Day 235: The Man and the Assembled Life; ‘Quicken’

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I was out on Sunday having brunch with my cousin in Hoboken and afterwards we were walking along the waterfront admiring the view of New York. There is this wonderfully scenic and relatively new waterfront walkway with a few parts that go directly out and over the water. Like the Pont des Arts in Paris, some local couples have begun to make it a custom to write their initials on a lock and affix it to the wire grills at these spots along the walkway and throw the key into the Hudson. We were going to walk to the edge of one of these spots to admire the locks but there were two couples at the end so we instead took a seat a bit away just to watch.

I got to see three very interesting, very real, and depressingly accurate depictions of modern-day life, all in the span of about five minutes. Here we go.

Event 1: Cousin and I are shocked and excited to see the man in couple 1 get down on one knee. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual marriage proposal unfold in real life and so proposalclose, too. The couple looks to be in their late twenties; the woman has a stroller and running around their legs is a young child, maybe 3 or 4. The entire event is being recorded by someone I assume to be a friend of the couple, who is filming it all on his smartphone. There is something extra honest and ‘real’ about this couple. You imagine they’ve had to grow up and grow close and grow strong together very quickly. They’re a young, unmarried couple raising a child together. The proposal is understated; there’s no extra pomp or circumstance, no a cappella group emerges from the waves to serenade them, this isn’t a clickbait YouTube viral attempt with drone footage and letters bursting into flame. He makes a simple, honest speech about wanting to marry his best friend and provide for his young family, and she isn’t hamming it up with screams and tears but there is laughter, ‘oh my god’s, and even, in such a modern way, a ‘you’re so awkward’. She of course says yes, he slips the ring on her finger, and they kiss.

I am honestly and genuinely happy for these two. I admire the simplicity and sincerity of his proposal and am overjoyed by her joy. I just feel happy and lucky to have been there at the right time to witness this happening. It makes me feel excited, eager, energized.

Event 2: Literally two feet away from them is couple 2 who looks to be around their age. I hate to sayinstayoga it but there’s something too…’curated’ about them. Their clothes are expensive, her bag is designer, their sunglasses are gaudy. Both of them are too busy manipulating their own phones and angles and selfie faces to notice the special occasion that their duck faces are, frankly, impeding on. There are countless photos of selfies with pursed lips as if about to kiss but no actual kisses. Pose this way, pose that. The ultimate horror of the entire situation is when they, completely lost in themselves and oblivious to their surroundings, ask the friend recording the proposal to stop and take pictures of them. I am flabbergasted. The only bright side is I now have a completely legitimate reason to be able to say ‘flabbergasted’. At no point does this couple seem to display any sort of awareness beyond themselves. The friend is too accommodating and agrees to stop recording for a second to take a few more of the same constructed photos the couple were already taking themselves.
I wish I was more shocked by this behavior but honestly, it is a true sign of the times. The ‘oversharing’ generation. Aren’t we at least in part responsible for this? We put ‘like’ buttons on too many aspects of our life. This kind of behavior is lauded. Anything in pursuit of the perfect shot. There has to be a moment wherein any responsible social media user really has to stop and ask internally, ‘do I need to share this’ or ‘is this worth sharing’. And I still also maintain that your good story is worth more to me than your semi-constructed photo.

Event 3: Couple 2 eventually takes their leave and we are now left with just couple 1. My ‘real’ couple. The simple, understated ones who have more pressing matters to attend to than their social media feed. Wait what’s this…oh no…no…don’t…come on man…I vouched for you… Goddamnit. Displeased with the shocking (though to me also humorous and humanizing) interruption of couple 2, the man in couple 1 asks his friend to re-record the whole thing so they can ‘get the right video’. They reset to their positions, and I have to watch as he once again gets down on one knee. Once again delivers the same speech (although, is it my imagination or are there more sobs and half tears and dramatic fluff in this version) and the woman once again feigns surprise, shock, delight, and delivers that oh-so-real-and-honest reaction of ‘oh my god, you’re so awkward’. Real life take 2, the realler life.

