Handling Dating Fluctuations: Feast or Famine

Romance is a tropical island, subject to unpredictable weather and extreme conditions. The rainy season may be overwhelming at first, but what follows is plentiful feasting. As a single twenty-something I’ve observed two states of polarity in our romantic lives: lonely as a bottom dwelling hermaphrodite from a deep-sea abyss or popular as Harry Styles at a tween-ager convention. There is rarely a middle ground, so eat while the goings good. A feast can quickly become a famine.

One day out of the blue, it really does start raining men. God bless Mother Nature! It’s thrilling when out of the blue every Tom, Dick and Harry starts trying to hit you up; suspiciously you wonder if somebody has written your contact details on a bathroom stall: “Call for a good time.” But regardless of the cause, the sudden influx of boys blowing up your phone gives you a Ke$ha-like feeling of celebrity. “Yassssss, I am queeeeen,” you hiss as you skip merrily along, tossing your hair and giggling with delight while a pied-piper trail of men follow along behind you. The drought has passed – hallelujah, you’re saved! Line up in single file Bachelors, you get a rose, you get a rose, get a rose, you all get a rose.

Once you get a grip of your intoxicating ego trip you start to realise the logistical nightmare ahead of you. How should you prioritise your options? Do you pick the guy with the nice hair, or the one with the dog? What about the PT, or maybe the businessman? What on earth have they put in the water to send all these men shooting out of the ground where there was once only barren soil and optimistic exes? Now you’re wading through oceans of devotion and tossing up whether to dip a toe in the water or dive in head first, but the question is, at what stage does interviewing multiple candidates become unethical? Because if this was a reality TV show it would be okay to start dating all twenty as long as I slowly whittle down the numbers week by week. Maybe play it safe and start with five. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Wining, dining, flirting, banter; everything is going so well, you can’t even remember what it was like to be trapped in the barren desolate wasteland of the drought days. It’s all fun and games for a few weeks then, suddenly, your show has been axed. You were basking on the beach of love until you saw your top three guys have mutual friends and they’ve all just checked in at the same event: game over. You thought in this modern age it was okay for girls to play the field? Well, apparently not. Due to your silver-tongued antics your popularity has significantly dropped and suddenly you’re alone and confused like an ousted Australian Prime Minister. Yesterday you were on top, now your swarm of suitors have disappeared, leaving you to wonder if it was ever really real or just a mirage.

You start to really regret throwing away your favourite volleyball, Wilson. Sure, he wasn’t great at conversation but he was good listener and they are getting hard to come by. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling when the sky stops raining men and all the dateable/mate-with-able guys seem to disappear from the planet. Now there’s only tumble weeds rolling across a grim social media feed. Your ovaries shudder in terror and your browser history is filled with cat memes and baby sloth videos. You’re back on that tropical island all alone, catching fish with your bare hands and washing your hair once a week – at the very most. You wonder if it was a bad idea to go on a  spree of saying “yes” and kissing babies like a sleazy politician when there was no way you were ever going to follow through.

You surrender back into your life on Single Island. This is where you live now. It seems this may be the end. Your dating show has been axed and this is the final curtain, the end of all love. Climb into your adult-sized onesie and nurse a bottle of moscato; make yourself comfortable as you settle in for a full Bridget Jones montage of sad, single moping. ‘Allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll by myself’ humming in the back of your head as you relentlessly check your phone for the buzz of a direct message or cheeky “like,” but there’s nothing except your friends tagging you in Instagram memes about insane single girls and binge drinking.

Moving further into single hysteria, you start uploading falsely glamourous Instagram selfies (#TBT to when I wasn’t a hot mess) and Snapchat stories (I’m cute, remember!?) to test the waters. But alas, the only bites come from three creepy guys who’ve messaged you sporadically over the past six years telling you (and probably 15 others), again, how beautiful you are. *Ugh* Thank you, Creepy Greg, but puh-lease, that selfie was not meant for you. Why not try again in another six weeks when my self-worth has plummeted just a little further?

