Dating debacles ... take a walk on your wild side. Photo: Marco Del Grande
There was an interesting awareness study, done in 1999, called the Invisible Gorilla. In it, participants watched a video of people passing a basketball and were told to count the number of times the ball was passed. During the course of the video a person, dressed in a gorilla suit, wandered amidst the basketball throwers.
Afterwards, the scientists asked the study group if they had noticed anything unusual. As much as 40 per cent failed to see the person in the gorilla suit.
The point of the study was to highlight the fact that many of us are not as good at multitasking as we might like to think. When our attention is honed on one thing, we often fail to see other things even when they're right before our eyes. This is not a bad thing. It allows us to tune out distractions so that we can focus. It only becomes a problem when we attempt to say drive and text, for example.
It's an idea that can also apply to relationships. It's the 'I only have eyes for you' aspect of being in love. Which is a beautiful thing. The flip side of it is that when you only have eyes for one person, you don't see the spectacle of the gorillas. Or if you're checking out the gorillas, then you drop the ball of your relationship. Or you lose count of your balls (ahem).
So, for anyone who is sad about being single, I would suggest that an upside is getting to see the gorillas. And even meet them, if you'd like.
Since stumbling into the jungle that is singledom a couple of years ago, I've met my fair share.
Some of the more fascinating ones include: the guy who had a penchant for floral skirts (for himself) and didn't want to get into my pants so much as own them; there was the single dad, who was really very nice, but who brought his kid along on the first date. Unusual decision, but one way to cut to the chase. Half way through, with his (very sweet) son sat between us, he put his arm around his kid, and then put his arm around me (around the kid) and asked how I felt about having children. I said I felt a little tired and might need to call it a night.
There was the one who tried to booty call me before the first date; the one who asked if he could move in with me after the first date; the one who, en route to the first date, revealed that he had injured himself as a result of some seriously impressive sexual gymnastics with his ex girlfriend; the one whose screensaver was rotating pictures of himself. And how could I forget the one who shared, somewhat suggestively, that a former girlfriend was a scatlover. For that one, I have no words.
Oh and there was the one who texted at 7.30 to let me know he wouldn't be there til 8.30 (for the date at 7), then texted again at 8.30 wondering why I wasn't there and 'I am here now, can you please come back'... I could go on.
But, tragic as this all might sound, gorillas can be beneficial for a few reasons. Firstly, if they're anything like the ones above, they will provide your family and friends with much amusement and, of course, emotional states are infectious so when those around you are happy, you're happy.
Also, the lack of attention on one thing/person can mean being more open to exploring the jungle. You can put more energy into friendships that, within the safety of a relationship, you would not necessarily have the attention or time to cultivate. It can also mean being more spontaneous. With no one else to consider, it's far easier to say yes to adventures and discover different aspects of yourself.
And taking the time to turn the attention back on yourself is essential for finding your own authenticity and discovering what makes you happy, says Lauren Mackler in Solemate: Master The Art of Aloneness And Transform Your Life.
Instead of wishing some Tarzan (or Jane) would swing in and rescue you from the jungle, she suggests doing things that connect you back to your joy.
"Do something. Do something gratifying. Do something productive. Or do something that truly engages you," she writes in the Daily Mail.
"By being more active and more positive, you'll reinforce your new perspective on aloneness and begin to create a new reality ... Mastering the art of aloneness is about treating yourself well, and shedding the old beliefs that limit your ability to realise your greatest potential."
Certainly. Meeting gorillas has given me the pause for thought to consider what I do and don't want (scatlovers need not apply), so I'll have no trouble keeping my eye on the ball when the time comes. And in the meantime, whether I revel in the spectacle, play in the jungle with friends or find a sweet spot by myself to get away from it all and reflect, the jungle isn't such a bad place to be.