A Guy Named Ethan Has Your Love Life Figured Out.

I was scavenging around some old writing documents and I have no idea who Ethan is. I assume he wrote a book that sounded interesting. He seems to focus on an “urban tribes” concept (one day when I am less lazy, I will use that as a keyword to track down who he is) and I’m not sure I’m buying all the strict gender-roled assertions, but maybe you, too, might find his observations worth reading.

Ethan’s Top Five Things to Tell Your Parents When You Are Still Single at Age 30 (or 35, or 40):

1. “Mom/Dad, among people my age, my life is not abnormal. (At least, not for that reason.) My generation has delayed marriage longer than any generation in American history. The cities are filled with people my age who are still single. The vast majority of us will marry; we’ll just do it later.”

2. “Not being married does not mean that I’m a ‘slacker.’ A slacker is usually defined as ‘someone who shirks work or responsibility.’ Remember how hard I work at my job/school/local SPCA office? My life is full of activity and meaning. There is no reason for pity or scorn.”

3. “Despite your stunningly deep bench of candidates, I honestly don’t need your help. I’m sure the son/daughter of Aunt Molly’s dentist is polite and well-groomed with a high-paying job, but leave the matchmaking to me. Believe me when I say that I have plenty of people giving me advice about my love life.”

4. “My marriage delay doesn’t mean you won’t ever be grandparents. While much has been made of the drop in fertility rates among women over 30, the numbers aren’t all that bad. Two out of three women ages 35 to 40 can get pregnant within a year. Those who try for two years raise their odds to 91 percent. ”

5. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Mom and Dad, but what about all the divorces in your generation? People my age are not indifferent to marriage–and we’re certainly not indifferent about love–but we have learned to be deeply cautious, in part because of divorce in our own families or those that happened next door. Statistics have shown that marriages started after age 25 work out better in the long run. In fact, because of our marriage delay, the divorce rate is now going down.”

Ethan’s Top Five Reasons Why Being in an Urban Tribe Is Bad for Your Love Life:

1. Some tribes are not so good at making the friends-of-friends connections that are our best hope for finding love in the city. If the boundary of the tribe becomes too rigid, your social life can stagnate. One warning sign is when there are too many events to which only the group is invited. Tribes are best when they are part of a network that connects you to new people.

2. “Cock blockers” (i.e. a male who, through futile sexual importunings of every woman in sight, ruins the romantic chances of coyer males.) If they are in your group, these men can create a kind of force field that repels available women. Cock blockers are almost never successful and, like leprosy, often scare new women from coming to group functions.

3. “Queen bees” can be problematic for men and women in the group. A queen bee, usually an attractive and charming woman in the tribe, demands that all flirtatious energy be directed toward her. If a male in the tribe brings a new love interest around, the queen bee can be counted on to find that woman lacking. No woman, a queen bee will attest, is good enough to date the men in her tribe. She’s sweetly protective but her motivations are greedy. For the women in the group, the queen bee is the equivalent of the male cock blocker.

4. Friends in our urban tribes often resist “losing” us to new relationships. They fear that if we have long-term romantic partners, we will no longer be available to them. This is an understandable fear because this is exactly what often happens. You can try to get your friends to accept your new romantic partner into the tribe, but:

5. Trying to integrate a new love into the group can be an exercise in frustration. Queen bees and cock blockers can get in the way. Also, there can also be ambient jealousy between the group and the new partner. This can cause simultaneous tension in your friendships and your love life.

Ethan’s Top Five Stupidest Things He Had To Read While Researching His Book:

1. “Try to navigate the shoals of modern romance, and you’ll only Titanic yourself with too much thinking.” –Nate Penn, The Code

2. Absent “the sudden desire on the part of Western women to begin having the same-sized families as their grandmothers, the future belongs to the Third World. Only the mass reconversion of Western women to an idea that they seem to have given up–that the good life lies in bearing and raising children and sending them out into the world to continue the family and nation–can prevent the Death of the West.” –Patrick Buchanan, The Death of the West

3. “Getting married is a little like inheriting the family business. Now it’s up to you to figure out what to sell, how to sell it, and how much to charge.” –Foundations: The Newsletter for Newly Married Couples

4. “Bonding social capital constitutes a kind of sociological superglue, whereas bridging social capital provides a sociological WD-40.” –Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone

5. “It is woman’s refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man’s lust into love . . . . Why would a man court a woman for marriage when she may be sexually enjoyed and regularly, without it?” –Leon Kass, The End of Courtship

Ethan’s Top Five Ways to Build and Maintain an Urban Tribe:

1. Create a weekly ritual. Seeing each other consistently is the way personal communities form. Some tribes meet to watch “The Sopranos,” some meet as a book group. For several years my group met every Tuesday night at the same restaurant. It’s the simple act of repeatedly getting together as a group that forms the bonds which keep everyone close.

