Mating Minds Alain de Botton on Attachment Styles and the Art of CompromiseWe hope you enjoy exploring this new site designed to make our year archive more hospitable and accessible. And if you want to stay in touch with our latest podcasts, writings, live events, and more, sign up for The Pause , our Saturday morning newsletter. On Being with Krista Tippett. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different and better if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after? It cannot be its precondition. As people, and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love.
And almost from the first date. Tippett: Yeah. And we feel in a way that we know them already, and we impose on them an idea . Because sulking is a fascinating situation which takes you right into the heart of certain romantic delusions. This is how little children behave.
They literally think that their parents can read their minds.
Tippett: Yes. Use your words. The loveliest thing is they understood me without me needing to speak. Your children how old are your children? Tippett: Oh, OK. He should just know. It is the work of life, right? It is the work of growing up. And we do this naturally with children, and yet we do it so seldom with adults. We take it all completely personally. Today, exploring the true hard work of love with writer and philosopher Alain de Botton. We could chisel them in granite.
Not you, as it were; all of us, that all of us are deeply damaged people.
The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. And this knowledge is very shielded from us. They sacked us without .
And so we keep sacking our lovers and blowing up relationships all in pursuit of this idea of love which actually has no basis in reality. Tippett: This right person, this creature does not exist. You are irredeemably alone. You will not be understood. That again, that is the work of life is to reckon with what goes on inside us.
And a certain kind of bravery, a certain heroic acceptance of loneliness seems to be one of the key ingredients to being able to form a good relationship.
And it sounds paradoxical.
What if the first question we asked on a date were, How are you crazy? I'm crazy like this? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton's essay. Alain de Botton Essays in love 1 Romantic Fatalism 1. . that all the rest had been compromise and self-deception, that only now were we finally able to I date the realization that, whatever enticing similarities we had identified between us. - What if the first question we asked on a date were, How are you crazy ? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton's essay Why it's not real or as it's a deception but but it isn't i mean i think you know it.
Not that I think I will be single forever or want to be single forever. Although, actually, I think I would be alright if I were, which is a real watershed. And also what this part of this chapter of life has taught me to really enjoy more deeply and take more seriously are all the many forms of love in life aside from just romantic love or being coupled. Do people talk to you about that? And another way of looking at love is connection.
And that is, in a sense, at a kind of granular level, what love is. Love is connection. And we can take pride in how flexible our minds ultimately are about where that connection is coming. And I think getting into a relationship with someone, asking someone to be with you is a pretty cruel thing to do to someone that you love and admire and respect because the job is so hard.
Most people fail at it. And on and on the list goes. No wonder that we fail at some of the tasks and get irate with one another.
And I think sometimes, the older I get, sometimes I think one of the nicest things you can do to someone you really admire is leave them alone. Just let them go. Let them be. And just talk about this. But again, this kind of realism or acceptance of complexity, I think, is ultimately the friend of love.
There are legitimate reasons to leave a relationship. Tippett: And because we have that power, in fact and for example, you are, in fact, arguing as you said before, some marriages are meant to end.
Tippett: Imagining that this is the perfect one, right? Tippett: Something else you name about marriage that I feel is not often enough just named is that we spoke a little while ago about children coming into a marriage. And of course, children teach us so much.
But also that children are hard on marriages, right? And for I think, on a more complicated level, if there are problems in a marriage, that can get amplified when children are there. And one of the things that romanticism does is to teach us that the great love stories should be above the mundane.
So in none of the great, say, 19th-century novels about love does anyone ever do the laundry, does anyone ever pick up the crumbs from the kitchen table, does anyone ever clean the bathroom. And yet, of course, when we find ourselves in relationships, it is precisely over these areas that conflicts arise, but we refuse to lend them the necessary prestige. Tippett: [ laughs ] Right. That has nothing to do with . And so we need, in a way one of the lessons of love is to lend a bit of prestige to those issues that crop up in love like who does the laundry and on what day.
