April 1, 2007

Aging, solipcistic neurotics can't find love

Via Half-Sigma. Good god, why do tri-state area Baby Boomers insist that every fart they pass must be written up into an NYT feature story? This one, recently the #1 most emailed article, superficially profiles various men (and the odd woman) whose living spaces are awful to the point of repelling potential love interests. Consider, for example, the first photo, which shows a man who owns a stuffed baby seal as just one of many oddities. Now, this guy writes advice columns for the internet dating site match.com -- if those skeptical of the worth of online dating sites were looking for something to hang your suspicions on, there you go. However, the sub-text to the whole story is that there are all these gray-haired New Yorkers who are still "looking for love" -- at their age? Whaddayu freakin' kiddin' me?

I've already visited this theme before, so I'll try not to say much more. First, if human generation time is 20-25 years, then you'd expect to be grandparent by about age 50. At least, your body expects you to be. Athletes tend to fall within a circumscribed age range, and it's plain to see why. The same is true for pornographic actors and actresses, also for clear reasons. Less obviously, it's still clear that rockstars and rappers tend to fall into the same age range, as well as most criminals and soldiers. From roughly age 15 to 25, with I'd say a five-year grace period until 30, that's when you have to attract a mate by showing off, earning glory, achieving fame, or whatever your speciality may be. That goes for men as well as women, although women have fewer niches to exploit -- basically, being pretty and flirtatious.

These behavioral adaptations are buttressed by psychological adaptations, such as the feeling of falling deeply and madly in love with another person, so much so that one gets butterflies in the stomach on merely spying one's crush from afar. I doubt anyone profiled in the NYT article remembers what that feels like, since part of growing up is forgetting the entirety of one's adolescence, but this fact should give them pause as they ponder whether to devote time, money, and effort to "finding love." Would it be worth it to seek out sexual intercourse if one were impotent? Hardly, and it would be equally foolish to search for true, romantic love after one's biology has stopped reacting that way to the opposite sex. Passionate love serves an adaptive purpose up until roughly age 25-30 -- after that, you should already have had children, and from then on you've still got grandchildren to look forward to, so this part of your wiring shuts off. Having one's emotional stability held hostage by the mercurial demon of romantic love is not a strategy befitting a breadwinner or nurturer: the focus should be on your kids, work, and social allies, since you've already won her over.

And as with all sorts of impetuous behavior -- such as shoplifting, joyriding, entering a mosh pit, or rushing off to join the army -- we become largely rid of this psychological hijacker sometime in our mid-to-late 20s. After that, forget about falling madly in love again; strike while the iron is hot.

Now, few will learn these important lessons if they fritter away their lives trying to "find themselves" like most Boomers do. This is especially true if they don't have at least occasional contact with children or teenagers, since as I pointed out here, it's easy to forget how old you are unless you have them around to remind you of the disconnect between the youth and you. Ignorant of how long they've lived as adolescents, they awaken too late to the reality that they can no longer do all manner of things they took for granted during their salad days, such as fall in love. It soon falls to their parents, by upbringing more skeptical of altering human nature by sheer willpower, to say "you shoulda listened to me when I told you to marry young!" Bah, what do octogenarians know, anyway? -- it turns out you actually are getting any younger.

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