Truth - There are so many unwritten rules that we abide be on a daily basis. Humans are some of the most devastatingly fascinating creatures to observe and to interact with. It's as if each individual has their own personal guidebook to follow in addition to some deeply etched away commandments that we communally agree to (with or without our consent). We stumble upon one another and must quickly decide which set of guidelines we are supposed to follow in order to appropriately treat one another. In the grand scheme of things the laws keep us safe but also separated; it's a danger that more often than not pays off benevolently when we throw out the rules and follow our hearts. Do you have what it takes? Are you in the league?
"I don't know the first real thing about the dating game. I don't know how to talk to a specific person and connect. I just think you have to go to person by person and do the best you can with people in general." Jason Schwartzman
Ever since those prepubescent hormones kicked in and the urge to partner up spiked the concept of leagues of comparability have been in play. At first I thought it only applied to vain societal beauty standards that dictated if people were essentially "hot enough" to be romantically compatible. Now I realize this league conceptualization is actually on display in most of our interactions. It's this banal human need to classify and stratify. In simplest terms, people think they are better than others. Most often it's for the most base of things i.e. social identities (class, sex, gender, religion, nationality, race, educational attainment, etc.) When we reach certain "levels" in society, in those categories that have social mobility, we look down on people the below us, literally and figuratively. It's that belittling, demeaning, and denigrating that reinforces the differences between us. Take this clean-eating, locally sourced, organic movement sweeping the nation (*read the pristine white settlements of suburbia and the elite). It's great to be healthy and to eat better food, but it is also expensive. Blaming people of low socioeconomic status for poor eating habits is outrageous since the only food they can afford isn't very nutritious. Why is it cheaper to buy a two-liter of soda than to be a gallon of water? If you only have money for hot dogs and potato chips your primary concern is that you eat in general. You do not have the luxury of choice. The movement is a whole lot of classist, a spoonful of elitist, and with a dash of racism. Providing access to healthy options means more than admonishing people to go to farmer's markets, drink wheatgrass shots, and munch on kale chips. It's making food affordable and equitable. It's not looking down but pulling someone else up however you can, with donations, volunteering at food banks, or doing sustainable education work. It's destroying the league.
Ever since I started dating last year the nonsensical adventures have been nonstop. Many a story have come from those dates, the textual build-up to them, and all the overanalyzed aftermath that followed. What I have come to know is that we really do abide by these so-called leagues. It's as if we need people to match. What does it mean to match though? Essentially it is the most externally frivolous thing and based solely on how you look. Are you hot enough for your partner? Do you look good together? Do you like you should be together? Ignoring all the blatantly obvious problematic things I could point here, this entire dilemma of the most vain variety is both one that is perpetuated by outsiders and ourselves. I think owning that part of the process in solving it. Slowly but surely you figure out your own rating (because we can be judged on attractiveness and worth as a human on a 10-point scale rooted in objectification) through how others take you. Apparently I'm about at 7.7 "who photographs really well but somehow looks better in person" and my personality "takes you to about an 8.1." I'll forgo the whole race is not a sexual preference polemics but know that in my case it adds "an exotic" factor (BRB screaming internally and gagging). All of it so messed up and yet we all do it. There are things we like and dislike. We know who is in and who is out of our league but even more so who we categorize as below us.
Being aware of your "preferences" (AKA glaringly obvious biases) is huge. I know for me my dastardly deal-breakers are large tattoos, smoking, drug use beyond alcohol, not liking/wanting kids, and social conservatism. Beyond those are my more finicky sticking points of imperfect teeth, piercings, and pungent smells. My most exclusive hang-ups though are on clothing, and educational level/profession/ambitions. I'm calling myself out. For someone who claims to be all about inclusivity, I'm classist and elitist when it comes to dating. I think I just want someone with goals and aspirations on par with mine but in doing so I belittle others as less than for so many reasons both in and outside of their control. My privilege is put on display and all the access/support I've had to be to aspire to the upper echelons of my chosen career path. Why am I against pursuing someone who makes minimum wage, or didn't further their education when I know so many of the barriers that are and could be in play for their life path? And then at the same time I know I need someone woke on social issues particularly the ones that most directly impact me - race, ethnicity, nationality, language. I need someone educated and not ignorant to the daily realities of my life and those who look like me. I refuse to explain my existence to you - that crap can come from other people but not from the person I'm supposed to be in a relationship with. Those are my league standards, for better and worse.
Why do we care about what other people think about us? I think it's because we live in modern day tribal culture i.e. community, and we care about others so ergo their opinions of us matter. Isn't it weird though for you to think one thing about yourself and others to think differently? I think we know all are friends are attractive because we get to see more of who they are beyond their physical apperances. It's what makes us good wing-people. Then again we all have that one friend who you actually question how they came to be because they are unbearably attractive (actually I have a few; like people working writing their numbers on receipts for them) and it's not jealously that comes from you, but rather just an awareness. One that comes to mind for me also happens to be one of the fiercely steadfast, endearingly kind, and industrious people I have ever known. The thing is he's the ideal guy (by society's Eurocentric heteronormative patriarchal standards) and the best part is he doesn't know it. It's humbling and hilarious. What I mean is that these leagues differ from person to person or sometimes we don't even know about them. We think they give us route to the people we're "supposed" to be with, when in reality all they do is narrow our field of vision to the point where we might miss out on other great opportunities.
What is there to do about this? I think we, myself most definitely included, need to change the ways we talk about people. It's one thing to say you're not interested in someone but a whole other to say that someone is not attractive (to you). We have to take personal responsibility for letting people know we do not want to pursue them. It's not them, it's us. We have to be the one's to own our biases, preconceived notions, and privilege that has made us who we are. We have to stop calling people ugly, gross, or disgusting. We can name what they do or say as that, but not them as people in their entirety. We have to cease and desist on being in our friends' ears spouting off rants about how they deserve better, can do better, or are better. Better than who, and why? We can encourage our friends to strive for someone that treats them with respect, dignity, and love without calling people trash, slut-shaming derivatives, and other vulgarities in the process. We must stop rating people and playing into the narcissism of ourselves. You know you're good-looking, attractive, and downright sexy - but let others make that distinction, your self-esteem is already good to go. Own it but it shouldn't be the only thing you like about yourself. We should start talking about the qualities and behaviors we look for in ideal partners - empathy, compassion, humor, sharp wit, good conversation, forgiveness, honesty, loyalty. All the physical stuff, the "kind of so-and-so," and our "types" need to go or at least need to be reevaluated. Our leagues keep us trapped in a cycle of monotony when there is a whole world full of diversely beautiful people, in all the ways, out there for us to interact with. Forget fit, matching, and going together - it's up to us to know how we feel and let that guide us more than the leagues that we, others, and society as whole try to finagle us in to. X