Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dating Ambivalence

Dating is an important sport in American Mormondom—in the sense that hunting is important to rednecks, and for that matter, to hogs and deer. I might be exaggerating in jest, but only a little. Before my blasphemometer goes haywire I should say that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," etc., and I am in favor of it and the dating that (in Western cultures) leads to it.

I think there is room, however, for some ambivalence on the subject—just like on dying, which, despite its importance in the grand scheme, doesn't get folks all giggly with excitement. All reports have being dead pegged as a pretty good gig for the prepared, but dying still concerns me, and for two reasons. First, it looks unpleasant. Phrases like "quick and terrifying," "long and painful," and "just plain painful" get bandied about far too casually for my taste when describing most of the exits. It sounds a lot like character building, and although I could use more character, there's a reason I'm short on it already. This leads right into the (much more important) second reason: it is character building—this life is a character developing test and dying is part of it and the fact that I'm already apprehensive doesn't bode well for my "result."

Similarly, I have on reliable authority that marriage under "proper circumstances" (a not-unrelated but separate discussion) is a great gig. It's dating that gets me. (I'm distinguishing (successful, casual) dating from courting; the latter is trying to talk a young lady out of her senses and into marrying me; the former is talking a series of respectable lasses into polite social activites with me where we both enjoy ourselves independent of progress toward deeper committments. Of course, successful dating leads to courting and the transition can be tricksy, but that's yet another topic.)

In theory, dating should be straightforward: I enjoy the companionship, conversation, and appearance of women; I'm far enough into my dating career to have passed the comedy of errors that was its beginning; I'm not ugly; I have a respectable occupation; I conform to American conceptions of personal hygiene; I live in a city with hundreds of single LDS women. In theory I have means, motive, and opportunity to have a pleasant "dating life." But, my theory waved—pathetically—as reality passed it on the street acting like they didn't know each other. For the past few years to date has been mostly to do something I don't particularly enjoy with money that isn't particularly plentiful with someone I don't particularly care to be with (and when I put it that way, it's no surprise that the reception hasn't been great). That I have a "duty" to do it and am supposed to like it piles gobs of guilt on top of the whole business.

So, there you have it: I'm ambivalent about some important things, of which dying and dating are merely the most prominent. Lets look at a success story—something I did despite the difficulty and my probable ambivalence: birth. Twenty-nine years ago last month I started trying to take that step—three months too early—which sent my mother into ten weeks of confinement, not to mention labor pains and loopifying drugs. This also required sending my nine-month-old sister to grandparents in another city. Towards the end of May I made a break for daylight and they let me come, a few weeks early and face-up (which is more painful for mom and bangs baby's face into a purple pulp; the pictures are pretty gross).

Nearly three decades later it appears I haven't changed much: I'm still so impatient that I try to skip developmental stages; I still make huge hassles for others, especially those who love me; and I still do things more painfully than necessary. But the important thing is that I did, in fact, do it—even though it was hard. Further, once I got into the business of living I forgot about birth's trauma. I suppose dying and dating will be similar: there aren't many ways around them and they are difficult but in the long run not the hard part or the truly rewarding part. I guess this means I should go ask one of those twenty-two year-olds out for a walk in the park.

13 Comments:

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Three decades ... hmm, you need to get over to Celibate in the City, post a personal advert in her new thread and join the contest, maybe go on a few dates with the people there.

 
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