The Commitment Question

Last night S and I went out with her colleagues again–two charismatic twenty-something guys who wear suits and work in finance. In other words, men who exist in a parallel world that the likes of S and I do not traditionally enter.

It turns out that some of the things that go on in their world are not entirely different from those that go on in ours. Specifically: beer drinking, gossiping, and men having a radical fear of commitment.

When my blogging habit came up, one of them seized the opportunity to pronounce his impressive bachelor credentials: including, at one point, being named by a local publication to a “Hottest Eligible Singles” list at a time when he was not, technically, eligible. In fact, he was then beginning to date the woman he is now, several months later, still with. He described her with genuine enthusiasm and seems, genuinely, committed to her. The other night, he met her parents.

At one point, several beers into the evening, he began to verbally contemplate his ability to commit in more abstract terms. This is a close approximation of what he said:

“I mean, I’m not gonna, like, say anything…but I think that, maybe, you know, someday, like when things get really serious, down the line, I think I could maybe be, like, really committed and not, you know, do the kinda stuff I’ve done in the past…I mean, I’m not gonna promise anything, you know.”

Sensing the kind of personality that could handle a bit of teasing, I told him that was the weakest statement I had ever heard. Gamely, he laughed, and continued laughing as S compared him to a guy she knows who reminds her of Zach Morris and explained that she can’t really get angry with them because their problem seems to be that they just really, really love women.

I know guys like this too. I know women like this. Sometimes I think I’m one of them: people who connect easily with others and who, as a result, frequently find themselves intrigued sexually and romantically. Whether they act on this intrigue is a different question.

Yesterday I wrote about an egregious example of someone who does: Tiger Woods. In response, many people have teased that if I had Tiger’s wealth, I too could manage seventeen simultaneous lovers. Of course, my whole (admittedly, silly) point was that–private planes or none–I can hardly handle the emotional burden of two romantic interests overlapping, much less more. And many of the women I know feel similarly.

I don’t mean to say that all men are sluts with an inate aversion to monogamy. I don’t think that’s true: as I’ve previously written, it frequently seems in the long-term relationships I see that the men are more ready to settle down while the women are more wary.

But the idea of commitment–detached, perhaps, from any specific person–does seem to have a uniquely chilling effect on men. What exactly they are so terrified of, besides the prospect of being emotionally responsible for another person (and, I suppose, the inability to continue sleeping around) I’ve still not figured out.

All I know is that I haven’t heard many women pronounce themselves certifiably undatable.

Then again, I haven’t tried to date them.

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2 Comments

Filed under Love Life

2 responses to “The Commitment Question

  1. dc

    I think the fear-of-committment thing comes less from a desire to sleep around, and more from the closing off of possibilities. While committing to one person means all kinds of great and beautiful things, like connecting on a deep and meaningful level and creating years worth of shared memories, it also involves a kind of surrender that is hugely unappealing to a lot of people – giving up the possibility of ever starting another romantic relationship. And when you’re young and single and living in a city and often meeting new people, the illusion of choice (there’s always a new possibility, or appears to be) can make choosing difficult.

    • Well hello, dc. Thanks for your insight. I think you’re right that a lot of people, men and women, find the terror in “commitment” not so much in being with one person but in not ever being with someone else. But that will never change–no matter how long you’ve been with someone or how amazing they are there will always be the possibility of someone else. I think at a certain point you have to come to terms with that reality and decide that it’s worth the risk.

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