2. Create yearly rituals. Although you might think of this as simply an extension of #1, yearly rituals have a distinctly different purpose than weekly or monthly happenings. Yearly rituals such as throwing a big New Year’s Eve party or taking a group trip require planning and coordination. These are times when the tribe can test itself and its members. Will everyone be able to work well together? Will every member share the burden or will some slough off? By challenging itself with grand yearly rituals, the group tests its value and meaning.

3. Don’t be possessive of the group by trying to define or control who is in the group and who is not. Although your tribe might have a core membership, healthy tribes have fluid borders. In this way your tribe can give you both emotional shelter while at the same time connecting you to the outside world. By making distinct in/out judgments, you limit the tribe’s key function of connecting you to a larger network.

4. Set up e-groups. There are many free and friendly ways to facilitate communication within your group. These allow you to easily add and delete people from email lists. My tribe has several lists: One for those who play on the softball team, one for those who want to know where Larry’s next gig will be, one for planning the next houseboat trip, et cetera. Being able to quickly spread information and ideas within the group is one of the distinct aspects of these modern groupings.

5. Create a culture that celebrates the achievements of individuals. Competition and jealousy are tribe killers.

Ethan’s Top Five Guidelines to Dating within Your Urban Tribe:

1. If you’re new to the group, avoid dating anyone, at least for a while. If those in the group suspect you are only there to poach partners, you’ll likely get a cool reception.

2. Make sure you’re serious. Bad feelings that follow a brief romance can put deep stress on a group of friends. Finding true love is worth the risk of dating a friend, but getting laid is not. If you are looking for short-term romance, do everyone a favor and find it somewhere else.

3. Let the group in on the secret sooner rather than later. Someone is going to find out and it might as well be you who spreads the news.

4. Make time for individual friendships. Disappearing into a romantic relationship can be particularly hurtful if the couple was formed within the group.

5. Don’t let any friend tell you that dating within the group is “against the rules.” Finding love is a risky and messy business. While friends may be sad that inter-group romances make relationships more complicated, forging a friendship into a long-term romance is worth the risk.

Ethan’s Top Five Frustrations Women Express about Men They’ve Begun to Date:

1. Men think that the early stage of a relationship (the point at which routine sex can be gotten with the lowest possible commitment of time, resources, and personal energy) is a fine place for the relationship to remain indefinitely.

2. A man tends to overestimate his importance to a woman at the moment when she asks him “to talk about where the relationship is going.” Men often assume that the woman has fallen in love with him when in fact she might only want some information.

3. Men overrate the value of their affection–regardless of its quality or consistency. That is, men always assume that a fraction of their attention is better than none at all.

4. Men’s tendency toward out-sized conceit (see #2 and #3) combined with the inability to articulate their intentions reveals them to be the most reprehensible of cowards. Shouldn’t that grand self-conception carry with it some responsibility for treating the relationship with candor, clarity, and honor?

5. Men often ride along in relationships with one hand on the door handle. This fearfulness of momentum leads them to perform all manner of foolishness, including dangerous stuntman-like dives out of high-speed romances as well as more comical leaps out of relationships that have yet to leave the driveway.

Ethan’s Top Five Stupidest Lines from The Rules:

1. “Trying on clothes by yourself in a dressing room can be overwhelming and confusing. . .”

2. “. . . Hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex!”

3. “. . . Stay emotionally cool no matter how hot the sex gets . . . [in the morning ] go quietly about your business–brush your teeth, do some sit-ups and stretches, brew coffee. . .be casual and unmoved.”

4. “There we were–a secret underground, sharing the magic, passing it on, doing what historically women have done for each other since the world began–networking for success.”

5. “Don’t be surprised if the man you’re dating gets very angry when you kiss him good night in the lobby at the end of the second date rather than invite him up . . ..Don’t worry. Anger indicates interest.”

Ethan’s Top Five Things Urban Tribes Should Avoid:

1. It’s best not to sleep with every single one of your close friends. Leaving at least one or two “platonic” friendships insures that you have someone to commiserate with about how nobody trusts you.

2. Tribes from the dawn of man have used facial tattoos to signify membership in the group. It works great, but remember that facial tattoos last a long time and may impact your chances of mating outside the tribe. Before you permanently engrave the name of your softball team on your forehead, try it for a few weeks with a magic marker.

3. Sure it was fun to practice robbing a bank, but is that a good enough reason to go through with it? Living on the run with your group might seem like a lark but after a couple of weeks nerves are likely to fray. Remember how every one was sick of each other after that camping trip? Times that by ten.

4. You should try not to cut the outside world off completely. Living on a guarded compound is a lot of fun until you want to go to town and see the Matrix again. Remember: Swearing eternal devotion to a single charismatic member of your group usually means that he’s the only one who gets laid.

5. As much as tribes enjoy monthly and yearly rituals, you should strive to avoid those involving the sacrifice of humans. I know this sort of activity may sometime seem like a “good idea,” especially after those long weekends of amphetamine and cocaine use. Here’s a trick: If the idea of blood sacrifice comes up in your group, volunteer to head the committee to “explore the idea.” Later, keep the committee distracted with other action items.

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