Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness: But Who Pursues Who?

Sixty years ago there was a formula to dating that was simple and straightforward. Boy meets girl, boy asks girl out for a milkshake, boy and girl drink milkshakes, boy takes girl home, then boy decides whether he enjoyed girl’s company enough to buy her another milkshake at a later time. If he did, he would call her again. He would "pursue" her.

This is somewhat archaic terminology glorifying the fact that men love the chase. Evolution will never get rid of this hunter/gatherer mentality. Yet somehow, this formula has not stood the test of time. It’s now unclear who is supposed to be pursuing who.

Putting yourself out there first is scary and rejection sucks. The benefit of the old formula was that this unfortunate responsibility was squarely on the man’s shoulders. A lot of women, including myself, selfishly wish it would stay this way but that is nothing more than reverse sexism. Equal rights means equal opportunity for rejection.

However the dilemma is this; women in general get a lot more attached a lot earlier on than men do. Even more dangerous, women tend to project feelings onto a potential relationship that are not even there. We convince ourselves that this “amazing guy” we met 10 days ago could be the one. Sure you haven’t gone on an honest-to-goodness date yet, but his text messages are SO sincere.

Then there are all the go-to excuses we use as to why a guy we feel a connection with WON‘T pursue us:
“He’s shy.”
“He’s intimidated by my professional success.”
“He’s intimidated by my ability to name all 50 states in alphabetical order. That’s why we went dutch on the bill, because he likes me but was intimidated and all.”


How do we avoid these inevitable justifications? We go on the defense. We choose to take the, “If he likes me he’ll pursue me” approach. Sit back, relax, and let them do all the work. Not necessarily the wrong decision, but is it the fair one?

Not really, but men are not great about asserting themselves if there isn’t anything in it for them. Within minutes of meeting you they have probably already decided whether you are friend-material or relationship-material, but they won’t come out and say which one you are because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So, their actions end up speaking louder than words. We depend on them to make the first move so we know there is mutual interest and that our feelings are not a convoluted attempt to make something out of nothing.

Also if they aren’t man enough to ask you out, they may not be man enough to date you. Just putting that out there.

Unfortunately there is not a perfect solution to this problem, which is why I miss the “formulaic” 1950’s boy asks out girl approach. But, IDEALLY, I think we should get over ourselves, stop fearing rejection, and pursue someone if we are interested in them. Stop letting the boys have all the fun. If the attention isn’t immediately reciprocated, drop it and move on. If it’s meant to be, aggressive pursuit by either party should be pretty unnecessary. No rocket science involved, no endless re-readings of the Facebook message he sent you last week… "Is this a I’m-teasing-you-because-you’re-like-a-little-sister-to-me message or a -I’m-flirting-with-you-because-I-want-to-suck-face message?”

It’s a you-really-need-a-therapist-so-I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-you’re-unhealthy-obsessing message.