“Pull yourself together woman,” a voice inside your head says. “You can stay here rehashing history and living in your pyjamas, leading a sad half-life consisting mainly of Grey’s Anatomy repeats, desperately scavenging social media affirmations of your worth, or you can fashion a raft out of drift wood and save your sorry self. You can’t sit around your whole life praying for rain because the only thing you can rely on is this: it won’t happen when you want it to. Remind yourself that being single is a situation, not a character flaw and get on with being a girl boss!”

You’re most attractive to the opposite sex when they are the last thing on your priority list. Whether you’ve devoted yourself to travel, your career, being a better friend/ relative/ human, or you’ve completely given up on Homo Sapiens and finally bought that puppy.  The only time you find what you once wanted is when you stop looking for it, and the less you want it, the more likely you are to find it. Like a dripping naked toddler that’s escaped from the bath that refuses to be clothed, the faster you run away the harder they will try to catch you. “Let me be free,” I scream, whilst they try to wrangle me into restrictive dating patterns. That’s when you realise that, actually, things were so much easier when it was just you and Wilson.

 

It’s good to be back in Arcadia, thanks for stopping by! Jump up to the menu box in the top right hand corner of the page to subscribe by email so you never miss a post!  Jules x

Love Maths: Inverse Relationships  

By Misha Saul

This post is in response to “Love maths: Equations and Probabilities” by Jules Reed posted on 11/03/15

Plenty of fish. Plenty. But how many?

I was a little flummoxed by the maths in Jules’s wonderful article. What an optimistic romantic she must be to count 25 loves in a lifetime. Or just a sucker for punishment. Thank god I count fewer. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it feels like I fall in love every time I walk down the street or swipe left accidentally (No! She was the one and now she’s lost to the Tinder-verse!). If a love lifetime is between the ages of 17 and 35, generously speaking, how many loves do we experience in a period of 18 years? Sure, I loved the girl at the desk beside me in grade 2, and I’m sure there’s a Humans of New York story about love at first sight at 60. But let’s be real here.

You meet someone new, you court, discard a runner up, magic carpet into the sky and flitter away some years on high, only to find yourself sliding down Mount Doom into a sea of consolatory brunches and faux fun drunk nights out. How long did that take? Call it 3 years? So Jules and I agree on that arithmetic. So let’s say you have the energy for 6 of those in your (generous) 18 year love lifetime. You’re a trooper – you haven’t let cynicism or bitter ice cream eat away at your Peter Pan complex. Realistically it’s probably more like 3 to 4. That’s 3 to 4 opportunities to find the partner with whom you’ve dreamt of spending the rest of your life. How many lads have you nixed so far?

But there are plenty of fish in the sea! There are. Don’t believe the One Soul Mate Showtime crap. Plenty of Sallys for every Harry out there and vice versa. Thousands of them. But you have 3 to 4 windows to get it right. You’re not an invincible fishing trawler on the high seas: you’re a crazed one-eyed whaler with a handful of harpoons.

And even that hides the real story. This is where the maths really kicks in, but let’s look at it in terms of market analysis. You’re a smart, beautiful, educated, professional woman. Who are you going for? Who you’ve always gone for: smarter, older, richer, attractive men. This isn’t a jibe at society’s shallowness blah blah – it’s an evolutionary reality, which is as obvious as it is understandable. Any dissent is wishful thinking with a dollop of self-deception. So what is happening to your preference pool? It’s diminishing. You’re getting only more successful… and older. Your pool of Prince Charming candidates is rapidly shrinking.

And here is where it really gets fun. What’s happening to that ever shrinking pool of desirable men? Their target market has never been larger. See, men are less fussy. They want an awesome girl, sure. But they’re more age and career agnostic. Their floor doesn’t rise. Yours does.

Ladies, you’re pricing yourselves out of the market. This isn’t a critique – kudos to you wonderful women. It just explains the plethora of miserable lawyers and accountants and marketeers complaining to their girlfriends that there just aren’t any good guys out there.

