Independent // self-sufficient // entrepreneur // self-helper // self-motivator // high achiever
I’m on a first date listening to him despair over the lost art of conversation. It was a familiar analysis of how our use of technology is destroying our ability to communicate with people. We agree that our careful curation of our online selves and our infinite scrolling leads to an absence of reflection upon physical events and interactions. I link this to his preference of sending me voice notes in the lead up to our meeting. I think to myself, good! I like being able to talk real stuff on a date. I realise that a lot of my dates have a sort of therapy-esque quality to them. I’ve listened to some pretty deep and personal stories for what’s ultimately an encounter between two strangers. It could be because my non-judgemental nature quells their fear of being ridiculed. It could also be that actually, this is rare opportunity for them to speak openly and uninterrupted for an hour or two.
The date goes on. To my disappointment, he confesses his intentions were for “good conversation and good sex” only. He admits that he rarely finds either so as a result had recently taken a step back from dating. He reiterates a point previously made about how content he is being single and how important and enriching his hobbies are to him. Boxing. The gym. Travelling.
“I really don’t have a lot of free time to be perfectly honest.”
I sense he’s already excusing himself for his lack of availability, emotionally and physically. I tell him it saddens me to hear there is no room in his life for a potential partner. He insists just how SINCERLY happy he is single. I can’t help but take offence at the insinuation that I was to become a burden. I wonder exactly what it is we are doing here when the date was due to end at 7.30.
We wrap it up and he apologises for his poor articulation of his intentions, whilst we walk to the station together. I sense him panicking that he might have spoken too soon.
Having heard his rhetoric before, I’m not put off and in all other aspects I leave our encounter feeling listened to, intelligent and attractive. I admire that he’d recognised his need to step down from dating but wondered where that left us after an otherwise lovely evening. I wasn’t surprised to receive a message an hour later saying how he’d genuinely had a nice time and yearned to hear my own thoughts.
Over the next few days I wondered how could he talk of other people’s lack of meaningful connections and not recognise his own perpetuation of the same ideology. Did he really see me as nothing more than an impending weight around his neck? Or was he projecting his own fears of rejection and vulnerability. A fear of getting hurt or somehow trapped by difficult emotions somewhere down the line. Was he at this moment in time, trying to quash his feelings of fondness towards me?
In many aspects of our lives we’re being told to make it on our own. To function as an autonomous unit that rejects the help and influence of those around us. Re-read the words at the top of this article and you’ll recognise them from impressive autobiographies across social media, CVs, and dating apps. We place value on these attributes and strive to embody them. But at what cost? To define as a self-motivator and a high achiever insinuates no discussion or sharing of ideas with others. It disregards the people that helped get you there. Advertisers know there are big bucks to be made from products that promise to alleviate your reliance on others.
My smartphone enables me to independently navigate unknown towns, meet a partner, fix my anxiety, learn to build my muscles, and network my industry. All without having to speak to a single person.
For now, I’m choosing to show fondness and care towards the voice note aficionado. Because I saw his awareness of the rising tide despite his own complicit actions within it, and because deep down, I believe he would like a partner.
After all, we’re all spawned out of vulnerable children. We’re all adults with an innate desire to love and be loved. It’s impossible to pick and choose the emotions we experience. By retreating inwards and supressing our vulnerability, we desensitise ourselves to joy, excitement, and pride at the same time.