Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controlling our Self-ImageWe 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.
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. Tippett: The way he behaved toward your mother. And so one of the things we do as parents is to edit ourselves, which is lovely, in a way, for our children. Tippett: You can listen again and share this conversation with Alain de Botton through our website, onbeing. Today, we are exploring the true hard work of love with the writer and philosopher Alain de Botton.
And the other thing, of course, is politeness, which is an attempt not necessarily to say everything, to understand that there is a role for private feelings, which if they were to emerge, would do damage to everyone concerned.
And as I say, it spills out into politics as well. The truth is, more than ever before perhaps, in our world, we are in relationship. We are connected to everyone else. Their well being will impact our well being, is of relevance to our well being and that of our children. But we have this habit and this capacity in public to and also, we know that our brains work this way to see the other, to see those strangers, those people, those people on the other side politically, socioeconomically, whatever, forgetting that in our intimate lives, and in our love lives, in our circles of family and friends, and in our marriages, and with our children, there are things about the people we love the most who drive us crazy that we do not comprehend.
And yet, we find ways to be intelligent, right? To be loving because it gets a better result.
Dating and deception alain de botton
Compatibility is an achievement of love. I think this is deeply politically relevant. And if we see an atmosphere of short tempers, of selfishness, etc. If we see charity being exercised, if we see good humor, if we see forgiveness on display, again, it will lend support to those sides of ourselves. And we should think about that as we approach, not just our personal relationships, but also our social and political relationships.
These things are humiliating little things can deeply wound and humiliate. And most of us are just experts at being pretty strong. We know how to be strong. But I want to return a little bit to love and sex and eros and all of this. I have to say one thing I really love and appreciate and learned from in your writing is your reflection on flirting as an art, the art of flirting, that it can be something edifying, a pleasurable gift.
I think it would be such a pity if we had to drive something as important as validation and self-acceptance and a pleasant view of oneself through the gate of rather narrow gate of sex. And flirtation is kind of an act of the imagination.
I think somewhere you also have this lovely film, one of these School of Life films about this. If you think about why is it exciting to kiss someone for the first time? Not because of its physical feeling, but because of what it means, the meaning we infuse. And I accept you in a way that is incredibly intimate and that would be quite revolting with anyone else. Takes delight in us. But we feel often conflicted about it.
In many situations, we can hang on on the slippery slope.
The darker side of online dating is that it encourages the idea that a good relationship must mean a conflict-free relationship, and therefore, any relationship which has conflict in it, which has unhappiness and areas of tension in it, is wrong and can be terminated because we have this wonderful backup, which is alternatives.
Also, that what online dating does is it introduces you to people, but then really, the whole thrust of your thinking is that loving is really what comes next. Silicon Valley has been incredibly interested in getting us to that first stage of meeting the person. So we have a long way to go.
And no wonder we make horrific mistakes pretty much all the time. Today, a conversation about love with writer and philosopher Alain de Botton. Tippett: I happened to see your tweet at the end of when The New York Times released its most-read articles of the year. I wonder what that tells you about us as a species. And apparently, it was first by a long way.
Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controlling our Self-Image
And I think that look, first of all, it tells us that we have an enormous loneliness around our difficulties. And in a way, we need solace for the sense that we have gone wrong in an area, whatever it may be, where perfection was possible. It sounds grim. It is, in fact, enormously consoling, and alleviating, and helpful in a culture which is oppressive in its demands for perfection.
Tippett: [ laughs ] That may be your last word. What did you really not know? And that book was so wise. And inthis belief was severely tested in that I met someone who was really absolutely wonderful in every way. And through much effort, I pursued her and eventually married her and discovered something very surprising. She was great in a million ways.
She was very right. And yet, oddly, there were all sorts of problems. And it requires forbearance, generosity, imagination, and a million things besides. And we must fiercely resist the idea that true love must mean conflict-free love, that the course of true love is smooth. Head over to onbeing. So join us in celebrating love in its many shapes.
Tippett: Our lovely theme music is provided and composed by Zoe Keating. And the last voice you hear singing our final credits in each show is hip-hop artist Lizzo. The Fetzer Institute, helping to build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Find them at fetzer. Kalliopeia Foundation, working to create a future where universal spiritual values form the foundation of how we care for our common home.
