There's one more issue discussed in Marrying Anita that made me nod in recognition. We can put men on the moon, Anita Jain says, but we can't figure out some consistent way to meet people for matrimonial purposes. I have heard (this is me talking) that we are so technologically advanced that we really only need to work for 2 hours a week. But apparently, since some critical mass of people insists on working for 40 or more, the rest of us have little choice but to do the same. Dating, like the 40-hour week, should be obsolete, but it isn't. Jain talked with some nostalgia about arranged marriages, which still occur in India. However, as an American, no one I know of has had an arranged marriage since my dad's grandparents. I doubt they'll be coming back in any great force. As frustrated as you might be with your job, you're probably not going to take up sustenance farming.
As a teenager, I always thought traditional dating existed, but apart from my own experience. I'm kind of sure that some sort of dating went on at my high school, but I was too busy studying and trying to get into college to really notice. I always assumed that in college, I would be able to find some other eligible bachelors to date. However, NO ONE DATED. I felt cheated when I discovered this. People would "hook up", which would sometimes lead to a romantic relationship. Obviously, I never hooked up with anyone, so my half-hearted desires for a boyfriend were never realized. Then I got to the "real world", which is where dating would finally happen. Or is it? Dating still seems as removed from me as it did in high school. I have no idea how it works. But I believe that no one else knows, either. That's why I get frustrated at books like He's Just Not That Into You. They assume we're still dating, but I'm pretty sure we've moved on to post-dating. From where I sit, there are no rules anymore.
One thing I actually miss about living in a rural town is the lack of choices available. In some ways, it made life easier, and I think that's why arranged marriages can seem attractive. It seems like our choices today in America have multiplied much faster than our ability to deal with them. How much time have we spent looking at 20 kinds of soymilk (okay, maybe that's just me), 50 different kinds of jeans, 500 kinds of wine? It's not a novel idea, but maybe asexuality is the new arranged marriage. Maybe having our dating choices cut way down from the get-go is a blessing in disguise. But then there's the issue of combing through huge groups of people to find the ones with little or no sex drive. Men on the moon, and we can't figure out a way to do this? Maybe the thing is that we want love to be spontaneous and serendipitous. We want, to use Roger Ebert's phrase, meet cutes. But at the same time, it sucks to be disappointed when we can't accomplish this. To quote a visionary of the 2-hour workweek, "We could be living in an earthly paradise by now". But it seems like our conflicting desires (for serendipity AND stability) stand in our own way. According to the philosopher Schopenhauer, if we were able to find our lovers with no trouble on our parts, we would be so bored that we'd kill ourselves. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it begs the question: Is the convolution of dating, or post-dating, something we can ever get past? Or are we somehow hardwired to keep confusing ourselves?