On love and couples (why attraction sucks too) - Part II
After part I, on the general dynamics of couples, i thought i’d dive into the subject of what fuels attraction in the first place. Enter Part II.
After 30 years of relationships with women it’s daunting as well as astonishing that i haven’t figured what exactly it is that like in a woman.
It obviously starts with that initial physical attraction. Some few traits i have been able to characterize as important to me, and i am pretty sure there is a mathematical explanation for those. There’s a list of weird things that i focus my attention on. I will look at her ankles (yeah, i know, first things first), how she laughs, her body language, and the general tone of voice, her look, and her expressions.
In my case the physical attraction wears off pretty quickly. Once the attention has been caught, the “there has to be something else” quicks in. And it’s that something else that keeps eluding me. Some call it “chemistry”, and i’ve always thought that you couldn’t have picked an uglier word for that “awesome sauce”.
For me the ultimate test is conversational. 5 minutes of talking will pretty much draw a line for me. Lacking the gift of improvisation, I will run out of things to say shortly after if there’s no intellectual connection. At that point, a cold sweat kicks in, and i am in no-man’s land. My mind even starts spiraling into panic: “oh shit… it’s one of those. Stop thinking about how you can’t think of what to talk next and think about something!”.
From the outside, i’ll look as some brain dead aquarium fish. My obviously attractive physical traits usually keep her interested, but my random mumbling quickly makes my sex-appeal sink to the levels of that of an amoeba.
Alas, i seek comfort in the usual “it wasn’t meant to be”, and blame it on a some sort of obscure subconscious safety mechanism that protects me from finding a partner that will bore me to death. Needless to say, the thought that I, the brain dead fish, is the boring one never crosses my mind.
And this brings me to yet another depressing thought around couples. If things so random like ankles, stares, and humorous conversational skills is what makes me tick, what are the chances of me having the toolset that will make her tick? not many.
PS: I will refer to this post to explain why dating sites are doomed to fail.
NY Times recently posted an article on the end of courtship that went viral as many users started to post their theories on dating and the general dynamics for The Game. I thought i’d chip in.
First things first. I haven’t dated many women. I don’t know exactly why, but it must be a fatal combination of a tendency of being introverted and being very selective. Honestly, the former probably is the main reason, but the latter helps with my self esteem. My goal has generally been to find the right person to have a long-term relationship with. I believe that a relationship grows from love, whether it’s at first sight or gradually built up, and trust. In any case, take any of my thoughts with a grain of salt.
As this subject has many ramifications, i thought i’d break it down into posts that help understand the different challenges (there are many!) of couple dynamics. I hope you like them. This first one is on why the first move has to come from both the girl and the guy.
Women/Men relations are complex because of how different each of the players are. I won’t enter into clichés, but the reality is that ego, pride, insecurities, and, why not, a rather suspicious imagination, add lots of randomness and chaos to this tandem.
The approach to her/him
It all begins with someone making the move.
It is because ego, pride, and all this nonsense, that people tend to have two different approaches to meet a stranger. You either are very direct, straight forward and honest about your feelings/intentions (you play it HOT), or you take the mysterious, resilient stance (you play it COLD), and wait for the prey to come. As you can probably guess, I relate to the cold type of approach, and i usually end up dating girls that play it hot. In general, women expect men to play it hot, and they play hard to get. But at the same time, women are somewhat attracted by men that seem to be resilient to their charms. Weird.
The prisoners dilema
At this point i think it’s important to introduce the prisoners dilemma, as i believe it represents why The Game sucks and why people have such a hard time to find a stable relationship. The prisoners dilemma is as follows:
Two thieves have allegedly robbed a bank, but the police has no proof. They put them in two separate rooms and they need to get them to testify against each other to be able to put them in jail. To each thief, the police hands over the same offer: if you testify against your partner you may get 25% off your charge if you are found guilty. If you are found guilty you will serve a maximum of 10 years.
Thief 1 can testify or not against Thief 2. And vice-versa. The outcomes, based on how much trust each thief has on each other, are the following:
Silent / Silent: both free
Silent / Testify: 10 years / free
Testify / Silent: free / 10 years
Testify / Testify: 7.5 years for both
As you can imagine, both tend to testify against the other one. And they all end up serving 7.5 years (or 15 years in aggregate). But if they had trusted each other they would have avoided testifying and be set free. Too bad.
The couple dilemma
A similar dynamic occurs, in my opinion, with couples. You can play it cold, or hot. And these are the outcomes:
Hot / Hot: life is great, you are in sync, lots of fun ahead of you. Congrats!