New Here? New to On Being? Start Here. Welcome to our new digital home. Transcript February 9, Ms. Tippett: Is so abnormal. Tippett: Or not have been loved perfectly.
And we feel in a way that we know them already, and we impose on them an idea Ms. Tippett: From the School of Life? Made that for YouTube. They sacked us without Ms. Tippett: But I have so much love in my life. That has nothing to do with Mr.
Tippett: But they are. On Being continues in a moment. Tippett: Or just tell them how stupid they are, right? Tippett: [ laughs ] Mr. Tippett: Takes delight in us. On Being was created at American Public Media.
Our funding partners include: The Fetzer Institute, helping to build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. The Osprey Foundation, a catalyst for empowered, healthy, and fulfilled lives. Music Played. Stay In The Dark. Citizen of Glass. Start Here Wisdom for the Everyday. Children ask questions that challenge the best of parents.
They also expose the weaknesses of our responses. A set of reflections from a black South African mother and activist who is confronted by the truth of her daughter's words and embracing the "weirdness" of their "dark brown and peach" family.
Read Essays Poetry. Home On Being with Krista Tippett. She'd studied at the Royal College of Art, had been born in York, but moved to Wiltshire as a child, and was now at the age of twenty-three living alone in a flat in Islington. I went through a cactus phase a while back. Phallic, I know, but I spent a winter in Arizona and sort of got fascinated by them. Do you have any interesting plants? The conversation meandered, affording us glimpses of one another's characters, like the brief vistas one catches on a winding mountain road--this before the wheels hit the tarmac, the engines were thrown into reverse, and the plane taxied towards the terminal, where it disgorged its cargo into the crowded immigration hall.
By the time I had collected my luggage and passed through customs, I had fallen in love with Chloe. Until one is close to death, it must be difficult to declare anyone as the love of one's life. But only shortly after meeting her, it seemed in no way out of place to think of Chloe in such terms.
On our return to London, Chloe and I spent the afternoon together. Then, a week before Christmas, we had dinner in a west London restaurant and, as though it was both the strangest and most natural thing to do, ended the evening in bed.
She spent Christmas with her family, I went to Scotland with friends, but we found ourselves calling one another every day - sometimes as many as five times a day - not to say anything in particular, simply because both of us felt we had never spoken like this to anyone before, that all the rest had been compromise and self-deception, that only now were we finally able to understand and make ourselves understood--that the waiting [messianic in nature] was truly over. I recognised in her the woman I had been clumsily seeking all my life, a being whose qualities had been foreshadowed in my dreams, whose smile and whose eyes, whose sens of humour and whose taste in books, whose anxieties and whose intelligence perfectly matched those of my ideal.
It was perhaps because we came to feel we were so right for one another [she did not just finish my sentences, she completed my life] that I was unable to contemplate the idea that meeting Chloe had been simply a coincidence. I lost the ability to consider the question of predestination with the ruthless skepticism some would say it demanded. We learnt that both of us had been born around midnight [she at Both of us had two large freckles on the toe of the left foot, and a cavity in the same rear molar.
Both of us had a habit of sneezing in bright sunlight and of drawing ketchup out of its bottle with a knife. We even had the same copy of Anna Karenina on our shelves the old Oxford edition small details, perhaps, but were these not grounds enough on which believers could found a new religion? We attributed to events a narrative logic they could not inherently have possessed.
We mythologized our aircraft encounter into the goddess Aphrodite's design, Act One, Scene One of that primordial narrative, the love story. From the time of each of our births, it seemed as though the giant mind in the sky had been subtly shifting our orbits so that we would one day meet on the Paris-London shuttle. Because love had come true for us, we could overlook the countless stories that fail to occur, romances that never get written because someone misses the plane or loses the phone number.
Like historians, we were unmistakably on the side of what had actually happened. We should, of course, have been more sensible. Neither Chloe nor I flew regularly between the two capitals nor had been planning our respective trips for any length of time. Chloe had been sent to Paris at the last minute by her magazine after the deputy editor had happened to fall sick, and I had gone there only because an architectural conference in Bordeaux had finished early enough for me to spend a few days in the capital with a friend.
