I WAS ON A DATE recently when it happened again. We were facing one another at the bar, talking about something, eyes locked together and not really noticing anyone else. We had hit that moment where a membrane forms around the two of you, an invisible film barrier, that although the two of you are not alone, you feel alone and like it is just the two of you there and everyone else is just noise and movement.
She was beautiful, interesting, had a rich emotional depth, a quiet sexual charisma, a longing for something she couldn’t quite grasp and that all important sense of a woman who loved who she was, and was comfortable being alone. By any measure I was enjoying myself, I was attracted to her, aroused and fascinated – but despite all this, it happened again; from the recesses of my mind, a voice said quite confidently “you could never catch me.” And I knew she never would.
Far from being isolated to this particular date, this voice, with its declaration that this or that woman could never lock me down into a relationship, has persisted and grown with such commitment over the past year that when it arrives, I almost turn to it and say ‘oh, here you are, I was wondering when you would show up.’ And after arriving it sits there, and despite all evidence the woman presents to the contrary, and despite all feelings of investment and attachment within myself, and despite every understanding that this is a woman I could be with forever – I know in my soul that I will simply move on, for she doesn’t have the capability of catching me, locking me down, or winning my heart for the rest of my life.
And it is because of this feeling that I know my understanding will result in nothing.
But am I right? Is it arrogant to presume that I cannot be caught? When asked by my female friends what would it take for a woman to finally get me to settle down, I reply something to the tune of ‘if she’s interesting, engaging and I can enjoy doing nothing with her, then I would definitely be open to it.’ But all the while, another voice says within my head ‘no, that would not work, but continue with this lie if you must.’ And so I do, and it never works.
Sometimes it gets said that I simply haven’t met the right woman, or more often put, ‘The One.’ And that upon meeting her, I’ll be so overcome by an irrational sensation of love that all understanding of myself, and all patterns of activity, thought and belief in my brain will be jettisoned and instead I will finally have what I have always been searching for.
Well, to the latter point I would hope that the very existence of this article suggests that I am, in the context of men in general, not particularly likely to fall prey to that (although I grant it is possible, however, unlikely it may seem). And to the former point, I would say that this idea doesn’t really hold true to my understanding, or my experience of life.
Firstly, the idea of The One stems from a romantic idea of life, which has little in common with the reality of human sexual partnership. The idea of ‘The One’ has more to do with the period of history in which we exist. With democratic freedom, we can pursue whatever form of happiness we desire the most, and with sexual liberation through contraception, people can sleep with whomever they desire without the binding cost of children. This alchemy of factors produces an environment where one can seek the perfect partner in life, as they aren’t bound by being forced into a partnership through lack of freedom, or through conceiving children through sex. In any other period of history, these factors wouldn’t exist, and your partner in life would be decided by biology or by your family or by any other factor existing outside of freedom. The idea of ‘The One’ has nothing to do with any necesssity of the human experience, but is born from freedom of choice – like say, struggling to decide which pizza to order from Dominos.
Cue Dean Martin
Second, in my experience of intimate relationships and being single, aside from the women I am wildly incompatible with, there are dozens of women I can think of, who I have both known for extended periods and short periods who I could quite easily see myself being with. Their flaws complement mine and our personalities generate an effortless chemistry, and of course, we’re attracted to one another. So beyond any intellectual understanding of love, my life experience itself makes the very idea of any one woman being someone I am destined to be with seem absurd, and instead my life experience says ‘it’s one of many, just pick one.’ This is further hammered home, by the farcical scrawl of a Facebook newsfeed where a happy couple caught in a photo will declare their love for one another, only to, not a year later, repeat the same photo and declaration with a new partner. That’s funny without even a drop of cynicism.
Beyond those claims, a further one I am subjected to, and this one I find incredibly revealing about the spokesman is that people couple to get certain needs met. On that point, I agree, but when the examples are given (companionship, emotional support, connection, and intimacy) I struggle to see in my own life where I am lacking any of those, and more importantly, I don’t feel any pressing lack of any of them. But far from being a cold hearted sociopath, I actively pursue these needs, frequently, often on a day to day basis, but nowhere in my life does it strike me that one person, in particular, could meet these needs better than say, anyone else.
On the count of companionship, I’ve got strong relationships with my family and friendship group, and I have always, from a young age been able to develop quick and rewarding relationships with people.
