Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Romantic Arminianism, pt. 2

It’s been a while since I revisited this theme but in the absence of any reader questions this week (sniff), it may be worth fleshing out the concept. Arminianism is, in general, a works-based view of relationships (originating as a view regarding man’s relationship to God). Whereas some in the soulmate camp might be termed Romantic Calvinists (those who think their love is predestined, hence will run on its own), Romantic Arminianists believe by expending enough work they can make a relationship happen.

For a long time my Romantic Arminianism manifested itself in the belief if I could just fix whatever was wrong with my approach to relationships, I’d finally get a real one (i.e., a boyfriend). Of course, this prompted me to constantly seek a relationship in which I could learn to be healthy and overcome my issues/neuroses/fuckwitedness which, on account of being yet unresolved, always prevented such a relationship from ever forming. That’s the Romantic Arminianism of worthiness: “If I work hard enough and ‘fix’ me, I’ll earn the right to pass Go and get out of singleness.” … Those familiar with Buddhism might also see parallels to the search for nirvana (read: a relationship), which comes only after you escape samsara, the cycle of suffering (read: singleness, unrequited love and pining). This of course results from accruing enough good karma and merit (I think you get what that corresponds to!).

But then there’s also the Romantic Arminianism of salvation/redemption: “If I work hard enough, I can save that relationship.” Currently I think my roommate’s now-ex-boyfriend is laboring in this stage. Sometimes, of course, this is a valid approach to relational brokenness. Last fall a colleague shared over lunch one day that he’d been cheated on by his ex, at which point she wanted to dump him. He objected: “You broke this, now you have to fix it.” Considering she hadn’t even painted the lover as her soulmate (in an attempt to excuse such fecklessness as merely responding to her “destiny”), it was a reasonable if unusual view. But sometimes one person simply moves on and there’s nothing you can do about it.

However, as the Romantic Arminianism of salvation often accompanies Romantic Arminianist voodoo, this can be a hard truth to grasp. Romantic Arminianist voodoo is probably most common in women, who learn early the power our looks have over men. Given the attentiveness granted to pretty girls and those whose cleavage frequently compensates for cover charge, what else are we supposed to think? My looks get me things. They can win men over. Add a little makeup, preferably sparkly in some places, maybe splash on a little perfume … voila! A girl could conceivably even upgrade her status vis-à-vis men with such modest self-enhancements.

Or so she thinks. Take yesterday morning, for example. En route to the subway I considered the lacy top I was wearing beneath my suit jacket. Which prompted me to recall a much-sweated boy who didn’t see me in said shirt — a boy I’m recently forced to admit may have liked me once but somehow got over me. A boy for whom putting out wasn’t even the issue! Then I thought, Well maybe if he’d seen me in this shirt … and it dawned on me what I was thinking. I presumed his shocking loss of interest was somehow my fault, or something I could have controlled or prevented — even that I’d been largely responsible for cultivating interest in the first place, before I faltered and fumbled the ball (mind you, we never got to fumbling around; just occasional side hugs and one undefined but datish dinner). Essentially, he was the Winner take II — generous helpings of Mr. Flirty Pants thrown in.

And because I clearly buy into Romantic Arminianist voodoo, here I was thinking one shirt not worn could somehow be blamed for him not liking me anymore. Clearly my worldview needs to change. But whether Romantic Agnosticism or Atheism is in store — or even possible — I’ve yet to tell. More on those faiths at a future date, perhaps.