The two national airlines running services between Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow offered us a choice of six flights between nine o'clock and lunchtime on our intended day of return. Given that we both wanted to be back in London by the early afternoon of December 6th, but were unresolved until the very last minute as to what flight we would end up taking, the mathematical probability at dawn of us both being on the same flight though not necessarily in adjoining seats had been a figure of one in six.
By the time the hotel had produced her bill, cleared her credit card and found her a taxi, it was already nine fifteen, and the chances that she would make the ten thirty Air France flight had receded.
When she reached the airport after heavy traffic near the Porte de la Villette, the flight had finished boarding and, because she didn't feel like waiting for the next Air France, she went over to the British Airways terminal, where she booked herself on the ten forty- five plane to London, on which for my own set of reasons I happened also to have a seat.
Thereafter, the computer so juggled things that it placed Chloe over the wing of the aircraft in seat 15A and I next to her in seat 15B. What we had ignored when we began speaking over the safety-instruction card was the minuscule probability that our discussion had been reliant upon. As neither of us were likely to fly Club Class, and as there were a hundred and ninety-one economy class seats, and Chloe had been assigned seat 15A, and I, quite by chance, had been assigned seat 15B, the theoretical probability that Chloe and I would be seated next to one another though the chances of our actually talking to one another could not be calculated worked itself out as in 36, a figure reducible to a probability of one in British Airways Boeing But this was of course only the probability that we would be seated together if there had been just one flight between Paris and London, but as there were six, and as both of us had hesitated between these six, and yet had chosen this one, the probability had to be further multiplied by the original one chance in six, giving a final probability that Chloe and I would meet one December morning over the English Channel in a British Airways Boeing, as one chance in And yet it had happened.
The calculation, far from convincing us of rational arguments, only backed up the mystical interpretation of our fall into love. If the chances behind an event are enormously remote, yet it occurs nevertheless, may one not be forgiven for invoking a fatalistic explanation?
- 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. 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. Wondering if deception in dating is a natural thing or something we need to fight? Philosopher Alain De Botton helps us figure it out.
But when it is a question of a probability of one in It would have taken a steady mind to contemplate without superstition the enormous improbability of a meeting that had turned out to alter our lives. Someone at 30, feet must have been pulling strings in the sky. From within love, we conceal the chance nature of our lives behind a purposive veil.
We insist that the meeting with our redeemer, objectively haphazard and hence unlikely, has been prewritten in a scroll slowly unwinding in the sky. We invent a destiny to spare ourselves the anxiety that would arise from acknowledging that the little sense there is in our lives is merely created by ourselves, that there is no scroll and hence no preordained fate awaiting and that who we may or may not be meeting on aeroplanes has no sense beyond that we choose to attribute to it--in short, the anxiety that no one has written our story or assured our loves.
Romantic fatalism protected Chloe and me from the idea that we might equally well have begun loving someone else had events turned out differently, shocking given how closely love is bound up with a feeling of the necessity and uniqueness of the beloved. How could I have imagined that the role Chloe came to play in my life could equally well have been filled by someone else, when it was with her eyes that I had fallen in love, and her way of draining pasta, combing her hair, and ending a phone conversation?
My mistake was to confuse a destiny to love with a destiny to love a given person. It was the error of thinking that Chloe, rather than love, was inevitable. But my fatalistic interpretation of the start of our story was at least proof of one thing: that I was in love with Chloe. The moment when I would feel that our meeting or not meeting was in the end only an accident, only a probability of one in Do we not fall in love partly out of a momentary will to suspend seeing through people, even at the cost of blinding ourselves a little in the process?
If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? I lost Chloe amidst the throng at passport control, but found her again in the luggage-reclaim area.
She was struggling to push a trolley cursed with an inclination to steer to the right, though the Paris carousel was to the far left of the hall.
