08 September 2009

Singles Conferencing

Listening to: Jets, "Crush on You." I cannot get enough of this song. I just can't. "How did you know / if I never told / you found out / I've got a crush on you!" Plus a live version.

Awhile back, Lilly and I were discussing why it is that we look to our single friends for advice on relationships and dating. We both promised to blog about it and she's done her part so I must hold up my end now. Here's an excellent point she made, "When you take a step back, you suddenly realize that singles advising each other is a truly weird phenomenon. In no other world would a rookie ask another rookie. It's the same reason athletes are coached by guys with championship rings and not some beer-bellied guy in his armchair with Cheetos breath. Everyone has an opinion, sure, but you gotta be smart about whose you take." That's a pretty good point. You don't learn from amateurs in other fields of struggle. You get inspiration and advice from the pros.

I mean, single friends know how to stay single. If they were any good at finding their mates, they'd have paired off or been married by now, right? You couldn't have said that ten years ago when I was still in my early 20s and steady couples were as rare as the sun going round the moon but now, according to Socialistics, 75% of my friends are married, engaged, or in a relationship. That's a frighteningly high number. Yet I rarely turn to them for advice. I still go commiserate with my single friends. And look at where that's led me. So maybe it's time for a strategy switch.

The problem in the past is that there's been this mental divide between those who have found eternal happiness versus those who haven't. For some reason, as soon as someone is happily paired up, they are written off as non-useful members of (single) society. In the world of the lonely, these people turn into anecdotes instead of success stories. "Joan and Kevin have gone out since high school and never had a fight!" Or, "My friend met his girlfriend online and they dated for three months. Now they're getting married in Bermuda. I'm looking for a plus one to the wedding, interested?"

There's a tinge of "It happened to them but that's not the way it'll happen for me" when we pass around these stories. Like they were one shot wonders. Rarely do we try to analyze the commonalities of highly successful relationshippers and then apply those lessons to our own lives. We're more likely to scoff than anything else. We add a "but" to a lot of these anecdotes. "But I didn't have a high school sweetheart. And online dating has only resulted in recurring credit card charges..."

Or maybe girls think differently than guys. Girls might be inspired by stories from successful couples but we don't. (Is that generalization even true?) Single guys hear about someone dating and wonder, "Wait, how in the world can this dude have a girlfriend and not me?" This happens all the time. After all, tons of our loser friends we thought never could have landed a significant other have done so successfully, so we've long given up the idea that being a good guy equals finding a good girl.

I personally know lots of guy friends who have landed amazing girls way out of their league in every respect. These tales don't serve as inspirations, they serve as signs that the universe doesn't play fair. So we're a bit more skeptical about the whole process maybe. We aren't looking for stories to inspire, we're looking for our chance at upsetting the odds. Plus we can still kind of hang onto the idea that the married man secretly envies his single friends. After all, a man down is a man down, regardless of how wide his smile is.

But again, huddling up and circling the wagons with our fellow singles has clearly not gotten us anywhere. If you want to become a pro, you gotta think like a pro. So from now on I turn to my married friends for advice. I will ask them, "What do you think has contributed to your happiness and tell me the story of how you met." And when they tell me I will dutifully take a lot of notes, create circle and bar graphs, and try to plot out all the intricate dance steps that result in a successful relationship.

Here's the thing though. In turning to the pros for advice, you have to admit to one fundamental fact: "I've been doing it wrong, I need to learn how to do it right." Singles can talk to singles all day long because on some level you know that both of you have been making some sort of mistake. It's two amateurs talking to each other. But when you talk to the marrieds or to the happily togethers, you are walking in with you head bowed low and with the idea that "Hey, you did something better than I could, please help me."

Now I know it's not as dramatic as all that, but maybe that's part of the reason the singles and the not-singles have avoided each other for so long. But no longer. I will now model myself after only people who have tread the path of success before me. Those lost souls I was traveling and going around in circles with? It's been nice chatting with you and I'll leave some breadcrumbs behind me but talk to you later!