Monthly Archives: February 2012

Confessions of a Sociaholic

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I confess. I’m a sociaholic.

I crave the company of people, whether it just be with my husband, family and friends, or a thousand others. I genuinely enjoy being around people. My social calendar is often packed with engagements with my favorite folks. When my husband and I aren’t on a date or playing a gig with our band, I’m out and about with friends, chatting up a storm over a fabulous home-cooked meal, tearing up dance floors in the city, or exchanging stories over a glass of wine.

And when I am not face to face with friends, I’m catching up with them online. Through quick exchanges via instant messaging, sharing simple every day moments through status updates on Facebook, or responding to posts on Twitter, I somehow manage to keep tabs on my various circles of friends.

I can’t help it – I was raised around a ton of people, so amid the chaos of crowds is where I find comfort.

People with shared interests, histories or ideas are often drawn together. In my case, my interests run the gamut so my activities and experiences range from the sublime to the simply frivolous. And just as there are specific tools for accomplishing a variety of tasks, I have a diverse group of friends to fulfill different needs.

Perhaps because of this, I don’t have one particular BFF to speak of, but rather several that spring from different circles, with relationships spanning decades, each as intense and committed as the other. They fulfill and validate a different aspect of my life – emotionality, physicality and spontaneity.

My circles fall into three general categories:

  • “girlfriends”
  • adventure buddies and
  • party buddies

Every one of them with a different raison d’etre, closely corresponding to Aristotle’s three concepts of philia – friendships of mutual admiration (and love for what is good), of utility and mutual advantage, and of mutual pleasure.

According to Aristotle, philia must consist of mutual fondness (so inanimate objects are excluded) and is a necessary means to happiness, saying that “No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods.”

“Girlfriends” are the closest to my heart – these are my friendships of the good. Besides my husband, they are my significant others – the ones with whom I share my dreams, entrust with my deepest, darkest fears, and for whom I have deep affection. Within this category, I have six circles, formed at different times, and corresponding to different stages in my life. Some of them I’ve known since I was seven years old. And some I have just met last year.

(I put girlfriends in quotes because among them, I count three guys – Nelson, Ron and Ray. For all that they have done and all that we have shared, they have truly become a best “girl’s friend.”)

With the second category, my adventure buddies, get-togethers usually revolve around sports. These are my friendships of utility, my playmates – the ones I go white water rafting, rock climbing, skiing and traveling with.

Because our interactions usually require vigorous participation in an activity, there isn’t a lot of time for long, in-depth conversations. Thus, our communication is usually through shared effort, not spoken words.

The friendships of pleasure are my party buddies – our mutual interest in music, dancing, and general debauchery keep us connected. These friends, along with my playmates, help keep me feeling young and vibrant, and enable me to escape from the grinds of daily living.

My BFFs straddle more than one category – their values and ideas almost mirror my own, their interests are as varied as mine, and most importantly, their positive energies invigorate me. My BFFs are my confidants, my playmates, and my party buddies.

The circles aren’t static… they grow and shrink as friends come and go, as their roles in life change from friend, to wife/husband, to mother/father. We all have to balance the need for a healthy social life and private time.

Do circles mostly shrink, though, as we get older? Many argue that with today’s busy lifestyle, it is more difficult than ever to maintain friendships, much less meet new people and admit them into a circle.

A 2006 study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona, reported in USA Today, found that “on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives – serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.”

Two people?

There are 6.6 billion people in the world, 281.4 million in the United States, 34 million in California, and over 7 million people in the San Francisco/Bay Area alone. But on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to? When did intimate relationships become a luxury?

Perhaps technology can help us grow our circles. Friendships are built on blocks of experiences, whether these experiences last a couple of hours or a couple of years. Emails, instant messaging, online status updates all represent micro-blocks of experiences, providing fodder for longer conversations, leading to mutual fondness and trust, and quite possibly, genuine friendships.

And with sufficient effort, fleeting encounters can turn into lifelong relationships. But the key ingredient is effort. Our circles must continue to be nurtured – online, on the phone or in person.

My Arbitrary Valentine

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Soul mate (n) Someone for whom you have a deep affinity.

Many believe that there is only one true love, a soul mate. According to Greek mythology, human beings originally had four arms, four legs, and a single head with two faces. They were powerful and ambitious. Zeus, fearing their potential, split them all in two, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half – their eternal soul mate – for completion.

