One thing that helps romance keep afloat is that of hope. As long as there is a chance out there to find their one true love, most people are content. Sure, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that that blonde down at the coffee shop who bends over a lot to work the milk steaming machine or whatever it’s called will say “yes” when you ask her out, but as long as you can sit in the comfortable confines of your isolated emotional box and ponder the fact that there might be a chance…that’s worth all the actual balls-requiring activity you would need to actually take some risk. Hope does a lot to gloss over a lot of lonely Valentines’ Day evenings and watching The Notebook after 10pm.
Of course, hope can do a lot of scapegoating, as well. While it’s nice to extrapolate theoretical romances in your mind, the practical results are often left a lot to be desired. Hoping that it won’t be the case may make you feel better, but, just like comfort food, caffeine, and the alternative minimum tax, once reality sits in of what you’re really going to have to put up with you’re often left with disappointment. For example:
Hope: I hope that that guy finds me attractive.
Reality: I hope she puts out on the first date.
Hope: I hope I find my true love.
Reality: I’m going to set my standards as to what true love is so high that when I realize that what I’m looking for is impossible to achieve I will be dead.
Hope: I hope I didn’t forget her birthday again.
Reality: Will they be listed as “lawyers” or “attorneys” in the yellow pages?
Hope: I hope I didn’t scare her off.
Reality: I hope he realizes I’m Catholic.
Hope: I hope my significant other doesn’t find out how much I’ve been flirting with the help.
Reality: This could really hurt her chances to secure the presidential nomination.
Another reason that hope is so strong is the mere existence of online relationship web sites. Now, granted, classifieds have been around for quite a long time ever since Og carved “Single Cro-Magnon Male Looking for Single Female, likes long walks on the beach, being drug by hair to cave. Must love mammoths, imminent starvation” in the town rock. And, of course, there is a lot of money to be made in hope, as individuals looking to find their match online are usually willing to pay a premium for such services. (Though one has to pause when a discount is offered for six months of service, a time frame most would assume is more along the lines of the discouraging.) It’s so lucrative that niche markets are about to produce reasonably massive profits, and sites such as JDate and Adult Friend Finder can specialize in (hopefully vastly different) demographics. Simply adding the old .com to any particular concept seems to be a recipe for success, and so Finnishscrapbookers.com and Seventhdayadventistaccountants.com won’t have very long to wait until they are presented with a catalog of love.
Of course, with the introduction of massive amounts of opportunities also frightens many people away. By expanding our choices, we also dilute the attention given to each one. Typing in our height, lying about our weight, and checking off hobbies such as “hiking,” “watching TV,” or “illegally downloading music” and crossing our fingers is a far cry from the personal touch of having the file clerk down in inventory try to hook you up with his roommate’s sister who, by all journalistic standards of accuracy, enjoys having a good time.
Having faith in the new technology of romance is almost essential in today’s world. Not having such faith will unnecessarily restrict you in your choices, and with a few adaptations of behavior, mostly those that will keep you away from confronting Chris Hansen, it can be used to terrifyingly great effect. And while those who help sort through personality matrixes and conquering the elusive likes/dislikes algorithm may have a financial bias to get you laid and/or finding true love, in the end both parties gain. Faith is important for this particular commercial transaction, of course, since it seems destined to replace the more traditional, if more time-consuming and potentially embarrassing, personal recommendation. While your friends and family have a vested interest in not pulling a bait and switch scam on you, lest you skimp on the Christmas present next year or buy generic potato chips for the family picnic, Match.com only wonders whether you’re paying by check or credit card. Having faith that the system works is, therefore, required to keep the whole house of cards from tumbling into a giant heap of unfilled promises, shattered expectations, and Kleenex.
And, of course, it requires a bit of faith for the relationship itself. The person you meet for the first time is only as good as he or she says she is. Most dates don’t come with a background check or a credit report, so you have to take it on faith what they’ve done with their lives. They could be polygamists or cat ladies or libertarians and you’d never know it from their endlessly fascinating stories about what color his car was in high school or the first time she wore makeup to church. Starting out the relationship assuming everything that the other person is telling you is a ridiculous lie is probably the practical and better idea, but having faith in the opposite of that will help you sleep better at night.
Of course, when it comes right down to it, love will answer its own questions. You’ll know when it’s time to relent and cast hope into the wind, safe in the knowledge that your relationship can deal with true reality—and it has to, in order to survive the ups and downs that is the universal nature of love. Faith is unnecessary when you can accept your partner’s unconditional trust, evolving it into obsolescence, and no longer question the important conversations, or even the more pleasurable trivial ones. Indeed, as has been posited, out of faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is, and has to be, love. Dot com.