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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why Her? Part 2: Why Jenny?

When I told one woman friend of my engagement with Jenny, her first respone was, "You could get almost anybody: entrepreneur, scientist, or supermodel. Why her?"

It wasn't said in a mean or petty way nor to flatter. She truly was curious.

And it was a good question. So this post will continue try to answer that. Part one is here.

Obligatory warning: because this post is about a woman I love, it could be painfully saccharine to my dear readers. I won't mind if you move on. Really. But I will also cover some of what I have been doing over the past year, and where.

Why Jenny?
"You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."

Why Jenny? On the face of it, there was no good reason. Why not continue my free-wheeling lifestyle? There was hardly much to lose. Women remained interested, if anything, recently they were more and more interested. I wasn't about to stop traveling and meeting people. I had sufficient means to treat several mistresses well. I was considered a rational person. So was the rationale?

In the end, the philosophy I've evolved over the last two years, along with you, dear reader, forces me to acknowledge that to really sample a relationship, one must make some commitments. In the words of the wise, venerable, and entirely fictional Yoda, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

To understand "Why Jenny," it's also useful to re-examine the context in which I met her. Not only the original story, but also my expectations for an ideal woman summarized in criteria I wrote in a previous posting.

Regarding the manner of meeting, let's keep in mind I met Jenny in a hostess bar. Although it was an atypical hostess experience (and the day after a mind-reeling sexual experience) you can imagine the initial expectations for Jenny that set with regards to my idealized woman. So for kicks, let's see if I knew what I really wanted.

There are two ways to look at this. First there are the at first impressions. In which of these criteria did Jenny score highly when I first met her? Which of these did I observe versus assume (labelled with the "a" below)? This tells us what (if any) of these interested me enough to pursue her. Second there are the later impressions. Which of these criteria, if any, factored highly in my deciding to become engaged? Comparing the two can also illuminate where I was wrong in my impressions, and where Jenny changed or adapted over time. So let's collate these into a table:

Criterion First Later Wrong Change
Fluent in English
Pretty, presentable, elegant
Lithe and not "top heavy"
Comfortable in high class social settings a
Educated or self-educated, and well-read a
Mistress mentality, not requiring 24/7 commitment or full-on relationship a
Willing to share city by city or similar situation a
Entrepreneurial and goal driven
Compassionate and very giving
Positive, upbeat and fun attitude
Analytical and rational a
Exposure to science or technology; ideally a geek a
Excellent email and written communications, does not need a lot of "phone time"
Funny, wicked or dark humor
Creatively expressive in some way, written or otherwise a
Organized and able to plan a
Fiscally responsible a
Comfortable and confident with her sexuality
Loves men a
Compatible fantasy life, willing and able to create interesting situations and scenarios
Sexually highly skilled and open-minded
Ideally 25 to 30 years old
Ideally bisexual but preferring men a
Ideally traveled, preferably in Asia

Okay, so I was wrong a lot. Not only about Jenny, but apparently about what I wanted from an ideal woman. Fluency in English was a big one, but perhaps even more so was my purported need for mistress-like flexibility and freedom.

For a deeper look at this, let's look at the relationship schema I defined earlier:

  1. Shared abstraction of Relationship: believing and sharing a vision.
  2. Shared abstraction of Socioeconomic investment: a commitment to a society and an economic system, such as entrepreneurship, science, social justice, social relativism, etc.
  3. Shared abstraction of Interaction schema: example shared elements include intellectual, professional, social, sexual, exploration, sharing, friendship, romance, etc.
  4. Shared abstraction of Symmetry: this is not bilateral symmetry, but rather balance.
  5. Shared abstraction of Obligation: for example a social or legal contract, that is, something that has penalties.
  6. Shared abstraction of Operating constraints: recognizing the needs, strengths and weaknesses of the individuals and relationship, and building matching pragmatic operating constraints around the relationship.

