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The trouble with love in the big city is not that people are callous or self-involved, it's that they evolve so quickly. When people say, "I swear I will love you forever," they mean they will forever love the person into whose eyes they are gazing at that moment. Unfortunately, within a few years…or months…it's pretty likely that person will change into a different person with, like, the same name. So…when one or the other party packs up and leaves, no oath has technically been violated, because neither of the original parties still exist.
This afternoon, for example, the Urban Man finds himself at a Westside café, sipping a chai latte with his friend James. James is telling me how he has to leave his wife so he can evolve into a better, stronger, and more self-actualized person—but I'm finding it a little hard to catch the details over the noise of everyone at the other tables becoming new people.
"She's changed," says James. "She's not the same. And now it's time for me to change. I have to grow, to move on to the next phase." James develops a beautiful metaphor about butterflies, but of course, as he catches my eye, I see he's not interested in my opinion of the breakup. He's trying to find out if I will be a friend of his next phase. If I will fit with the improved person he intends to become.
Maybe, thinks the Urban Man, but who will that be?
Everyone says that opposites attract, but I've always had my doubts. I mean, as I survey the brightly lit coffeehouse, it certainly looks like couples have paired up, however briefly, by type: thin with thin, chubby with chubby, emo with emo, nouveau goth with nouvelle goth. Many gay couples seem especially obsessed with looking just alike, from haircuts to biceps, like mirror images—and I suppose they have a substantial advantage there, anatomically speaking.
All in all, even here in the metropolis, where you are allowed to be anything, love probably still depends on being more or less alike—until, of course, it's time to be someone else.
Once I went to observe a speed dating session. It took place in a restaurant and they seated all the women at separate little tables. Every five minutes, the facilitator rang a bell and all the men would have to get up and move. Often there was a frustrated sigh at the sound of the bell, but the second everyone sat back down, they'd again start talking real fast and chipper, looking for that brief correspondence of realities, that slight commonality which might promise long affection.
Me, I remember thinking how, under those circumstances, you could be a different guy every five minutes. You could be a thoughtful, reflective guy at one table, and an aggressive go-getter at the next. In fact, you could try out not just many potential mates, but many potential versions of yourself, just to see, you know, which you might choose to actualize.
In that sense, it wasn't like ships passing in the night. It was more like jets passing at supersonic velocity, who might, in some highspeed romantic epiphany, swerve for a time to plot a parallel course.
But…sorry. I'm neglecting my friend, who all this time has been offering a very serious list of marital issues, and telling a complex and compelling story about his hopes for the future. In fact, now that I tune back in, I see it's true. He's evolving right before my eyes, and no doubt for the better. No doubt into a happier, wiser, more authentic version of himself. I mean, already I'm pretty sure he's not the same person who called earlier today and asked The Urban Man to join him for a quick chai latte.
Copyright © 2009 Marc Porter Zasada. All Right Reserved.
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