Remember those poor doleful pimply boys of yore? What a sticky, Tantalean hell they inhabited. Remember how you scorned them? And who wouldn’t – you were top of the world and they were…well, gross. You were gorgeous, fun, 21. Remember that 28 year old you dated? You loved a man in a suit, and he loved you. Probably flung him off in a fit of youthful exuberance. You could do better, life was an ocean and you a majestic trawler, breezing through fish by the tonne. Well maybe you could have done better. And still can. But the odds have narrowed. That 30 year old hunk you’re eyeing now is eyeing the 21 year old behind you with whom you now share your pond.

What does this mean? Plot the charts of the mating market in terms of how attractive one sex is to the other and the size of their target market: Men’s prospects start low and steadily rise through their twenties, peaking around their early thirties, to plateau and slowly decline but remain more or less marketable indefinitely (or say until 40 for all intents and purposes). Women peak in their early to mid-twenties and slowly decline until a rough and tumble slide after around thirty. It’s a more or less inverse relationship. And it’s unfair: careening into your happy-ever-after-cum-vicious-jungle unarmed and with the distinct taste of anti-climax.

On this one your country and early bird sisters have a point. Lock it down young at your peak. Hindsight’s a peach though isn’t it?

It’s a funny justice of sorts. But we men didn’t make the rules.

None of this is a secret. This is a conversation I’ve had in countless versions with single women in their late twenties – or early twenties if I’m playing a nasty Cassandra. There’s a moment when it hits, and it’s usually wrapped up with the kids thing. It prompts the pause, the decision, even if you decide to go it without the ankle biters. Certain options have an expiry date – it’s not a societal invention, it’s a biological reality. Working backwards with the number of kids you want, how long it takes to work through the love lifecycle and you realise you better get snapping…suddenly you look around and realise a bunch of the lads are taken, a bunch have degenerated to new and horrifying levels of ineligibility, and the rest…well, the rest have these big fat grins. Because they know. And you know. And the game is up. It’s maths.

Happy hunting whalers. There’s only a can of tuna at the end of this rainbow, better snap up your marlin now.

Click on the menu button to subscribe to Life in Arcadia and get notified of new posts view email, Jules x

Love Maths: Equations and Probabilities

It’s another girl. The timing is wrong. He’s just too busy with work; he’s been abducted by aliens or more likely than not he’s been recruited to the secret service and has had to cut ties with me for my own safety. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been my fault. If my calculations were correct we should’ve been holi-dating in Thailand by now and posting obnoxious couple selfies. Instead, the red carpet has been pulled out from under me and I’m left red-faced and licking my wounds after making a public spectacle of myself.  Someone must have fed me corrupted data.  How did this all go so horribly wrong? Holy shit Neo, there’s a glitch in the Matrix.

After falling flat on your face in front of a bemused crowd of onlookers, it can be hard to regain composure. In trying to make sense of our stumbles, we tend to blame everything under the sun except ourselves and get very hung up on the idea of closure. As if falling ass-over-tit for someone who doesn’t want you back isn’t embarrassing enough, people then want to pinpoint the exact moment things went astray. When people tell you not to worry because there’s plenty more fish it’s typically not very comforting. Oh wow really, what sea? What fish? Okay, there’s like 2 billion fish out there but they are probably all weird looking, undersized, bottom feeders. No thanks.  I want a Marlin, not a tin of tuna. I thought I’d hooked a big fish, if only I knew what went wrong. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?

The word itself – closure – indicates some kind of finality, as if knowing what the turning point was will make you feel instantly better and the whole saga will magically fade away into a distant memory. Keep dreaming. Of course it’s not that easy: since when could you blame one straw for paralysing a camel when there’s a whole bale underneath it? It’s never as simple or logical as “rise over run,” so analyse as long as you want but you are more likely to catch a unicorn then the mythical closure beast. Relationships don’t follow a logical, linear progression; the best you can hope for is to find some kind of trend in the chaos so you can manipulate future equations. Jules + Jerk Face = Sad Jules. Subtract the boy, carry the Jules, + gal pals x brunch = awesomeness2.

