I’ve always been fascinated by human perspective. The vast variation between one person’s reality and another’s has always held an immense amount of intrigue. Where these realities differ, where they intersect and which, if either, is truly reality at all.
When I entered the 9th grade I was told to read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. As a literary nerd, I always loved school assigned reading (in fact, it was usually re-reading in my case.) But O’Brien’s novel was new to me, as were the concepts he was playing with like the disparities in point of view, the unreliability of the human memory and the way our perception is influenced by personal experiences and desired outcomes.
Of course, I already understood that people could have differing opinions. But the fact that we could be present for the same event, same moment, same conversation and have entirely opposing memories of the result was astounding to me. Understanding and accepting the perspectives of others seemed like the key to unification, or at the very least, could save us a lot of trouble when dealing with interpersonal relationships. It seemed like something worth investigating.
While living in New York City I once tried to conduct a sort of mini study, so to speak, so as to explore the uniqueness of the human existence and the diversity of perspective. I would ask friends, coworkers and strangers on the subway a series of questions that I thought might give some insight into it. (Ah, to be awkward and shameless.) I thought maybe, if I gathered enough data, I could make some sort of connection. Find some point at which we all intersected. I thought I might discover some way that we were all the same beyond wanting happiness and not wanting suffering.
But alas, it was New York City and the overwhelming majority of my potential test-subjects just wanted me to fuck off. And so I did.
Over the last month, however, the topic of perspective has peaked my curiosity once again. But this time, rather than thinking about it generally, I’ve been fixated on a more specific component: the discrepancies in perspective between men and women when it comes to romantic relationships.
I date casually fairly often. I’m able to get to know someone without projecting an imagined future onto him, which I think comes mostly from the fact that I don’t necessarily want (and definitely don’t need) a relationship at the moment.
However, when I’m sincerely interested it’s hard not to do a little bit of projecting. I’m not talking baby names or meeting the parents. I’m just talking a good morning text or an invite out for drink. And because it’s what I want, it begins to take shape in my mind. I begin to visualize what he would say or the way I would make him laugh…and that’s when the trouble starts. Once something has been envisioned it becomes, in a sense, a part of our personal reality. So, whether or not we are consciously waiting for it, a part of us is waiting nonetheless. Then, when it doesn’t happen we feel a groundless sense of disappointment.
Men, on the other hand (and I’m speaking generally, of course) seem to be much more in the moment. In fact, maybe a little too much so. All that matters during the beginning stages is “Am I happy RIGHT NOW in this very instant that we’re together?”
The divergence here is tricky enough, but it gets even messier when flirting and sex come into play.
Over the last year, I’ve found myself in a few “non-relationships.” And he (the general he) will be saying all the right things. He’s looking at me in that nice way that a boy can look at a girl. He’s touching my hand and then he’s touching my waist. He’s telling me I’m sexy, I’m smart, I’m interesting. And then the next day he’s leaving the bar with someone else.
The only unbiased conclusion I have been able to draw from this is that men and women are both living in their own realities. We’re spending the same time together but women are reading something into it that men are not intending to write (or at least that’s the way society paints it.)
But we don’t want the reality to be that we are feeling something in our hearts that only actually exists in our heads. So we begin to use our imaginations to create excuses for them just to feed our own perception. Instead of seeing things for what they are in an exact moment in time, we see what could be.
So where does the problem lie? Does it all come down to the nonconformity of male and female expectations? Is it a gap in communication? Are women baselessly writing movie-like romances in their heads or are men just inconsiderate with our feelings?
Why is our perspective on the same relationships so very different?
I still genuinely haven’t a clue. It continues to be a most captivating riddle, as far as I’m concerned.
What I have started to figure out, though, is this: Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re not on the same page as the person that you’re interested in… If you are investing much more time and effort than them..If you feel like you’re constantly receiving mixed signals or continuously having to make excuses for tactless or thoughtless behavior…Move on.
We are in the throws of the age of dating with detachment. Hookup culture continues to prevail and the divide between men and women’s perspective seems to be a vast one.
But as long as you remember this one thing, I’m convinced you can let the rest of the bullshit go.
Here it is: Wait for someone who is stoked to be with you and isn’t afraid to show it.
Once you intersect on that one point, girls, that’s when he’ll begin to write exactly what he wants you to read. And, boys, that’s when you’ll start to believe that she just might be made of magic. That’s when neither of you will need to make excuses for the other or exist together only within the limits of the imagination. You will create a mutual reality that you both perceive as beautiful.
Dammit, it can be brutal out there. Dating is messy and tumultuous and somehow we never seem to be on the same page. But someone is about to be so stoked to be with you.
And from my perspective, that’s reason enough to laugh off the bullshit.