Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Essay: Falling in Love with a Phantom

Every Wednesday, I'll have an essay or a feature on any topic that catches my fancy!

While I don't believe in love at first sight--at least not love in the context of commitment or a conscious choice--there's something to be said about the experience of having a crush or feeling infatuated with someone. If unconsummated, that is the other person remains forever an elusive object of interest, the entire process is what I would refer to as courting a phantom.

Let's start with the initial contact. It could be a seemingly random encounter with a striking woman (or man, depending on your sexual orientation and gender). As an aside, the attraction is not necessarily physical: it could be her scent, her voice, or perhaps a certain way in which she moves. You could be in a bar, in a party, in a bus, or some other social context in which you're strangers to each other. This is probably the first turning point: either you ask her out, get her phone number, etc., or you give up then and there. It's the latter that I'm concerned with. You secretly hope that you see her again and for brief period of time, you occasionally remember her. But after awhile, you forget and move on with your life.

Then the second phase comes in. You run into your crush again. The situation might be identical: the same restaurant, an event held by a mutual friend, etc. Or it might be an entirely different context; perhaps you ran into her on an elevator, on a trip out of town, etc. Again, either you do something about it or you don't. If you do nothing, the situation might repeat, either by sheer coincidence or because you find yourself returning to the place you spotted her. If she's the one who finds you, it's called a haunting. If you're the one intentionally looking for her, it's called stalking.

Since this is the Internet, we don't need to limit encounters with her to real life. You might have seen her picture in a friend of a friend's Friendster/Multiply/Facebook page. Or if you managed to catch her name, perhaps even Googled her and sought a webpage or a blog.

Again, you're given multiple chances to make something more out of the relationship. And maybe you do but she gently rebuffs you: not rejecting you outright but giving enough hope that maybe you'll catch her in a better mood and she'll say yes. At this point, it's already too late. As far as you're concerned, there's already a tether between you two. The Japanese believe that a red string, neatly tied around one's fingers, connects two lovers and you imagine this is the case. Why else have you been meeting, even if you have no relationship whatsoever with each other?

What one doesn't realize that the tether isn't attached to her. Rather, it's your image of her, what I'd refer to as a phantom. You already have your sleepless nights thinking of her, waiting for her to show up in your designated location (be it an actual place or something as virtual as a chat room or a message board). And just when you think you're over her, she reappears and renews her hold on you. What I want to analyze is the attraction.

Here's the thing when you're attracted to a stranger. You can only fall in love with their physical qualities because that's observable. Everything else is imagined and manufactured. What are their interests? What are their foibles? What are they like when you're are alone with each other? These are details you'll only find out when you get to know a person better, usually through a lengthy period of time of chatting and simply being exposed to each other (either that or you're trapped together in a life or death situation for 24 hours). For all you know, she might have a habit that terribly annoys you. Or maybe you have completely opposing paradigms and morals. But guess what, when your imagination fills in the blanks, you don't fantasize about these things. Your imaginary simulation is about how perfect and pretty and talented she is, even when she's rejecting you in the fantasy. And how can you blame your creativity? You want to dream of pleasant things after all so why would you consciously create traits that are repugnant?

As long as you don't get to know your crush better, there'll always be that phantom of hers which is what you're actually attracted to. Oh, and it only gets worse as you settle for selective information. Selective information can be anything from what an acquaintance tells you about her, something you observed from a distance, or perhaps what you glean from monitoring her online presence. Her handwriting is cursive and so you start generating all these baseless conclusions about her personality. Or you catch her watching this movie and you immediately think how great a pair you'll make because you loved that film. These are herrings that make you think you're closer to knowing her but they don't. In the movie example, for all you know, she might have actually disliked the experience (that's why we go to theaters after all, to judge if the film is great or not).

For me, it's like the concept of your unwritten story. Until you actually get to writing that piece, the potential for greatness will always be there, but it's never real. It's only concrete when the story is actually written down. Sure, there's a chance that it's utter crap and you failed to capitalize on what you imagined it to be, but there's that tiny possibility that it's greater than whatever you originally conceived. For example, the fact that this essay could be a metaphor for writing and your muse is purely coincidental.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So that's why you've been sounding depressed!

Cheer up. Things *usually* get better in this arena.