We rush over these decisions. Tippett: It is the stuff of life. He would always to do this for us. She was comparing this man, her father, as a father but not as a lover. Have you? This Nazi asked me if I had anything to declare, and I said yes, even though I wasn't carrying anything illegal. It somehow makes me feel better. It's a bit of a freak. Except that I don't even have an excuse.
I've been carrying mine around for over five years. Could you look after my trolley while I look for the loo? I'll just be a minute. Oh, and if you see a pink carrier bag with a luminous green handle, that'll be mine. A little later, I watched Chloe walk back towards me across the hall, wearing what I later learnt was her usual pained and slightly anxious expression.
She had a face that looked permanently near tears, her eyes carried the fear of a person about to be told a piece of very bad news. Something about her made one want to comfort her, offer her reassurance or a hand to hold. Love was something I sensed very suddenly, shortly after she had embarked on what promised to be a very long and very boring story indirectly sparked by the arrival of the Athens flight in the carousel next to us about a holiday she had taken one summer with her brother in Rhodes.
While Chloe talked, I watched her hands fiddling with the belt of her beige woollen coat a pair of freckles were collected below the index finger and realized as if this had been the most self-evident of truths that I loved her. However awkward it was that she rarely finished her sentences, or was somewhat anxious, and had not perhaps the best taste in earrings, she was adorable.
I fell prey to a moment of unrestrained idealization, dependent as much on my emotional immaturity as on the elegance of her coat, the after-effects of flying, and the depressing interior of the Terminal Four baggage area, against which her beauty showed up so starkly. I had ceased to consider it according to the secular logic of ordinary conversations. I was no longer concerned to locate within it either insight or humour, what mattered was not so much what she was saying, as the fact that she was saying it - and that I had decided to find perfection in everything she could utter.
I felt ready to follow her into every anecdote there was this shop that served fresh olives Everything that could possibly have played itself out within her mind and body had promptly grown fascinating. Then the luggage arrived, hers only a few cases behind mine; we loaded it onto the trolleys and walked out through the green channel. What is so frightening is the extent to which we may idealize others when we have such trouble tolerating ourselves because we have such trouble I must have realized that Chloe was only human, with all the implications carried by the word, but could I not be forgiven for my desire to suspend such a thought?
Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping we won't find in another what we know is in ourselves, all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise, and stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one and decide that everything within it will somehow be free of our faults. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through our union with the beloved, hope to maintain against the evidence of all self-knowledge a precarious faith in our species.
Why did this awareness not prevent my fall into love? Because the illogicality and childishness of my desire did not outweigh my need to believe. I knew the void that romantic intoxication could fill, I knew the exhilaration that comes from identifying someone, anyone, as admirable. Long before I had even laid eyes on Chloe, I must have needed to find in the face of another an integrity I had never caught sight of within myself.
Like Oscar Wilde with his genius, I wanted to say, 'Only my love,' but my love was not a crime, not yet at least. Afraid of presumption, I answered no, but asked Chloe if she'd wait for me on the other side of the border. Love reinvents our needs with unique speed. My impatience with the customs ritual indicated that Chloe, who I had not known existed a few hours ago, had already acquired the status of a craving.
Chloe had waited, but we could spend only a moment together. She had parked her car nearby. I had to take a taxi to my office. Both parties hesitated whether or not to continue with the story. Well, it was nice meeting you,' said Chloe extending a hand. In the taxi on the way into town, I felt a curious sense of loss. Could this really be love? To speak of love after we had barely spent a morning together was to encounter charges of romantic delusion and semantic folly.
Yet we can perhaps only ever fall in love without knowing quite who we have fallen in love with. The initial convulsion is necessarily founded on ignorance. Love or simple obsession? Who, if not time which lies in its own waycould possibly begin to tell?
For those in love with certainty, seduction is no territory in which to stray. Every smile and word lead to a dozen if not twelve thousand possibilities. Remarks that in normal life that is, life without love can be taken at face value now exhaust dictionaries with their possible meanings. The thought of Chloe did not stop haunting me in the days that followed our encounter.