On these I did better. I have written elsewhere about our relationship as a third party, operating constraints, and obligations enforced by promises, rules, truth and pride. Socioeconomic investment, interaction schema, and symmetry bear some closer analysis, as they appear related to why I am engaged to Jenny.

With regard to socioeconomic investment, we are both strongly invested in entrepreneurship, social justice, the importance of science and education to civilization. But deeper than just these words are the risk taking and pride we have independently staked in each of these (before meeting each other). Few people have put as much personally on the line to pursue these areas.

Symmetry sounds like a certain bust since I am far wealthier and more established than Jenny. Yet the very manner by which she deviates from the "ideal woman" criteria above shows how she balances the relationship. No, this is not some kind of rational vs. intuitive pop psychology. Rather Jenny has the ability to face me down, something very few people can do. And she does it with a logic of her own. In particular she has incorporated a compassion into her rational model, which is something I have not. I do not entirely agree (or perhaps understand) her model, but it is one that balances out mine. I'll also discuss sexual symmetry below.

Finally there is interaction schema. This is a rich topic. Once again, the examples I listed (before I had even met Jenny) for the most part turn out to be the ones we achieved: professional, social, sexual, exploration, sharing, friendship, and romance. Note that the professional shared interactions were limited to Asia, where she and I collaborated on our respective businesses, whereas I am global. The big missing examples of interaction schema for us were intellectual and social. Intellectual because, frankly, we do have different intellectual interests. And social because in Asia, her background was known to several people in my business circle and was considered entirely unacceptable.

But just as important as the interaction schema I listed before, there were interaction schema that I did not. Ones that I thought were too trite, childish, weird, personal, or cultural that turned out to be shared. Some early examples that we found surprising, in no particular order:

Solitude and togetherness: We have a similar inability to form certain kinds of relationships, friendships, and social status. We dislike social activities although we are able to be charismatic. Jenny enjoyed solitude like no other woman I knew. Time alone was respected. At the same time we enjoyed time together, sometimes talking but often silent, reflecting each other's incoherent joy into coherent bliss. It's a bit difficult to explain, our strange sharing of behavioral elements of Asperger's Disorder. For example our acute focus on minutae and strange rituals. We have started building our own strange shared rituals now, in which we take great delight.

Aggressive honesty and respect for dialectic: This is covered elsewhere extensively, but we were brutally and explicitly honest with each other. We negotiated and set expectations. We fought and made up a lot. And we learned a lot about how to make our relationship stronger.

Childhood beatings and kindness to children: We were both beaten a lot as children but would try hard not to cry. Although we would never beat another person, we also were compassionate about what drove our parents to do so. It is a strange contradiction we discussed quit a bit, particularly in the context of aging/dying parents.

Faithless religion: We had both evolved a strange rational approach to religion which was tantamount to incorporating our feelings of human spirituality, while inventing our own approach that denied faith. And also made us the worst kind of heretics.

Faith in true relationships: Many people believe in True Love but few really analyze it. Few spend as much thinking, creativity, and dedication to the topic as, say, a True Religious Zealot. But we have. Whether it is this blog or a six-year old continuous hand-written journal dedicated to the topic, these artifacts are the tip of the iceberg of thought given to this topic.

Being bad in the usual way, being good in unusual ways: We have shared much in how from an early age we were considered a "bad kid," yet as we grew older, found rather unique ways to be considered very exceptionally good children. And how this shaped the way we approached work and other parts of life, and how it had become an extension of our pride and individuality.

Peter Pan syndrome: We are like little kids, although that sounds trite enough to be pathetic. But it's true.

Sexual connectivity: We fit together in a variety of new (for me) ways. This deserves an entire section later.

Certain others that can't be mentioned here because they are pretty odd. Or, like our shared views on music, media, politics, charity, and money, they are actually pretty trivial or at least more common. Maybe later.

So perhaps Jenny is an ideal in a manner I did not expect. Or perhaps I am merely too flexible. But this pattern of thinking, hopefully, does help answer the question of Why Jenny? and sets the table for part 3.


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