When you finally accept that you probably won’t ever be able to solve ‘x’ to uncover the exact reason for the relationship failure then you can start looking forward. Perhaps you forgot to carry the two, divide by 36 and move the decimal point; maybe you just weren’t his cup of tea and maybe he likes coffee. It doesn’t matter, post a passive aggressive quote on Instagram and move on. In fact, screw algebra. Thank you, high school maths teachers, for your years of hard work, but I don’t need a graphics calculator to tell me that love doesn’t bear resemblance to a text-book slope. It’s full of curves – positive and negative – and is generally much more of a white-knuckle roller coaster than a bell-shape or an exponential.

Don’t get so hung up on finding a logical answer for the one that got away. It’s nothing more than a necessary dot to your data set. So you put together a forecast based on an algorithm built with situational data and this time your prediction wasn’t even in the ball-park. You got it wrong… But that’s life. You’re not the first person to put all your eggs in one basket before elegantly face-planting right into them, crushing them to smithereens.  Wipe the yolk off your face, honey, and move on, because if you want to bake a cake you’re going to need to break some eggs and what’s that saying again? Oh yeah: “There are plenty more fish in the sea”…but how many exactly!? “Plenty more”’ isn’t a very compelling number– plenty more than what? Plenty more than none or plenty more than a New York City fish market?! Let’s crunch numbers.

By the time you’re in your early-to-mid twenties, it’s likely you’ve already caught a few fish. The newest guy/girl is the second, third – or in my case, 47th – love of your life. For the sake of the argument lets presume you’ve been casting lines into the dating pool for six years approximately. Now in that time you’ve met probably two life-changing loves, which averages out to one every three years (or every three months, if like me you fall in love like it’s going out of fashion). Therefore, conservatively, in a lifetime of dating that could be upto 25 people who could potentially turn your life into the blissful day-dream that is love. [Rough workings: 75 adult years/ 3 year love spells= 25 eligible candidates out there! Yiew!] Now, don’t give me crap about diminishing dating pools and declining probabilities, that’s not the point. I’m not a mathematician I am just a hopeless romantic trying to make an argument. So buck up, Chum, there actually are plenty more fish in the sea. Just keep on catching them and throwing them back until you find the one that’s right for you. And if nothing else, be comforted and a little grossed out by the fact that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among the elderly… So you’ve got plenty more years of love to look forward to.

Thanks for reading, if you love my posts please subscribe to email notifications. Just click the black square menu button in the top-right hand corner of the page and enter your preferred email address.

Jules x

Let’s be alone together

Somebody asked me the other day if I was lonely and I nearly fell off my chair.  I have not been lonely since I was a soppy, 14-year-old emo trying to figure out my place in the world, back when the feeling of misunderstanding felt terminal and heavy eye-liner was the only accessible medication. Back to the present day, though, am I alone? Yes.  Am I lonely? Never.  What a pointless waste of time. The absurd accusation that a person would be lonely because they don’t have a partner is about as robust as the assumption that all gay guys are “faaaaaaaabulous” and all pretty girls are dumb. Certainly, there will be instances of each but if you think it’s a blanket rule then you need to get out more.

To the young and carefree loneliness can be a bit like mould: if you’re complacent it can creep in and before you know it you’re sprouting mushrooms out of your shower grout. Much like the hygiene issues in your bathroom, you can’t trust other people to come along and clean up your mess. It’s you’re responsibility now and (I sincerely hope) your mum’s not going to come around save you. Roll up your sleeves, grab the bleach and take care of it like an adult, because – like cleaning the bathroom – the more regularly address it the easier it is to manage.

In a world where we are constantly attached to smart phones it can be easy to dilute friendships down to reciprocal post-liking or regular photo comments. Shout out to my Instagram bffs from around the globe with whom I share a magical double-tapping, girl-crushing, like-for-like commitment. I am here for you babe, and if you’re really struggling with that selfie I promise to like it across all three of my Instagram accounts – until death do us part. That being said it’s common in this day and age to let too many friends drift away from the physical world and get sucked into the digital vortex. Because of this, loneliness can catch you by surprise: while everyone else is driven mad by your loud, bragging message notification tone, you fail to realise the real-life organic relationships you once had are stale or rotting. Sure, I get a kick from pulling in mad stats on my latest highly filtered, artistic, over-exposed masterpiece (‘WOOHOO 100 likes…. Don’t touch me Bitch, I’m famous’) but that doesn’t take away my need for physical contact. I want to see your facial expression, read your body language – even smell your BO if I must. Nothing will ever replace the warmth of a whole-hearted laugh or the tingle of a rib-squishing hug.  Thinking that social media ‘connectedness’ can cure isolation is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – it’s just not going to stick.