I’ve lost faith in humanity at this point. I feel betrayed by my ‘real’ couple. I know right now it must seem like such an inconvenience and taint on an otherwise perfect proposal, but in the long run I think I and any couple would appreciate that little humanizing part of the story. The part you can’t make up.

My parents didn’t have a picture perfect proposal. My father basically asked my mother instamealover the phone if she’d want to join him in the US and get married. Their wedding reception took place at a Chinese restaurant, and not the gourmet kind. The Christmas Story ‘deck the harrs with bars of forry’ kind. It was ‘general Tso’s chicken or sesame beef’. Everyone got a fortune cookie. They’ve come a very long way since then. Both had long and successful careers in their respective fields and now they’re business owners. I asked them, if they had the chance, would they redo their wedding, or maybe do it over now that they’re much more comfortable and established. You know, they really honestly wouldn’t want either. They said how it happened is how it was supposed to happen, and it’s a funny story and a reminder of what they’ve been through. They want to remember it exactly as it was.

Nowadays it seems like if it isn’t manufactured, it isn’t real. People are so obsessed with presenting only the best and most perfect versions of themselves. You can’t possibly fool yourself into thinking that is the truest and most natural state of things, so either it’s a shared delusion or we’ve all just accepted that we are almost always lying to each other. Results are faked. Progress is quickened. Opinions are constructed. I was a bit disappointed that the first couple felt so imperfect in their real and honest lives that they had to redo the whole proposal. I know which memory they shared. But I wonder which one they’ll eventually keep. I hope most people aren’t afraid to share the less than perfect sides of themselves or their lives. If it helps, I’ll always encourage, welcome, and embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just, no selfies, please.

Day 235

Man: 202 Loneliness: 33

Day 192: The Man and the Spoils of Choice; ‘Marathon’

I was listening to Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on the way to work like I normally do, and Elvis mentioned an interesting article that Cosmo posted based on an eHarmony study. Now fair disclaimer, that means I am hearing a summary of a summary of a report, but I did do my research and yes, there was a Cosmo article, though I couldn’t find the actual study that eHarmony Australia did.

It basically raised two very troubling (if true) statistics about modern dating that make me worried about the kind of environment in which people are trying to find love. The first is that on average, a modern single person is now ‘dating’ up to six different people at the same time, and that because of this it is becoming increasingly more common for people to simply ‘ghost’, that is to say ‘disappear and no longer communicate with’, one another than actually face a breakup.

This bothers me for three reasons.

First, is that clearly somewhere along the line the term ‘dating’ changed, and I’m not sureImage result for dating options gif I like where it’s gone. It used to be, a date was a commitment. Not a huge one, mind you. Not something exclusively for those already in relationships. But it stood as a distinct separate entity. Now I hate myself for saying this and sounding so old, but I do NOT believe in ‘Netflix and chill’. Guy or girl, you used to get nervous asking someone out on a date. There was this giddy excitement and eagerness because you knew you were trying to say something, hint something, investigate something between you and your date. It took time and effort and people had to actually come up with ideas. With the abundance of options and choices now, people stopped trying. If you were the one asking and they didn’t like the plan? No bother, you could just find another. In a way, there’s no more risk, which means no more reward. You couldn’t, in my world at least, manage to ‘date’ six people at the same time in the same level of intention and attention. The only way I could see this happening is if the dates themselves have become passing thoughts. Exchanging flirtatious texts but seeing each other only once or twice a month is by no stretch of my mind ‘dating’.