Though under pressure to complete plans for an office building near King's Cross, my mind drifted irresponsibly but irresistibly back to her. I felt the need to circle around the object of my adoration, she kept breaking into consciousness with the urgency of a matter that had to be addressed, though my thoughts had no point to them, they were objectively speaking utterly devoid of interest. Some of these Chloe-dreams ran like this, 'Oh, how sweet she is, how nice it would be to Others were more visual:!
Chloe framed by the aircraft window! Her watery green eyes! Her teeth biting briefly into her lower lip! The tilt of her neck when yawning! The gap between her two front teeth! If only I had summoned such diligence for her phone number, for the digits had altogether evaporated from my memory a memory that felt its time better spent replaying images of Chloe's lower lip.
Was it ? The search began badly was not the beloved's abode but a funeral parlour off Upper Street, though the establishment didn't reveal itself to be one until the end of a trying conversation, in the course of which I learnt that After Life also had an employee called Chloe, who was summoned to the phone and spent agonizing minutes trying to place my name eventually identifying me as a customer who had made inquiries into urns before the confusion of names was cleared up and I hung up, red-faced, drenched with sweat, nearer death than life.
When I finally reached my Chloe at work the following day, she too seemed to have relegated me to the next world. Can you hold for a minute? I held, offended. Whatever intimacy I had imagined, back in office space, we were strangers. Can I call you back? I'll try to reach you either at home or in the office when things calm down. The telephone becomes an instrument of torture in the demonic hands of a beloved who doesn't ring. When Chloe called a few days later, I had rehearsed my speech too often to deliver it correctly.
I was caught unprepared, hanging socks on a rail. I ran to the bedroom to pick up. My voice carried with it a tension and an anger that I might more skilfully have erased from a page. Authorship becomes tempting to those who can't speak. I really can't this week. We could meet at my office and go to the National Gallery or something. The questions did not let up.
On the one hand, she had been happy to take the afternoon off to tour a museum with a man she'd only briefly met on an aeroplane over a week before.
But on the other hand, there was nothing in her behaviour to suggest that this was anything but an opportunity for a friendly discussion. Suspended between innocence and collusion, Chloe's every gesture became imbued with maddening significance. Was I correct to detect traces of flirtation at the ends of her sentences and the corners of her smiles, or was this merely my own desire projected onto the face of innocence?
Before The Virgin and Child with Saints, Chloe turned to remark that she had always had a thing about Signorelli and, because it seemed appropriate, I invented a passion for Antonello's Christ Crucified.
She looked thoughtful, immersed in the canvases, oblivious to the noise and activity in the gallery. I followed a few paces behind her, trying to focus on the paintings, but able only to look at her looking. In the second and more crowded Italian roomwe stood so close together that my hand suddenly touched hers.
She didn't draw away and for a moment the feel of her skin tingled through me. Cupid kisses his mother Venus, who surreptitiously removes one of his arrows: beauty blinding love. Then, brusquely, as though an error had promptly come to light, the hand moved away. I wish I'd read more about ancient mythology,' she continued.
She turned to face the painting, her hand once more brushing against mine. Was the hand a symbol subtler than Bronzino's and less well documented of desire or the innocent, unconscious spasm of a tired arm muscle?
What was I to make of the way Chloe straightened her skirt as we crossed into Early Northern Painting or coughed by van Eyck's The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini or handed me the catalogue in order to rest her head on her hand? Desire had turned me into a relentless hunter for clues, a romantic paranoiac, reading meaning into everything.
But whatever my impatience with the rituals of seduction, I was aware that the enigma lent Chloe a distinctive appeal. The most attractive are not those who allow us to kiss them at once we soon feel ungrateful or those who never allow us to kiss them we soon forget thembut those who know how carefully to administer varied doses of hope and despair.
