Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pseudo Relationship for a Pseudo Age

As soon as I started my MBA and thusly became an impoverished student I began to cull eating out at restaurants. Resto-hopping was a nasty AND expensive habit that I had acquired during my carefree days as a 25 year-old YUPPIE. However, as I re-joined the proletariat it was time to cull restaurants and rediscover boxed pasta and pre-made Classico sauce. More often then not, and because I hate cooking for myself, I’d invite my fellow student and friend, Kenny, over for a cheap dinner; at the time his girlfriend lived in Vancouver and it was somehow more enjoyable to sit in silence, albeit together, reading different sections of the Globe and Mail, then to eat alone (obviously I read Sports while he read the then titled Review, or not). Our bromance became so domestic that at one point while my house was on the market and being shown to a prospective new owner, a real-estate agent, touring my apartment, turned to Kenny and asked: “so how long have you two been living here?”

Jokes aside, however, I soon graduated from quick pasta and meat sauce to more elaborate dinners. Wherein after cooking, I would set the dining room table, light a candle, poor (haha) myself a glass of wine and stare out my window.

Once, in a fit of boredom, I began talking to myself:

“How was your day?” I asked to no one in particular.

“Not too bad.” I responded, as I jabbed at my chicken.

“Did you get that thing done at work?” I asked back.

“No, oh didn’t I tell you? That whole project got delayed. We’re waiting on a new direction from the Power That Be.” I answered to myself, chuckling at those spirit-like bosses.

“No. You didn’t mention. That sucks.”

"Oh. Sorry. I meant to email…”

“Nah don’t worry about it.” Awkward silence as I swallowed, “Hey did you still want to have dinner this weekend with the Caplan’s?”

There are of course no Caplan’s. In fact the whole thing was made up and well… I guess a little depressing. Disheartening perhaps for my inability to find a dinner companion but also a bit sad for my perceived mundaneness of everyday conversation.

Two married friends invited me over for dinner a couple of months ago and when I voiced concern about intruding on their date the wife laughed and said, “honestly if you weren’t here we would probably sit in silence.”

I wouldn’t really know from such monotony. I am single. Generally I am always single. I wake up in the morning, shuffle about to work and go about my merry way, with nary a person to care about beside myself. Sometimes this bothers me, most of the time it doesn’t. Realistically I’m pretty sure that if I was ready to be with someone I’d find someone. For whatever reason I obviously prefer putting the mono in Jono.

Singlehood has made me an increasing anomaly amongst some of my friends, plenty of who are starting to shack up with members of the opposite (or same sex) and gasp, marry. A friend told me that since I was the only single one left in our group of friends it was up to me to bring home the gossip.

Being an outlier in the relationship bonanza doesn’t particularly bother me, however, what does worry me, and what worries my mother even more, is not my inherent singledom (as a wise friend once said: we could lock you in a box and the right person would still find you) but the ease at which I find myself in pseudo relationships.

What is a pseudo relationship? I’m assuming at some point almost everyone has been in a pseudo relationship and perhaps hasn’t realized it, so for the uninitiated a pseudo relationship is one that provides some of the emotional (or perhaps physical comforts) of a LTR but is not entirely real. And regardless of how comfortable it may feel at the time, a faux boy or girl friend is really just a relationship crutch on the road to nowheresville, population Norman Bates.

My experience with the pseudo goes back some years to the days immediately following my return from undergraduate. Armed with a BA from McGill and not much else I found myself a stranger in my hometown, sort of friendless, clutching an email address for a former flame who lived a couple of thousand of miles away (I’m actually pretty sure he had written his email address by hand on a piece of notebook paper as these were the days before smartphones). For months the former flame and I would email each other obsessively 3 times a day; we’d send long and lengthy tomes, passionately beaten out over keyboards and delivered to each other via our Hotmail addresses. Our relationship was not particularly real, and yet, a fresh email at breakfast, lunch and dinner somehow meant as much as a warm body in bed. Somewhere in the empty recesses of cyberspace is what amounted to a fake relationship between two dudes who both probably knew that it would never amount to anything beyond cyber-love.

My pseudo relationship history didn’t end there; I’ve done long-distance too, which as much as it is a relationship, has its moment of fakeness. I mean… sure its fun to fly into a foreign city, rush off to a romantic restaurant and screw for a weekend, but like… that’s it. All of those times when you’re standing at in baggage claim waiting for your luggage don’t really count in terms of the everyday reality of washing someone’s post-gym workout gear.

The pseudo relationships can be passive as well. For at least two months after I broke up with someone whom I had been dating long distance, I would use his characteristics to describe a boyfriend when I met people in bars. I mean… did my life really change now that we had broken up? Quite frankly, my life barely changed at all. And because I wasn’t ready to dip my toe into single life, the fake boyfriend worked better then no boyfriend at all.

While many of my friends are happily committed; others are clearly not. Many it appears are instead joining me on the pseudo relationship band-wagon. As one female friend noted, her friends actively replaced her need for a significant other. If she was bored on a Monday night there was one friend to go out to dinner with, Tuesday meant gallery hopping with a different friend and a third friend escorted her to work events. With the exception of sex, who needs a boyfriend?

In today’s hyper communicable world, where social networking has helped to redefine the concept of friend and wherein we manage to keep in constant contact with people via BBM, email, text, Facebook and gchat, the need for a significant other has declined. And for a generation that argues “if its not on Facebook it doesn’t exist” the cyber relationship, as per above, may not be that weird. While you can’t have sex on Facebook, you sure can communicate over and over again on Facebook; you can even declare a fake relationship status.

Of course I’m pretty sure the real reason for the pseudo relationship is that it allows you to select what you reveal and to whom. In some ways it is easier to get naked in front of someone you don’t care about, while spilling your emotional shit to someone who hasn’t seen your bits. Relationships are inherently intimate and perhaps for many of us in the twenty-something generation, it feels easier to reveal only part of ourselves to some people, while revealing other parts to others.

The irony of this, however, is that the pseudo relationship, predicated on an ability to reveal part of oneself, is a trend for a generation that has come of age in the voyeuristic age of Facebook where supposedly everything is shared.

But then again – Facebook is an edited version of real life anyway… and with that the pseudo relationship suddenly makes sense.

P.S. I’m pseudo registered at William Ashley China and Restoration Hardware.

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