Archive for June, 2003

What was my first summer job?

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According to the DISC personality profile system, what is my personality type?

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Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry here. I’m really sorry about that. However, until I get around to writing down all the meaningful thoughts in my head, you’ll have to settle for an old Friday Five.

1. What brand of toothpaste do you use?

Colgate Total

2. What brand of toilet paper do you prefer?

Kleenex Cottonelle (with Ripples)

3. What brand(s) of shoes do you wear?

New Balance 608

4. What brand of soda do you drink?

I drink lots of sodas.

5. What brand of gum do you chew?

I never could get into chewing gum. After the gum loses its flavor within the first ten seconds, I derive no additional pleasure from chewing it. Therefore, I don’t even bother trying anymore.

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I recently rediscovered my hatred for dating. Don’t get me wrong. I like relationships with women. That part is great! It’s the particular process of establishing relationships with the opposite gender that our society uses that I’m not so crazy about. I have issues with the dating system.

They say that, after a date, you have to wait 48 hours before calling her again. Wait, no, they say you have to wait three days. Wait, no, they say you have to wait a week. Wait… Well, they say a lot of things, and they often contradict each other. Everyone you ask for advice will tell you something slightly different, and, to take a line from the movie Magnolia, “which is which, and who only knows?”

However, it’s not just the disagreement within the dating system about its own rules that makes me suspicious of it. I also take issue with the reasoning behind these rules. Why do I need to wait a certain length of time to call for another date? They say I need to leave her wanting more. They say I want her to be wondering why I haven’t called—you know, to create a sense of mystery or something. On one level, I understand this—the level at which I’ve been conditioned to accept our particular courtship system as normal. On a deeper, more basic level, however, such explanations seem highly questionable in the context of the goal of dating. The ultimate goal of dating ought to be to form a long-lasting romantic relationship based on commitment, trust, and friendship. However, the reasoning behind the rules of dating reeks of emotional manipulation, which is antithetical to the intended goal. It seems to be more about the pleasure of getting her to like me in the short-term than about forming a long-term, healthy relationship.

They say that dating is a game, and that you have no choice but to play. Well, I’ve tried playing the game, and the game has betrayed me. I’ve seen, to a degree, how messy the dating system can make things. Following the dating system’s path to marriage leaves behind a trail of broken relationships, and even after all that, the marriages that it creates have a horrible success record. However, maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on the dating system. After all, as sinful beings we tend to leave trails of broken relationships anyway, and there’s probably many other, more direct causes of divorce. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too quick to pin all of a nation’s relational woes only on the system that produced those relationships. Then again, one has to wonder if the dating system doesn’t contribute in some measure given the apparently deceitful attitudes underlying its rules—attitudes that are likely to be carried over from the dating relationship into the marriage relationship. If the system is fundamentally flawed in such a way, how can we expect the product to be anything but dysfunctional?

Sociologically speaking, the dating system is quite new. It is only within the past century that it has come into existence. The dating system as we know it began as a subtle mutation of the previous standard courtship system, and as it diverged from there in its development, it gradually became the new standard. This switch took courtship out from the home and from under parental supervision, and placed it into the freedom of the public square and into the realm of entertainment (see Beth Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America).

While reflecting on the historical precursors to the dating system, I realized that it actually isn’t a very robust system. Many of the rules that we associate with the system today are not intrinsic to the system itself, but are developed and altered according to each generation’s experience with the basic principles of the dating system and the surrounding cultural atmosphere. This realization gave me a new perspective on the rules of dating, since I realized that they are pragmatic in nature, rather than deductions based on principles antithetical to the goal. This certainly explains why each person has a slightly different set of rules, and it also gives me hope that I might have just been given the wrong explanations for the rules.

For example, perhaps the reason why I have to wait some specified amount of time before calling for another date isn’t because I have to manipulate my way into a relationship. Perhaps, it’s because each individual needs a different amount of time to mentally and emotionally process through the development of the relationship, and therefore, I need to allow plenty of time for that to occur. The thing that strikes me about this possible change in explanation is that it replaces a self-centered focus—getting her to like me—with an other-centered focus—respecting the period of time the other person needs to process the developing relationship. Suddenly, the rules are loving instead of deceitful! Therefore, at least in this case, the problem isn’t necessarily systemic, but may be an issue of individuals with wrong attitudes. Of course, I could also be wrong.

Unfortunately, this conclusion, assuming it’s true, only allays my conscience so much. It helps me to understand the advice that I have been given recently, and to understand it in a more positive and constructive way than I initially received it. However, I still have some serious concerns about the dating system, including its core principles. I strongly suspect that there is a better system of courtship that could be used, which would foster better attitudes and develop stronger relationships—both with future spouses and other members of the opposite gender. I just wish I knew what it was.

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