The 30-Second Love Filter: Myth Or Truth?

A while back I read something along the lines of “women know within half a minute whether or not they will ever have a relationship with someone”. For “relationship with” read “have sex with,” as the rest of the article was, if memory serves, far less coy.

I’m starting to wonder if it is true.

First of all, I have to say up front that when I don’t feel attractive, it takes a lot for my libido switch even to be in the “idle” position, never mind “on.” I haven’t felt terribly attractive on a number of levels lately. I’m living in my dead grandmother’s house, which is depressing enough, but it’s also a dump. It was neglected while she was alive because she was legally blind due to macular degeneration and constitutionally ill-disposed towards even minor changes. Now that she’s no longer with us, it’s still neglected because my mother has conflicting attitudes about it. On the one hand, she wants to sell it (for more than twice what it is worth), but isn’t clear on when the selling may happen. On the other, it’s her mom’s old house and she doesn’t want to change anything at all, so it can remain a museum of sorts. I moved a table and sofa around in the den a year after my grandmother died and she took months to accept even this minor change. Then, after all that ruckus about that minor change, she gives away most of the better furniture (including items I’d begged for). Lastly, she is starting to redo her OWN house, so every so often I get crap dumped in the mostly-bare dining room that I don’t have time to deal with. Much of it is my old high school art and yearbooks and crap that I’m not particularly attached to, but I know that she didn’t toss them because she does have a little attachment to them and assumes I do as well. She also has gone on toss-and-purge sprees in the past and thrown out things I actually DO care about, so I’m not willing to just assume that everything in the bags and boxes is expendable or worthless. It probably is, but who knows?

I gained weight caring for my grandmother, and while I’m at the national average for my height, I’m used to being about 20 pounds under average, and since I have a very small frame (I can wear size 4 and 3/4 rings on my left hand ring finger, for example), this didn’t mean I was anorexic. Grandmother was a medical anorexic, meaning that there was no psychological hinkiness going on, she just was less and less interested in food and had to be plied with the most fattening food possible. Key Lime pie comes to mind as a big fave. A slice of Key Lime pie probably has 2,500 calories in it, thanks to the massive amounts of sugar needed to make limes sweet and the condensed milk, and that’s if you don’t eat the crust.

Another unpleasant change is the new worry marks I have engraved in my forehead. I haven’t had much to smile about for the past few years, and have had a LOT to worry about (and a lot of constant stress), and my face shows it. I am starting to think that Botox might not be such a horrible idea if it keeps me from looking tired, pained and anxious all the time. Even if I am tired, pained and anxious 90% of the time, I don’t have to have my face shout it out.

So I’m living in a crappy place I’d be ashamed to bring friends over to see, and I feel fat and wrinkly, though recent photographs show that a lot of that is me obsessing over stupid stuff and making unfair comparisons to my former self. It’s not great, but I certainly am not a haggard old piece of shoe leather. (Fat shoes’ leather.)

I daydream sometimes about setting up my next place. This is what I used to enjoy about playing The Sims. Not the game-related play of keeping them from peeing on the floor or incinerating themselves while attempting to boil water…but the cheap architectural CAD the game allowed me to play with. Admittedly, everything was limited to two stories and 45- or 90-degree angle walls at the time, but a number of folks worked overtime on various cheats and dodges and clever innovations that got around the limitations. So I’d make living environments with Oriental furniture, Mod furniture, classic Queen Anne-style furniture, “Victoriana” / Goth furniture (because there was actually a “Goth Family” in the game) and lavish gardens and water features. I’m too busy to play with the game anymore, so all my interior decorating these days goes on in my brain.

As for the clutter I’m dealing with (too much crap, too little space), I went on a minor purge this week and set aside a lot of crap I’ve been holding on to for years…mostly clothes. It’s not coming back in style, no matter how cute it is. I suspect that wearing clothes from the eighties when I was in my twenties was okay because it was assumed to be a fashion choice. Wearing clothes from the eighties and nineties now is going to be interpreted as “out-of-touch older person doesn’t give a crap about looking nice.” Thank goodness over-sized, baggy and tight, extremely-low-rise pants are going out of style, because I couldn’t bring myself to show off my underwear and visually inflate my lower half even for the sake of being stylish. It’s an ugly look. Not that the super-high-rise pants on the runways are much better. Hello, happy medium, anyone? I refuse to buy Mom Jeans just so I don’t have a belt buckle scratching my boobs or half my ass crack on display.

