3 min

Zen & the art of getting laid

It's hard to accept that love really is up to chance

Ages ago for reasons best known to my inner teenager, I signed up for an e-mail service known as the Loving Today Newsletter. So every couple of days, as these things trickle into my mailbox, I wonder anew at our goofy modern faith in technology.

One week it’s tips on spring-cleaning my relationship, the next it’s strategies for breaking free of an affair.

Just the other day I received news of a “powerful, comprehensive system” designed to stop divorce, avoid heartache and save my marriage. Another newsletter promised techniques for “removing those pesky blockages that may be preventing you from getting what you want.” And here I thought it was just life.

It’s fairy dust, of course, but it’s couched in the language of technology and so it sounds semiserious.

You can’t get always get what you want, as old pouty-lips used to say, yet everyone who lives in a technological society devoutly hopes otherwise. The promise of technology, after all, is complete control, even over such chaotic and random formulations as human relations, and we’ve incorporated that ethos into everything from self-improvement to the romantic hedonism that in part propels gay life.

We all want fast, fab sex; we all know life doesn’t operate that way, and we all continue to worship the idea that it does. That’s why we’ve developed systems like the Internet and bathhouses. Judged against the dream of great sex each time every time, neither technology really delivers — unless you don’t mind no-frills products like backroom blowjobs or partners who are less than the sum of their images.

But the efficacy of our sexual technologies is really beside the point. By giving us the illusion of control (click here, send man right over), they obscure deeper forces — particularly the circuitous energy variously called fate, accident, serendipity or chance. We spend a lot of time playing our cards and not very much wondering who or what dealt them. Yet in reviewing my own amours I’m often struck by the curious role of chance.

Every couple of years I stop and look back and ask myself where I’ve met the important people in my life. I have yet to discover a pattern. Much to my chagrin, I have yet to figure out a way of reproducing the good and avoiding the bad.

One holiday weekend, not so long ago, I met someone I liked in a bar and realized later that had either of us been standing in a different place or wearing a different coloured shirt, we might never have met.

This summer I was quite smitten with a man who later directed me to his Gaydar profile and I realized as I gazed at his pixilated self that we would never have met if I’d seen him only on-line. His pictures were hot but there was absolutely no reason to suppose we’d connect. Whatever lay between us wasn’t amendable to analysis or advertisement, or indeed anything except the accident of our meeting.

You can nudge fate a bit. You can work the body, market the product, adjust the image, push yourself into a better mood, accessorize yourself with a few friends to make yourself look a little more approachable. You can even subtly adjust the most important factor of all, your own vibe. What you can’t do is move the other players on the board.

Take the tubs, for instance. My usual rule concerning the baths is: Go only when you’re feeling happy or horny. (Go when you’re lonely and you’ll end up on the psych ward.) For a melancholy person such as myself this is a highly effective strategy if only because it aborts nine out 10 lousy encounters. Plus, there’s no doubt that a psychic pump-up works wonders.

Still, it takes you nowhere if there’s no one else around. A happy face is no guarantee of a humpy good time as I found one recent holiday Monday when I seemed to be only person still enjoying the holiday mood.

I’ve no doubt that there’s someone for everyone — probably several someones. But finding them in a mood where they’re receptive to meeting new people and not all roiled about the mortgage or their boss or other life inconveniences, and then and putting them in the same vicinity as yourself — well, that’s a trick of fate.

Alcoholics Anonymous’s old Serenity Prayer advises you to change what you can and accept what you cannot. The problem of course is that most of us pay more attention to the first part of the injunction than to the second. Encouraged by the heroic, do-it-yourself ethic of individualistic capitalism most of us think we have far more control than we do. To be successful, however, you have to be a little more sensitive to the zeitgeist.

Or as the Supremes used to say, “You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait.”