The dating scene has become something which late night talk shows and psychologists discuss on a daily basis. With so much talk going on, I thought I’d get onboard and tell you what you’ve all already heard. Well, actually, I’m not sure that will be the case. I hope to offer some advice, which, I hope, may actually be somewhat idiosyncratic. Having said that, I also must restrain any potential surprise by saying that I’m probably not going to say anything too radical. And, as a heads up, I’ll use as few words as possible. Here I go.
The first ethical premise I defend in relationships has to be that most foundational of principles: honesty. You’ve probably heard it before, and you’ll hear it again, be yourself. Be honest to those around regarding who you are, how you feel, and what your justifications are. Expect the Other to be honest, too. If everyone lied, we’d not be able to even ask what time it is without getting confused. So, please stay honest in your relationship. If you don’t want to discuss something, be honest and say, “I am uncomfortable discussing this at this point due to X, Y, and Z.” It’s okay to be honest and say, “I simply can’t discuss this with you, babe, at the moment.” It’s okay. We’ll appreciate the honesty. Sure, maybe it’ll leave us searching for answers, feeding our curiosity, but, in my experience, relationships usually fare well with some mystery. An element of surprise doesn’t kill a relationship based on truth and honesty.
Virtually all humans, if not all, want to know and be known. In order for us to know, we must know things that are true. If my attempt is to know a girl named Lily, it would help me if she is being honest about who she is, what she enjoys, what her dreams are, etc. My subjective construction of Lily—who she is, what she likes, what she believes—consists of data. What kind of data? That data could be her body language, verbal content, emotional reactions, moods, her general approach towards life (that is, how does she treat the world on a daily basis?), etc. Already, as a human being incapable of experiencing anything but my own feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc., I am limited as to what I imagine the Other feeling and thinking. I am imprisoned to my subjectivity. This makes all my evaluations of the Other very tentative. (In fact, I’m epistemically agnostic across the epistemic spectrum.) Since I cannot experience what Lily is thinking—I have no access to that—all I can do is take her at her word. If she tells me that she is excited to see me, I simply must accept that datum—the thing she told me—as being true. If she honestly is tired, exhausted, and bored at the moment, it may be better for her to tell me, “Let’s do this another time.” Given the fact that most of us create all kinds of associations on a daily basis, if I associate golf with Lily’s happiness—even though she isn’t really “happy” to play golf with me—this may contribute to difficulties later on in the relationship. We associate things all the time. Because of our nature—we look for cause and effect everywhere (that is, we try to associate anything we come into contact with with something else)—it is imperative that we be honest and allow others to have honest and truthful feedback. I’m giving a lecture on honesty because, frankly, people aren’t honest. Even I am not honest at times. I try to be. However, the shitty human in all of us some days gets the best of us.
The second ethical premise I defend is: lucidity. What do I mean by “be lucid”? It’s actually very much related to being honest: if you’re interested in someone for X reason, tell him or her you’re interested in them for X reason. There’s really no need to beat around the bush. We have no time for that. For example, I once worked with a fellow nurse whom I liked. We exchanged numbers. And then nothing happened. We talked about the weather, her sunroof, good places to eat, and her grandma. When I received texts from her, I would literally get bored. Instantly. “Why the hell were we talking about her sunroof,” I asked myself one day. So I sat her down and asked her to tell me what drives her. I asked her to relate to me what gives her life meaning. In other words, “What do you live for? If you were to live for another year only, how would you spend it?” I asked her some deep shit. Because I cared about her and about myself. I didn’t want to waste her time, neither did I want her wasting mine. If we didn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to core values (for example, I’m very conservative when it comes to sexual relations [no need for me to elaborate]), how the hell would we make it work? But before I could even contemplate such a thing, I need to know what the hell your core values are. And stop feeding me your bullshit “I had a cheeseburger at X restaurant last night” lines! Seriously. We’re not here to discuss cheeseburgers and sunroofs. We could do that for like one second. After that, tell me why you didn’t commit suicide last night. What prevented you? What does your heart ache after? Those are the things I want to know. Expose yourself.
