Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exhilerating, excruciating courting

'Make the most of your courting days’ implores the protaginist in Henry Lawson's short story, Joe Wilson's Courtship.

Arrghh. Easy to say Joe. Perhaps he's courting delusion, desperatley hung up in nostalgia, reliving his romantic past with the luxury of having already lived it. In hindsight, the future is not such a mystery after all. Courting a girl (or a guy) though can feel like one of life's most excrutiating mysteries. It's beautiful, exhilerating, enlivening ... and most easily savoured once it's over.

'Picking up' is not courting. Picking up is the McDonalds to courting's Movida, the Bryan Adams to courting's Ryan Adams. Picking up can turn into courting, but when it does you probably didn't do it right.

As a courter, not (often) a picker-uperer I don't believe in love at first sight. The strongest feelings flourish with time and you often don't know for whom you'll have them, even when you meet.

The pick-up artist, the player, oozes masculine confidence and self-belief. He thinks they're the only tools required to catch a woman. Whereas the courter possesses sensitivity (I don't want to pester her or make her uncomfortable), perception (is she looking at me across the room? Look cool) and authenticity (if you struggle to be assertive you might as well be genuine).

The courter with a background in anxiety deals in fluctuating levels of self-doubt and persistent over-analysis. He is a positioner - giving signals and looking for reciprocation before feeling comfortable to make a nuisance of himself by taking another small step forward, and hoping she'll meet him at least somewhere near the middle. The girls who wait to be swept away by bravado are not his type anyway. It's not about superficial 'manly' gestures, but it can be horrible for your immediate sex life.

Although entirely comfortable in the presence of women (post-high school) - indeed they may make up some of my closest friends and most senior relationship advisors - if I really like a girl the schoolboy and the chattering doubter - that races around my head as if having skulled a litre of Red Bull - return.

While courting involves a necessary patience, the mind is restless; the torture is in the waiting. Waiting for responses, the right moments, opportunities (create them you fool!). Thinking on your feet is difficult and creates chances for humiliation so every move is planned, every scenario thought through in preparation in order to eliminate uncertainty, and to appear confident, strong, self-assured. Yet the only certainty is the futility of seeking to eliminate uncertainty.

Once she has your number and you're friends on Facebook (only after cleaning up incriminating data from the wall and untagging drunken photos) things get more complex. Deciding when and how often is appropriate to comment on statuses, waiting before replying to texts so as not to seem too eager but not so long it seems like an afterthought. And after a few back and forth, when to end it? Should I have replied to that last one? She didn't reply, did I send one too many? It's all bullshit really.

The phone makes a noise and I hope its her. I've remembered fondly previous such experiences, but now it's not so much fun. She doesn't yet send random messages like the last girl did.
Courting is high stakes, especially where there are complicating factors like, say, working with the girl. You've established she does rise above the pack - even if you haven't yet figured out exactly what it is, you feel it, she's special. And it's crucial you avoid damaging the progress made thus far. Progress is key. And keeps hopes and spirits up. Micro-analysing as the obsessive does, one day can seem magical, on the cusp of a breakthrough, and the next may yield little interaction or an awkward moment that punctures the fragile rising balloon and sending it spiralling back to earth as if everything past suddenly means nothing and has all turned on its head; the situation is torn apart for questioning, serving only to drop seeds of further unwanted doubt. Love will mess with your perceptions like that. But don't say anything about love just yet, it's creepy. Then, a day later you'll connect somehow and everything will seem back on track, returning to its rightful place with expectation. The greatest feeling seems to come when thing appear just about to fall into place and there's nothing to do but enjoy it. Yet, in the most frustrating paradox, doubt finds its most fertile ground amidst the greatest possibility.

The initial flirting is fun, it puts a bounce in your stride. But soon it's not enough; like a hit the high becomes increasingly outweighed by the withdrawal, the need for another dose or something more, something deeper.  Love does strange things. But don't say you love her, it'll creep her out.

And sometimes there are those complications like working together. So 'no expectation, no disappointments' becomes a mantra, if a hopeless one. She wants to slow things down. So don't push too much for risk of putting her off, but back too far off and risk missing your chance ... then there'll be disappointment.
The courter is a dreamer, potentially spending more time dreaming up the possibilities than making them happen. More comfortable with on the pillow imagining the possibilities than creating them. He has to man up.

Courting is more meaningful, more involved and, offers more lessons - whether or not it goes well - than picking up. But it can be torturous to the soul and high risk in those complicated situations; not to mention the increasing distraction, suffering attention to work, and friends tired of hearing about your new friend. So eventually you need to let it go or take action I'm too romantically inclined to let such things go. Yet chronically too timid to act, or too uncertain to decide how.

But a man can only occupy such a world for so long without going crazy and/or destroying his chances and something must be done (no regrets, no disappointments). The heart is aflutter and the mind is dizzy figuring out how to go about it. Is she still interested? Don't be awkward - think it through, but don't walk up to her without knowing what you'll say. Let her know you're interested, but don't be creepy - be somewhat nonchalant ... but not too nonchalant ... don't risk putting her off by showing how much you like her. Don't be cocky - that's not you and you hate those dicks. Don't be timid - girls don't like that, they like assertive, you've been told this. Don't be annoying - analyse her body language and note when you've pushed the boundaries. Don't over-analyse - you'll confuse yourself and turn into a bumbling wreck. Don't let your uncertainty or doubt show - it's unnatractive. Be yourself - well, the good parts. There's only one opportunity; well sometimes there are more, but just don't blow it!

It doesn't always go well. 'A crush, by definition, must hurt’ and courting has every chance of leaving you crushed. Women can be harder to read than Ulysses in Latin. Certainty is impossible. For the record my current situation is best described as 'on ice'. But I'm not sure whether sitting opposite her everyday makes things easier or harder, whether it adds an element of inevitability or doom.

But for in fleeting moments, I know what Joe Wilson was on about. That "the happiest time in a man's life is when he's courting a girl and finds out for sure that she loves him and hasn't a thought for any one else... they're about the only days when there's a chance of poetry and beauty coming into this life. Make the most of your courting days, you young chaps, for they will never come again."

He may not be saying 'enjoy them', but simply make the most of them. It's nerve-wracking, and the more emotionally involved you get the harder it is, but everything sorts itself out in this life and these are exhilerating days, if lacking the comfort and contentment that I look forward to in a relationship. Like pinching yourself to make sure you're awake, these sometimes tragic feelings can be beautiful feelings that prove you're living. Anxious for the wonderful possibilities, but if it doesn't happen what is lost? I think Joe is simply saying, let go of those apocalyptic fears and useless junk floating around the mind and enjoy it for what it is. Amazing feelings of life.

Listen to the heart, follow it, let it go without restraint. Cuts and bruises are inevitable on such a journey, which can lead you to life's most beautiful places. Don't get caught up in all this bullshit of the mind about which I've been going on.

Of course, I also temporarily removed the link to this blog from my Facebook page after adding the girl as a friend... she can learn all about me the old fashioned way.

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