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March 7, 2022

Four Strangers Talk About Love

Four Strangers Talk About Love

Before we ever set them up on dates, we sat them down all together. Listen in as Amanda, Aziz, Khan and Virginia talk through their expectations on love, relationships and this podcast.

Before we ever set them up on dates, we sat them down all together. Listen in as Amanda, Aziz, Khan and Virginia talk through their expectations on love, relationships and this podcast.


Jesse: This is Dating, I'm Jesse Baker. At this point, you have gone out with each one of our four daters or listened in as they went out with someone, and you might be asking yourself, why did they say yes to this? Shit, they may be asking themselves, why did they say yes to this? But each one of them had a very different reason for why they did say yes to this. 

Virginia: The apps for dating, they have been fun for a while, but at the same time, it's exhausting. Sometimes I'm thinking maybe I'm not dating smartly, maybe I'm just, I don't want to say jaded, uh, but I think I need to see it from a different perspective and maybe change some habits. 

Khan: So I've spent the last maybe couple of years, like really going inward and trying to figure out why I show up in relationships the way I have been, and what other ways are there being in partnerships and romantic interactions and in ways that are free of maybe some of the baggage that I've been carrying or some of the preconceived notions that I've inherited from my parents or culture, et cetera.

Amanda: I've just been essentially too busy to date and just really haven't found the right people to date. And I think having this opportunity to kind of look at some of the reasons, maybe why things haven't worked out in the past or what I can do differently, really looking forward to that.

Aziz: I think I've been leaning on my friends for relationship advice, which I'm assuming most people do. And so in speaking with Logan and, you know, any relationship coach, it does seem like a totally neutral party. And in my initial conversation with Logan, I just really appreciated that she kind of told it how it is, and like laid out all of these really big pieces for me to think about that I've been thinking about since our last conversation, I'm also just totally an experience junkie and this sounded like a wild ride. And so I was excited to give it a go.

Jesse: So the thing that really bound these four daters: Aziz, Khan, Amanda, and Virginia, together for us, was yes, they felt really stuck in their dating lives, but they were also open to being unstuck. They wanted the help. So before we ever set them up with anyone else, we set them up with each other. We brought them together so that they knew they weren't alone in this. We wanted them to know who else had entrusted us with their dating lives. This time we kept the cameras off and we dropped questions in, some really big questions, like have you ever been in love? And if so, how did you know? Amanda jumped in first.

Amanda: For me, I feel like love should feel comfortable. And I don't know how better to explain that, but I feel like in today's society, there's just so much where sometimes you have to put on this face or this face. I just feel like love should feel comfortable. Um, if I think back, I think I've probably been in love twice in my life, but even then it's like, I think I I've gotten to this point in my career in life where I'm so busy that if I go on a first date with someone and it's just really not there I'm like, I don't necessarily have the time to waste on this.

Virginia: I don't know. I think for me I've been told I have a very strong personality, so sometimes I feel like I have to turn it down a notch. And the guys that I feel that I've loved, it's not something that I've had to do. For me, I think it's luck because I don't have to pretend to be someone that I'm not to make them want to spend time with me.

Aziz: So I don't know that for me, love is necessarily comfortable. I feel like oftentimes it can be challenging and there's a lot of compromise and learning how to make space for another person when you are used to doing all the things your own way. So for me, it's not necessarily that it's comfortable, although the piece that I resonate with in both of what you said is that it's kind of this acceptance and admiration for each other, exactly the way that you are. For me, a big part of the love is feeling like there's this boundless curiosity, for the other person, and also the belief that together you can create something much bigger than the individual parts, that it is comprised of.

Khan: And I think it's also, just like really ambiguous, it's just one, four letter word. There's several different words for this concept or the various kind of aspects of this concept. There's like an all consuming passion, there's like more of like a service oriented kind of version. I guess for me, every relationship I've been in I've felt a genuine longing for the other person. But I think often I've subscribed to this kind of Hollywood romantic epic vision of what love feels like. And I think there's something that's hard to put in words, but it's like a chemistry when it's kind of like, you know, two molecules just fit together that that happens sometimes, you know, and that's part of the mystery of it too. And I think I have experienced that, I'm lucky. 

Virginia: And so like when I mentioned being comfortable. I think of it as compromise versus sacrifice. In both situations, I'm giving up something, but I feel like when you're in a relationship that there's love and you feel calm, I don't, again, I don't want to say that where I'm using the word comfortable as in at ease and you feel like you can be yourself that letting go of something or meeting someone halfway, it's a compromise. But when you don't love someone, it's a sacrifice, you're just doing this, I guess, for the sake of it.

Jesse: In hearing these four strangers talk about love, it's clear, they have some idea of what they think love is or should be, and so to better understand their expectations of love, kind of the natural next question is, who are your role models for love?

