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  • Writer's pictureArlene Bozich

Debating Dating; Is Society's Collapse a Buddy Adventure or Solo Villain Origin Story?

I suck at dating, I’m very aware of this flaw. If I was even halfway decent at it I would have already found someone worth settling down for or would’ve built enough of a life with someone that I wouldn’t think about being on dating apps anymore. In both these versions of me, the one who knows how to navigate the modern intimacy culture and the one writing this blog, the actual act of dating is akin to a drawn-out root canal that’s already building interest in the price even before the experience is over. And, since the lockdown in March of 2020 sent us all scurrying away from each other, I really have not felt a huge pull to gamble on another lackluster, digitally match-made date. One of my theories as to why dating currently sucks so bad is because there are no third-space areas for culture to actually develop in our modern age, outside of the digital world. Since there’s nowhere to just hang out and be a human, we can’t just do the human thing and hook up. Second, because the only third spaces we do have access to are digital, we’re forcing the left part of our brain, the analytical & numbers-driven side or IQ of intelligence, to do the work that the right brain, the creative & emotional EQ part of the mind, should be leading. Someone might look and sound excellent online, but you know from the moment you meet someone in person whether you have chemistry or not- and that’s where intimacy has to start for me.

I’ve been thinking about this more lately because I’ve come to the conclusion that love, all types of love, are the most peaceful way to actively destroy Neoliberalism, Capitalism, and any other -isms; the names for the hierarchical structure that currently dominates the globe. It’s true that single women & those who get out of bad marriages tend to live longer than women who stick it out in unhappy marriages. But the companionship of a solid marriage with a good partner can help women and men live longer- single men die before their married counterparts, partially because they never really learn to take care of themselves. The Patriarchy keeps men ignorant of emotional & physical hygiene practices on purpose so they are required to subjugate a woman to meet their needs. The men who evolve and learn to do these practices themselves, whether they’re single or in a happy marriage, meet the women’s rates for life longevity in the same categories. There’s also the group of unevolved manchildren who employ weaponized incompetence and are unable to clean up their messes, even when it affects their partner’s life, which to me makes the idea of having a partner seem more like a chore than a benefit but apparently, there are good marriages out there. Basically with companionship if it’s good, it’s really good and if it’s bad you’re both fucked.

I’m not hitting a wall with my creativity, but I’ve realized there are parts of my brain and heart that I just don’t have access to without a partner. And I need those bits of myself so I can speak out against the worst parts of society and find hope for myself for the future, to give others hope with my stories. If I’m going to keep writing like a madwoman and screaming into the void, I need to have access to every part of me. And that’s not to say I’m not complete on my own- I love my life, and that’s what’s making this decision of whether or not to date again so difficult. I don’t have to consult anyone about schedules or coordinate holiday visits with strangers or have to share my bed or food or time with anyone- and for a writer to not be constantly harangued by well-meaning questions or ideas is something akin to Heaven on Earth. But it feels like I’ve worn out this part of the video game map. Like, I’ve done all these levels alone, some parts on the hardest modes imaginable, and I know my way through them. But there are areas of these levels and maps that I literally cannot reach or get to without the buddy system. I don’t want someone to come in and save me, or just get through the day-to-day with the same dull, drudgery that I can do just fine on my own- I want an adventure buddy. A partner.

Enter modern dating. Not only does every picture on social media posted by men make my asshole tighten and cringe as I go, “Oh, HONEY,” I just can’t get over my fear masquerading as anger. I’ve had annoying dates and normal dates and fun dates and bad dates in the past- and then there are those really bad dates, the ones you don’t talk about except in private circles because the fact that you got out alive is the only reason the story could be considered good. And with the uptick in violence since the last time I tried using dating apps, every bit of my finally-finished-developing 31-year-old brain is just point-blank refusing to re-download any of them. Living in New York, I was groped and shoved and followed by more men than there are weeks in the year- I actually kept track until it got too sad, there was something gross or horrible that would happen to me when I was just existing in public at least twice a week every year. And this is just…normal. I’m not special. This is something that every single woman or femme-presenting person goes through, and the people who are non-white, disabled, or even poorer than me do it with increased amounts of violence- I’m doing that part of the game on easy mode comparatively. I will say my height is to my detriment in my opinion, and I’m only 5’10”. Not only am I at eye level with a majority of men, I’m too tall compared to other women to just slink away unnoticed. I can’t really hide to keep myself safe as a woman out in the wild. I had a guy pull a knife once because I wouldn’t say hello to him. I just laughed and asked where the other six inches are- he wasn’t expecting that and I was able to get away. Acting training to the rescue. But the violence of men makes being attracted to them deeply enraging and painful- I’m attracted to the thing that is actively trying to fucking kill me. Muhammad Ali does a great job articulating this when it comes to black people not wanting to engage with or else outright rejecting white people, “There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right,” he said. “If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn’t want to bite me, I knew they were good… Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?” Being a woman and looking at whether or not I want to date is feeling more and more like I should just keep the door closed.

