never get a first date, then make some changes. If you never get a second date because you're too needy, clingy, self-effacing, whatever on the first date, then cut it out, ok? It's not that hard: pretend to be more self-confident than you are. I'm not saying you have to lie, and I'm not saying that you should be standoffish, and I'm not saying that you should be a braggart. I'm just saying that if you hear yourself putting yourself down, tell yourself to stop. And if you hear yourself fishing for affirmation, tell yourself to stop. If you don't believe you're worth dating (or at least act like you believe), why should anyone else?

6. Everyone else is as fucked up as he is. Maybe more. The sad truth is that even when all of the above factors are taken into consideration, there are still guys where there really isn't a good answer for "why is he single?" and in those cases, the answer is usually that even if you're not too picky, selfish, doormattish, unreasonable, or insecure, the chances are pretty good that the guys you're meeting are. Still, that's no excuse to sink to their level. If you know that most of the guys you go out with are going to rule you out as a potential partner on the first date, that doesn't mean you need to beat them to the punch. It just means you need to date better and possibly more guys. If you're doing the right things, the right guy is more likely to show up.

Of course, there's always the possibility that he won't, which is why as a backstop measure, you really should learn how to be happy on your own. I'm not one to confuse co-incidence with causation or to say that my experience generalizes to everyone's experience, but it was right around the time when I started to get comfortable with myself as a single person that I found b&c. I like to think that it's because we weren't considering each other as potential partners that we eventually became partners. Again, none of us should extrapolate the universe from a sample size of one, but I hear the same thing from a lot of other people. Be happy first. If you do that, then either you won't want to be partnered, or you'll avoid all the mistakes that keep you from finding that guy.

[I am, by the way, aware that I've posted two straight days of SFW pictures. I shall endeavor to make up for it by posting something filthier than usual this weekend.]


P said...

7. (I hate to be shallow here, but) he's unfortunate looking.

Unfortunately, chemistry is often visual.

Jason said...

No, chemistry is not visual. Chemistry can be affected by your mind's decision to succumb to the visuals, however.


i am so afraid i'll grow up to be one of those old, bald, affected queens with a dangly earring and a limp wrist. isn't there some preventative vitamin one can take to prevent such a bleak future?
that's why i should be single.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

p and jason: I think that chemistry is visual for some people and not for others, and which category you fall in is largely a matter of chance. Sometimes people really are single just because they're unlucky. For example, some guys, through no fault of their own, have very particular fetishes, and that tends to narrow drastically the pool of potential partners.

For more guys, though, I think the problem is a misguided emphasis on immediate chemistry. Chemistry is something that can arise later or even develop over time, but only if you're open to it. If you decide on a first meeting that you have no chemistry with someone, then you're probably shutting off the possibility of it developing later.

bryan: From my experience, I'd have to guess that there's no correlation between relationship status and limp-wristedness. I confess, however, that I have not researched the matter thoroughly. Perhaps you can get a grant.

In any case, I shouldn't think you'd be at particular risk, single or partnered, for the fate you fear. I must tell you, though, that the only certain way to avoid aging into something you dislike is to die young. FYI, if you're going to go that route, it's considered good form to also live fast and leave a good-looking corpse.