Aziz: I think something that I've thought about a lot with my grandparents is that both of those relationships or more or less arranged and, while in this day and age, you'd be like, oh my God, that is horrible that they didn't have a choice, they were some of the most loving relationships I have ever experienced. And I look at, I look at my grandparents for sure as role models. And it's always this question in my mind of like, God, they must've gone through such a different mindset in order to truly fall in love in this context of an arranged marriage, which we have convinced ourselves is totally antithetical to what true love is.

Virginia: Um, if I'm being completely honest, I feel like Uh, at this point, I would not know how to maybe identify a relationship that is really good versus, really good with issues. I don't know if that makes sense, like sometimes I see my friends and they have like a certain type of issues and I'm like, oh, I would never accept that. But then like I sit down, I'm like, is that even a realistic expectation? Where am I getting this idea from? And I think it's, again, movies, parents, and other friends relationships.

Amanda: You know, I've also kind of looked at parents and friends parents, and even friends relationships. And I'll be honest, a lot of what I see is like, oh, I actually couldn't do that, which may be a reason why I'm still single at this point in my life. Because you know, to be perfectly honest, you know, with my friends, I think maybe I can count on one hand the friends that I don't think settled. I mean, all the rest of my friends that are married, um, seem miserable and I'm not trying to rush into anything like that.

Khan: Definitely agree that my parents influenced me tremendously, but it was kind of in like a negative, in the sense of it's like my parents' dysfunctionality influenced me in a way that made me want to like almost overcompensate and be like a really, really loving person, but that led to like other issues where I wasn't able to be honest, I wasn't able to, you know, say I needed, I wasn't able to assert boundaries. I wasn't able to get out of relationships, cause I was just trying to be this antithesis to, you know, what I saw in my home.

Jesse: I love this question. Who are your role models for love? I learned it from working with Esther Perel. It's on the application for where should we begin? And it was also on the application to apply to be a data on this show. And interestingly, so many people, write the Obamas are their role model for love. The four daters that we chose all had real life examples of people they look to for love. So if that's the case, then why does this feel so hard? What is it about modern dating that has them feeling so stuck? 

Aziz: I do think one big challenge is that with all of the apps who is at our fingertips literally has gone up exponentially. And so it's just like, oh, if I don't like this person, I can find another person in five minutes. I just like swiping on my phone. And, you know, I think that goes back to the arranged marriage or like, you know, the person in rural Idaho that has three people to choose from chooses one and has a very happy life raising a family with them, I think that plays into the commitment factor. And I also think it plays into the satisfaction factor. 

Amanda: Paradox of choice, but also I'm sorry, it's, it's a full-time job. Um, you know, get on, okay, you swipe whatever, and then you have to remember, oh my goodness. I need to go back on to answer that message or see if that person replied or do this or do that. And again, I think that sometimes it's just very much overwhelming. At least from my standpoint. 

Virginia: You cannot see me, but I'm here and I'm nodding, but I feel like this perception that everyone, and not only like everyone, but everything is so available. So like if something doesn't work out with one person, it will work out with another person. But also this, why would I be in a relationship when I can be traveling the world, but it's at the tip of my fingers. So I feel like that has definitely been a challenge, but also, at least I'm going to speak for myself, not everyone, but like I'm a very career driven person. So I surround myself with very career driven people. And then I found that if all of us are career driven, but on different timelines, when I want something, then someone else doesn't want something. So I feel like this perception that everything that we want and everything that is magical, everything that could be perfect is available to us has definitely made it very challenging to, to date and have long lasting relationships.

Khan: Yeah. I mean, to me it feels like it's almost like consumer culture has seeped in to dating. And I'm like on these apps as if I'm like looking through Amazon reviews or something, you know what I mean? It's like swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, like it's just cheapened, it's not a good feeling. So recently someone just introduced me through, it was like, you know, friend of a friend was like, hey, like we were talking about people that are still single. And like, you came up, you should talk to this girl, like here's a number. And it, and I never would really do, it feels kind of awkward to text somebody blind and be like, Hey, my friend has told me, but even that felt somehow more organic than these apps. And, and so, yeah, it was, it was almost, yeah, this, this feels like realer, cause people we know in the real world know each other and know us too. 

Jesse: This is Dating. 

The idea with setting these four people up to talk to each other was to create a space where they could feel relaxed and open and share. You know, we know that things are going well. When the questions we write no longer have to have to hold up the conversation, that you get to a point where we can get the hell out of the way. And the daters can take the conversation where they need it to go. Like, what happens here? 

Amanda: This might be TMI, but I actually just froze my eggs. Cause that was one thing that I did during COVID. Um, I've been thinking about it and I wanted to do it. And now that I've done it, um, you know, I'll get a lot of questions from people pre egg freezing. When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? You'd be such a great mom. And now I get to say whenever the F I want to, um, and however I want to, and it's been awesome. So that's how I approach it. 