Venus felt like a drink, so she and Cupid headed for the lifts. In the cafeteria, Chloe took a tray and pushed it down the steel runway. The game continued for a few more rounds, its vigour apparently accounted for by a mutual, irrational anxiety about the commitment involved in letting someone else pay for a drink. We sat at a table with a view of Trafalgar Square, the lights of the Christmas tree lending an eerily festive atmosphere to the urban scene.
We began talking of art, then moved on to artists, and from artists, we went to get a second cup of tea she won and a cake 21then we digressed on to beauty, and from beauty we went to love.
You can't suppose that there's one quality called "love", people mean such different things by the word. It's tricky to distinguish between passion and love, infatuation and love'! I mean, you shouldn't have bought it for me. God, I'm so rude. Yet that's not necessarily what they truly think.
It's just the way they defend themselves against what they want. They believe in it, but pretend they don't until they're allowed to. Most people would throw away all their cynicism if they could. The majority just never get the chance. Who were these 'most people' she talked of?
Was I the man who would dispel her cynicism? We talked abstractly of love, ignoring that lying on the table was not the nature of love per se but the burning question of who we were and would be to one another. Or was there in fact nothing on the table other than a half-eaten carrot cake and two cups of tea? Was Chloe being as abstract as she wished, meaning precisely what she said, the diametrical opposite of the first rule of flirtation, where what is said is never what is meant?
Our hesitancy was a game, but a serious and useful one, which minimized offending an unwilling partner and eased a willing one more slowly into the prospect of mutual desire.
We helped to define what we wanted by reference to others. Chloe had a friend at work who had a history of relationships with unsuitable types. A courier was the current blunderer. And that's fine if she wanted to use him for sex too, but apparently he can't even sustain an erection for that long. One has to go into relationships with equal expectations, ready to give as much as the other - not with one person wanting a fling and the other real love.
I think that's where all the agony comes from. Because it was past six and her office was closing, I asked Chloe whether she might not after all be free to have dinner with me that night. She smiled at the suggestion, stared briefly out of the window at a bus heading past St Martin- in-the-Fields, looked back and said, 'No, thanks, that would really be impossible. Then, just as I was ready to despair, she blushed. Faced with ambiguous signals, what better explanation than shyness: the beloved desires, but is too shy to say so.
The seducer who wishes to call his victim shy will never be disappointed. I can't believe I forgot to do that. I'm losing my head. The lover offered sympathy. I'd love that, I really would. It's just difficult at the moment, but I'll give my diary another look and call you tomorrow, I promise I will, and maybe we can fix something up for before this weekend.
It is one of the ironies of love that it is easiest confidently to seduce those to whom we are least attracted. My feelings for Chloe meant I lost any belief in my own worthiness. Who could I be next to her? Was it not the greatest honour for her to have agreed to this dinner, to have dressed so elegantly 'Is this all right?
It was Friday night and Chloe and I were seated at a corner table of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a French restaurant that had recently opened at the end of the Fulham Road. There could have been no more appropriate setting for Chloe's beauty. The chandeliers threw soft shadows across her face, the light green walls matched her light green eyes. And yet, as though struck dumb by the angel that faced me across the table, I lost all capacity either to think or speak and could only silently draw invisible patterns on the starched white tablecloth and take unnecessary sips of bubbled water from a large glass goblet.
Dating and deception alain de botton
My sense of inferiority bred a need to take on a personality that was not my own, a seducing self that would respond to every demand and suggestion made by my exalted companion. Love forced me to look at myself as though through Chloe's imagined eyes. I did not tell flagrant lies, I simply attempted to anticipate everything I believed she might want to hear. The first course arrived, arranged on plates with the symmetry of a formal French garden.
The only sound was that of cutlery against china. There seemed to be nothing to say. Chloe had been my only thought for too long, but the one thought that at this moment I could not share with her. Silence was damning. A silence with an unattractive person implies they are the boring one. A silence with an attractive one immediately renders it certain you are the tedious party. Silence and clumsiness could of course be taken as rather pitiful proof of desire. It being easy enough to seduce someone towards whom one feels indifferent, the clumsiest seducers could generously be deemed the most genuine.
