Dispatches from Universe 25

From a metafilter thread called "It's just not worth it":

Last night, I was hanging out with a younger friend of mine (26), and she was talking about her confusion about whether or not she should tell her boyfriend (33) that she loved him. They've been formally dating for about three months, but 'hooking up' for almost two years; the process by which she describes her efforts to get him to acquiesce to this shift in status reminds me of the infinite patience of someone trying to coax a skittish deer to eat from her hand.

Apparently, over [Valentine's Day] weekend, he asked her, "Are we going to do something for Sunday?" This statement means something along the lines of, "I expect you to tell me whether or not you expect me to celebrate this holiday with you; by 'celebrate', I mean, allow myself to be cajoled into participating in a celebration for which I expect you to do all the planning. Furthermore, I refuse to say either the phrase, 'Go on a date' "or 'Valentine's Day' out loud; I expect you to say those words for me, and yet after I let you do all this work for me, I will expect you to feel lucky, and as though the relationship has progressed."

So now they have a date on Valentine's Day, and she's trying to decide whether or not she should tell him she loves him, even though it seems like she's pretty much 95% sure that he won't say it back, and this is going to upset her. But, essentially, she thinks that the only way to eventually get him to a place where he might be comfortable saying it is to say it to him first, unrequited, regardless of the hurt this is going to cause her in the moment. She then told me that they get into a fight/discussion approximately every two weeks about where the relationship is heading, and told me that at the next one, she plans on asking him, "Are you curious about me? Do you ever wonder about what I'm thinking?" She is literally committed to the project of teaching him, word-for-word, sentence-by-sentence, how to be a human being in a relationship. It's like she has to chew his feelings for him, swallow them, and regurgitate them back into his fucking mouth.

The weight of it! The work of it! The fucking exhaustion. All these beautiful, lively, smart, intelligent, sensitive, articulate young women, and these goddamn burdensome (not-so) young men, who never had to learn how to recognize a single one of their own feelings and describe them in words, because they rely on the women around them to do it for them.

This comment is in response to a Laurie Penny article in the New Statesman, "Maybe You Should Just Be Single," an opinion piece on emotional labor. "It's time, as the Americans say, for some real talk," Penny writes, before outlining why she believes it's "usually better for women to be single. Particularly young women." Penny continues:

I’m a gigantic squishy romantic at heart. It’s just that I think compulsory heterosexual monogamy is the least romantic idea since standardised testing, and I don’t see why our best ideals of love and lust and passion and dedication need to be boxed into it.

Penny's article focuses exclusively on regular relationships; not so for the metafilter thread. In "it's just not worth it," CTRL + F for "queer" yields twelve results ("I will go so far as to say that I, a queer transmasculine person...have a long history of dating and pining for real jerks.") CTRL + F for "lesbian" nets one result; "gay," "glb" and "lgb" net zero.

CTRL + F of "poly" reveals five matches, including a link to an article called "Why Being Solo and Poly Has Made Me a Happiness Evangelist." Dating, says the author, is "like playing the lottery. A ticket is only a dollar, but if you play every day, soon you’ve wasted thousands. I think I’m just done wasting my proverbial money when all I get is annoyance and frustration. I’m wasting my time." Nonetheless, she manages to find several relationships that don't require her to have "an anchor" (i.e. a live-in partner).

The polyamorous author offers a vision of the future, unfettered by staid expectation:

What if we didn’t have any assumptions at all? What if, when we went on a first date, we all had to ask the other person what they were looking for and where they’d live if they could live anywhere and whether they want marriage or kids or days full of surfing and golf or knitting and gardening? What if, when we asked someone out, we were actually asking out that person and not shopping for someone to fill a predetermined role we’d imagined for them?

What if!

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