Virginia: I'll follow on Amanda. Congratulations. Uh, what she was saying, I am 30 something, I'm 31. And I do want kids too, and I haven't frozen my eggs, but I am taking the steps to be able to have kids by myself, because if I don't get the partner, I still want to have the kids. And like I've started taking steps in my life, that in a few years would allow me to be a single mother. And I don't, if I were to be single of, I've said it's a personal decision that I don't want to be like, I don't want to go through a pregnancy by myself. Um, so I have definitely been taken the steps, uh, for like maybe over a year now to be able to have a child by myself in the next five years. 

Amanda: That's awesome. Good for you. I'm of the mindset that I probably don't want children, but again, who knows, you meet someone, they really want children, minds change. Um, I got a few years on you, but, uh, Virginia, it's good to know that, that you're thinking about that 

Virginia: Amanda, in the real world, we could be friends. We think alike. 

Amanda: Absolutely.

Aziz: I'm not feeling behind. I think definitely not feeling pressure to have my body able to reproduce is playing into that. Also, I think gay guys usually settle down a little bit later, but gay, hetero aside, I have seen my friends settle down in meaningful partnerships, at many different stages of life. And I think that's more important than when it happens, but I've had, I've certainly had my own work in like feeling whole on my own. And I think that work continues. And so I don't think necessarily that I feel pressured for anything to happen anytime soon. Cause I also have plenty to work on solo. And if someone, if something happens, then great. But if not also fine. 

Khan: Yeah, I think I'm uh, in, in a similar boat as Aziz. And I try to, I try to have faith that all timing is in divine alignment and also taking the cue that I do have more work to do. I almost feel like, it's not going to click in the universe until I kind of like make certain things click for myself. Like I've, I've got certain like, you know, internal goals, I've got like certain creative projects and I've been getting better at allocating my time and like really like giving love and space to the things that make me feel full and whole without, you know, needing someone else to fill that. So I think like that ongoing work, as, as Aziz said, is, is great to have. And I think hopefully when I reach some sort of plateau in that internal growth, I think, I guess I conceptualize this as like, okay, then the universe will like open that door when the work that I have in front of me right now is complete.

I hope like the next relationship or whatever is something that I can build that with, like build towards a family with that person. This is something I've struggled with, which is you know, what, what is that right person really look like? I think I've had, I've been really, really lucky and I've gotten to try relationships with like some really amazing people.

And for some reason or the other, I've just always, I just haven't really seen it or I've seen it with like one person, but then that didn't really work out logistically. As, as I've said, I've always wanted a family, but I think I've never actually seen that for myself. And now that I feel like I do know myself a little better, it's like, If you know yourself, like, well, what is, what do you think you bring to the table? And what do you think is like complimentary to that? If you're going to be this partnership that's working and growing a family, so yeah.

Jesse: The night kind of just went on like this, and I think what we set out to do, to establish a space where four strangers could feel like they were in something together, there was comradery, there was trust, there was sharing, I think we got there. And before we said goodnight, Aziz mentioned that he had started this daily practice, kind of like a meditation of reading a poem every day. And he asked to share one with the group. 

Aziz: Can I read you guys a poem?

Amanda: Please. 

Aziz: Yes! I have permission from Amanda. 

Virginia: Did you write it? 

Aziz: No, this is, this is a famous Persian poet from like thousands of years ago. And I try to read him every day. Um, and I read this piece that totally resonates with our conversation, so I wanted to share it. It's called who makes these changes? So...

Who makes these changes? I shoot an arrow right, it lands left. I ride after a deer and find myself chased by a hog. I plot to get what I want. And end up in prison. I dig pits to trap others and fall in. I should be suspicious of what I want. 

And that to me was this whole, it kind of like poked at like, the, the nature of preferences and what they kind of prevent you from experiencing, and also how you let them define the person that you are. I mean, I think this is certainly a nuanced conversation because as someone that fought very hard to express my preference for men in a way that runs contrary to a lot of societal norms, I'm like, you don't get to talk me away from that preference. This is something I fought very uh, hard for, so, so that is to say, I think some preferences are like, yeah, of course these are absolutely necessary, but I think probably the majority of them are ones that warrant consideration.

Khan: I love that poem. 

Amanda: Thank you for sharing that. 

Aziz: Totally. 

Jesse: Aziz's poem was kind of spot on. I mean, it foreshadows his dates and the work that he has yet to do and the work that he does and the work you can hear, the change you can hear from his first date with James to his second date with Manny. And I think to some extent you can kind of hear that in all of the dates. That's what makes them for me special.

So, if you would like to be set up by us, go to this is dating There's a quick application, tell us a little bit about yourself and we'll be in touch.

This is Dating is produced by Jesse Baker and Eric Nuzum at Magnificent Noise. Our production staff includes Hiwote Getaneh, eleanor Kagan and Taelor Hansen. We also received help from Esther Perel, Courtney Hamilton, Robert Smith, Julia Natt Julia Silbergeld, the Quarantine Love Project, Hayden Dawes, Lulu Krause, and Eva Wolchover. Original music production and sound design by Paul Schneider. Logan Ury is our consulting producer and the executive producer of This is Dating is Jesse Baker.