Not to find the right words is paradoxically often the best proof that the right words are meant. In that other Liaisons Dangereuses, the Marquise de Merteuil faults the Vicomte de Valmont for writing love letters that are too perfect, too logical to be the words of a true lover, whose thoughts will be disjointed and for whom the fine phrase will always elude.
Real desire lacks articulacy but how willingly I would at that moment have swapped my constipation for the Vicomte's loquacity. I had to find out more about Chloe, for how could I abandon my true self unless I knew what false self to adopt? But the patience and intelligence required to fathom someone else went far beyond the capacities of my anxious, infatuated mind.
I behaved like a reductive social psychologist, eager to press my companion into simple categories, unwilling to apply the care of a novelist to capturing the subtleties of human nature. Over the first course, I blundered with heavy- handed, interview-like questions: What do you like to read? Behind such clumsy questions with every one I asked, I seemed to get further from knowing her rested an impatient attempt to get to the most direct question of all, 'Who are you?
Chloe hated talking about herself. Perhaps her most obvious feature was a certain modesty and self-deprecation. When the conversation led her to refer to herself, it would not simply be 'I' or 'Chloe', but 'a basket-case like me'. Her childhood had been awkward, but she was stoic about the matter 'I hate childhood dramatizations that make Job look like he got off lightly'.
She had grown up in a financially comfortable home. Her father 'All his problems started when his parents called him Barry' had been an academic, a law professor, her mother, Claire, had for a time run a flower shop.
Chloe was the middle child, a girl sandwiched between two favoured and faultless boys. When her older brother died of leukaemia shortly after her eighth birthday, her parents' grief expressed itself as anger at their daughter who, slow at school and sulky around the house, had obstinately clung to life instead of their son.
She grew up guilty, filled with a sense of blame for what had happened, feelings that her mother did little to alleviate. The mother liked to pick on a person's weakest characteristics and not let go. Chloe was forever reminded of how badly she performed at school compared to her dead brother, of how gauche she was, and of how disreputable her friends were criticisms that were not particularly true, but that grew more so with every mention.
Chloe had turned to her father for affection, but the man was as closed with his emotions as he was open with his legal knowledge, which he would pedantically share with her as a substitute for warmth, until her adolescence when Chloe's frustration with him turned to anger and she openly defied him and everything he stood for it was fortunate that I had not chosen the legal profession.
A third had been an analytical philosopher at London University 'You don't have to be Freud to see he was the daddy I never went to bed with'a fourth a test-car driver for Rover 'To this day I can't explain that one. I think I liked his Birmingham accent'. But no clear picture was emerging, and therefore the shape of her ideal man forming in my head needed constant readjustment.
The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships
There were things she praised and condemned within sentences, forcing me into frantic rewriting. At one moment she seemed to be praising emotional vulnerability, and at the next, damning it in favour of independence.
Whereas honesty was at one point extolled as the supreme value, adultery was at another justified on account of the greater hypocrisy of marriage. The complexity of her views led to a schizophrenia in mine.
The main course duck for me, salmon for her was a marshland sowed with mines. Did I think two people should live solely for one another?
Had my childhood been difficult? Had I ever been truly in love? Was I an emotional or a cerebral person? Who had I voted for in the last election? What was my favourite colour? Did I think women were more unstable than men? Because it involves the risk of alienating those who don't agree with what one is saying, originality proved wholly beyond me.
Chloe was facing a different dilemma, for it was time for dessert, and though she had only one choice, she had more than one desire.
I felt like neither, I was not digesting properly, but that wasn't the point. I was once going out with a guy, this guy Robert I was telling you about, and I was never really comfortable with him, but I couldn't work out why. Then one day it all became clear: he didn't like chocolate. I mean he didn't just not love it, this guy actually hated it.
