A new spin on first dates
Every car on the road right now is the same car. Every op-ed, the same op-ed. Every episode of sitcom television is the same episode of three acts, three to five scenes each, with the story ending, after 22 minutes, basically right where it began.
Doesn’t every laugh laughed when nothing’s funny contain the same exact sound?
Start looking for patterns, you find patterns. Go too far with it, you’re a conspiracy theorist, but short of that, the world of humans seems copy-pasted, though wondrously. We remain mysterious to one another, but also reducible; I mean, if every person, every thing were totally new, wholly indisyncratic, you’d be an infant, you wouldn’t be able to leave the house.
Structure is the quality of being organized. Hierarchy and pattern. It makes flowers into arrangements. It makes wine expensive, it turns sound into music. Isn’t every first romantic date built the same way? I don’t mean the details – I heard recently about a woman who went on a blind date, only to be surprised by an older couple at the table; her date had brought along his parents – but the stages and routines?
I was thinking about this because here’s a date related to us by a friend the other night at dinner, where the routine was different. A Famous Young Singer is at a house party. She decides she wants to date the friend’s brother, also at the party. “I want to go on a date with him,” Singer says. “Cool, I’ll ask him,” the friend says. “No, I want to go on a date with him now.” “Now?” “Right now.” The friend is bemused. She finds her brother and asks if he’s interested in going on a date with the Singer, not in the future, but right at that very moment. He says sure, why not; she’s famous, very pretty. So, while the party proceeds, the two of them sit crosslegged at a coffee table and talk for the next three hours.
Can structures be self-aware? They can be at least tricky to measure. Bertrand Russell had it, if I have this right, that there are things in the world and so there are categories of things. Which means we can also make categories of the categories. Thus, shouldn’t there be a category of all categories? But if so, does that category get tucked inside itself?
(You can imagine Russell enjoying Twinsburg, Ohio’s annual “Twins Days Festival.”)
Structural thinking, looking for structures all the time, is a bad way to go. It’s a spot to rest that’s too comfortable. I lose sight of the immediate, I miss the light in the leaves. And pretty much everyone at dinner agreed that if someone approached them at a party and asked if they wanted to go on a date with them that instant – presuming they found the asker compelling in some way – it would be a very hot approach.
My latest book, Everything Now, is just out in paperback. We did a giveaway last week for paying subscribers, but I’ve still got some extra copies under the desk.
If you’d like a signed edition, reply to this newsletter or email me through my site. For $20/copy, I’ll sign and ship it to whomever you like, presuming the address is in the U.S. (foreign shipping costs a little more). As ever, thanks to everyone who’s supported this book from the get-go, it’s been quite a ride!
In tomorrow’s supplement: Much to do with my mission (of frequent failure) to cook perfect Roman pastas.
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What the what
Meditations in an Emergency is published Saturdays by novelist Rosecrans Baldwin, about things he finds beautiful, with a longer piece once a month for paying subscribers, written in the woods.
Also for paying subscribers, also a Sunday supplement, three weeks a month, with three-plus ideas of things to love, no paid placements 💀
Rosecrans is the author most recently of Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles, winner of the 2022 California Book Award, now available in paperback from Bookshop, Amazon, or (preferably) your local store. Other books include The Last Kid Left and Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down. His debut novel, You Lost Me There, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.
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