To the charge of emotional support, I would respond that I am a largely emotionally robust individual, whose honesty with people helps my emotional issues resolve themselves through open discussion, whose self-awareness (demonstrable surely through this article) helps support me in itself, and whose glaring emotional issues were dealt with in therapy.
In response to connection and this one I feel I counter the strongest, I would say that ever since my teenage years I’ve found small-talk excruciating, and have developed a habit of looking for the deeper material to people whenever I can. One close friend even accused me of ‘deliberately manipulating conversations so that they move towards the parts of people’s lives that they find it difficult to talk about.’ Whilst I denied it to him, I am certainly and consciously guilty of that, for that is the real truth of people; the stuff worth knowing. This habit, far from being one-sided, is something I actively practice with myself. I remember one time during a one night stand after I had shared a particularly painful memory with her; she began to tell me the awful story of how she had lost her virginity as a child at the hands of a rapist. It’s something I never forgot, and occurred in what is typically decried as a shallow pursuit. Connection, far from being rare, is everywhere; you just have to know how to look for it.
Finally, to intimacy, I would say that I have no trouble finding sex when I look for it, and that given intimacy is just sex plus connection, I feel this point has already been thoroughly addressed.
But all of these arguments are pointless intellectualizing given that on the charge of all the needs that a partner can meet, I simply do not feel like I am lacking in any of those areas and do not need any one person to help me there.
However, I have never denied that relationships of some form are necessary for those needs being met. They absolutely are, but I merely counter that they aren’t only accessible in the form of long-term commitment, and instead can be found in many other, equally rewarding forms.
This, if it were my conclusion, would point to long term relationships being frivolous pursuits that were only necessary for individuals who were somehow incapable of meeting their needs in any other way. This is far from my point. I certainly think relationships have a point (which I will get to), and I also acknowledge that some individuals might be better suited to reaching their emotional needs through commitment, for various reasons that don’t speak ill of their character.
But returning to me, what need do I have that can only be met through commitment? To this question, there is only one response that survives – children.
Now while it is worth mentioning that children are definitely something I do not want now, and do not particularly want in future, they are the only want I can envisage myself having that can only be met through a commitment to one woman.
Or in short, what would catch me would be my own desire for children.
Now I imagine any female readers might perhaps feel a pang of rage in response to this. After all, it does sound awfully like I am suggesting a woman’s worth is only in her ability to make children. That’s definitely not what I think or believe. A woman’s specific worth lies in who she is as an individual – all I am commenting on is the worth of the relationship. Or more simply, it’s not about ‘you’, but about ‘us’.
As an aside (for I often see this denied) – Women are obviously designed for the purpose of bearing children, just as Men are clearly designed to fertilize and partner with them. Beyond the specific traits of the individual, this is the clear and dominant function. Any denial of this is akin to someone who can describe in great detail the various shapes of leaves, and patterns of branches of a tree, but has no actual idea of what a tree is and what it does. So whilst a Woman’s worth doesn’t lie in bearing children, it is ultimately what she is, what her most basic purpose is. Both sides of that distinction are important.
Before a desire for children, as far as I currently experience them, women I’m attracted to exist to me as ‘I want you but I don’t need you’ and as a result always, despite all their merits, exist in some sort of periphery to my life. But as soon as a desire for children were to take over me, I would suddenly, emotionally and consciously, both ‘want and need’ a woman in my life.
I consider this, chiefly, for two reasons. First, as a human male, I cannot bear offspring, so I physically need a woman. Secondly, the family unit, specifically the partnership between man and woman, is incredibly well adapted to raising children. You really don’t need to look far through human history and biology to realize this. So not only do I need a woman for children, I would want one as a partner.
Want and need. That is how I would be caught. And willingly so.
As to whether I will ever want children – they seem to me an end point that is actively contrary to how I design and envision my existence, but also one I am inexorably racing towards, as a result of my understanding and experience of what I ultimately am. Which is, a man.
And I’m okay with that.
The last thing I’ll say to finish is that it may seem throughout the course of this that I am thoroughly cynical of the idea of one true love. This isn’t the case. I am simply skeptical of how it is presented to me. That’s an important difference. To me, if I was to be swept into a life where I partnered with a woman and made a family, then that is a person I could assuredly learn to love.
My grandmother used to refer to men and women as a ‘team’. To me, that has always made sense.
It’s a partnership – and a partnership born of love is more precarious than a love born of partnership.