I think one of the reasons people “settle down” is because they realize that it is becoming harder and harder to connect with people as they age. There are only so few people with whom we are capable of connecting to the level of intimacy we want. Dating is like just drawing cards over and over again, hoping something sticks, and we are unlikely to turn down a winning hand when we draw a winning card.
In elementary school, it was quite easy to connect to others. But then as we accumulate more experience, the lives of others become more unrelatable. I think that’s something I noticed as an adult. I remember in high school, getting brunch with people was sufficient. I was happy getting brunch with people. It was enough. I didn’t have much social interaction in high school, so any social interaction was better than no social interaction.
Lately, as an adult, I’ve realized that getting brunch is no longer sufficient. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten a lot of brunches with a lot of people. Conversation over food used to be exciting as an activity to share with friends. There was a point in my life where I thought I would never get tired of brunch, but here I am, tired of brunch.
There are very few conversations I actively want to have these days. I much rather prefer shared experience to conversation, but shared experience requires trust, and trust takes time to build. It would be great if we had an AI that matched me up with someone with whom I am perfectly compatible, then go through some sort of accelerated friendship simulator to achieve the level of trust needed to share experiences together.
Whenever you hang out with people, you can never be sure if they are hanging out with you because they want to spend time with you or if they’re just hanging out with you because there’s nothing better to do. It’s hard to actually perceive which camp your interactions fall into because it’s a thought that is by nature paranoid. The closest thing we can gather is evaluating how our interactions make us feel. If an interaction doesn’t seem particularly engaging, it probably wasn’t that engaging. The real dilemma lies, however, in evaluating our feelings about our interactions are valid or not.
The natural response to feeling unwanted is just to go back into seclusion. In times when the world genuinely wants nothing to do with you, this maneuver could be therapeutic. There are very few times, however, when the world genuinely wants nothing to do with you. Most of the time, we just project how we see the world as the reality of things. By hiding, we could potentially be wasting time engaging in needless therapy. There’s the possibility of friendship out there that exists, and by hiding from the world we forgo the opportunity to create additional friendship in the name of emotional fragility.
The scary part of friendship is when you feel like a conversation mattered a lot more to you than it did to someone else. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a conversation and deriving more meaning from it than the other party, but it’s a position of vulnerability. Putting a lot of value on a conversation is acknowledging that someone has a more interesting perspective than you, and wanting to be friends with them opens up the possibility of getting hurt when the sentiment is not reciprocated.
In college, I thought a lot about what constitutes a relationship being real. When experience becomes memory, we tend to romanticize it (or catastrophize it), and it’s very hard to isolate the experience from the connotations of experience derived from memory. So, how do you know something is real when you are in the middle of experiencing it?
The nice thing about dating is that it, for the most part, confirms that your shared experience is actually quite similar. Interactions are not one-sided, and you can confirm that you matter as much to them as they matter to you. There’s a calming quality to knowing that your feelings aren’t there for no reason. Otherwise, you just exist in a constant state of paranoia of pouring in more emotional labor than you are extracting, which is not a good feeling.
I like listening to sad songs because there’s always ambiguity in regards to who the singer is singing about. In some sense, you can imagine they are singing about you, and that makes your life slightly more beautiful than it was before. Relationships are not like that. They are about themselves, about you and someone else, and not you individually. The relationship only exists between two points but does not touch its sources. It requires intention on both parts. It is an act of creation, and an act of creation takes two.