If you’re a capable young adult the difference between being lonely and being alone is choice. I chose to be alone but nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to be lonely. If I wanted a relationship I’m sure I could find one. There’s a plethora of delightful gents out there who might just be up for the challenge (Wanted: tall, dark and handsome… or tall, blonde and handsome… Or tall and handsome… Ok, ok. Just handsome will do).  I chose to be alone because at this stage there isn’t an offer on the table that would justify rearranging my over-flowing calendar of commitments. With work, study, fitness, friendship, writing and my demanding hair-washing routine I am not willing to compromise my lifestyle for the sake of having someone to constantly harass me via text. So until the male cast of Vampire Diaries comes knocking down my door I’m more than happy to just keep doing my thing.

Loneliness happens when you stop proactively filling up your life with awesome things and waste your time moping that the man or woman of your dreams hasn’t tracked you down and put a ring on it yet. God knows why. Maybe they are too busy out living their own exciting, fulfilling lives to waste time trawling through Tinder profiles, Mutual Friends and Instagram galleries chasing you. The reality is you’re not going to get swept of your feet if you spend the majority of your time alone on the couch. I’m not saying you should sign up for insincere activities in the hopes of meeting someone, because that probably won’t work either. Trust me; a happy person can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water. Only they won’t be creeping up on you like Jaws, they will be running for the hills in case you’re contagious. There is nothing less attractive than a stage-five clinger who has no real life, friends or interests of their own. You don’t want to be that guy and you definitely don’t want to be with that guy so always carry salt.

Finding someone won’t necessarily cure your loneliness anyway.  Personally, I’m more likely to feel alone when I’m in a relationship that’s constantly letting me down than when I am in a committed relationship with myself.  I know what I like, I manage my own expectations, I never have to fight over what movie to watch, I don’t have to shave my legs every day and I’m free to be as ugly as I like without judgement.  If all of that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “if you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.’  If you can accept your flaws and embrace your strengths you can do away with the need for the continual reinforcement sought in a relationship. Put down the i-solation-Phone and make an ongoing commitment to your friendships and making life as full and rewarding as possible. You don’t need to settle for Joe-Blow, or worse, become boring old barnacle joy-riding on someone else’s life. Concentrate on yourself and it won’t matter if you have someone or not because you will be kicking life’s butt regardless.

Bottom line: You never have to be lonely if you can be comfortable being alone.

(Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Valentine’s Day Special: 5 Signs You’ve Settled

Happy Valentine’s Day lovers! It’s that time of the year again, the time where blissfully happy singles are made to feel like second-rate citizens due to their lack of arm-candy.

I’d like to take this opportunity to divert your attention away from those of us who are currently proud members of a one-man wolf pack, however, and highlight the real sob story here. The real losers here are neither those of us who are happily single or, heaven forbid, happily taken.  The ones I feel for are those in sub-par relationships where days like Valentine’s remind them what they are truly missing out on.

Being single is not terminal and it does not mean you’re defective. I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that King Arthur hasn’t yet arrived to pull the sword from the stone; Prince Charming must’ve had too many ales and fallen off his horse; I haven’t stumbled upon a royal amphibian looking to lock lips; and my hair – alas – is still not long or strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown man. What does concern me is the amount of people who have settled prematurely into unhappy relationships. Men and women alike, who are so desperate to stay out of the Lonely Hearts Club that they’ve jumped into a relationship with someone who barely meets their minimum standard.

Let’s take a moment of silence to commemorate those who have battled through the mundane and given up their freedom for the sake of a not being single.  Their sacrifice has been in vain, and I hardly doubt that a crappy stuffed animal on Valentine’s Day is going to offer any consolation. So, as a present to you guys out there I thought I’d put a little bit of a list together to help you identify some key indicators that you might be in a dead-end relationship.

