Recipe for Dating Lite: Insta-macy!

Recently over lox

and eggs at Barney Greengrass, I told my father I wanted to write an article

about how intimacy can be deceptive.

 “I’ve got a such a

good story for you,” he said, laughing. “When Mom and I started dating, she had

a bust out to here”- he straightened

his arms away from his chest-“and then a couple of months later, we were at her

apartment and I saw these big socks on the floor and I realized she wore

falsies!”

He offered a bagel half. “Is that what you mean by

deceptive?”

“Not exactly,” I said. “It’s more like you think you’re

getting close to someone, but then you realize you’re not as close as you think

you are-.”

“Amy, you gotta weed out the guys who just wanna get in your

pants.”

“I’m not necessarily talking about sex,” I said. “Yes,

people have sex quickly-” I caught a look of despair across the table. “Not

me,” I reassured him. “I’m thinking more about people acting intimate but not

feeling it, or thinking they feel it

but later realizing they were just playing at being intimate. Like

‘insta-macy,’ where people act like they’ve been together three years after

three dates. Or when people talk about things that seem intimate and special,

but then you realize it doesn’t mean you’re actually any closer. Does that make

any sense?”

He thought for a moment. “You don’t tell this to men on

dates, do you?”

I had better luck with a friend who recognized what I meant

from his own dating experiences. “Oh yeah, pseudo-intimacy,” he said. “What

passes as intimacy but isn’t.”

What made me want to investigate intimacy was hearing so

many people say they felt fooled by relationships that they thought were

serious, or getting serious, but turned out not to be. A lot of it boiled down

to how to interpret certain behavior nowadays. As one woman said, “Once upon a

time you could meet someone’s parents and it was a pretty sure thing you were

going to marry them. Now you can vacation with someone’s parents and it doesn’t

mean anything.”

Take the tendency to reveal intimate details early in a

relationship. When I tell people all about myself, I think, “Oh, well, that’s

just because I’m a writer and I’m very open.” But when a man tells me similar

things, I think, “He’s really opening up. That must mean something.” And what

I’ve realized is: not necessarily.

“In your 30’s, you have a biography. The first few dates you

offer up a few chapters to intrigue someone, even if it includes suffering,”

said a yoga teacher with chronic back pain. “Suffering can be seductive. People

seduce you by making you feel, ‘I’m giving this to you and no one else.’ But

the truth is, they’re giving it to everyone.”

“Things that were once incredibly difficult to

discuss-things that made me cry when I told my girlfriend in high school-become

a ready-made narrative that’s like an anecdote,” said a man whose cats fought

loudly in the background. “Your feelings and life become a thing, because you’ve told it many times in a similar way.”

Several women said they felt misled by men who confided

their deepest secrets.

“It doesn’t lead to what you would think it would lead to,”

said the yoga teacher. “It doesn’t lead to marriage or commitment.”

“Men use openness as a tool,” said a woman who called

herself “a former divulger.” “They’ve heard that women like it when men are

honest and seem vulnerable.”

A bubbly travel agent told me how her Harvard Business

School boyfriend confessed all his secrets early in the relationship. “I

thought he was telling me to share with me. He would tell me things and I would

be like, ‘We’ve all been there ….’ And at the end of the relationship, I

realized he was telling me all that because, subconsciously, he knew he was

incapable. He was telling me all that in case he wanted an out. He was

‘Mirandizing’ me-he gave me my rights so later he could say, ‘You can’t get mad

at me, because I told you all about me .'”

Then there’s “insta-macy”: In a blindingly short time, you

go from, “Hi, nice to meet you” to, “Can you make some room in your underwear

drawer?”

When a small man who favors leather hats heard the term

“insta-macy,” he identified it with a tendency to domesticate

prematurely-which, he added, “is one of my issues.”

“Suddenly you find yourself helping her choose some new

towels at Bed Bath & Beyond after brunch on Sunday,” he said. “That seeps into spending Sunday night

together. The first Sunday you spend with someone is the first big sign of

insta-macy. And the fact is, you’re not spending Sunday night together out of

love, but because it’s raining and you don’t feel like refilling your

MetroCard.”

Other people suggested insta-macy was a way to avoid the

awkwardness of actually dating. An actor, who said he’s hoping to write, direct

and star in a movie about a guy who can’t find love, said, “It’s creating a

false sense of five months down the line, when you really start revealing stuff

about yourself. So people think, ‘Cool, I’ve skipped the hard stuff. I’m

there.'”

A record executive said: “With women I really like, we meet

on Friday, Saturday we go to brunch, Saturday night we go to a movie, Sunday we

go to brunch again, Sunday night we sleep together and Monday she’s my

girlfriend.”

A woman who is taking catechism classes said that, because

so many people have had several relationships that failed, they use expedited

intimacy as a way to know quickly if a person is right or wrong for them.

“To me it’s all about ‘lite.’ It’s not fake, but it’s not real,”

she said. “It’s the low-fat version of real intimacy. Because it’s lite, you

can consume much more of it and it won’t add any weight. Plus, if it goes away,

it’s not a terrible loss.” Or, as another woman put it, “People desperately

want love and commitment, so they will interpret an appetizer as an entrée.”

Taking into consideration the present confusion about what

means what, I think people need to be more straightforward from the get-go.

Instead of using the term “open” to describe how you reveal yourself, you might

substitute “faux-pen.” As in, “I’m not really being open yet-just faux-pen.” Or

you could admit opening up to someone else is difficult and that it feels more

like “grope-penness.” Perhaps we need categories of intimacy such as, “I’m not

ready to give you my bank-card P.I.N.-timacy.” Or, if you’re waffling about how

you feel about the other person, you could say, “Later you might call and I may

not be in-timacy.”

A few fun phrases won’t necessarily ease the minds of so

many single people who are looking for sure signs of real commitment and love,

who want to believe that there is order in the universe and that, when you

think something is real, it is. I understand. I really do. In the meantime, as

we all keep dating and struggling with relationships, might I suggest taking an

aspirin-timacy.