You could have put a bar in front of him and he wouldn't have touched it. That kind of thinking is so far removed from anything I can relate to, you know. Well, after that, you can imagine, it was clear we had to break up.
But which one do you prefer? Well if you don't mind, then I'll take the chocolate, I just can't resist it. In fact, you see the double chocolate cake at the bottom there? I think I'll order that.
It looks far more chocolaty. You're absolutely right. Life is short and all that. Yet again I had lied I was beginning to hear the sounds of cocks crowing in the kitchen.
I had been more or less allergic to chocolate all my life, but how could I have been honest when the love of chocolate had been so conclusively identified as a criterion of Chloe- compatibility?
I had decided that attraction was synonymous with the removal of all personal characteristics, my true self being necessarily in conflict with, and unworthy of the perfections found in the beloved. I had lied, but did Chloe like me any the more for it? Curiously, she merely expressed a certain disappointment, in view of the inferior taste of caramel, that I should have insisted so strongly on taking the chocolate adding in an off-hand way that a chocophile was in the end perhaps as much of a problem as a chocophobe.
We charm by coincidence rather than design. What had Chloe done to make me fall in love with her? My feelings had as much to do with the adorable way she had asked the waiter for extra butter as they had to do with her views on politics or the dress she had carefully chosen.
The steps I had on occasion seen women take to seduce me were rarely the ones I had responded to. I was more likely to be attracted by tangential details that the seducer had not even been sufficiently aware of to push to the fore.
I had once taken to a woman who had a trace of down on her upper lip. Normally squeamish about this, I had mysteriously been charmed by it in her case, my desire stubbornly deciding to collect there rather than around her warm smile or intelligent conversation. When I discussed my attraction with friends, I struggled to suggest that it had to do with an indefinable 'aura' - but I could not disguise to myself that I had fallen in love with a hairy upper lip.
The Euston Road was still blocked with traffic when we made our way back towards Islington. Long before such issues could have become meaningful, we'd arranged that I would drop Chloe home, but nevertheless the dilemmas of seduction remained a weighty presence in the car.
At some point in the game, the actor must risk losing his audience. However, reaching the door of 23a Liverpool Road, awed by the dangers of misreading the signs, I concluded that the moment to propose metaphorical coffee had not yet arisen.
But after such a tense and chocolate-rich meal, my stomach suddenly developed different priorities, and I was forced to ask to be allowed up to the flat. I followed Chloe up the stairs, into the living room and was directed to the bathroom. Emerging a few minutes later with my intentions unaltered, I reached for my coat and announced, with all the thoughtful authority of a man who has decided restraint would be best and fantasies entertained in weeks previous should remain just that, that I had spent a lovely evening, hoped to see her again soon and would call her after the Christmas holidays.
Pleased with such maturity, I kissed her on both cheeks, wished her goodnight and turned to leave the flat. It was therefore fortunate that Chloe was not so easily persuaded, arresting my flight by the ends of my scarf. She drew me back into the apartment, placed both arms around me and, looking me firmly in the eye with a grin she had previously reserved for the idea of chocolate, whispered, 'We're not children, you know.
Few things are as antithetical to sex as thought. Sex is instinctive, unreflexive and spontaneous, while thought is careful, uninvolved, and judgemental. To think during sex is to violate a fundamental law of intercourse. But did I have a choice? It was the sweetest kiss, everything one dreams a kiss might be.
It began with a light grazing and tender tentative forays that secreted the unique flavour of our skins. Then the pressure increased, our lips rejoined and parted, mine leaving Chloe's for a moment in order to run along her cheeks, her temples, her ears. She pressed her body closer and our legs intertwined. Dizzy, we collapsed onto the sofa, clutching at one another.Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controlling our Self Image
Yet if there was something interrupting this Eden, it was the awareness of how strange it was for me to be lying in Chloe's living room, my lips on hers, feeling her heat beside me. After all the ambiguity, the kiss had come so suddenly that my mind now refused to cede control of events to the body. It was the thought of the kiss, rather than the kiss itself, that was holding my attention.