I mean come on people. Is this the best we can do now? I get it, you’ve got plenty of options, there’s no more of that fear really, that trepidation. We’re no longer on our toes. We’ve forgotten how useful, how powerful, that motivation was though. I never wanted my date to feel bored or uninterested, and I wanted to show just how much thought and effort I put into whatever it was we did. I’m not saying it was better because I spent more or did more. I’m saying it was better because it meant more. Bowling, billiards, mini golf, they were all fun because there was a bit of competition in them and so you could rib each other, place harmless little wagers, and bond in the spirit of rivalry. Escape rooms, painting classes, any sort of collaborative activity builds companionship and compatibility. If it was a movie, it was a movie we were both really really wanting to watch, or maybe a horror because you know, she would have to move closer to me during the really scary parts. Hahah. Across the board, both men and women complain in their existing relationships that one of their biggest frustrations is lack of interest/involvement/variety in planning dates. People, let me repeat that. These are people already in relationships. Now if you’re single and looking, if you’re already starting with one of the major obstacles as the defining characteristic of your dating style, is it any wonder you’re unhappy?

Second, can we talk about the sheer number of people we are supposedly ‘dating’? Does anyone here find the idea of trying to manage and handle a mature, complex, multi-Image result for dating too much giffaceted relationship with not one, not two, but six different people particularly appealing? I don’t even hang out with six people in group settings. Again, I fear that the seeming abundance of options and possibilities has created this paradox of surrounding ourselves with people but lacking the ability (or is it the desire) to really connect with anyone. Social media everywhere but not a single friend. Relationships are beautiful, energizing, exhilarating things. You might think then ‘the more the merrier’ but that’s almost never the case. Are these other people even aware of each other? I can’t imagine the feeling of being mislead or misinformed and thinking that I might be pursuing something with this one person and not realizing that not only are there a whole bunch of others, but maybe I’m not even top of the totem pole. I get the desire to want to be able to keep your options open, and of course wanting to get to know people more to decide what might transpire, and certainly life may throw more than one really strong possibility in our face and we would be remiss not to take the opportunity, but if I’m ‘dating’ you, I’m dating you. And if there are other people, I’d like to know up front, because I don’t want to throw myself so heavily into something that could just end up crowded and complicated.

Third, and I think this is very strongly related to the second, I am absolutely ashamed and embarrassed that this concept of ‘ghosting’ someone has not only become more popular, Image result for ghosting gifbut that it is becoming accepted. In case you are not aware, ‘ghosting’ someone is when, rather than telling them up front you are no longer interested, you simply avoid all their communication and effectively ‘disappear’ off the face of the earth so that they get the point. Well yeah I mean if you’re going to be dating six people at a time that’s potentially up to six different breakups you’ll need to go through so I can see the appeal of wanting to avoid the confrontation altogether but then I’d argue, if you’re not mature enough, prepared enough, capable enough to handle one breakup, don’t date someone, let alone six people. Yes, break ups are hard. They’re messy and painful for both people but they serve a very important purpose in our development and well-being and growth as adults capable of love and care and empathy. They teach us skills and vocabulary about love and loss and appreciation and pain. There is something to be said about being able to break up with someone in a mature and confident way and, on the other side, being able to handle being broken up with. Instead of creating this community of stronger, more understanding people and lovers, we create cowards. Cruel, cold people who can’t see past their own noses. Now I have to admit, before I realized this was a thing, there were a few times in high school and after college where, seeing that there was no real romantic possibility with this person, I thought I was sparing their feelings and doing them a favor by seemingly disappearing off the face of the earth. But it’s not true, and it’s never true, and please, from me to you, do not ever kid yourself into thinking it may be. You know humans need closure. That lack of knowing, that constant wondering, that could hurt more. And you never know. What you have to say to us might be the difference we need, the spark of understanding that helps us grow and improve. Don’t deprive us of that chance.
know we’re better than this. We have to be. We can’t be both the generation of countless rom-coms and epic proposals and all this other super cheesy ridiculous stuff that’s too far off that deep end and yet also be the same people who normalized ‘Netflix and chill’ and ‘ghosting’. It’s just too far off on both spectrums. Dating is Image result for dating too muchcomplicated enough as it is. But it’s an important part, a beautiful, vital part, of living and we can’t just compromise with it so much. That’s what I think I fear the most. What we’re beginning to be willing to live with, to accept, to normalize. Now, I know I’ve written before about my passion for what I call ‘marathon dates’ and I’m not by any means saying that should be the norm either. Besides, that’s my specialty. That’s what I bring to the table. Get your own. Hahah. I’m saying that let all the new benefits of modern online dating make us better. Because there are so many options, because we have so much more freedom now, we should be trying harder. Getting deeper to the heart of people. Understanding more of what we want and what we have to offer. We shouldn’t be trying less just because we know that if it doesn’t work out, there’ll always be another.

