Does anybody out there still remember a really silly TV show “The Dating Game,” circa 1965-1973?
I can still hear the theme song in my head. Hosted by Jim Lange. The first of a wave of game shows proffered from the mind of Chuck Barris. If I recall, it had cheesy innuendo questions in common with “The Newlywed Game”: "Bachelor #1 … If I locked myself out of the house stark naked, and I called you for help, how would you help me?"
But the one thing “The Dating Game” could not take seriously was the mystery of sexual chemistry; the same way modern online dating can’t take it seriously. Still photographs don’t help. Profiles and demographics and compatibility surveys blur quickly into so much blah-blah-blah. Voice tone and inflection contribute; but until you’re in someone’s energy, you can’t really know much about chemistry. Because chemistry is primarily about energy, and the utter mystery of why/how two energies connect. Or don’t connect.
I’m saying that sometimes the winning Bachelor would come around the corner (after she had seen the other two) and the disappointment on her face or his face would be evident.
Chemistry blows my mind. It’s a subject/phenomenon that I find fascinating.
Sure, one part of chemistry is the way someone does/does not match your individualized, acculturated preferences for height, gait, shape, physiognomy, orthodontics, etc. Everyone has at least one of these preferences that are deal breakers as regards dating/romance potential.
I know women, for example, who insist "he’s GOT to be taller than me." Men seem to have more wiggle room for variations in height, but less negotiability for weight/shape. That is, some men really fixate on curvy, Rubenesque shapes, while others just never make erotic attachments to any woman beyond a size 8.
But I’m convinced those preferences, while real and important, aren’t the heart of the matter. What I mean is I’ve been in the company of drop-dead beautiful women who meet all my preferences and, for that matter, exceed any cultural standard of desirable, … and we talk … and they don’t stir me. Even if I really like them. And I’ve met women who, if I was shown their photograph prior to the meet, well, nothing about the photo would grab me. But, face to face, in real time, … oh my.
For most modern people, sexual chemistry is a non-negotiable expectation of an emotionally committed relationship or marriage, or at least one part of what makes an initial dating relationship even plausible. Yet chemistry is a complete human mystery. You can’t manufacture it, will it, create it, or predict it. It happens. Or it doesn’t happen. It is recognized. You are then free to notice it, welcome it, nurture it, and enjoy it. You are also free to not notice it, or to notice it and then decide to ignore it.
See, even when chemistry happens, it doesn’t mean that it’s good, right, or necessary to act upon it sexually, let alone proceed into an intentional courtship. That’s a quite separate equation. And “falling in love” is yet another separate question, and perhaps an even bigger mystery.
Might be useful to define some terms …
Fantasy is the spontaneous play of a vital imagination. We don’t even especially require another actual human being to do it well. Even when we conscript someone we know into our fantasy, that person is more a chance player in our own private improv. The ideas and pictures in our mind aren’t, in the end, about exploring a real relationship.
Lust is a fairly random, objective, unilateral event. Again, it’s about us; not about the person we’re lusting after. We can look across a bar and feel a random surge of lust (especially if it’s getting near closing time), but that in no way guarantees we would have chemistry were we to meet the object of our lust. (The word "object" in that sentence is deliberate.)
Limerance means "in-lovedness."
Chemistry differs from lust because it is at once deeper and, by definition, mutual. It includes biology, but its greater wallop is this whelm of intangibles. The weight and wonder of mystery. Clocks at once move faster and slower. You want to smell his/her hair. It hangs in the air like a “thing.” It’s palpable. So compelling and so beautiful, I think, precisely because it’s so utterly out of our control.
Chemistry is a gift.