Tuesday, July 17, 2007

He blinded me with science!

A few weeks ago, I turned on the TV because I was mildly curious about a one-off show listed on tvguide.com. The premise of the show was sort of "The Bachelor" meets arranged dating - some guy was given 50 potential women to date, and narrowed them down by stating a few preferences about the women he likes, then the 5 finalists were paraded in front of him and he chose 3 to speak to. After he spoke to the 3, he got to pick one to go on a date with and see if some sort of spark occurred. The twist (because there always has to be a twist) was that the show had retained all these experts in various fields (handwriting analysis, psychology, etc.) to test the guy beforehand to determine his actual (not stated) preferences and then narrowed a pool of 50,000 (so they said) to one woman who Science felt would be his perfect match. After the guy went on a date with the girl he chose, doing activities he chose, he then went on a date with the woman that science picked, doing activities picked by the show to facilitate falling in love.

I know, it sounds really dumb. Mostly I was intrigued to learn what sorts of things "science" feels are more likely to make people fall in love with one another. The manufactured date had things like experiencing an adrenaline-inducing event (bungee jumping), eating aphrodesiac foods, "gazing into one another's eyes for x amount of time". The date the guy planned himself had a trip to a football stadium to toss a ball around, dinner, and dancing at a club. He liked both the girls, but ultimately decided on the one the show had picked for him, despite her marked differences from his stated preferences (the show decided they knew his preferences better than he did). I wasn't surprised in the least and it wasn't just because the girl he had picked himself was kind of bitchy. Because it was pretty obvious that the different events of the manufactured date were having their intended effects on the guy and the show-picked girl (who kind of looked like Scarlett Johanson if ScarJo were a drag queen) - maybe it was just the editing, but it's pretty clear when two people have chemistry, and the chemistry is made that much more obvious when the events increase it.

I think there's something to be said for what "science" has determined are likely events to get people to fall in love (or at least in lust). Many years ago, I personally experienced a time when I was away from home and out of my element, met someone, had a whirlwind romance with an amazing connection to him, had all sorts of adventures together, and then went back to the real world, in which we were obviously not right for each other as a long-term couple (He was a Christian Republican cowboy country singer. Yeah. But it was really fun while it lasted, and we were good friends for years afterward.) The connection we felt was strong and mutual, and developed over the course of only a few days while we first traveled together. In that experience, both of us being away from our real lives and the real world, surrounded by new and strange things, the connection was forged far faster than it would have been back in real life. For me, "travel in a strange place" is one of those adrenaline-inducing situations, and looking back on my experience, I'm kind of surprised I didn't fall for the first guy I met on the trip!

On the other hand, there's something to be said for old-fashioned courtship. Dan's and my relationship began online, exchanging instant messages (and then having phone conversations), all without ever seeing one another in person for months. It was kind of the modern version of the courtship-by-letter that people used to have (and quite a few actual letters were exchanged as well during the long-distance portion of our relationship). By the time we met in person, the only thing left to be determined was whether we'd have real-life chemistry - usually the first thing you know about a potential partner, but not when that partner is 3 states away and still a virtual person. Turns out that we did, so all the falling for each other that got accomplished before we even met made for a very comfortable yet exciting first meeting. We spent the whole weekend (minus a few hours) together and it was like peas and carrots.

What nobody on that show mentioned was what happens after the falling in love part, after the initial rush of hormones and excitement. It's really easy to fall for someone who isn't the right person for you. It's really easy to think that the heady rush at the beginning stages of getting to know a person is what will sustain a relationship long-term. Luckily for me, long-ago-boy and I were too logical to think that a real relationship would have worked between us, so left it as fond memory rather than trying to figure out how to overcome all our differences to "make it work." Luckily for me, Dan and I were friends on the internets before we fell for each other, and had a pretty solid basis for a relationship before we even met in person. I fall in love with him all over again every time we travel together, every time we have new experiences together, and it's sustained by all the day-to-day stuff of our relationship. I have a feeling that the TV is never going to show what happened to Mr. Dude and his Scientifically-Chosen Girl after the cameras turned off and the show stopped paying for the Scientifically-Determined Falling In Love Events. One day's worth of adrenaline and chocolate strawberries probably will not a love match make.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I read somewhere that the brain can't sustain the initial excitement of courtship and chase...that the sensations of "boredom" and routine set in precisely because the elevated sensations of being "in love" would be hard, if not downright harmful for a living organism to experience throughout its life. I mean, think about all the stuff that goes on into living and working-the heady sensations of obsession can't last or we'd still be casting about in mud huts.

Like you noticed, psychologists note that those sensations of novelty can generally be re-captured by having new experiences together that produce the same adrenaline rush-travelling, learning something new etc..

Of course, it is more complicated than that. Science can tell me anything about my pheromonal preferences, but I still think couples have to share some very basic values-money, children, religion/social morality, especially. When I get married I want to make sure our philosophies on all of the above are pretty much set in stone and compatible. If you are stressing about the big 3, it's so much easier to "lose" it rather than just muddle through the hard times till stuff gets better. Obviously, unhappiness and a pervasive difference in values oftentimes affects how you view that person, which affects attraction and so on and so forth.

Arranged marriage is about matching those big 3 issues right upfront, as much as possible. Of course, there are always failures and people lie and people stick with marriages they shouldn't-but even my miles-apart-in-personality parents have it easier because they've never ever ever disagreed on those three. Arranged Dating is about matching the basic values and then seeing if some chemistry catches (though to tell you the truth, the way my families practiced arranged marriage noone was forced to marry and all parties met several times beforehand so at least there was no sense of physical revulsion a la highstrung modern Indian literature).

Part of why I want someone Indian is not for superficial stuff like language jokes and food jokes and mothership jokes-but growing up in an Eastern cultures means you have a very decided viewpoint on all of the above. There are those individuals from Western cultures whose views match, but alas, they tend to get snapped up quickly. And there are those people who grew up in Eastern cultures who reject all or most of it, but I'm not one of them. I'm somewhere in the middle, I guess, but still very Indian in outlook on the big 3 I think are important for marriage, especially.

Oh and and as an US weekly aside-I think the only tv couple that are still together is Trista and her fireman from the Bachelorette.

Yank In Texas said...

I guess we sort of went about our relationship backwards. We had the whole instant chemistry thing and spent 2 weeks with that. Although, we did learn a heck of a lot about each other, good and bad, during that time, as we were traveling together. We got everything that people take weeks to get through out of the way in days. It was very whirlwind.
The true test was the after part, when we decided to give it all a go and do long distance. That's where we learned communication. And then we moved in together, re-establishing the chemistry that was initially there and sustaining it for a heck of a lot long time than 2 weeks.
It's hard at times but I can't imagine being with anyone else. Our basic values are the same, we're on the same page about kids and family, and I'm still learning things every day.
But yeah, novelty and adrenaline do not a great relationship make. It takes a little more than that.