And as if I wasn’t already too much of an angry old man over this, here’s a wonderfully funny, yet still quite relevant, dating video from the 50s. This is a real one, btw. Not a parody.

Enjoy.

Day 192

Man: 161 Loneliness: 31

Day 55 Supplemental: The Man and the Daily Prompt; ‘Witness’

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We have always been a society of observers. We take in information most frequently, efficiently, and primarily through sight.

We witnessed fire. The wheel. We witnessed the migration patterns of animals and the cultivation of agriculture.

When civilization rose we witnessed the advancements of science, mathematics, government, and art.

As our borders grew we witnessed great battles and advanced weaponry and tactics and the making of legends.

When we were comfortable we witnessed entertainment. We were there to watch the great tragedies and comedies. We witnessed mortality in the Coliseum. Drama at the Globe.

We have always been a society of observers. But somewhere along the line there was a shift, and we went from observers to capturers.

As we reached the pinnacle of observation technology we began to focus on the ability to capture what it was we were observing. We have telescopes powerful enough to observe the farthest reach of our galaxy and microscopes powerful enough to view in between the minute infinity in the space between atoms. But we wanted to capture these images, for posterity or study or vanity, so we worked also on the ability to freeze sight.

But now I feel people have forgotten how to observe and cherish. There was a time when beauty before our eyes was enough to bring us to our knees. It was a very intimate moment between object and observer. And we never really felt that we lacked the ability to portray it afterwards. We have our words, our stories, our drawings and pictures. We have always had the ability to share. Never once did I ever feel that I lacked the ability to observe and relay the great things I have seen.

StadiumBut now people have forgotten how to appreciate the things in front of them. I cannot see the stage past the bright LED sea of cell phones. I cannot enjoy a meal without fussing over the placement of plating and the composition of light. Those I speak to have lost the words to portray what they’ve seen. Their minds have forgotten beauty because their devices have captured it for the lazy.

Being able to observe, being the one to see, was once a private and reserved pleasure and privilege. You felt empowered and special. It carried the responsibility of commitment and dedication to share with others. Now we are all consumers, capturers, but we do not know how to appreciate what it was or how to share it. We just post and share and tag and like but forget the subject.

Even more dangerous, in times when observation is not enough and participation must be warranted, we are now so occupied with the former that we often miss every call for the latter. How many videos are there of people being hurt versus stories of those who stepped in. How many more videos are there for people to consume of game and sport versus how many actual players.

I cannot believe sometimes how many viewers someone online playing a game can get Food Photowhen I cannot get enough people to fill a board game. I cannot believe how little people can tell me about the pictures and videos they have captured. Yes, the food looks incredible. But what did it smell like. Taste like. Feel like on the tongue. Did the dish shine and shimmer as you cut into it. Did you see the freshness in the fish, the richness of the meat. Did it crackle and crunch and slide and bounce when you cut into it. Did the flavors dance on your tongue with bright vibrant spices and seasonings. You were there! I was not. This is how our society grows. This is how we have conquered the world. Share with me. I don’t want your grainy video. I don’t want your shaky cam. I don’t want you to be satisfied with simply capturing.

I don’t want to witness the great and vast and beautiful infinite world through a five inch screen.