Some of the tags I follow bring me a lot of dating related stories on my reading list. This is by design, of course. I’ve never been a big fan of romantic comedies or books. They tend to be just a bit too out there. I get my relationship related drama fix by way of personal essays and advice columns.
There seems to be some agreement that people (mostly men but women too)are pretty bad at dating. Also common agreement on this being something recent, related to both technology and hookup culture. While I agree there is some sort of problem -otherwise why would there be so many voices complaining about this?- I have a feeling we are largely misdiagnosing the problem.
This line left her without a response and she felt kind of offended. It’s understandable. I would have been offended a bit as well. But if we are honest about it, this isn’t new. Yes, maybe in the past men wouldn’t dare use ‘fuckable’. But does it make that much of a difference had he used the word “pretty” or “beautiful” or “sexy”? Haven’t we always been aware that the sentiment communicated is exactly the same?
And yet, when you hear “You look quite beautiful” there’s a different response than when you hear “You look quite fuckable”. I hate to pretend that is due to a interpretation difference. That would mean women (and men when they hear they are handsome) do not understand the message is “I would like to have sex”. I think we all understand what is being said in both cases.
If I had to explain why the same message worded in 2 ways has such a different outcome, I would not point to respect, but tension. “You look quite beautiful” by not being explicit, by implying rather than stating, builds up sexual tension. It creates a gap to be bridged. It amplifies desire.
On the other hand, a word like ‘fuckable’ defuses sexual tension. It shortens the distance between wanting and having. There’s no gap, no work to be done. No anticipation.
A lot of us have forgotten the pleasures of anticipation. How much fun it is to build up tension until you can barley stand it. We still think words like “want” and “long” are romantic, but somehow we don’t really behave in a way where we can be wanting or longing, preferring to have and do instead. And then look back and wonder why it’s not as satisfying as it should have been. Frankly, because you didn’t want it bad enough yet.
That’s not just in dating, but relationships themselves. I hear a lot of “I want things to be spontaneous”. I can’t really imagine why. Planning is so much fun! I’ve never seen it as the activities being ‘forced’. I see it as a form of foreplay over a couple of days. A time to long and want and anticipate. Sure, chances are high your day or date isn’t going to go the way your planned. But so what. The plan isn’t as important as the act of planning.
So is it related to technology that we’ve forgotten the art of anticipating? Perhaps. My 17 year old daughter sometimes jokes that I have “the patience of dial-up”. Usually when she’s complaining a website isn’t working and I tell her to give it a second to load. What she’s saying is that because she’s used to broadband, to her a page not displaying within seconds means something is wrong. To me it means something is loading.
But all of us wait a week for the next episode of our favorite TV show. And then months until the next season. (or over a year. Damn you Steven Moffat) And then, as the new season start date approaches tension builds. Social media posts with countdowns appear. Viewing parties, even if it’s a party of one, get planned. Of course there is some worry about the season primer letting you down. But it’s in those days leading up to it when anticipation reaches a feverish high that you feel most connected with the fandom community.
How did we forget it works like that with relationships as well?