Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vacational Dating

Since my one out-of-country date was a raving lunatic, I have not experienced that which Eve Fairbanks relates in this article

She claims that it was on vacation that she always fell madly in love. One of her theories is that when visiting strange places, one is open to all sorts of meaningful insights. 
We’re primed, on vacation, to recognize such messages in what we see, hear and eat, and in the people we meet. These strangers often seem to carry important information about what is valuable in life, and this makes them incredibly alluring.  
What she seems to be saying is that when one is "away," one is living in the moment. Except, even in the boring mundane can one find enlightenment; if one holds out until one sees the Grand Canyon to find meaning in life, they need to get a life. 

But her other thoughts are rather intriguing. Such as, this idea when on vacation one can pretend to be someone else; Fairbanks offers it is, rather, our true selves surface, unbound by our familiar surroundings and responsibilities. 
The idea prospers that vacation flings are an escape from our real selves. But maybe what’s really happening is that they draw out selves that are real but suppressed. When we’re young, we stifle many possible selves to channel our energy into one, but the others can probably never be fully smothered. They merely wait for a trigger to revive. That can be a new place, a new person or, most powerfully, both. 
And another possibility: 
The ultimate truism in our understanding of vacation romance is that it’s exciting because we don’t see our new lover’s flaws. Again, I think the opposite is the truth: on vacation we stop judging and allow ourselves to relish another person’s quirky imperfections. 
"On vacation we stop judging." Consider: When one is on their own turf and see someone munching on grasshoppers, that is too much to handle. When in a foreign country, amongst locust-eaters, one will laugh and gamely try a six-legged snack. 

But what if we simply transferred that feeling of camaraderie to life at home? That we dated with open minds first, and see where it takes us? 

She relates how she met a waiter while traveling in California. He was dapper, he was educated, and his teeth were crooked. 
The makers of Persian rugs know that an imperfection makes a beautiful carpet more winsome. We are drawn to the cracks in a wall, the cake with a slight droop, because these are what make something — or someone — individual. We indulge our natural attraction to imperfection more freely on vacation.
Away from home we don't complain that the shower doesn't work right or the food isn't like Mom's or that the bed is softer at home. That's the whole point of being on vacation; seeing the day-to-day of other people, and relishing instead of criticizing it. We don't visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and say, "Someone should fix that." Superman did that when he was in his evil stage; when he reverted to his intrinsic goodness, he tipped it back over.
At home, though, in our ordinary lives, imperfections are liabilities. We repaint, we replace. We tolerate flaws in our partners but rarely cherish them. Partly this is the inevitable shift to a longer-term calculus. Those crooked teeth: will my children have them?
What we often perceive as "fixer-upper" can be wonderful as is. As Voltaire said, "The better is the enemy of the good." Our "flaws" is what makes us who we are; without them, we aren't ourselves.  
But I also think our aversion to imperfection is amplified by today’s Match.com dating philosophy, in which compatibility is king, smokers are excludable by checking a box, no weird tics and take care of your body, please.
Of course, we all have our lines in the sand. But people are one package, not a list of traits to be compared on a clipboard. 
On vacation, we fall in love less by logic than by instinct. The question then becomes: Should we be trying to love in regular life more like we love when we travel?   

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