Hot / Cold: The cold person tends to have slightly more control and power, while the hot person is more vulnerable. In a sense the hot person has shown his/her hand. It is not uncommon to shift from hot / cold to cold / hot as people start thinking they may have missed out.
Cold / Cold: nothing happens, you probably are meant to be together but no one made the move. Forever alone.
Love at first sight helps couples move from cold/cold to hot/hot, but sometimes bad things happen and couples derive to hot/cold stages. And that eventually creates an unbalance that inevitably ends in cold/cold.
In a similar way to the prisoners dilemma, trust is at the center piece of a successful hot/hot landing. Unfortunately for all the singles out there, there’s always plenty of reason why you should not play it hot (previous experiences, pride, scars, etc.). And that, unfortunately, makes getting to a hot/hot state very unlikely.
El otro día me presentaron a un inversor. Un tipo bajito, afable y con una amplia sonrisa en una cara un tanto redonda. Me invitó a sus oficinas y hablamos un rato largo en una de esas “corner offices” a lo gordon gecko.
Ya anochecía en midtown east, y desde la ventana se podía ver el East River. Las luces de las oficinas empezaban a iluminar el skyline newyorkino y hacía un frio que pelaba.
Yo iba con camisa, pero sin planchar. A él le relucían los gemelos. Es simpático, con buena conversación y con ganas de ayudar. Le gusta Barcelona. De repente, sin venir a cuento, me pregunta: “Te puedo sacar una foto”?
Acepto. Se gira, saca una polaroid. Me flashea y, aturdido, veo como escribe con un rotulador permanente: “Pau Sabria”.
Levanta la cabeza, me mira, y sonríe: “I am not an instagram user, but this may be worth millions someday!”
Una de las cosas que (creo) aun no hemos aprendido en España (y que veo una y otra vez) es sobrevalorar las ideas y volvernos auténticos paranoicos a la hora de hablar de ella. Tanto que no se lo contamos ni a nuestra abuela por miedo a que nos copie.
Ayer tuve la suerte de, en apenas 2 horas, vivir las dos caras de la moneda entre EEUU y España.
Por un lado, estuvimos tomando unas cervezas con un chico, fundador de un par de startups que ya vendió y que está deseando echarnos una mano porque le gusta la visión que tenemos en olapic. Nos habló de la “suerte” que ha tenido hasta ahora y de como en realidad no es suerte, sino “serendipity”. La serendipity son los encuentros casuales, un primo cercano a la suerte. Pero a diferencia de la suerte, uno puede intentar maximizar la serindipity. Una de esas formas es contando la idea hasta al desconocido de un metro. Nos contó como consiguió uno de los mayores, y más rentables, acuerdos gracias a que le contó lo que hacía a un compañero del ferry entre New Jersey y Manhattan, que resultó ser uno de los mayores potenciales clientes.
Por otro lado, poco después de las cervezas, conocí a un emprendedor que vive en Barcelona y que está trabajando en una aplicación para iphone y ipad. No quiso contarme de que iba porque, aparentemente, había firmado un NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Vamos, que no podia decirle (ni a su propia madre!) nada del proyecto.
La realidad es que la ejecución es lo que importa. Y para eso hay dos cosas clave:
La capacidad de atraer clientes al menor coste posible y, sobre todo, de que vuelvan es lo que hará que una aplicación sea exitosa. No el haber salido antes al mercado. Instagram salió bastante después que hipstamatic. Facebook se le comió el pastel a friendster y myspace.
Cuan rápido uno valida que lo que está haciendo no sirve para nada y descubre lo que realmente quiere el usuario. Y para eso, desgraciadamente, hay que compartir la idea, sacarla rápido, observar, y fracasar e iterar cuantas más veces mejor.
I took the A train at Canal on my way to Penn Station. It was crowded and yet a kid got a spot infront of me after getting in at 14th st stop.
He’s coming from school. Removes his black backpack and pulls out a brown hardcovered notebook. He then grabs one of those mechanical pencils and takes one sheet of lined paper from another (green covered) notebook.
I take a peek at the contents of his backpack. Several notebooks and files, all in order. For some reason I feel surprised. The boy meticulously pulls the remainder of side paper of his sheet thanks to the perforated marks on the margin. Collects the reminders and stores them in his backpack. I feel surprised again.
Signs the paper, adds a date and titles it: English homework. And then, without pausing or thinking starts writing: “The value of imagining an utopia”.
And I can’t read anything else as we get to Penn station, I get down. I felt I wanted to know more.