Saturday, July 16, 2011

Structural Singleness

This is Part 2 of a short series about what I call "Romanconomics" and what many other writers are calling "sexual economics."

In my last post, I described the surplus of women in the dating and marriage markets. I promised more explanation, as it is a multifaceted problem, so here comes another one! Since people already complain about structural poverty, structural unemployment, and structural film, I think it's about time we start talking about structural singleness.

Structural singleness happens when the system quits working, is working against you, or no longer exists. Thanks to a lack of both a "life script" (achieving life goals at a routine time), and a real-life script (knowing what to say and when to say it), structural singleness is wreaking havoc everywhere. Singles today often don't know how to date ... and often have no idea how to talk to each other.

There's actually a big problem with vocabulary. Our grandparents "went out." This was the term for casual dating—a revolutionary phase in relationship statuses that allowed people to hang out one-on-one to find out if they were interested in each other. Then people "went steady." This was after several dates when you upped the ante and decided to date exclusively. This theoretically progressed until you "got serious," then you "got engaged," and then you "got married." You went, and you got. You made an effort, and it worked out. You didn't meet and then hook up, and you didn't have the same set of friends and hang out all the time for five years and then suddenly quit talking to each other. You dated.

Today, the few brave souls who somehow end up with significant others swim through a murky pool of verbiage. These vague phrases have shifting definitions and no standard actions. Someone may be "in a relationship," which can mean anything from "sometimes he eats lunch at my table" to "we're getting engaged next week." The relationship might be "complicated," which can mean anything from "we both cheated," to "there's actually nothing here." You can be "dating," which is probably close to being "in a relationship." Or, you can "just be friends."* In other words, there's no industry standard. There's also no "career path."

Not knowing how to get from point "Hi-I-think-you're-cool" to point "Hi-we-should-date" means you're probably stuck between saying something that sounds way too serious and something that sounds way too casual. For example, one guy told me, "Hey, I like you," and then told me later that that meant he liked me as a friend. I've had a guy burn me a mix-tape of love songs ... as a purely platonic overture towards music appreciation. And I've definitely gotten the opaque, "We should get coffee sometime" ... over text message.

In a world where guys don't always know how to go from friends to more-than-friends (or what to call it if they did), girls hardly know how to read a guy. Does coffee mean coffee, a casual date, or a marriage proposal? Does "that's a great outfit" mean he's gay, stylish, or interested? These structural problems typically result in misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and needlessly failed relationships where the only possibility is to "just be friends."

The only way to get out of this mess is to change the way we date. Short of romance centralization offices, arranged marriages, or ever-lonely-hearts-clubs, the best solution is to be upfront about relationships with that special someone. Clear communication never hurt anyone, right? In fact, I'd love to discuss this over coffee with you sometime.

I was sent unclear signals in:

Brownish pencil skirt, warm white sleeveless ruffle blouse, teal cardigan, silk scarf headband, teal bead earrings, floral cuff bracelet, and faux suede teal pumps.

*The premise of the film When Harry Met Sally is that men and women can't be friends because "the sex part always gets in the way." This premise bears reflection. 

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this outfit. It was a major win. I also liked this post.

    ReplyDelete