Because my trolley had no mind of its own, I walked over to offer it to her, but she refused, saying one should remain loyal to trolleys, however stubborn, and that strenuous physical exercise was no bad thing after a flight. Indirectly via the Karachi arrivalwe made it to the Paris carousel, already crowded with faces grown involuntarily familiar since boarding at Charles de Gaulle. The first pieces of luggage had begun to tumble down onto the jointed rubber matting, and faces peered anxiously at the moving display to locate their possessions.
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.Alain de Botton on Sex
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.
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.
Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controlling our Self-Image - YouTube. Dating and Deception Alain de Botton on Deception in Love and Controll. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. But Chloe had other priorities upon stumbling out of sleep. She went to wash her hair in the bathroom next door and I awoke to hear water crashing on tiles. I remained in bed, encasing myself in the shape and smell of her body that lingered in the sheets.
It was Saturday morning, and the timid rays of a December sun were filtering through the curtains. It was a privilege to be curled up in Chloe's inner sanctum, looking at the objects that made up her daily life, at the walls she woke to every morning, at her alarm clock, a packet of aspirins, her watch and her earrings on the bedside table. My love manifested itself as a fascination for everything Chloe owned, for the material signs of a life I had yet fully to discover but that seemed infinitely rich, full of the wonder the everyday takes on in the hands of an extraordinary being.
There was a bright yellow radio in one corner, a print by Matisse was leaning against a chair, her clothes from the night before were hanging in the wardrobe by the mirror. On the chest of drawers there was a pile of paperbacks, next to it, her handbag and keys, a bottle of mineral water, and Guppy the elephant. By a form of transference, I fell in love with everything she owned, it all seemed so intriguing, tasteful, different from what one could ordinarily buy in the shops.
You have to get out of bed, we can't waste our day. I sighed playfully. There's some clean towels in the cupboard. And how about a kiss? The bathroom was another chamber of wonders, full of jars, lotions, and perfumes: the shrine of her body, my visit a watery pilgrimage. I washed my hair, sang like a hyena beneath the cascade, dried myself, and made use of a new toothbrush Chloe had given me. When I returned to the bedroom some fifteen minutes later, she was gone, the bed was made, the room tidied and the curtains opened.
Chloe had not just made toast, she'd prepared a feast. There was a basket of croissants, orange juice, a pot of fresh coffee, some eggs and toast, and a huge bowl of yellow and red flowers in the centre of the table. Come on, let's eat before everything gets cold.
It's not every day I get breakfast cooked for me,' I said, and put my arms around her waist. She didn't turn to look at me, but took my hand in hers and squeezed it for a moment. Her lie was symptomatic of a certain pride she took in mocking the romantic, in being unsentimental, matter of fact, stoic, yet at heart, she was the opposite: idealistic, dreamy, giving, and deeply attached to everything she liked verbally to dismiss as mushy.
In the course of a supremely mushy breakfast, I realized something that might perhaps have seemed obvious, but that struck me as both unexpected and complicated: that Chloe had begun to feel for me a little of what I had for many weeks felt for her.
Objectively, this was not an unusual thought, but in falling in love with her, I had somehow entirely overlooked the possibility of reciprocation. I had counted more on loving than being loved. And if I had concentrated largely on the former dynamic, it was perhaps because being loved is always the more complicated of the two emotions, Cupid's arrow easier to send than receive.
Chloe had opened her body to me the night before, in the morning she had opened her kitchen, but I could not now prevent a sense of uneasiness, that bordered on irritation, and amounted to the muffled thought: 'What have I done to deserve this? If one is not wholly convinced of one's own lovability, receiving affection can appear like being bestowed an honour for a feat one feels no connection with. Lovers unfortunate enough to prepare breakfast for such types must brace themselves for the recriminations due to all false flatterers.
What arguments are about is never as important as the discomfort for which they are an excuse. Ours started over strawberry jam. So there's no decent jam?
There's five pots of jam on the table, there's just no strawberry'! If you really want your jam, just get the hell out of here and eat it in someone else's company. There was a silence, Chloe's eyes glazed, then abruptly she stood up and walked into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. I remained at the table, listening to what might have been crying, feeling like a fool for upsetting the woman I claimed to love. Unrequited love may be painful, but it is safely painful, because it does not involve inflicting damage on anyone but oneself, a private pain that is as bitter-sweet as it is self-induced.