But I digress.

The point is, I am not looking to meet new people. I’m even leery of expanding on the relationships with classmates, because in the back of my mind, I’m already OUTTA HERE. The worst double-edged sword would be to meet the love of my life down here and find out he doesn’t want to leave. So I’m not looking. I don’t buy into “The One” myth, and whereas I have bleak days where I wonder if I am too persnickety to meet Mr Right-For-Me any time soon (meaning, shortly after I leave this town), that frisson of panic doesn’t make me want to start “hunting.”

Fact is, my libido switch is, for the first time in my life, set firmly to “off” and partially that’s because I’m patient to a fault and am apparently putting things on hold until I can escape Savannah. Patient to a fault because I’m taking things in stride and making token efforts to fix stuff that’s bothering me because nothing is more important than getting my degree and getting on with my life. Need shelves? Buy one, not the four I need. Want a pet cat? Must wait. Relocating with an animal is tougher, I already HAVE an animal to focus on, and I prefer my pets to deal with the same vet from day one if possible. Night life? No time. Every week there’s a paper, a project, a website, writing and editing assignments, some household-related headache…I’m already tired and I have no steady income. I can’t afford to splash out on entertainment. I consider it frivolous to buy a book, rather than borrowing a big pile of them from the library.

Last time I discused this, I was in grad school and a lot of this rambling was inspired in part by this man working on his thesis project (supposedly, though I only ever see him surfing the web). He took an inexplicable shine to me (inexplicable because I had never spoken to him before and was always focused on my work and classes). My routine was such that if I was up for a mental break, then I was outside chit-chatting there. If I was inside, I was working, so should be left alone to work.

This man NEVER approached me outside. He came up behind me and scared the hell out of me each time, because I was usually engrossed in my work. He stopped and tried to draw me out for a chat DURING MY CLASSES. He asked personal questions and lobbed undeserved flattering remarks my way that praised personal qualities that I may have, but which he couldn’t have known from merely being on the same floor of a four-story building on a semi-regular basis.

He was also clearly interested in me, and not in a buddy way. I was perplexed, frankly. I looked like hell, I was not sending out any vibes at all, I was all-business and focused on my work more often than not (I tended to chat socially with my professors more than my peers, though there were a half dozen or so people I had classes with several times and I got the impression they liked me and respected my work; I’m still in touch with some of them.)

If he had ever approached me outside when I was talking with friends or having a smoke or whatever, I wouldn’t be so chapped. He never did. He consistently just appeared from behind me, lavished overly friendly attention my way, and took a long time to get a hint. I decided not to stop what I was doing though I was polite…I just kept on working. Even when I did pause to chat, I had never held a personal or deep conversation with him, or one lasting more than five minutes.

I know, however, if I had found him even remotely attractive, I MIGHT have been tempted to be a lot more friendly. That’s where the 30-second relationship filter comes in. I can’t manufacture pheromones and attraction where none exist, and I’ll never be lonely enough to derail my attempts to get out of town as fast as I can. I’m over it all. I want to be done. I have a lot more to learn, but I want to just KNOW it and be looking for a JOB already.

I knew within 30 seconds (or less) that he not only wasn’t anywhere near what I typically like in the opposite sex (which I could tell at first glance), but I also didn’t click with his personality. He seemed to mean well and to be nice enough, but I think that when he inadvertently disrespected my professor by wandering in during a studio hour, when the whole class was busily working on projects, and tried to strike up a conversation…it was uncool and I was pissed off. It may not have been that inadvertent, either. He worked on the same floor constantly and it was fairly obvious when there was a class in session ten feet away from your work station. His need to flirt with me was greater than my need to actually learn something and get the assistance from my professor that I paid $150 an hour per class session for…and $150 is more than I spend on groceries and toiletries a month. It’s more than I MAKE per month. It’s all student loans.

(So much for my mom’s promise to pay for my education if I came down to help with grandmother, incidentally. She went from agreeing to pay for the standard three classes a quarter, which would have had me out of here last April and which she never did, to bitching about paying for one, to not contributing a penny towards my education at all. Which is typical.)

