“I'm not sentimental -- I'm as romantic as you are. The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last -- the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't.”
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
"Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power."
-- Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress
"Give me everything tonight
For all we know we might not get tomorrow
Let's do it tonight."
-- Pitbull & Ne-Yo, Give Me Everything
So I just got back from an amazing vacation in Cancun that I took with an amazing boy and I feel really terrific. I can't tell you how grateful I am that we decided to take this trip together, despite how kind of ridiculous it may have been as an idea.
That it happened at all was kind of a fluke; we didn't have the idea to take a vacation together and then start looking up hotels and travel deals. We were sitting in a surf-themed bar in midtown one night, sipping rum drinks with names like "Mermaid" and "Sandy Ass" while flatscreen tvs on the walls played scenes of ocean waves, and I was thinking how nice it would be to take a tropical vacation together. Almost immediately an email came in on my blackberry from a travel deal site I signed up for, offering an all-inclusive deal to a five-diamond resort in Cancun. (This is also a noteworthy example of the principle that you get what you ask the universe to give you, a concept I'll be expounding upon more in another upcoming post.) It was a great price and the resort looked beautiful. I showed it to the boy sitting next to me and said, "This looks like a great idea. We should go." And we did.
Too many people, when dating, try not to make any sudden moves or offer up anything that might ruin their air of nonchalance. There's certainly something to be said for an easygoing nature that doesn't rock too many boats, but here it might be prohibitive. I don't see many people my age and in my social circles enjoying grand romantic gestures together. It's too much of a risk to end up seeming uncool. Heaven forbid they do something too early on that makes it look like they're getting too serious.
Here's the thing, though. The nature of the seducer is such that he or she knows that nothing in this world is meant to last. And rather than turn nihilistic over this fact and come to the conclusion that therefore nothing is worth trying, the seducer believes that therefore everything is worth trying. They suck each love affair dry because they know that the odds are overwhelming that their passion won't last forever.
I don't say this as some noncommital, philandering maneater trying to justify a hedonistic lifestyle -- this is actually scientifically documented fact. In her book The Anatomy of Love, anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher describes a phenomenon she calls the four-year itch. Putting together data of couples from sixty-two different cultures around the world, she found that divorces tended to happen most often during or around the fourth year of marriage. "Among these hundreds of millions of men and women frm sixty-two different cultures," she writes, "individuals speak different languages, ply different trades, wear different clothes, carry different currencies, intone different prayers, fear different devils, and harbor different hopes and different dreams. Nevertheless, their divorces regularly cluster around a four-year peak."
Why does the feeling of love seem to occupy such a ubiquitous timeframe? Fisher theorizes that we evolved to fall in love for four years at a time because in primitive human societies that was the amount of time needed to rear a child through infancy. "Like pair-bonding in foxes, robins, and many other species that mate only through a breeding season," she postulates, "human pair-bonds originally evolved to last only long enough to raise a single dependent child through infancy, the first four years."
The universal love timeline runs deeper than societal constructs, however. Emotions of love, as unromantic as it may seem, are dictated by chemicals in the brain. That rush of electricity you feel in your chest as you catch sight of your object of affection is actually just a surge of a naturally occurring amphetamine called phenylethylamine (PEA for short) saturating our limbic systems. The rush of PEA you feel with your lover lasts about eighteen months to three years, because your brain can't sustain a state of basically being on speed for any longer than that amount of time, so either it stops releasing the amphetamines or its receptors become desensitized to them over time. Following that time, your brain instead starts to release endorphins, or endogenous morphines, which are natural opiates that produce feelings of attachment, security, and peace, so that you and your loved one fall into a comfortable routine.
Psychologists theorize that we evolved to feel this way because in order to propagate the species, we needed to feel enough attraction to each other (PEA) to be interested in having sex with each other long enough to effect a pregnancy, and to stay comfortable with each other (endorphins) long enough to raise a child. After that, we're kind of on our own.
Depressing truth: We were not programmed to live happily ever after. We were programmed to further the species. After the time deemed necessary to pop out a kid, mother nature doesn't really care what else goes down in our relationships.
Certainly there are plenty of cases where couples have stayed together for decades, and we can assume that they are happy enough, seemingly in some marriages more than in others. But the overwhelming trend is that if we want to keep romance exciting through the years, we are bucking our own biological system.
I'm far too young to call myself an expert on marriage or longterm relationships (my longest relationship lasted -- surprise! -- four years), which is why I prefer to call myself a seduction coach or a dating coach rather than a relationship coach, despite the obvious crossover there. Here is what I will say on the subject:
You cannot count on your relationships, or even your feelings about them, to last. Unexpected change can happen at any moment. You could fall out of love, your partner could inexplicably leave you, either one of you could get hit by a bus when crossing the street. Therefore, if there's something you want to do with that person, do it now. Not five minutes from now. Now. NOW NOW NOW.
