Thursday, October 18, 2012

Type Casting: Why "You're Not My Type" (Should No Longer) Be An Option

One of our biggest quests in life is self discovery, and once armed with this knowledge,  to embrace who we are, what we want, and what we’re capable of. It ensures that we are able to flourish more than we fail and it keeps us on the path that we have laid out for ourselves. Professionally, we set goals and we strive to meet them, we take risks only when we can envision a profitable outcome. For example, those with no rhythm don’t leave their cushy, safe job to move to London or New York to become a dancer. That would be ridiculous. Instead they do things like attend the ballet, and appreciate the art form though it isn’t one they can take part in.

We do the same in our personal lives. In the throes of our self awareness, we challenge ourselves to things, but only so much. If we’re reserved and cautious, our challenge may be to go skydiving one day, but we’d hardly decide to surround ourselves with people whose daily routines include risk taking and throwing caution to the wind. If we’re bookworms, we don’t like to associate with people who think reading is stupid, and if we’re religious, those who laugh at the notion of  higher power aren’t on our speed dial (the list could go on and on)  Because we’re not like that, and those people, they’re not our type.

I’m no exception to this. Having had a transatlantic childhood and an adulthood where three of my years have been spent as an expat, I find myself gravitating towards those like-minded and finding it increasingly difficult to engage with those who have zero interest in a culture other than their own. I don’t judge them, but I don’t know how to relate with them on more than a superficial level.

This is an entirely natural state of being. It makes perfect sense to stick to our strengths career wise and interact with people who share mutual interests and experiences as us. However, at the same time, I believe that labeling people/situations and sticking to one “type” can be detrimental and very limiting.

I’m going to focus on relationships, because I obviously find them fascinating and think our personal relationships show more about ourselves than any career accolades we may gather along the way. A job is a job but our relationships, that’s who we ARE.

Perhaps the largest instance in which “type” casting comes into play is in romantic relationships. Very few people are open to everyone, but instead have an idea of what it is they want in a partner.  Physical type, I can’t really comment on, because as we all know, attraction is a major part of what draws us to someone else. I have friends who simply can’t find blondes good looking, and others who have never dated anyone who isn’t Asian, and try as I have, I simply haven’t been able to be attracted to someone shorter than I am. These things, for the most part, are immutable, and as I said, I am not even going to try explain why it is we’re physically drawn to a certain type of person. But there are more to relationships than looks (believe it or not) and after someone has passed our physical inspection, we start to get know them and determine whether or not they’re “our type” …and this is where we start limiting ourselves. It’s also the most common excuse (but maybe the worst) for rejecting someone. One we need to stop using.

Doing it is easy. Just like writing someone off because they don’t fit into our ideal or typical is easy. However the more I think about it, the more I think we shouldn’t do it. I understand the mindset behind it, but I am beginning to wonder if we always know what is best for ourselves, or what it is we need. The way I’ve started thinking about it is this: We only date a certain type of person, but unless we marry them (and even then sometimes) we end up breaking it off because it’s not right. We do it again with a different person on the same type and keep repeating the same cycle. These acts are usually subconscious, instead of sitting back and thinking, “Ok, so my type isn’t working out, perhaps this means that this isn’t my type, but more a habit.” 

If something fails repeatedly we shouldn’t keep doing it, but rather explore new methods on how to succeed.  Instead of writing off someone new we meet because they aren’t like the people we usually date, maybe we should give them a chance and see what happens. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work out and the best is that it does and we get our happily ever after, or at least a fulfilling and wonderful experience. (I’ll concede that when embarking on a serious relationship there are certain factors that need to be mutual or at least compromised reached such as: religion, money, politics, desire for children, hard line morals and where you want to live but just because someone isn’t your “type” doesn’t mean that these things will necessarily differ) 

One of the best decisions we can make in our romantic life is to date people that we like and enjoy being around, that inspire us and make us think, that we feel happy with, as opposed to pigeonholing ourselves and closing the dating pool because of preconceived notions and irrational fears. (On a side note. some of the best and successful love stories/relationships take place between two people who admit that their partner "wasn't my usual type")

Part of what I'm most grateful for during my time in Hanoi is the exposure that I’ve had to so many different people. While I’ll admit that we all have “expat factor” as a strong common ground, many of them are very different from my friends at home, and I love that. (Not disparaging my home friends, who I love and miss dearly but having these new, refreshing people has given me new perspectives on a lot of things)  Some of my new friends are people that I “would be friends with” if I was in New York or London, but some of them I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know due to the sheer fact that we’re “different” and our paths probably wouldn’t have crossed.  I would’ve thought they weren’t my type, when in actuality, they are. 

*For the record, I do have a type, and it's "extraordinary." None of the men I've dated look the same, and they're usually quite different in terms of personality, the only consistent common factor that applies is that they're all extraordinary in one way or another. The same applies to my friends. 

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