The Partial Observer's latest book, a collection of columns by our advice humorist, Dear Jon, is now available for only $8.95. In it, he turns his attention and trademark wit toward affairs of the heart as only Dear Jon can and would. He graciously submitted to a brief interview...
PO: You've dispensed advice on many topics in your column over the years, with questions regarding relationships among the most frequent. What makes romance so difficult for the average person?
Dear Jon: The average person is neurotic and therefore emotionally defensive. Romance is a risk.
PO: Describe for us your first date. Was it a success? What do you know now that you wish you'd known then?
Dear Jon: Was it a date? He says "Yes" and she says "NO!" What I know now is that it is only a date if the female is also risking romantic feeling. The big confusion is that a guy thinks a date is when a woman agrees to go out somewhere on his dime in order to allow for the possibility that romance might be sparked. A woman thinks that a date is only agreed to after she has felt the spark. Anything she agreed to about going out before such a spark is just "as friends" and definitely NOT NOT NOT a date.
Of course, if women would just tell us that these were the rules, a whole lot of anxiety would be dispelled. As it is, you are supposed to read her mind, you clueless dolt.
PO: I first met you nearly twently years ago when you were a lonely, angst-ridden bachelor, and I'm still trying to figure out how you managed to marry an attractive woman, because surely it took some hefty persuasion...
Dear Jon: Sir, you wrong me! I'm not strong enough to heft anything, much less persuasion. I put myself in places where she happened to be, and made myself useful to her. For example, she wanted a security guard to walk with her on errands to her bank. So I walked with her to the bank. A lot. She knew she could count on me to be her security anytime she needed to go to the bank. That is really what warmed things up. Also, I didn't get weird on her and talk about her with people and ask them to find out if she liked me and all that other junior high stuff. I learned that lesson in junior high!
PO: What words of encouragement do you have for those out there still seeking a soul mate?
Dear Jon: Soul mates aren't necessarily spouses. I think the love for a soul-mate is filial love rather than the combination of agape love and erotic love that make a good marriage. People can be soul-mates and be unfit for each other in a marriage. Soul-mate love is mostly "platonic." The platonic love man-for-man between a metro celebrity chef and a retro fly fisherman can be sparked by a shared interest in literature, music, and good coffee. There are people in good marriages who are still lonely for a soul mate. There are people who have soul mates who are still hoping they will get married some day.
Soul mates can be found across gender gaps, although here, even as the relationship should remain platonic, both male and female need to set boundaries with each other so that they remain emotionally available for their own spouses.
The person who has both a spouse and soul mates is a very blessed and enriched person. The person who has neither a soul mate nor a spouse is a lonely person indeed.
If you have neither, my encouragement is that you first of all get over feeling sorry for yourself, and second of all that you dress smart and reconnect with your networks, whatever those are. You can also thrust yourself into situations where some kind of cohort activity is going to form, such as: Register for classes, audition for community theatre, volunteer to be crew for community theatre, volunteer to help at the NASCAR track. No kidding, I know a happily married couple who met on the NASCAR circuit as race judges. These are situations where people are thrown together and have to interact.
Do NOT dress up and go to a gallery opening alone, thinking that you will meet some one. Going anywhere alone where a cohort activity will not force interaction, is generally a losing strategy. That's why it is one thing to show up at a church, for example; for meeting people that is a losing strategy. It is another thing to sign up for that church's small group program, where cohort interaction is part of the expectation.
PO: Online matchmaking services, such as e-Harmony or Match.com: good or bad? Or somewhere in between? Can one find true love on the internet?
Dear Jon: More like, can you find anything true on the internet?
PO: Why are men typically so bad at picking out worthy gifts for their significant others?
Dear Jon: Ask me again in a letter to Dear Jon and I'll make it a column.
PO: In five words or less, what is the secret to a good marriage?
Dear Jon: Do what she tells you.
PO: What will the next book of Dear Jon Letters be about?
Dear Jon: Thus Spake Dear Jon: A Book Everyone Should Buy. It will feature the best of my answers about everything except romance, including possibly some Religion and Philosophy questions.