And when it comes to looking for a partner, I don’t have a checklist- not really. As far as I’m concerned I’ve dropped my standards to a bar near the floor of Hell and somehow men continue to limbo under it, it’s astounding. I have some boundaries and terms of what I consider ‘respect’, but it’s not an A-B-C, by rote and repetition thing. I haven’t been attracted to a guy that’s shorter than me, so I guess the height ‘requirement’ is more of a case-by-case basis; I’m sure I connect with shorter guys, I just haven’t found the right one or ones yet. When it comes to intelligence I don’t care if they have a degree or not, but I do care that they’re curious and working toward something they love. Curiosity over fear. I don’t have an income requirement, but as long as they have a handle on their life and live within their means we can work it out. Also, hygiene. Are you confident in what you wear and look like? Do you take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, & emotionally? Cool. My ‘requirements’ or ‘standards’ for a partner aren’t any higher than they are for myself- if I’m not taking care of myself and my responsibilities, it’s my job to fix it. So if a guy can’t do that for himself before he meets me, I’ll either have to take on his responsibility or else teach him, unpaid, for something he should’ve done and developed on his own. Both of these scenarios are a waste of time and resources on my end, contributing to the “keep the door closed” mentality. Never mind the unevolved ones that also blurt out how I’m going to be taking care of their kids one day- cue Belle kicking Gaston out of her cabin, straight into the mud. It’s disappointing that there aren’t a lot of guys out there working on themselves and living lives they actually want to live; they’re just refusing to check their egos and looking for a woman to clean and decorate their misery. That sucks.

I am trying to find reasons to go on dates, to try hanging out with new men again, but I’ve worked really hard to cultivate a group of men who I know aren’t trying to kill or control me and it’s really hard to leave that comfort zone. All the guys that I talk to regularly are in healthy relationships, actively working on themselves, or are on the other end of the ‘Should I Date?’ boat from me. These guys are checking whether they can trust themselves in another relationship- I had a guy friend admit he took a break from dating because of how mean he was to his last partner and knew he needed to check himself. It’s the self awareness for me; he went back, actually apologized in a real way, cleaned up his mess, and is still getting himself into a better state of mind and heart before trying to be vulnerable with another person. We have zero chemistry and we’ve talked about that, but it’s nice to see friends make active steps in improving themselves and I’m really proud of him. All these guys I keep in my community were really, really, really hard to find- it’s not my fault we all feel like we’re cousins or siblings to one another, I don’t choose chemistry.

My fear is definitely keeping me from getting vulnerable, which is what allows for chemistry- I AM AWARE OF THIS, I KNOW MY GROUP OF THERAPIST FRIENDS READING THIS HAVE ALREADY SCREAMED THIS OUT AT LEAST FOUR TIMES DURING THIS BLOG POST, I HEAR YOU, HOLY SHIT, LEAVE ME ALONE. Anyway. I get it. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me. But the way to fix this is to be brave and open up and, since there are no safe places for me to open up without possibly getting straight up murdered, we’re back to square one. Why should I even fucking consider this at all?

There are so many different types of love and I seem to have cultivated all but the romantic. I have friends from grade school, high school, college, graduate school, theatre, work life, and truly random people I’ve met on travels who I’ve kept in touch with. I have a huge family and I’ve also lived alone. I know self-love and awareness, I know how to assert my boundaries in a healthy way, how to kin keep and be there in grief and celebration, in public and private. My day-to-day schedule is filled with my responsibilities taken care of my way, with the rest of the time doing whatever I want. I think the rest of my love life is so healthy because I forced myself away from the romantic angle. But, everything comes back eventually. And now I’m looking at it again.

There are movies and TV shows and plays and musicals I want to write, but I need a partner. There are places I want to travel to that I could go to alone, but I want someone to share experiences with. Yes, you can bring friends and fellow artists and the like and I’ve done that- I’m going to keep doing it, it’s the best part of life. But there are smaller, more intimate moments that you can only appreciate so deeply on your own. Humans are communal creatures and, as tempting as it is for me to just run away to a cabin in the woods and never think about returning, there is that stupid little tug on my heart. Like, maybe just one more try. Maybe someone will spark your interest, just one more look. But then I turn around and I become a pillar of salt on a bad date with an accountant who’s looking for a baby incubator so he doesn’t have to argue with his parents about how his life should look ‘at his age’. Or I’m invited to what I thought was a birthday party and now am possibly being sold off into a trafficking ring- like, the definition of a ‘bad date’ is so broad at this point I think it’s just ‘dating’ now. It’s all fucking bad out there.

I’m not going to re-download the apps. I hate them, I always have; it’s so shallow and reductive and I just can’t. I also need to decide if I’m going to move soon- I’m staying with my parents in my hometown currently and the dating scene is not…it’s just not okay. 32 in the suburbs is actually 45 in age, whereas that same person feels like they’re 25 in the city. But again, just existing in a more urban place like New York means my stress from street harassment will skyrocket again, making my ability to open up and date almost impossible. How am I supposed to dress cute to meet someone when I get screamed at and followed home when I'm not wearing makeup, covered in winter gear, and have a facemask on? It’s like painting a target on my body and running at a bull- just dumb. So…again. What to do?

Then it comes to actually going on a date in current reality. What am I supposed to say to new guys anyway? Like, how are you handling society’s collapse? What’s your five-year plan once the Fascists completely take over? In terms of French existentialists, do you side more with Sartre or Camus? Do you know how to field skin a deer and what field to use for which equation in Microsoft Excel? Are you keeping up with AI and task automation? Do you know how to homestead? I have books you can read if not, just let me know…like, all of this is not okay on my end. I can’t just throw my crazy at a guy like that right away, it’ll scar him. And I’m also not willing to lend out my books to a guy on a first date, you have to earn that shit.

I guess I’m going to stay single until I find someone with the same scars and a complementary library who brushes his teeth every morning and night and lives in the middle of the woods, with access to a train or bus line to use public transport to travel to the city on weekends. Simple. Right?

I have a feeling I’m going to be single for a while, so I better get to enjoying it.


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