ni hao ma girl » method to the madness

method to the madness

Posted by anya on August 21st, 2010 filed in Uncategorized

“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”

(-Oscar Wilde)

The thing about being back in Vancouver is that I find myself constantly evaluating where it is I want to eventually be. These questions have always been there, but getting back from something that felt so real puts them into the spotlight. While it is four in the morning and I can’t fall back asleep, I’ve been catching up on what I missed from Something She Dated (basically the trials and tribulations of somebody attempting to date in Vancouver). And all this reading is making me realize specifically what I miss about being in Indonesia. That something, summed up in a word, is spontaneity. Here in North America, it’s like in order to meet someone and to actually figure out whether you want to pursue things further, you first have to go down lists upon lists of things you’ve already decided you need (“oh, he/she must be university educated” “no, can’t date someone who listens to Coldplay” “must be at least 6 feel tall” “I know my type, I definitely need someone who has traveled. It just makes you so much more aware, you know, of your own privilege.”), and then exclude those who don’t fit. Then, when you find someone that fits into those boxes, you need to craft a series of questions in which your carefully-constructed repartees mask as wit. And then, if that stage goes well, and only then, can you make plans. Inevitably, these plans will be for ‘next week’, ‘wednesday night’, ‘the only time when you and I both have to do this thing that we’ve pre-screened each other for and deemed to have a probability of being worthwhile.’

And I get it, that’s life. People are busy here. It probably makes sense to pre-screen and to avoid a whole slew of misfits who, God forbid, don’t share your love of the ukulele and who wear Ed Hardy. But all this reminds me of a brilliant post on Tiger Beatdown, which shows, better than I’ve seen done elsewhere, why we land into Hipster Hell with the kind of thinking many of us upper/slumming-it-in-the-DTES/midde-class twenty-somethings get trapped into.

Maybe you’ll discredit all of this since in Bali I was on vacation – days of the week mattered only in as much as drink specials did. But it’s something else, too. There’s a difference in vibe there, and an unsaid appreciations of last-minute, unplanned, unrehearsed moments that can only come from walking down the street, running into someone you sort of know, getting on the back of their motorbike, and heading wherever the evening takes you. Come to think of it, when Jenya came to visit, the only night when we explicitly made plans turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions. The others began with starting points only, like a choose-your-own-adventure book. And they were the most memorable, unpredictable, didn’t-expect-that-to-happen nights in recent memory.

It’s funny because the very structure of Vancouver’s nightlife prevents (or makes much less likely) the sort of thing I’m taking about. Because once you’ve chosen where you’re gonna go, how you’re gonna get there, stood in line for and hour (only to walk into an empty establishment), invested at least $10 into cover, bought at least a few drinks from the same bartender in an effort to encourage stronger pours, and waited for all your friends to finally make their way through this same routine, well, the spontaneity has kind of fizzled. And there you are, trying to make the best of your night, because you’ve already invested in it and because your friends  are there, and that means you must be having so much fun, right?

The same with dating. You go into a date having allotted that specific time for it. You’ve spent time going through your wardrobe, matching clothes to accessories, shoes to handbags, all the while avoiding looking like you tried too hard. Then, when you’re there, even if you can tell it’s not going to go anywhere, you stick it out, hoping that at some point in time you’ll feel a spark. As if all of a sudden your date will mention the same documentary you just saw last week and then you’ll go off on a tangent about your favorite indie film festivals, which will then lead to a wider discussion of the role of independently produced content in democratizing media. And when you recall that date to your friends, you’ll bring up how cool it was that you were totally on the same wavelength when it came to that, and you’ll mention how you’re thinking that for the next date you’re hoping to play off that in some way, like by taking him to see that performance art piece that’s playing at the Roundhouse that you’ve been meaning to check out.

But here’s what you’re missing out on: you’ll never be on top of a rooftop at midnight. You’ll never find yourself at a street stall drinking a surprisingly delicious egg-honey-milk-ginger mixture. You won’t be on a random beach with a beer at sunset. You won’t be listening to acoustic guitar while watching a lonely woman spin poi. You won’t be receiving middle-of-the-night let’s-just-smoke-a-cigarette-together visits. You won’t be sneaking off while nobody is looking, just to be. Nobody will be showing you a Buddha Box hidden in a hutong. You won’t end up on the sloping sidewalk at 3 a.m., cigarette smoke and silence.   (Or maybe you will, but then that date will be an anomaly, a figment of your imagination that will be so decidedly un-Vancouver that you won’t quite know what to do with it). And that’s why it’s a little hard to part with the rickety mess that made up Indonesia (and also China). Because there, spontaneity has a logic and a beauty, and you either run with it or you don’t.

The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, Oscar Wilde


8 Responses to “method to the madness”

  1. Kathy Says:

    This whole thing is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had a glimpse of that life at least once in their lives. Very well-described. I found myself trying to recreate moments of spontaneity while traveling and the harder I tried, the more I was losing the exact essence I was looking for. Thanks for this post… it reminds me that I can go on another adventure before I become too Vancouver.

  2. cheburashka Says:

    mmm german and i discussed exactly the same thing before i left to see you. he described it the same as you and i think it goes nto only for romantic relationships but friendships. may be because life here in vancouver is so slow that you have to stretch time and things to fill it up. thus leaving no chance to spontaneity.

    bwahaha but yes that night was a disaster :p and mmmm rooftops rock!

  3. Vancouverite Says:

    and I just discussed this with somebody on pof (i’m not even kidding).

    and it’s pretty amazing how quickly we acclimate to the mundane and begin to view it as normal.

    how in the midst of proclaiming our ability to be non-judgemental and open minded we actually close ourselves off from those who are not worthy of our time because of the reasons you mentioned above and many, many more (like bad shoes!).

    it scares me that one day i won’t even be critical of these actions and new found conceptualizations of happiness but rather accept them.

  4. Neela Says:

    Fantastic tips for what can be a harrowing excerienpe, at least for me with 2 kids! My daughter is finally in preschool so I only have to go with my son, but still he tends to be a menace at the store. I like the idea of shopping with tunes; it would make this mundane activity go much faster. Maybe when both are in preschool next year I can try it out!

  5. Ewa Says:

    Kaitlin-I am so impressed with your etanusihsm for your yoga business! Yoga is a great experience for children and adults, and I hope that you have great success. I have used yoga within my Physical Therapy practice, but I have never had formal instructor training. Have a great time with all of your little guys!

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