Unconfirmed Bias

January 14, 2014

When I was a kid, sitting on our family room floor with my large box of mixed Legos, and I needed a particular color, I had a fun little trick I’d play with my brain. I thought I was special or magical; probably everyone does this. I’d tell my brain to only see Red, say, or Blue, soften my focus, and with just a little concentration, I could make all the Red or Blue pieces pop to the front of my vision in the big mixed bin. As long as I knew what I was looking for, I could make it stand out from the pack.

It’s sort of a kid/Lego version of Confirmation Bias, right? I’ve decided what I want to see, and therefore see it, in sharp contrast to the rest of its surroundings. So what happens, then, if you’re looking for something, but have no idea what the thing you’re looking for looks like?

I recently had a buoyant but intense conversation with a former lover, debriefing what had happened between us a year prior. It became clear over the course of our talk that I had fallen into a problematic pattern I’ve enacted with more than one man in my life – conflating, without mutual understanding, sex and romance.  

The word Romance was his, not one that easily rolls of my tongue, because, I realize now, I haven’t got a clue what that word means. I mean, I understand what he was getting at – in his head we were friends who were fucking, in mine – especially where I was in the midst of some external emotional stresses from which I was seeking escape in his arms – a switch had flipped and I found myself fabricating a different story of our relationship. He’s right. I can’t argue with it. But what I’m realizing more than anything is that I’ve never known anything else.

My sex life started late. Wicked late. I was 24 before I not only lost my virginity, but had my First Time with a lot of other behaviors I think most people dispose with in their teens (use your imagination). Without recapping the entirety of my analysis the short answer is, I don’t know why. There were lots of factors, not the least of which was a horrible relationship to my own body, which I’ve written about plenty. I finally learned how to let sex into my life, but I don’t know that I ever learned what it means to seek out love, to seek out romance, to seek out partnership – sex always struck me as the only gateway to love, romance and partnership.  All I seem to know is if a guy I’m interested in is interested back, I better jump into bed before he disappears, give all my power away, and cling desperately until he breaks my heart.

I mean, that’s rough, but it’s been pretty status quo for almost a decade.

I don’t know what romance means. I don’t know what love means. So how do I go looking for it? How do I make the particular human color palette I seek and deserve pop out from the white noise in the back, if I have no Bias to Confirm. The thing is, I’m not convinced any of us have a really solid idea of what the hell these terms mean.  Maybe people stumble into various situations then label their experiences “love” and that’s what that means for them. I googled “What is romance?” and got a fascinating definition: “A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.” I mean, the word mystery is built right into that shit!

They tell you to marry your best friend, but don’t wind up in the friend zone! You can be a friend with benefits, as long as those benefits don’t include intimacy. And you can be fuck buddies as long as you don’t pal around on the side. Is this just me? Am I the only one completely confused by what all this adds up to? I have no idea what a real partnership will look like, I haven’t had it yet. And the problem goes both ways – I neither know the shape and nature of the Lego I seek, nor the shape and nature of the space it has to fill. That is to say, I don’t know what I am in a true partnership, I don’t know how a man fits into the space of my life.

Did other people get manuals I didn’t get? I often feel that way. That there was a “How To Be A Straight Woman For Dummies” to which this Dummy was never privy. I wasn’t asked what my prince would look like as a child. I was asked what I would be. What I would do. How I would use my brain. This is a great thing. But at what point did my womanhood in relation to someone else’s manhood get obscured by the pursuit of all my other ‘hoods?

If I don’t know even know what spaceship I’m trying to build, will I ever be able to find the piece I’m missing?



  1. This sounds harsh and I know it, but – one of the ways you can get it is to build the romance before hopping into bed. Don’t sleep with someone until you’ve had “the talk” – the “so… what do you think this is? Are we dating?” talk, to the level of “are we a couple or are we still free to see other people” element. Don’t sleep together until you’ve confirmed you’re both monogamous. (And don’t necessarily fuck the instant that happens, either. Let it happen when it happens.)
    Build up. The first makeout session can just be a makeout session. On a later occasion, taking off your shirt does not necessitate also removing your pants. Baby steps.
    Much like keeping one’s virginity in high school, it LOOKS like nobody does this anymore, until you ask around and realize that, actually, yes, plenty of people are doing this, and it doesn’t make you a prude to be one of them. (It doesn’t make you a slut not to, either. Just saying, there’s something wonderful about knowing where you stand with someone before you lie down with them.)

    • I agree with this except for the occasion this year where I wound up dating someone for a sexless 3 months until I was broken up with because he “wasn’t connecting with me”… (note: the no sex was no my decision)

      • Yikes. Yeah, my experience was usually only a month or so before the talk (if that long).

  2. what it boils down to is that you need to decide what you want. there are so many variations of romance and love. no one can define it for you, you must decide what you want and need. in a perfect world, you get lucky and meet someone who wants the same things and it unfolds organically and you define it together. don’t give up on that. I think that overanalyzing it is causing you to prevent yourself from letting go and just having fun. everyone goes through this, even people who have been in numerous “relationships”. it is really just a matter of continuing to take risks and learn from the outcome. you need to decide what space your partner will fill, no one can define that for you. sex can be a gateway to all sorts of things, but love isn’t always one of them and maybe that is ok. if you look around at all of the dysfunctional relationships in the world, being in one is not always the better option. I think you need to make peace with not being in a relationship and trying so hard to pinpoint why you aren’t, or what you are doing wrong. no one is born with this knowledge, it only comes from living life. it sounds like you have had bad luck, which has been compounded by your own self-doubt. quit blaming yourself and go out and enjoy all the awesome advantages of being single. maybe you’ll find that a f*ck buddy might be just what you need to get through the winter! the more you let go of putting pressure on yourself to be in a relationship or in “love”, the more you will be able to judge situations more clearly. instead of clinging to someone who is obviously not the right person, you should step back and know that even though it didn’t turn into a relationship, maybe it was fun and maybe you learned something. if you never dreamed of a prince when you were young, then why start now? live your life how you want to live it and maybe someone will come along who fits. if you aren’t sure what you want and are looking for people to define it for you, then maybe that is why it has been so hard to find that fit. maybe it will happen when you are ready, and maybe that won’t be any time soon, but it will happen, and maybe that is ok. 🙂

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