But as soon as love is reciprocated, one must be prepared to give up the passivity of simply being hurt to take on the responsibility of perpetrating hurt oneself. The repugnance I felt towards myself for hurting Chloe was momentarily turned against her. I hated her for all the efforts she had made with me, for her weakness in believing in me, for her bad taste in allowing me to upset her.
It suddenly seemed pitiable that she had given me her toothbrush, prepared breakfast for me, and begun to cry in the bedroom like a child.
I gave way to an overwhelming urge to punish her for her weakness. What had turned me into such a monster? The fact that I had always been something of a Marxist.
There is the old joke made by the Marx who laughed about not deigning to belong to a club that would accept someone like him as a member, a truth as appropriate in love as it is in club membership. We laugh at the Marxist position because of its absurd contradictions: How is it possible that I should both wish to join a club, and yet lose that wish as soon as it comes true?
How was it that I might have wished Chloe to love me, but have been irritated by her when she did so? Perhaps because the origins of a certain kind of love lie in an impulse to escape ourselves and our weaknesses by an alliance with the beautiful and noble. But if the loved ones love us back, we are forced to return to ourselves, and are hence reminded of the things that had driven us into love in the first place. Perhaps it was not love we wanted after all, perhaps it was simply someone in whom to believe, but how can we continue to believe in the beloved now that they believe in us?
If she appeared to be a little in love, was this not simply because she had misunderstood me? Though from a position of unrequited love they long to see their love returned, Marxists unconsciously prefer that their dreams remain in the realm of fantasy. Why should others think any better of them than they of themselves? Only so long as the loved one believes the Marxist to be more or less nothing, can the Marxist continue to believe the loved one to be more or less everything.
If Chloe had been lowered in my estimation because she had slept with me, it was because she had in the process caught a bad case of I- infection. I had often seen Marxism at work in others. At the age of sixteen, I was for a while in love with a fifteen- year-old girl, who was both captain of her school volleyball team, very beautiful, and a committed Marxist.
After all, what's he so desperate for? The only guy I like is the one who'll keep me waiting, by nine thirty I'll do anything for him. I must at that age have had an intuitive understanding of her Marxism, for I remember efforts to seem uninterested in anything she said or did.
My reward came with our first kiss a few weeks later, but though she was unquestionably beautiful and as adept at the arts of love as she was at volleyballthe relationship did not last. It was too tiring to make a point of always calling late.
A few years later, I was seeing another girl, who like a good Marxist believed that men should in some way defy her in order to earn her love. One morning, before going out for a walk with her in the park, I had put on an old and particularly off-putting electric-blue pullover.
We're only going for a walk in the park,' I replied, half-fearing she was serious. When we reached the gates of the park, Sophie, who had till then been in a mild sulk, suddenly broke the silence, took my arm, gave me a kiss, and said in words that perhaps provide us with an essence of Marxism, 'Don't worry, I'm not angry with you, I'm glad you kept the old horror on, I would have thought you were so weak if you'd done what I told you.
To be loved by someone is to realize how much they share the same needs that lie at the heart of our own attraction to them. Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally 'together' when subjectively, we feel dispersed and confused.
We would not love if there were no lack within us, but we are offended by the discovery of a similar lack in the other.
Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem. A long, gloomy tradition in Western thought argues that love is in its essence an unreciprocated, Marxist emotion and that desire can only thrive on the impossibility of mutuality.
According to this view, love is simply a direction, not a place, and burns itself out with the attainment of its goal, the possession in bed or otherwise of the loved one. The whole of troubadour poetry of twelfth- century Provence was based on coital delay, the poet repeating his plaints to a woman who repeatedly declined a desperate gentleman's offers.
Centuries later, Montaigne declared that, 'In love, there is nothing but a frantic desire for what flees from us' an idea echoed by Anatole France's maxim that, 'It is not customary to love what one has. It is the one most suited to intensifying passion. There was a danger that Chloe and I would trap ourselves in just such a Marxist spiral.
But a happier resolution emerged. I returned home from the breakfast guilty, shamefaced, apologetic, and ready to do anything to win Chloe back.