How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘exotic relationships’

Escape from Ennui: The Lover as Tourist Guide

When you are safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.
—Thornton Wilder

Sometimes, what a woman is seeking in a love affair is simply adventure. What does “adventure” mean to you  personally?

One of my more adventuresome lady friends may have read too much Ernest Hemingway at an impressionable age as she has always thought of an African safari, complete with lions, tigers, and elephants as the epitome of adventure. In her fantasy, there would be something slithery and lethal in the grass which she almost steps on but then does not because, at the last moment, a great white hunter sweeps her out of harm’s way, at least out of the way of the kind of harm that comes from a literal snake in the grass. She imagines the great white hunter looks a lot like George Clooney, but he might also resemble a bearded Matthew McConaughey. Either way, he is the master of his environment, strong but gentle, and his presence allows her the paradoxical privilege of being able to take risks while being quite safe. The adventure is filled with tropical sunsets and tropical nights. Interestingly, the concomitant tropical insects do not get equal time in her fantasy. I suspect my friend might very well fly to Nairobi for safari on two hours’ notice should I suggest it to her.

This same friend once took a sojourn to the South Side of Chicago at four in the morning, looking around with big eyes and expecting any kind of hassle to break out at any moment. A funky jazz club on the South Side is an exotic place for a straight white woman and is not all that secure, except that she was with not one but two all-American football types who were African-American with a certain don’t-tread-on-me air about them. She found that situation to be an adventure, just as the time she persuaded a racing car driver to give her a helmet and let her go with him on some early morning practice laps. She reported that even a zoom lens and a three-dimensional screen do not approximate the sense of speed that comes from actually being in the car.

Romance Over Paris

Romance Over Paris (Photo credit: starbuck77)

There is a definite appeal to a lover who not only offers you the excitement of a new relationship but also the excitement of doing something quite different from what you could otherwise do. The problem with such fantasies is that a real-life person who offers these enticements may not be a particularly desirable lover in other ways.

If what you are seeking is adventure, then you must accept that specific goal as a priority and not expect to also enter the realm of the senses unless you are very, very lucky.

To sort out these issues, ask yourself a simple question. Do you want to be with him? Do you want to do things and go places with him that have nothing to do with being adventurous? Does the great white hunter become boring when you imagine him tending a backyard barbecue?

Suppose you are finally sailing into the harbor in Tonga after a lifetime of dreaming about the South Pacific. You feel happy and excited especially because you are doing it in the full glory of a tropical sunset. Your euphoria makes you look with great benevolence upon the man who just happens to be standing beside you at the ship’s rail. Tonga is exciting, but it is easy to get confused and let yourself believe that the man you have met in Tonga is therefore exciting too. Many ill-fated shipboard romances flounder when you finally realize that the excitement of such a lover was in the exotic situation, not in the man himself.

In spite of such hazards, for some kinds of interludes, the lover who acts as a tour guide can be very appealing.

And sometimes, of course, you do find to your delight that he looks as good over a backyard barbecue as he did at the luau on the beach. It is just as likely, however, that the man with the sun-bronzed body, who strolled the white sand beaches of the South Pacific with you during a glorious sunset, may be far less appealing when he is strolling with you on the cold gray pavement of New York City on a dark winter day bundled in clothing.

New Horizions in Contemporary Relationships

Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

Many people spend most of their time interacting in the confines of rather narrow social boundaries. They stick to their own kind and are expected to do so. They interact in ghettos of one kind or another, perhaps not so much because of prejudice as because the kind of people they are most likely to meet turn out to be, by and large, much like themselves.

Several dimensions are involved. White women, for the most part, interact with other white people. They tend to spend time with people of the same social class—be it upper, middle, or lower—that means people with the same levels of education and wealth and with many parallels in terms of lifestyle. Whether or not religion per se is very important, Christians tend to spend time with other Christians and Jews with other Jews. Add to that an expectation of age stratification, which creates almost an age ghetto. Except for one’s own parents or one’s own children, the young associate with the young, the middle-aged with the middle-aged, and the old with the old however these life stages are defined. People in the workplace may interact with various age groups in the course of carrying out their jobs; but at the end of the workday, when socializing outside the workplace, they are likely to do so with those relatively close to them in age.

When you look at your friends, most likely, they will turn out to be a homogeneous group. Most are in the same general age group, most are of the same race and religion, and most have about the same amount of education and money. Often, they are in the same line of work and live in similar neighborhoods. They are people like yourself.

There is nothing wrong with friendships with people like yourself. You understand them easily, you can empathize with their problems, you can make yourself understood. There is nothing wrong with such friendships—except that they can become very predictable. You know these friends so well that they seldom surprise, seldom outrage, seldom enlighten you. The hazard of such homogenized associations can be serious in a friendship and fatal in a love affair. It is the hazard of boredom.

The Graduate Original Soundtrack album cover.

The Graduate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who is different from you is exciting because he provides a contrast to you, a new perspective. The exotic man is mysterious, and you are challenged to solve the mystery. He has the additional appeal, and danger, of forbidden fruit. He may be considered too old for you, too young or too married. In a white community, a black man is exotic; in a black community, a white man is. The exotic lover may be, in some way, unpresentable by virtue of what he does or who he is or where he comes from. He is certainly not the boy next door. The contrast between you, the sense of being different, is simultaneously a source of delight and a source of problems.

In future posts I will talk about the pros and cons  of various kinds of “exotic” relationships.

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