Socially, this attitude isn't the norm. As I mentioned earlier, people generally want to seem nonchalant about their relationships early on, and things like spontaneous romantic vacations seem to clash with those notions. There's a way around this, however.
For seducers, adopting the attitude of the grand gesture is completely normal. And one thing I have learned over the course of my studies in seduction is that you can make just about anything seem normal as long as you hold the frame that it is normal. For example, if a wealthy man started dating you and wanted to take you to Ibiza for a weekend after only knowing you for a few weeks, you might think of that as being completely normal on his part because his wealth allows him to travel all the time. As a seductress, you must incorporate the grand romantic gesture into your everyday life so that when you make one, it's completely normal for you.
Casanova was known for this. He had a reputation as a seducer with an adventurous nature, so when he suggested to a young woman that she come along on a trip with him (chaperoned, of course, in order to placate her parents), it seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary to him. Once he took a young woman and her two sisters on a surprise visit to Milan. Once there, he gave the girl a beautiful dress to wear and took all of them to dinner. In his world, things like this happened all the time, and if you had the good fortune of being seduced by him, they would happen to you too. It said more about the experience of being with him than it did about his feelings for you. In this way, he avoided any lack of coolness while still having amazing romantic adventures.
When I first got out of my aforementioned four-year relationship, I didn't have the reputation as a seductress that I do today, partly because I was entering a new social circle in which I was mostly unknown, and partly because I had just been mostly monogamous for the past four years and was in the process of getting my dating sea legs back. The first man I started dating happened to be celebrating his birthday exactly two weeks after our first date. Conventionally speaking, it was probably too early in the dating process to make a big fuss over it, but what he didn't know about me is that if I give a shit about someone, I'm going to make sure they have an awesome birthday. So when he asked me if he could hold his party at a burlesque show where I was performing, I set him up with a table, performed to one of his songs (he was a musician), and baked him a birthday cake which I had all the dancers bring out at the end of the show. He loved it -- but the detrimental part of it, for me anyway, was that although it seemed normal in my head, it wasn't yet enough a part of my routine and reputation to look completely normal to the outside world. He left me shortly after -- not, he later told me, for lack of interest, but rather because he was afraid I was going to go back to my ex. He didn't believe that the way I was with him was sincere, because at the time I had no known precedent for it. He was afraid it might have somehow been a fluke.
Nowadays it's known that that kind of thing is completely normal for me. Since then I've thrown all kinds of birthday parties for my friends, performed burlesque to many musicians' songs for their birthdays, and I have a reputation for baking cakes and cookies for birthdays, concerts, and any other occasion that in my mind seems likely to benefit from baked goods. I do it because I like it, and it's fun. And now it's no longer weird. It may still be a grand gesture, but like Casanova's trips around Italy, it's generally considered pretty normal.
That's the sucky part -- is that any change in your behavior, such as taking lovers on exciting vacations or throwing people extravagant birthday parties, is going to feel slightly weird and out of character for you the first couple of times you do it, and you will probably encounter some bumps in the road like I did with my lover who doubted my initial grand gesture. That is the small price you are going to have to pay in the beginning for the excitement of assimilating these behaviors into your everyday routine. Don't get frustrated if it feels weird at first. Just keep doing it and after a while it will become what you do, and moreover it will become who you are.
And as a seductress, you owe it to yourself and your targets to make the grand romantic gesture part of who you are. Today of all days I am so grateful that this is what I do with my life, and that I am the kind of girl who throws up her hands and says fuck it and goes to Cancun with a boy she's only been seeing for maybe eight months whom technically she doesn't even call her boyfriend (see my eyerolls over dating semantics in my blog post The Failing Love Lexicon), because goddamn, I had such an amazing time and I couldn't imagine not doing something like that just because I was afraid of being seen as giving too much of a fuck. The experience of being with you should be something that is known to be remarkable and is breathtakingly anticipated by those who desire you. Make it part of your reputation. Be known for having amazing adventures.
This quality will not only attract more targets to you, but will probably also help you in the odds of overcoming the four-year itch. Going back to the topic of brain chemistry, it is also a scientifically documented fact that doing exciting and even dangerous things with someone will cause you to fall for each other more deeply and more quickly than you would have otherwise, due to the release of a chemical in your brain called dopamine that bonds you together when that happens. If you do want to beat the odds, have adventures together.
And even if you don't beat the odds -- which, as a romantic realist, I realize is the more likely scenario (after all, the majority of relationships end at some point) -- hey, at least you milked your time together for all it was worth. There is little that's more heartbreaking than looking back at a failed relationship and wishing you had done more, said more, or allowed yourself to feel more. Whenever I'm not sure what's the right course of action to take, I often ask myself how I would want to live today if I knew the world were ending next week. Right now I feel pretty good about that.
But most importantly, you owe it to yourself to be the kind of person who does exciting and out-of-the-ordinary things with her lovers. This is the kind of life you should be living, and the kind of life I wish for you all. Don't wait for someone else to come along and do it for you -- for all you know, they're already out there waiting for you to do it for them.