  1. You’re embarrassed by them:

If you’ve been here then you will know the guilt and shame that comes from having a partner you’re not proud of. You will come up with reasons why they wouldn’t want to come to your friend’s event, work party or family dinner; frankly, you just don’t want them there making you look bad. When someone asks you about them you instinctively ‘white lie’… “His job in the film industry [Village cinemas] is going great and he’s really into creative arts [drawing male privates on every Snapchat he sends]. Also, when it comes to P.D.A you feel more inclined towards a public display of vomit. You don’t want anyone to know you’re together because you’re secretly hoping strangers on the street think he’s your brother or a homeless person you’re philanthropically sponsoring. For guys, maybe you’re bragging about her looks to try to distract your mates from her obvious lack of brains and ambitions.

  1. You don’t include them in future plans:

This sets off alarm bells. Better grab a bucket because your relationship is going up in flames. Your only hope now is to cling to a handsome fire fighter or sultry paramedic and get out before this whole place burns to the ground. Jokes aside, if you are planning a new life overseas, an investment property, a puppy or even a new tattoo and they haven’t crossed your mind in the process then this is a worry – particularly if they are the type of person who won’t even get a haircut without your consultation. If your life is moving at a million miles an hour and you don’t want to offer them a VIP ticket for the ride then you’ve got to ask yourself why you’re letting them hang around in the airport lounge for a plane they are never going to catch.

  1. The attraction is gone:

He used to get your heart pumping like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. Now, the only place you’re likely to experience an elevated heart rate is in spin class, or when you see your food coming at the restaurant. Somewhere along the way all of his or her endearing charm has disintegrated; suddenly you’re left with an over-grown teenager whose general approach to life is so different to yours that it has overshadowed their magnificent cheekbones and you can no longer see the beauty through the bullshit. I’m talking about that feeling you get when you look at your partner some days and wonder if you are actually dating the most disgusting creature ever to walk the earth. The magic has gone and you feel like you’d rather make out with a Saint Bernard than kiss him for the 4 millionth time; Or when her triple chin selfies are no longer cute but more resemblant of Jabba the Hut. It feels like whatever hallucinogenic drugs you must have taken have worn off and you wonder why you ever found them attractive in the first place.

  1. Your friends think you can do better (and you agree)

From the start your friends have been saying you deserve better and their friends have been applauding them for batting above their average. At first you thought your friends were just being negative old spinsters but as the relationship has progressed, the cracks have started to show. For fear of hearing “I told you so,”’ you’ve started to avoid any talk of your relationship in front of your friends. Deep down you know you could aim higher but it’s easier to be with him/her … you’ve let yourself go a bit and you’ve been avoiding manscaping or waxing for so long that you’re hairier than a wildebeest. You’re not ready to get back out there and you’re pretty sure your muffin-top isn’t going to bring anybody to the yard.

  1. You treat them more like a pet than a person:

Come here. Sit. Stay. Behave. Eat. Lie down. Good Boy! Thatta a girl!! Don’t laugh; I know I have definitely been in the situation where I was treating my significant other more like a Labrador than a lover. You shouldn’t have to scold them for stupid things, train them how to behave in public or tie them up outside when you go into a shop. Chances are you’re already day-dream about what your next relationship will be like because you know this one is not your last. If you’re treating your man like man’s-best-friend or using your lady as a show pony then it’s time to take stock.

For any of you empowered singles – meet me at the ticket box, because we are going to the movies this V-Tines day. Thank God we have 50 Shades of Grey to remind us that even most fictitious relationships are screwed up and borderline abusive. Just remember ladies and gents, it doesn’t matter how strong his Christian Gray game is, or if she’s the hottest girl you’ve ever touched. If they are a secret from your friends and a massive tool, what’s the point? Take a little look at your relationship – maybe the best present you could have this Valentine’s Day is a little bit of Candy Heart advice: life’s too short to settle.

(Photo Credit: theinvictusgroupinc.wordpress.com)