Anyway, it’s illogical to the extreme, perhaps, but I was really put off by a man being pleasant towards me, and annoyed with myself for being annoyed. It wasn’t the interest in me that was the problem, though I certainly am in no mood to be the recipient of someone’s unrequited crush at the moment. I’ve been there before, and I’ve dealt with a good friend’s annoyance when a so-called Nice Guy (secretly a self-absorbed, secretly egomaniacal, socially maladjusted guy with book smarts and a veneer of etiquette) refused to get a hint that she was Not Ever Going To be Interested In Him, Damn It, Get A Fucking Clue. (Later the same guy decided that the perfect time to hit on ME was when I was upset over breaking up with the guy who was, at that point, the love of my life. Hadn’t ever shown interest before, mind, but I was clearly emotionally distraught and in a vulnerable state, and he figured it was worth a try to hit on the crying girl (me), who happened to be VERY CLOSE to the girl he’d annoyed and chased for, what, ten or so years? Smoooooooooth. And, if it isn’t clear, he is NOT so “nice”. And, annoyingly, I then had to deal with not hurting HIS feelings at the same time MY feelings were already shredded by my ex, all because he got rejected for making the world’s worst-timed pass in history and had a huge sulk about it. Because it was all about him.)

So. Sorry. Where was I?

Was my reaction due to the 30-second Love Filter? A knee-jerk response to his rudeness directed towards my professor, me and my classmates for trying to conduct personal chitchat during class time? (More than once! Once or twice, I forgave, but didn’t like. Third time it happened, it was clearly rudeness or obliviousness, neither of which I like.) Was it a reaction based on witnessing and being a victim of clueless (Not-Really-Very-)Nice Guy dumb-assery in the past?

Is it just that I’m unhappy with how I am and not currently motivated enough to fix everything I hate about myself all at once? (I have no free time, gah!)

I don’t know.

I do know that the half-minute filter does seem to work. At least for me. I may warm up to someone as a friend after some time, but if there’s no initial “hey, you’re kinda cute!” [™, Schoolhouse Rock “Interjections” voice actress) reaction, I don’t date them. Even if there’s no pause for reflection and an awareness that I find someone cute, such as when I’m dating someone else and there’s my man and every other male on the planet is just some guy who happens not to be a girl, it’s still true that I won’t ever date someone if I don’t find them attractive. The acid test, even when there’s only one man on the planet, as far as I’m concerned, is if I am asked and realize that yeah, I’d describe so-and-so as cute. There can be Cute Guys I perhaps won’t date due to age differences or other incompatibilities, but there are no Not Cute (To Me) guys that I WILL eventually date.

I won’t even get into the occasional guilt that stems from having very choosy aesthetic tastes when it comes to guys. It’s not that I aim too high; I just sometimes wonder if I’m being too picky and not giving guys a fair shot. (Has that EVER worked for ANYone? REALLY?)

I suppose I’m mostly sad that I see male attention, even if it is unwanted and ill-timed, as being a kvetch-worthy topic. Then again, my life has never revolved around seeking male attention at all costs. *insert shrug here*

How soon do you know when someone’s a potential date-worthy acquaintance? Right away? Weeks? Do you accept dates from people you KNOW you aren’t attracted to? I find that I rarely date even when I am “on the market” because I tend to prefer to get to know people beforehand and they tend to have insurmountable issues (usually not-so picky things, such as “doesn’t like karaoke” or “is bald” (I have a slight Good Male Hair fetish thing going)…BIG issues like “smokes crack on a regular basis” or “has girlfriend” or “sleeps with anything with a pulse regardless of gender, usually while wasted, ergo probably has a scary social disease or three” or “is alcoholic” or “hates cats, kicks dogs, is nasty to little old ladies” or “has nasty passive-aggressive sense of humor”, et cetera) and it’s not worth the job-interview aspect of an Official DATE-Date to put up with it all. Friends? Sure, why not. Potential partners? Don’t think so. ESPECIALLY if they are cute. Hormones are stupid, I don’t need them convincing me that “hey, he only smokes crack every other week, but he’s otherwise a nice young man,” know what I mean? That crack thing, it is a deal breaker.

Apparently disrespecting my professor and scaring the pee out of me while I’m working are also deal breakers, but the 30-second Filter had already vetoed any chance of future Boyfriendness.

Is it just me? Do other people do this?