Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Analogy of the Train

When is the right time to let someone know that he or she isn’t “the one”? I’ve recently been turning this thought over in my mind like a pancake on a low-flamed griddle.

And then it came to me like most realizations happen to come, in a metaphor (see pancake reference above) while talking to a friend on gchat. While my realizations typically come in the form of metaphor they usually occur while on gchat, in the shower, putting on lotion or walking. I was trying to explain to her how if you aren’t totally sure of someone you’ve been seeing, it feels a lot like you are on an Acela-paced train headed towards a brick wall. Or down into the quagmire of the Louisiana gulf coast. Or veering onto a track that you know will suddenly end, dropping you off a cliff. The train itself is comfortable enough with plushy velvet seats and brass spouts spewing Ghiradelli hot chocolate into porcelain tea sets. You feel safe and warm and cozy, however, like a teacup rattling ever so slightly a small and nagging sense of impending doom stirs in the place just right behind your heart and below your belly button. You alone are the only one on the train in possession of the knowledge of what lie ahead. Do you tell anyone? Do you risk everyone losing it? What if you don’t know for sure that it will happen? Can you trust the subtle rattling in your teacup heart? Is it a phantom shudder? Are you sure the brick wall isn’t a tunnel? Did you just imagine that salty whiff of marshlands and bays? What if the train doesn’t switch tracks? You keep breathing, sipping your hot chocolate letting the smooth sweet tang of the cocoa linger on your tongue.

The question is do you risk telling someone that you know they aren’t the one and derail the train yourself? Or do you keep quiet letting time run its course, hoping the leaks and cracks and subtleties of decay will soon show? I am not sure hence the overwhelming number of question marks speckled throughout this post. In truth maybe the analogy doesn't work as well as, say, Plato's allegory of the cave or the Cherokee parable of the Two Wolves. Perhaps it is too dramatic; equating the end of a relationship to that of death. (There are many things I have claimed to be in my life, but never "rational.") The problem here - if there is a problem at all - is mostly guilt-based with a love of the fantastic and extreme. (How Puritanically American of me, no?) What is the problem of two people enjoying eachother's company with no specified "end" goal in sight? Does there always have to be a goal? Must it always be so black and white (black tux, white dress) and end in Pachelbel's Cannon?  Must it end at all even though marriage isn't in sight? Where is the harm in the pleasure of the process? Or as Elaine Sciolino notes in her book La Seduction,
"Seduce me with a delicious meal and a glass of excellent wine, a promise of romance, an intoxicating scent, and a lively game of words. Have you done me harm, or have you led me to a place where I find freedom to enjoy and savor the best life has to offer? And if in the process you also serve your own purposes, isn't it - as long as I understand the transaction - a fair trade?"
I see though that the harm might lie in the withholding of information from the other person; information that could possibly enlighten (and hurt) the other person and cause them to rethink the time they spend with you. It seems there is a fine line between telling the truth for truth's sake, telling the truth to make the truth-holder feel less guilt, and telling the truth for the sole benefit of  giving the other person all the information to use at their discretion. But it leads me back to my original question... when is the right time to tell them? After how many "dates"? How much time do you allow to go by before you break the news? Right before the train is about to hit the wall, as soon as you know, or at some point in between?

What do you think?

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