Humans, therefore, have an innate void to fill and wander the earth looking for their missing halves. Their one true love. As Jewel sings, “You were meant for me, and I was meant for you.”

Charlotte, the Park City Princess from the hit show Sex and the City, has a different theory. She claims (on the authority of a magazine article) that we get two great loves in our life, love that is “rare,” and love “that forever changes you, that shakes you to the core.”

How many of us actually believe these ill-fated theories? Are we doomed to a life of loneliness if we miss the opportunity to spot our one (or two) true love/s?

And how do you explain the statistics below:

  • In the U.S., 47% of first marriages end in divorce while 60- to 80% of second and subsequent marriages end in divorce
  • 80%-85% of societies around the world allow polygamous marriages
  • About 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage
  • 86% of men and 81% of women admit they routinely flirt with the opposite sex.

In the Philippines, studies indicate that over half of married men have philandered or currently have mistresses. This is such a prevalent phenomena that Jullie Yap Daza wrote a best-selling how-to book for these queridas, entitled Etiquette for Mistresses: And What Wives Can Learn From Them.

Perhaps the reason human beings commit adultery or engage in serial monogamy is that there are multiple possible matches – hundreds perhaps – in the game of love, with each relationship just as intense, as deep, and true as true love can be. Perhaps our “perfect match” greatly depends on our current stage in life – our Mr. or Ms. Right Now.

Let’s face it: there are over 6 billion people in the world. How depressing to think that there may only be one or two possible mates. According to this statistic, you are more likely to die of drowning or get hit by lightning than to find your soul mate.

In the late ‘90s, after reading Anatomy of Love by Helen Fisher, I was convinced that the notion of a singular “true love” was a myth. During a gathering with friends, I proclaimed the virtues of the book and extemporized about the biology and physiology of “falling in love.”

According to Fisher, our romantic ideals and sexual preferences – from personality and physical characteristics of our beloved to situations that we find arousing – are formed between the ages of five and eight, and solidified in our teenage years. She refers to this as our “love map,” a template for our perfect mate formed in response to family, friends, experiences, and chance associations.

She also discusses the recipe for infatuation and its governance by our reptilian brain. Specifically, infatuation is intensified when one is in a state of emotional flux (thus, rebound romances), faced with adversity (a.k.a. the Romeo and Juliet effect), or when the significant other is shrouded in mystery (playing hard to get?).

She claims that once an individual is in a receptive state, “he or she is in danger of falling in love with the next reasonably acceptable person who comes along.” Love by random selection.

Infatuation creates a chemical storm in our brain akin to a cataclysmic earthquake, causing euphoria that lasts anywhere from 18 to 36 months. Unless infatuation is followed by sexual fulfillment, deeper attachment, and conscious commitment, “true love” fades. Perhaps this explains the spike in divorce rates in the fourth year of marriage?

And even while in the throes of romantic love, Fisher maintains that infatuation with others is possible. “It seems to be the destiny of humankind that we are neurologically able to love more than one person at a time. You can feel profound attachment for a long-term spouse, while you feel romantic passion for someone in the office or your social circle, while you feel the sex drive as you read a book, watch a movie, or do something else unrelated to either partner,” she states.

Shortly after reading “Anatomy of Love,” my buddy, Rafael Lim, gave me a copy of a Time magazine article by Roger Rosenblatt, entitled “My Arbitrary Valentine.” Rosenblatt states that we may choose to “…invent the fated-lovers theme as a protection against the discovery that we could hitch up with one of a hundred or a thousand others in a lifetime of circumstantial mingling and not know the difference. Worse, that we might not care.”

He also quotes Alice McDermott, author of the novel Charming Billy, who asserts that “Those of us who claim exclusivity in love do so with a liar’s courage: there are a hundred opportunities, thousands over the years, for a sense of falsehood to seep in, for all that we imagine as inevitable to become arbitrary, for our history together to reveal itself as only a matter of chance and happenstance, nothing unrepeatable or irreplaceable, the circumstantial mingling of just one of the so many millions with just one more.”

What does this mean to star-struck lovers? If your current true love doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it. There are hundreds of other possibilities, just be aware of your own “love map,” for better or worse. Long term relationships are a matter of choice. They require steadfast commitment, uncompromising patience and a sense of humor. Just ask my husband of 12 years.

And in the process of trying to fulfill your biological imperative, heed this advice from my friend, Jennifer Lust: “Love is like a bus. If you’re having a rough ride, just get off and jump on the next one.”