You Can Be More Than Monkeys: ACCOUNT FOR PERSONALITY, DAMMIT

If you were to ask an extraterrestrial to summarize 99% of all human stories, it would twiddle its tentacles and speak thusly:

“A human predicts what will make them happy.  They discover they were wrong.”

Which is, well, the inherent moral of almost any tale we tell.  Every romantic comedy is “You thought this person was wrong for you, but surprise!  They’re your soulmate.”  Every sad drama is some dude going, “Wait, I should have done this other thing” at the end of the film.  Every action adventure usually ends with the hero discovering that they *thought* getting the treasure of the Rio Grande would make them happy, but it’s friendship that binds the universe together!

The reason we tell these stories over and over again is because we suck at knowing what makes us happy.  Worse, we don’t understand just how bad we are at predicting our contentment.  We are convinced, with the firmness of Ahab lashing himself to the whale, that we know how to do this, and by God we will shoot down all incoming advice like they were death-dealing missiles to do…

…well, whatever damn-fool thing it is we set out to do.

And then we discover that really, this thing we moved heaven and earth to get didn’t actually bring the benefits we assumed it would.

So I think any rational human being’s main quest in life should be to disprove yourself.  To figure out what terrible instincts you have, and remove them like a cancer.  Because you probably are brimming with all sorts of awful ideas about what’s actually good in your life, and the sooner you can dismantle those things like the bombs they are, the better.

Today’s example: **What turns me on is what’s good for me.**

I say this because in a recent blog entry, OKCupid – a site dedicated to getting people to date happily – said this:

“OkCupid’s original system gave people two separate scales for judging each other, ‘personality’ and ‘looks.’… [But] according to our users, ‘looks’ and ‘personality’ were the same thing.”

The article is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read it.  But basically, what it says is this:

“If I see a cute person, they’re awesome to talk to.”

*Smacks with riding crop*  NO!  Do not do that!

Look, that’s your monkey brain talking, that primitive Amygdala hijacking your higher senses to go, “ME WANT FUCK” and rerouting all of your brainpower to answer the question of, “I want to fuck him, so why do I want to fuck him?”

Your brain, which can justify any awful decision, will of course answer: “Because he’s good for me.”

But no!  Christ, that’s so blatantly stupid that even the bonobos are shaking their head.  (And the bonobos are freaks.)  The sooner you can disentangle “This person has the physical attributes to turn me on” from “This person may be awful in all other respects,” *the better off you will be.”

The biggest step you can make towards healthy, happy dating is to understand that “People who turn you on” can also be utter nitwits who you should not get involved with.

…Of course, another monstrously stupid thing that humans do is mentally doing a search-and-replace in every argument to change all instances of “often” with “all.”  And so assorted dimwits will say, “…So we should never date people we’re attracted to?”

No, you idiot.  What you should do is recognize that physical attraction is the first step in many.  You start with boinkability, because if you don’t want to hit that, well, you should probably just be friends.  (Also note that “friends” can be unattractive to you, and yet really good for you – another problem that this lack of distinction creates, that lurking sense that your friends aren’t as good as someone who satisfies your nethers.)

But after you’ve gone, “Yeah, I want that,” then you go through many steps after that to determine whether you should take this further – which includes the incredibly critical steps of 1) getting to know who they really are, and 2) determining whether who they really are is compatible with what you really want.

Or you can just assume that the hottest people are your best matches, and be continually upset.

But if you do the dumbass monkey-brain thing of conflating turn-on with compatibility, you will have inconsistent disaster.  You’ll have that slot-machine payoff of “Some people I wanted to boink were good for me, and others weren’t so I’ll just keep pulling that lever!”  And many people luck into decent relationships by sheer chance, which is good, because in many cases “sheer chance” is way better than their focused planning.

Yet you.  You can rise above the ape to understand that these hormones flooding through you need no justification.  You can separate personality and looks, and in fact damn well should.

Because if you think that attraction == compatibility, you’re going to keep making the monkey mistakes.

FOR EXTRA CREDIT: Are the people you can successfully date casually the same people who you can live with 24/7?  Society thinks it’s an inevitable progression!  But society are the same jerks who got rid of the personality rating on OKCupid! Think carefully!

1 Comment

  1. Mishell Baker
    Aug 11, 2014

    And once again I’ve gotta throw a third axis into the mix…

    1. Does the person turn you on?
    2. Do you love the person’s personality?
    3. Is the person’s personality different enough from yours to shore up your weaknesses?

    So many people look for someone whose personality is exactly like theirs. If someone isn’t as passionate as they are, or doesn’t work as hard, or is more confrontational, or less confrontational, they reject that person and say “s/he doesn’t really GET me” and carry on looking for a sexy clone.

    But the truth is (says the woman who grew up raised by still-married parents and who just celebrated her own 10th anniversary), in addition to being a love affair, a marriage is also a *life partnership,* and there’s a reason the word “partnership” calls to mind business and law enforcement as well as romance.

    Life isn’t always about gazing into each other’s eyes or trading bodily fluids. Life is also about fighting off hardship after hardship, and you can’t do that unless one of you can step in when the other fails. If the two attention-hogs are competing for attention, or the two introverts are refusing to make the phone calls that need to be made, or the two workaholics aren’t even talking to each other because they have Work To Do, the tiny crack in your marriage will soon become a canyon. You have to be different enough from your partner that one of you can say, “Hey, hold on. I know you don’t want to, but we need to ____.”

    So just *liking* your mate’s personality isn’t always enough. It also needs to baffle you just a little bit, in several ways, because if you are confused you will always be surprised (which can be fun), and more importantly you will often find that a problem that’s insurmountable to you will be a breeze for the enigma you married, thanks to your differences.

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