I’ve been reading a lot about different men’s take on their relationships with women, especially where they maintain a distance or isolation from them. Though I am in a similar situation, my circumstances don’t match theirs or their rationalizations. Lifelong single, I still am open to developing a relationship with someone and I have no objection to marriage and thus opening myself up to the warned risks of unfaithfulness or financially devastating divorce.
Despite maintaining openness to the possibility of a relationship, I’m convinced I will end up a life-long bachelor. It is not due to the lack of opportunity. Instead it is due to my declining to take up the offer.
Rapidly approaching my 60th year, I’m not certain of dates or times, but it seems most of my thinking about life was set when I was still in college. One example is the frustration I felt whenever I would introduce myself to a potential girlfriend. That frustration was the nagging feeling that I was being interviewed as if for a job. Perhaps that is the root of my problem: always equating seeking a relationship with seeking employment. I was interviewing for position of boyfriend or suitor. I won’t guess where that came from: maybe it was just a misconception I never outgrew, or maybe it was learned from my earliest attempts. But that equation alone probably explains why I never got past the introduction.
I hate interviewing for employment in part because I hate employment. Despite that, I end up being serially employed while never getting into a relationship. Obviously, there is something fundamentally wrong with equating employment with a relationship.
One of the topics in men’s discussion is Briffault’s Law that roughly states that in the animal world it is the female that determines the continuation of a relationship and that relationship will only continue if there is an immediate benefit to the female, in particular past benefits or promises of future benefits do not matter. This was stated as a fact about the animal world, but it applies to humans as well. The nature of women is to behave this way especially when not constrained by culture or society.
A consequence of this female behavior is that the man needs to continue to provide for the woman in order to further the relationship no matter the expense of past provisions or the possibility of future wealth in distant future. Specifically, the requirement on the man for a continued relationship is to prevent her from being bored, or so it is claimed.
Anyhow, I look at this and can’t help to see parallels with employment. Left unrestrained by government, an employer would continuing employing someone only if that person offers immediate value or offers promise of some reasonably near term payoff. The fact that the employee had previously returned great value earlier has no bearing on continued employment that requires a promise of immediate and ongoing delivery of value to the employer. There is no loyalty for past performance.
In practice, the relationship of employment is a relationship among humans and there is some level of loyalty especially when earned from past dedication and achievement. However, extending this loyalty requires some excess in resources in the case that there is no additional benefit to the relationship. For most companies of any significant size, there is probably very little room for such generosity — there must be some new value offered to justify continued employment.
The mirror situation between men and women is similar. The female’s perspective is similar to that of the employer except instead of limited cash to pay for employment she has a limit of tolerance to boredom or disappointment. In either case, if there are other options (and often there are plenty), they will give the job to someone else who can deliver results immediately.
I’m not eager to go out of my way to deliver something to anyone. That is different from charity, by the way. I am generous with giving up what I already have. This has worked out well in employment since I usually have something to offer without having to go out of my way. However, if my employer would require that I go back to school to get some training or certification, I would probably prefer to just leave. I am not much of an investor.
That, I believe, is the reason I never get far with a relationship with a woman. It becomes immediately clear that to capture her attention, I’ll need to invest in myself in a way that pays off for her.
I recall an introductory coffee date with an attractive lady who began talking about her past embarrassments with previous first dates where one laughable example was one guy who offered for a second date to go grocery shopping together. That’s not far from my ideas for a second date, so there was none.
As I don’t go too far out of my way for my employer, I don’t go too far out of my way for a gal. This is obviously irrational. I do ultimately suffer some inconvenience for my employment for which I am compensated. Similarly, I did have the desire to have a family that would result from inconvenience of going out of my way for her attention. I guess in my case, it was less of a burden to satisfy an employer than it was to satisfy a woman. I may hate employment, but I do enjoy working at what comes natural to me, and that just happens to satisfy my employer. Apparently what comes natural to me in my personal life offers little to women.
Still it is interesting to think of these mirrored circumstances a man faces: one to his employer (or customer, or whatever) and the other to his female companion. They both require him to bring something fresh to the relationship each day while also offering high probability of repeating the favor in the near future.
Briffault’s law is stated about the natural world outside of human society or government. Government changes the dynamics considerably but in mirrored opposite directions to maximize the burden on the man in the middle.
On the employment side, the government enforces rules on employment that restrains opportunity through labor and wage laws and through taxes. Generally, it is rare for a person to have an opportunity to be extraordinary and if it does happen it is typically a once-in-a-lifetime and brief event. The laws prevents the transfer of wealth for that brief experience, there may be allowed a modest raise and even that is taxed more heavily when the raise moves up to a higher tax bracket. Even the self-employed cannot escape the higher taxes that assume this success will continue forever, and in most cases it will not. Government restrains the upside potential of working and in so doing is restraining the natural tendency of employment situations to capitalize on what is working at the moment.
In the mirrored scenario with relationships, when it comes to divorce, separation, or other disagreements, the government will reinforce the female’s natural demand for resources in the present and future though the transfer of property and requirements for child-care or alimony in proportion to the man’s history of earnings rather than what is reasonable in terms of actual expenses. This is the frequent complaint of the men’s movement, and I have no reason to contradict them.
For this discussion, I’m thinking about occupying this position as being both an employee who is obliged to satisfy his employer and a husband who is obliged to satisfy his wife, with the government re-enforcing both and poking at the man in the middle for additional gratification.
There is discussion about demographic decline of modern life. In particular, people are not having families big enough to maintain the population size for the particular demographic. This is partly due to people not getting into committed relationships, and those who do are not investing in families larger than two children.
Personally, I like to think that I would have liked a large family with at least four children. I imagine that if I would have started a family, I would get comfortable as I do with anything else and want more of it. I like continuing what I’m familiar with. Yet, it did not happen.
It is not really a mystery why it did not happen. I noted above how much of my thinking hasn’t changed much at all since my youth. While that is true, the world (at least the part that I have to interact with) has changed dramatically. What I do for a living today bears no resemblance to what I learned in undergrad studies, nor what I imagine my career would become. Things change so fast just keeping up with what I need to do to be relevant to solving problems for my employer. Even if it feels natural to me, it takes a lot of my time. I write this on a Saturday night, and I vaguely recall that this should be a date night. It hadn’t occurred once to me all week that I should arrange to at least get out tonight. It surprises me not at all that I’m here now writing in an empty house, dimly lit, with just the sound of the furnace fan for background noise (and the too-quiet clatter of a laptop keyboard).
While writing this diary entry, my mind is busy thinking about the data I’ve been studying all week for work. I can’t make sense of what I’ve been looking at, and that’s enough to keep me entertained. My imagination is trying to get inside the machines that are reporting these data, just to try to experience first hand what must be happening for them to report their findings.
I don’t really know if this is unique. Maybe I would have ended up in a comparable situation at this point in life had I lived a century earlier. I suspect this is new. That the problems I’m trying solve involves and abstract world that I can simulate in my mind, but this simulated world is real to me, probably more real than the world that determines whether I’ll breathe tomorrow.
I live in a world that I must explore alone. I cannot even entice my coworkers to follow me into this world even though they face the same motivations. That world is the world from which data emerges. Today, we have so much data that to explore it is as mentally stimulating as exploring some new land or some cutting edge science. Unlike those other types of exploration, exploring through data is a solitary task.
Maybe it is because so few people can navigate through the data. Maybe someday, such navigation will be as common as packaged vacation deals to exotic lands. Then, it may be possible to find someone to join with. Maybe, we can even go out with each other.