Perhaps a recluse who tends to flee whenever she catches sight of a male creature of her species isn’t the best person to dispense love advice, but there is something to be said for the knowledge observers can gain, if they look long enough, and think hard enough.
The way I see it, there seems to be a pattern to relationships that end badly: two people get together based on an illusion of each other, then gradually show their true selves until either one or both are repulsed by the cracks beginning to show in what was initially their smooth, porcelain-vase man or woman, and break up.
It’s what happened to my parent’s marriage, and one of my worst fantasies, though it’s unlikely to ever happen—I do have a habit of fantasizing horrible scenarios in my head as well as good ones—is to one day find myself loathing the guts of the man I have chosen to spend the rest of my life with. This is horrifically frightening mostly because of the parallels that can be drawn between it and the situation with my mother and father; and if I were ever to one day echo in my own life the dynamic between my parents, I think I would die of disappointment and self-hatred.
Which got me thinking: there is in fact a very easy way to avoid landing into messes like that in the first place, and that is to put your worst foot forward when you meet someone who you might consider as a prospective partner. Well, perhaps it isn’t entirely easy, but it certainly is a more practical way to approach the dating game, if you’re currently participating in it. Essentially, what you do is when you meet someone, instead of smiling and making an effort to appear wonderfully well put-together and attractive and thus inveigle your way into their good books, as we are all inclined to do, you should just be yourself—the worst version of yourself, that is, the kind of person you are if you wake early on Monday morning with a panic attack to the sound of rock music blaring from a neighbour’s window.
There’s a self that we show to people in the outside world, which is not real, and there’s a self we reveal only at home, amongst our family, which is who we really are, and which is oftentimes not always pleasant. At home, we might curse, yell and scream, have small tantrums and fits, act childish and immature, and in short behave in ways we never would in front of someone we found attractive. Yet who we are in the company of those we are most comfortable with is eventually the face your partner will see. Doesn’t it then make perfect sense to show this aspect of who are first, before progressing to kissing and intimacy and moving in together and marriage?
Because who a person is when they are at home, with their parents and siblings, is who you will end up marrying or dating. That’s the real deal—not the suits and the ties and the impeccably polished shoes and chivalry or the coy smiles and the dresses, but the disheveled man who hollers like a lunatic when there’s no milk in the fridge Sunday morning, or the woman who mopes and moans around the house like a small raincloud whenever her writing isn’t going well until you just want to flick her away like a flea. A person is not just the way they smile, or the gentle golden slope of their neck when it is hit by sunlight—they are also their irritating habit of not flushing the toilet or cleaning up after themselves, their selfishness and impatience, their tendency to daydream in the middle of a conversation, the way they look when sporting messy bed-hair and glasses, their high, whiny laugh that sounds like an enormous fly stuck up a pipe. The truth is, there are more aspects to our personality that are annoying than appealing, especially when endured over time.
In order for any relationship to have true potential, then, the illusion must be banished, and the problem is people sometimes can keep up the illusion for quite some time before it begins to disintegrate, though they all eventually do (no-one can pretend forever—not even actors). The truth, as they say, will come out, and since this part of the relationship is inevitable, why not jump straight to it, and skip all the flowers and make-believe which serve no purpose except to create a temporary, fantasy bubble?
Of course it would be difficult to undo years of conditioning and go against the primal instinct to impress a potential mate upon first meeting him or her. One would also run the risk of alienating the person and killing a romance in the bud before it’s even begun to blossom. The best way to go about it, then, I think, is to blatantly ask the other person to engage in a little “experiment” with you, whereby the both of you agree to show your worst selves in front of the other person, and perhaps see each other pooping while sitting on the toilet. Not the most romantic start to a partnership, but it’s certainly better than waking up angry and disillusioned many months, or even years, down the line.
Then again, perhaps that’s not a realistic way to go about relationships. Most relationships generally progress to stage where two people get to see all the ugly cracks and holes in all their irritating glory in each other after the first idealized period of courtship, which is when the decision to leave or stay is often made. Maybe we even need the shy smiles and the fantasy of the other person to jump-start the process of attraction, and make dating a little more fun and enjoyable. Maybe people want to experience a bit of fairytale romance once in a while, even if deep down they know it isn’t real, and that their Prince Charming or Princess farts and burps and snores just like everyone else on the planet, and has bad morning breath or gets greasy hair after “forgetting” to shower for several days.
Nevertheless, I do think being a bit more upfront and honest about who you are as a person in the early stages of relationship would making the process of selecting a mate much less painful and disappointing, and much more effective. If you are a messy person who believes making beds is the most pointless task created by mankind and doesn’t think twice about leaving dirty underpants on various household surfaces, then perhaps you should think twice before jumping into a relationship with someone who is anal-retentive and has a deep revulsion for anything untidy or unclean rather than pretend to be neat and prim in front of them. You’d be surprised how a little thing like a lack of tolerance for untidiness can take a toll on a relationship. If one partner constantly berates the other for not cleaning up after themselves, resentment will brew and fester in the hearts of both parties—the tidy one will think their partner is not putting in the effort to make them happy, while the untidy one will feel resentment for having to control their disorganization when it is a natural part of their “creative” nature—creating rifts and destroying love.
Little things, as I always like to say, add up, and it’s always the little things that matter when it comes to relationships—people need to sometimes sweat the small things a little more than they currently do—because being with someone often isn’t a grand romance, but an ordinary Saturday evening spent washing the dishes and then going to the grocery store to stock the fridge for the week, and if the other person grates on your nerves in various ways, then you will effectively be spending your life with someone who makes you irritable and unhappy. This doesn’t mean that two people are incompatible just because, say, one of them likes to tidy the house, and the other doesn’t. Those things can, to a certain extent, depending on the tolerance of the parties involved, be compromised. However some differences, which many people tend to hide in the first couple of dates, and perhaps even months into the relationship—for instance, if a man is a loner but pretends to have friends in order to impress a woman, or one person likes to save money while the other enjoys spending it freely even when they don’t have very much of it—can tear partners apart faster than hurricanes.
Relationships, requiring as they do tolerance, compromise and sacrifice, are hard enough without throwing into the mix the fake personalities or habits people adopt in order to put their best foot forward. We all want to seem like Prince Charmings or Princesses, but that just isn’t the reality; everyone is a toad, in their own unique way. So to save tears and long nights spent wallowing in regret or the kind of disappointment that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and frankly your entire body for days on end, maybe people should make an effort to be less polished and more authentic in their interactions when it comes to dating. Or you could just skip the tiresome business, become a hermit like me, and opt for books and cats over loving relationships with real human beings, both of which, I might add, will never judge you or hate you no matter how badly you act.