I was recently involved in several bullshit exchanges with the opposite sex. Goddamn! I can’t tolerate the mediocre and the mundane. Drive me up the wall with philosophy, civil rights, whatever, just don’t bore me with platitudes. It, to be blunt, annoys me.
I have the bad habit of valuing my time. I am the guy sitting on the toilet reading three books at once. I cannot even begin to fathom what sort of unproductive waste of time it would be for me to simply not think. I don’t have the time for not-thinking. (I’ll do that when I’m dead.) And then along comes this girl whom I find attractive. I love to spend time with her and such, but she bores me with the mediocre. And so I call it quits. Seriously, bare your soul to me, lady. I’m not leaving until I see you nude. Really nude. That’s some real nudity for you. I want to see your soul bare before me, way before I see your nipples. Please, do enlighten me.
So, in other words, be lucid with one another. Speak your mind. Don’t waste your time or someone else’s. Trust me, when you’re dying, you’ll not regret having read that.
The third concept is foundational for all human behavior, including the ethical: we all are finite creatures. This is directly related to lucidity, as we shall come to find out. Because we only have X amount of time for Y, we have to make decisions and judgments—and sometimes our judgments are prematurely made. In fact, in a perfect world, for any given action, I would demand eternity. I would demand to have an infinite amount of time to think about my action, why I would act, in which way, how it would affect those around me, and every possible outcome from the aforementioned action. I think that in such a world I would make little mistakes. Imagine the divorce rate. “Wait, what divorce rate are you talking about?” What would happen if I could take my fiancé out for dinner three billion times before marrying her. We’d probably have each other figured out. We’d probably know all the idiosyncrasies, the things that set us off, etc.
But we don’t have eternity.
Now think about this: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the Internet, and Match.com have screwed us all over. They have increased our options by infinity while not increasing our lifespan. I now have three million Katherine McNamaras to choose from. But in a short span of time—roughly between the ripe ages of 18-30—I have to figure out with whom to mate, with whom to raise a family, etc. But my time is still very finite.
Take Billy Joe, for example. Back in the sixties, he came from a small town of five thousand. There were two hundred girls his age. He was ugly and dumb, so that increased the pool to two hundred fifty candidates (for marriage). Now most of these girls he had probably never spoken to. Most likely, he spent time with something like 20-30 of them. He could spend a year getting to know each girl after the age of 18. Since there are thirty, and Billy became wiser with age, he decided to spend a year with every individual girl. He really wanted to be fair when deciding whom to marry; he wanted to give every girl a chance. So at eighteen he dated Mary for a year. By the year’s end, ten of the other girls became engaged and five became married. Billy realized he was now stuck with Mary. He became ambivalent. Moreover, he nurtured his attraction to Liza and dumped Mary. After dumping Mary and dating Liza for a year, he realized she wasn’t worth his time. By now all the girls had gotten married. Five had gotten divorced. About ten became pregnant. And, amidst this existential crisis, Billy Joe realized that Mary was his favorite one. But, there was now a problem, since time didn’t stop: she had become engaged to his friend, Mark. So, despite everything that had happened, Billy had no choice but to live with his now-pregnant ex-girlfriend, Liza. And that’s what life looks like for most of us. We spend our elderly years in a rotting rocking chair regretting “the one who got away.”
The point of the funny anecdote is this: time doesn’t wait for us. You don’t have all year long to make decisions. And, of course, that means you’ll probably marry someone you will divorce. That’s life. Accept it. It’s not you, really. It’s your finitude. I’m at a point in my own life where I probably should be dating someone with the hopes of marriage in the next couple of years. I am getting old. It’s a fact of life. And nothing has happened as of yet. (Which is why I am still writing about dating at such a “dirty” age! Not!) But the fact remains: we all are running out of time. Time is such a beautiful thing. We don’t have enough of it. I really wish we had. Please spend your time with the person you love, in an honest manner, being completely lucid and bare. Yes, don’t forget to bare your soul!
Moses Y. Mikheyev