On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I read this great book review in the Times. It was about an experiment based on our choices. At a luxury food store in Menlo Park, researchers set up a table offering samples of jam. Sometimes, there were six different flavors to choose from. At other times, there were 24. Shoppers stopped more often when more choices were laid out. But after the taste test, those who chose from the smaller number were 10 times more likely to actually buy jam: 30 percent versus 3 percent. It seems that having too many options made it harder to decide on a single selection.
This reminded me of a conversation I just had about how difficult it is to date in NYC – or rather, how EASY it is to date, but how hard it is to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. The problem is that are too many options. If you are interested in someone, you get distracted by another before it gets too serious. We all know that there is always going to be someone better-looking, who makes more money, who has a better set of legs….but what we don’t find too often is someone we connect with. And I think that’s what’s really missing in the Manhattan dating scene. Nobody takes anyone seriously… because who cares if he didn’t get my number? The guy I met five minutes before him did.
Dating in NYC is like shooting fish in a barrel. Everyone is out at the bars, and they’re not there to talk to their work colleagues with whom they’ve just spent the last 11 hours. They’re there to play the game, just like everyone else. But the game doesn’t lead anywhere past a few dates… when you are forced to make the drastic decision whether or not to friend her on facebook, and if you’re just not that into her, you begin anew – possibly a new bar, in order to not run into any of your last three dates. It’s enough to make me move to a lighthouse in Maine. Alone.
Just like the jam experiment, it’s ingrained in our heads that it is too hard in the dating world to make a selection. This is not our parent’s generation. We drown in social media – facebook-stalking (guilty), linkedin -stalking (ahem), hell I’ll find out what their favorite bedtime story was when they were in footie pajamas. My powers of internet research would astound our nation’s government. If only I would use my powers for good….
Perhaps the only positive thing that came out of “He’s Just Not That Into You” was a quote by Drew Barrymore: “I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting!”
That sums it up, and in a city’s dating world. we are told to become believers in quantity over quality…the odds are in our favor that if we go out with four people at one time, we’re more likely to meet the One. But if we paid attention at all, we’d remember what it means to really get to know someone, to have a relationship evolve over months, years, a lifetime. There is always going to be someone else, we meet a million people in this city. But what too many people realize too late is that the newer model doesn’t hold a candle to the old one.
I’d much rather have my choice of six jams. I’d appreciate each individually for some distinct characteristic, but one would stand out, and I’d buy it. If I had 24 choices, wouldn’t my taste test just begin to taste the same? What makes any one of them so special when there are so many? Just give me my reliable Bonne Maman preserves. You can’t go wrong.