Monday, August 08, 2005

Manamko Dating Advice

I've recently self-diagnosed myself as a dating hysteric. The social cues which we are supposed to collect throughout our lives, just don't make any sense to me. Even as I see them right before my eyes, taking place, I find myself uncertain what the hell is going on.

A few months ago (some of you who read this blog regularly for example), I met a girl who plays video games and I knew immediately that I was attracted to her. But interpreting some sort of return movement or reciprocal emotion was a completely different story. We spent an entire day together, and my mind ran at Pentium 5 speed trying to decipher what she was saying, how she was acting, whether any of it meant that she liked me.

You know you are a dating hysteric when dating feels more like combing through a pop culture database. We get our ability to feel attraction from the construction of fantasy spaces,which we build from elements of movies, popular images, people in our family, our childhood, etc. While I had so much fun that day, the processes in my mind would have made most people dizzy. Certain acts would be reflected onto certain acts I've experienced or seen in a movie or read about, and then refracted against something else. Certain statements would get the same treatment, as I'd sift through my mind for citations which either proved, disproved or confused attraction.

Treatment for this problem? First off all, this obvious failure does have its perks. The trauma of being so close to something, yet being unable to tamper with it, creates drive in other areas. The dialectics of desire can be killer, but they can push you in other places in ways that you never felt you could achieve. So for example, suffering as a dating hysteric for the past year has somehow converted me into someone who does their homework, actually has goals and occasionally overachieves.

Na'ma'a'ao no? Yanggen un tungo' yu' antes, siempre kalang linemlem hao ni' Guahu.

In other issues, I have often turned to the elder generations of Chamorros for their input. Since I returned to Guam for college several years ago, so much of my life has been determined by the wisdom or insight that I gain from speaking to and listening to i manamko' gi i lina'la', most importantly my grandparents. But, as most people would probably feel, dating advice from that generation of Chamorros, probably wouldn't be much use today.

Or would it?

The tendency to simplify things crassly is something both i manamko' yan i manhoben are guilty of. The pre-war generation of Chamorros speak of their younger years in Guam before 1941 as a paradise of simplicity. Chamorros lived simple lives, barely getting by, but happy with life. With this simplicity, comes unbearably overwhelming innocence. The Catholic Church and Chamorro parents prohibited all forms of dating and most pre-martial interactions between sexes (except for priests, but then again, maybe....okay, I was about to make a bad joke). So the stories of how Chamorro couples ended up together involve early morning meetings while doing chores such as making tatiyas or washing clothes. Or massive stealing of glances during church or at Saint Fiestas. Or my personal favorite, chule'guagua or cupids who assist in communication by singing songs on behalf of the lover or passing on messages.

Today, Chamorros tend to think of that era as simple, but in a slightly different way. First of all, dating is now very much possible (although most Chamorros would still contend that there is no word for it in Chamorro (except for dumate or dinate). Second, the ways and means of dating seem to be infinite nowadays. The back of i gima'yu'us or down by the metate aren't the only places to meet potential prospects. As I saw most recently in the film Must Love Dogs, on the internet alone there is almost too much dating there, that people tend to fetishize and desire the means itself, as opposed to what they thought their inital intent was (as the film clumsily gets across, what one soon seeks isn't more men, but more potential identities, more websites where the process itself can be re-visited or "dated").

When they refer to that era as simple, its because it seems easier. Today's world is supposedly full of billions of choices, whereas in pre-war Guam, supposedly your parents married you to the first person (not your relative) that dared speak your name in public.

Of course, this division is too simple and too easy. That is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Ashriya and Vivek film Kyon! Ho Gaya Na, because hidden beneath the same old love story, there is an interesting critique of this supposed freedom, these supposed choices.

The drunken individualism through which people of today base most of their ideas about freedom and choice is also what common conceptions about dating are built upon. But these things usually don't make any sense to me. Dating is supposed to be between two people, two souls getting to know each other, other people aren't supposed to interfere, and when they do, something called "drama" is created.

This scenario however makes me pine for the days of the chule'guagua. Where there is no delusion that a relationship is about two people, and everything else incidental. But instead the third party minimum is recognized not as interference or merely "charming" but absolutely necessary.

For example, with regards to the beautiful video game girl, what I wish for almost as much as me telling her how awesome I think she is, is a cupid who could do that for me. But over the past year, when I 've asked people for this type of vicarious assistance, I usually get lame-ass cop out comments like, "I don't want to get involved" "ti malago yu' umentaluyi" or "your should tell her yourself, this should be between you guys."

Its late and this post is already long enough, but one could easily connect this point to how relationships today systematically create "third wheels" all over the place. These understandings about how couplehood works and therefore what a single, unattached friend must be interpreted as. Most currently single people out there will be familiar with this impulse, where you are actively made to feel like the third wheel when hanging out with your couple friends, or are constantly pushed to "bring someone else along" before you can see them.

1 comment:

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