Here's what I'm wondering today:
Which dating advice is right:
Is it the relentlessly (and annoyingly) popular aphorism:
YOU'LL FIND LOVE WHEN YOU STOP LOOKING ... ?
YOU HAVE TO BE IN IT TO WIN IT?
In other words: Is it best to be "out there": actively dating, going on singles sites, flirting as much as possible, and asking everyone from your grandmother's bridge partner to your neighbor's dog-walker to set you up?
Or is it better to just live your own life as best you can--enjoy your favorite hobbies, spend time with your friends, do your thing--and hope that love finds you?
I often think about this conundrum--this irony-- because I can't tell you how many times well-intentioned friends have suggested I do one or the other: Either stop looking ... or look harder!
The question came up again for me yesterday when I posed the question: Should I Dump My Beloved Shrink? (After all, as I mentioned, I started seeing my shrink EIGHT YEARS AGO in the hopes that she could help me work through my relationship and intimacy issues, so that I might finally find true wub. And here I am, EIGHT YEARS LATER, still as single as ever. Actually, probably MORE single, given that it seems more difficult to pair off in your 30's than in your 20's.)
One of my awesome readers and regular commenters, a woman named Rae, wrote in to say this:
I'm not convinced that anything is actually wrong with you or that you need a therapist. I think people can't find romance because they're intentionally searching for it. When I stop looking and just focus on enjoying my life as it is, Ialways find someone. People need to go out, have fun, and appreciate the life that they have, not the love life that they're lacking. We should go to parties, bars, and book-signing events with the intent to have fun for fun's sake. Yeah, we should flirt, but just for the fun of it, not like some sort of mission. Just LIVE and eventually, love will find you.(Believe me, I've seen it work)...
Now, first of all, I love Rae, because she's always got something interesting--as well as considerate and well-considered--to say.
And of course, there's a huge appeal to what she suggest: that I don't have to do anything or change in any way--that all I have to do is live my life to the fullest--and Price Charming will magically discover me!
Here's how it might happen. I will be out there on the dance floor--at a lesbian club, with my lesbian friends Dani and Melanie, letting it all loose and shaking my groove-thing with complete abandon, without giving a second thought to who's noticing me--when, just at the moment when the disco ball is shining down on me, and I am in the center of the boogie-circle, a group of guys will wander in off the street, having no idea what they're getting themselves into ... and PRINCE will be in that group! And his eyes will immediately fall on ME! And he'll whisk me off my feet, and we'll live happily ever after!
All because I was out there, living life, not giving a darn, not looking!
Okay, okay, I'm being a little silly here. And, yes, quite skeptical, if not sardonic.
And the truth is, I think Rae has a great point. What she's saying is:
Get out there, Maura, and everyone else who is looking! Get out into the real world! Do the things you love--whether that means joining a book club, a knitting circle, a volleyball team, a wine-tasting group, or the crew of regulars for your local Saturday night dance-a-thon--and enjoy yourself. And sure, you can flirt while you're there ... but make the flirting a regular part of your well-lived life. Be happy with yourself, and what you're doing, and a romance will come along naturally!
And honestly, I love the sounds of that. I love thinking I can just do the things I love to do--like going to dinners at friends' apartments, meeting up with my pals for coffee-and-catch-up, going to see movies at The Film Forum or BAM, checking out the latest museum exhibits, riding my bike around Prospect Park on gorgeous summer days like this one, and heading to the Brooklyn Bridge now and then to see perfect sunsets ...
But I do all those things! And I almost never meet people doing any of it!
The reality is that over the last four or five years, the vast, vast majority of people I've dated have been dudes I've met on Internet dating sites.
So ... much as I hate to admit it, and much as I wish this were not the case, I think you've got to be in it to win it. ... Now, sure, I think it's also possible that love might just magically find you while you're out and about, doing your thing. But I think your odds are much better if you're actively trying to find people to date. As they say, it's a numbers game, so anything you can do to up your numbers is going to help ...
But, really, what do I know? What do you guys think?
PS: DEAR COMMENTERS AND FOLKS WHO EMAILED YESTERDAY: I really appreciate all your advice and kind thoughts about how to deal with my shrink-ola!
ALSO: I was hanging out at my favorite coffee shop yesterday, where my favorite barista, Ian from Providence, Rhode Island, works. I was sitting outside on the bench, basking in the last hour of daylight, when a friend of Ian's who was visiting from Providence swung by, and we ended up chatting. Chris was his name, and he was a total sweetheart. Only 21 and still in college! Which made me remember how great those years were, in college, when the world seemed full of endless possibilities and New York City was a magical and mysterious place and every single person who lived there, in the coolest place ever, fascinated me ... Anyway, the point is, Chris and I were talking about the best bands out of Providence, and I mentioned Deer Tick and Elvis Perkins+Dreamland. Chris agreed those groups were awesome but said his new fave is The Low Anthem. So ... eat local, listen globally.