I couldn't help but think that a woman whose body had but a few hours ago been an area of complete privacy only suggested by the outlines of her blouse and the contours of her skirt was now preparing to undress before me. Though we had talked at length, I felt a disproportion between my day- time and night-time knowledge of Chloe, between the intimacy that contact with her body implied and the largely unknown realms of the rest of her life. But the presence of such thoughts, flowing in conjunction with our physical breathlessness, seemed to run rudely counter to the laws of desire.
They seemed to be ushering in an unpleasant degree of objectivity, like a third person who would watch, observe, and perhaps even judge. Or why don't we move into the bedroom? We'll have more space. We picked ourselves up from the cramped sofa and walked down a book-lined corridor into Chloe's bedroom. A large white bed stood in the centre, piled high with cushions and papers, clothes, and a telephone.
Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controll. Wondering if deception in dating is a natural thing or something we need to fight? Philosopher Alain De Botton helps us figure it out. Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controlling our Self-Image - YouTube.
There was an animal on top of the mess. There was an awkwardness while Chloe cleared the surface of the bed, the eagerness of our bodies only a minute before had given way to a heavy silence that indicated how uncomfortably close we were to our own nakedness.
When Chloe and I undressed one another on top of the large white bed and, by the light of a small bedside lamp, saw each other naked for the first time, we attempted to be as unselfconscious as Adam and Eve before the Fall. I slipped my hands under Chloe's skirt and she unbuttoned my trousers with an air of indifferent normality, like someone opening the post or changing a duvet. But if there was one thing likely to check our passion, it was clumsiness.
It was clumsiness that reminded Chloe and me of the humour and bizarreness of having ended up in bed together, I struggling to peel off her underwear some of it had become caught around her kneesshe having trouble with the buttons of my shirt yet each of us trying not to comment, not to smile even, looking at one another with an earnest air of desire, as though oblivious to the potentially comic side of what was going on, sitting semi-naked on the edge of the bed, our faces flushed like those of guilty schoolchildren.
The philosopher in the bedroom is as ludicrous a figure as the philosopher in the nightclub. In both arenas, because the body is predominant and vulnerable, the mind becomes an instrument of silent, uninvolved assessment. Thought's infidelity lies in its privacy.
I wasn't thinking anything cruel while I ran my hands and lips across Chloe's body, it was simply that Chloe would probably have been disturbed by news that I was thinking at all. Because thought implies judgement, and because we are all paranoid enough to take judgement to be negative, it is constitutionally suspect in the bedroom. Hence the sighing that drowns the sounds of lovers' thoughts, sighing that confirms: I am too passionate to be thinking.
I kiss, and therefore I do not think such is the official myth under which lovemaking takes place, the bedroom a unique space in which partners tacitly agree not to remind one another of the awe-inspiring wonder of their nudity.
In the course of what Masters and Johnson have called a plateau period, Chloe looked up at me and asked, 'What are you thinking about, Socrates? Chloe laughed.
On one side of the room, positioned over a chest of drawers and angled so it had been in Chloe's field of vision, was a large mirror that showed both of our bodies lying together, entangled in the bed linen. Had Chloe been watching us all the while?
It might have made you self-conscious. We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as ideal as we are corrupt.
But what if such a being were one day to turn around and love us back? We can only be shocked. How could they be divine as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us? If in order to love, we must believe that the beloved surpasses us in some way, does not a cruel paradox emerge when we witness this love returned? There is no richer territory for students of romantic psychology than the atmosphere of the morning after.
How far do we go deceiving ourselves and to what extent do we allow there to be deception in dating? Deception seems to be a very integral part of dating, whether we realize it or not. It is actually two-fold: first, we deceive ourselves about the lack of imperfections on the part of our object of desire, and then we do our best to deceive them about our own perfection.
We relocate the feelings about perfection and satisfaction we have from our early childhood and our bond with our mother in our prospective partner, seeking in them what we know to be right and desirable and thus deceiving our own selves.