Elective affinities, maybe

The Kiss.Image via Wikipedia

Teasing away at the back of my mind the last few days have been two quite fundamental questions: what should I expect to feel when I am in love (and by extension what should I settle for)? And what sort of woman is right for me?

For someone who thinks and questions so much it's unusual that these questions haven't been settled long ago. In actual fact they're not subjects I think of much at all. When my mind strays into this area it's usually with some particularity I am looking to understand – a girl usually, or a complex situation I am looking to understand. It's rare that I ever step back and look at it in more general terms.

What's made me wonder at this now is that I've met a girl – which is a lot less momentous than a statement like that might suggest. I went out last week for drinks on the rooftop bar at Campari with one of the girls from a few weeks back. It was a balmy night and we sat across from each other and shared a few drinks and a light meal and talked easily and well until it was well and truly dark. Several times as I sat there I sized her up, could I like her? What did I feel? I certainly felt engaged by her warm and friendly manner, but there is much more than that. A couple of times I imagined myself with her, testing it, could I be intimate with her? Well, yes, to some degree at least.

We parted later with a big kiss and an embrace. I headed home thinking that she is there if I want her. That night I lay in bed happy to know the situation was in hand, but for the first time in months questioning myself as to the purpose of this. What was I looking to achieve? Was it true love? I didn't expect that. If not, then what? Well I don't know. Maybe it would be fun to see where it might go. Try it out with her, if it doesn't work then we've had a few months of fun. I couldn't really expect more than that.

It was this attitude that surprised me. I've never been one to go half-way. All my life I've been an all or nothing guy. It's an attitude that has led to some successes and a few failures, but I have always considered it a integral aspect of my personality. I know in myself that I'm never happy in ambivalent situations. I'd rather commit wholly or walk away, and that's more true of relationships than anything else (that's despite having numerous female friends who have an ambivalent attitude towards me). On top of that my independence has always been something I've cherished, not something to be relinquished easily. Perhaps I've been harsh in the past, foolish even, but I've never been inclined to 'try out' a relationship: if it wasn't the real deal I was happier walking away and doing my own thing. Why was this different now?

It's that train of thought that led me to the first of my queries: what should I expect to feel? Throughout I've had this expectation that 'the' relationship would carry with it a kind of romantic and companionable glow. I wanted to believe them close inside me, to feel as if as we moved in different directions that we were in sync with other, naturally so, like heartbeats. I have always agreed with what St Exupery wrote, that "love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." I believe in the essence of that, that in love we move outwards together rather than remaining stagnantly defined in the others gaze.

On a couple of occasions I've had something approaching that – but for whatever reason, it could not be sustained. I always saw that as a failure, but perhaps I should have been more accepting of it. Are my expectations too high? The person aims for all says no, that is the point of it all isn't it? Yet I begin to wonder just a little, and find myself wondering at my wondering.

So then, what qualities does the perfect woman hold for me? Questions like this are fraught with peril. As soon as you define her you find yourself gazing into the eyes of a woman completely different and falling in love with her: which goes to prove the reality of the oft-mentioned chemistry between couples. It exists. All the same, you're much more likely to share that chemistry with someone you are compatible with than not. In my case I started with a list of ideal qualities and have winnowed it down based on the harsh truth of experience.

As it happens a few years back I put down my ideas on the perfect woman, and that still holds true now. All I would add is that I need someone with spirit and sass I think. If you look at the women I've been close too none have possessed all the qualities I've noted down, but they have each had one quality or another in sufficient quantities to make up for it. Regardless, I need a strong woman beside me with a defined sense of self – nobody wishy- washy, respectful but not deferential, a person with opinions, attitudes and beliefs all of her own.

So then, where does that leave me? Regardless what I think I suspect I'll end up doing what I feel. Right now I feel like giving this girl a good go. It may not last beyond a few weeks or months, but so what, it might be fun while it lasts. And it might last a good deal longer than that, who knows…

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