Dating today is all about collecting data points and ignoring them completely. Everything that we learn, all of those notches in our headboards, each tear-stained pillow is for absolutely nothing (other than perhaps the occasional embarrassing story that everyone can appreciate around a drunken living room) because instead of down-selecting for qualities that we learn work for us, we simply continue to compare rotten apples to rotten tomatoes. In the 21st century, dating tends to lend from buffet-style options: When the ham is golden and glistening next to the dried, grey brick of meatloaf, even a vegetarian is going to covet the pig. So between Match.com, Facebook and all of our friends of friends of friends, we subconsciously allow ourselves to make superficial comparisons based on absurdly artificial ranking systems amongst singles who would never swim into our dating ponds if we actually were still paying attention to our handcrafted regulations. We let ourselves get away with this by saying that we're being open, that we aren't being judgmental, that we're trying new things "because you never know." Well, here's one thing I do know: You feed a lactose intolerant person a bowl of ice cream, he's going to get sick. So why have such high hopes for Mr. Blue Eyes when you know you could never date a conservative?
Part of the problem is that in the digital age, hours feel like days. No email or text message in 24 hours is the first sign that the passion is dying. Since most people get to know each other through emailing or instant messaging or chatting, the second or third in-person date is really like the 9th or 10th, which explains why it's no big deal for people to sleep together after knowing each other no longer than one week, not having any idea if the other person is looking for a relationship or just a playmate. Before you know it, you're in love with the electronic person you've been constructing in your mind regardless of the lacking overlap with the real life person. They are merely a physical form to put with the digital person you've been dating in solitude.
So why is it so surprising when these relationships turn out to be non-starters? We ignore our instincts to date people who we're chemically, morally or otherwise naturally drawn to, so how can it hurt so much to lose inadequate relationships that really only go right and then suddenly wrong in our heads? We make one-sided personal investments without any regard for whether there's hope of reciprocity and yet allow, in the fullness of time, there to be instilled bitterness and regret in our otherwise vacuous dating worlds.
So what's left to be said for searching for love when it seems to
be lost in the perpetuity of ignorance? Like anything else, it won't
do you any good hiding under the sofa cushion. You can't play with it
by yourself, at least not for very long. When it's gone, you can
seldom recall a happy moment that you spent with it without a pang of
anguish spliced with regret. Perhaps the dreamers are happier in their
dreams and the drifters are happier off the course of love. I know I'd
rather be in either one of those positions at almost any given time. It
seldom seems worth it; I could have stayed in bed for the last month
and at least been well rested. But the feeling of something missing,
it's not so much an empty place inside as it is a black hole,
spaghetifying all the hopes and cares and plans for a future that
doesn't exist. It's a vacuum and it hurts; that's how you know it's
working and that's what keeps us grasping for more, often beyond the
guidance of our own date points and into the margin of error.