Wednesday, October 03, 2007

At the Center of the controversy. And, fakes on a plane.

I'd be remiss in not mentioning the firestorm that erupted on this blog late last week over a cynical post I wrote this past April about the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. It started when someone belatedly stumbled upon SHAMblog and posted a link to the relevant item on the Center's chat boards; all hell (or at least purgatory) broke loose, with various Center members being banned from the Center's boards, various people claiming (or denying) responsibility for posting the "objectionable" material, etc. Anyway, an interesting and provocative discussion ensued, and I regret that my Vegas trip prevented me from participating more fully. By the way, it's always a red flag when an online "community" connected to a self-improvement program stifles dissent. That should go without saying.

I invite our visitor-refugees from the Center to stick around for the rest of the ride; you may find some of this stuff illuminating and useful.

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I also wanted to mention something I noticed on my flight back from Vegas (very) late last night. A few rows ahead of me in the plane were two young couples, one couple on either side of the aisle; both had empty seats in their respective rows. Though the young men and women in each couple sat in adjacent seats when they first boarded, no sooner had the doors shut and the plane pushed back from the gate than they spread out in their rows: one on the aisle and one at the window, an empty seat between the young men and women in each case. And that's the way they stayed for the duration of the flight. When the parties in either couple fell asleep, they did so independently, resting their heads on pillows—instead of, say, each other's shoulders. I did not see either couple kiss (or even really touch, for that matter) at any time during the course of the 4.5-hour flight. Anyone who didn't see these people walk on the plane together might well have assumed that they were strangers. One couple was actually married; I saw the wedding rings as we deplaned in Philly (and the rings matched, so one presumes that they were married to each other).

When I was a young man—even a not-so-young one—it would've been unthinkable for me to sit next to my beloved with that level of passivity and indifference for the duration of a cross-country flight. I simply could not have done it; the physical ache for connection of some sort would've consumed me. These young "lovers," all just into their twenties, hardly looked at each other. Yes, I suppose all relationships change with time. But how could the honeymoon have ended so quickly here? More likely there was never a honeymoon to begin with.

Maybe I'm overreacting and/or it's just my Pisces romanticism talking. Or maybe there's more to the story than I know; maybe each couple had had a bad fight right before boarding. I don't think so, however, because I sensed no hostility. They were just...oblivious. Like so many of the young couples one sees today, who connect in bed and nowhere else.

Anyway, I found the scene very sad. Sensible and ergonomically sound, perhaps. But sad.


Mary Anne said...

What you mention about couples not being physically close to each other, is usually a precursor for break-ups. This was documented in BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell. Here is a quote from him about it. "Have you ever had a feeling that a couple's future is successful or doomed just by witnessing a brief exchange between them? What do you think you're picking up on?" I see these interactions too and am never surprised about the high divorce rate.

Katherine N said...

Re: the couples

Some people just aren't very physically affectionate in public. My husband and I probably spend more time together, have more common interests, and communicate better than most couples, but we're just not lovey-dovey when around other people. It's always been that way, not just a product of years together. And we do connect in bed as well.

On a flight I prefer the window, while he prefers the leg room of the aisle. We can stand to be a couple feet apart for a few hours, really. We generally don't converse much while flying either because the white noise is annoying and there's nothing so important that it can't wait until we land.

Steve Salerno said...

Katherine, I realize that everybody's different--and I'm not so grim about this that I'm ready to endorse Mary Anne's cynical position--but what you describe sounds awfully sterile to me. Can't help it; it just does. Like I say, maybe it's a Pisces thing. I've always been a huge fan of PDA, among people at any age. Still am. When I see couples giving themselves to the joy of connection in public, I rejoice. It cheers me, and gives me hope.

Mary Anne said...

I'm not being cynical. I am giving an example of statistics that Malcolm Gladwell noted, Helen Fisher studied, and various psychologists have documented. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but there has been research on behavior in regards to how likely a couple is to succeed based on how affectionate they are. I just noted something that Steve noticed is actually noted by people who watch this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with Mary Anne and Steve on this one. While some couples may not partake in PDA for some reason -- maybe they're too prudent, or are more reserved than others -- couples showing "PG" PDA is exciting, endearing and brings joy to my heart. I'd even go so far as to say that "PG-13" PDA is acceptable, and I'm Virgo.

The excitement and exuberance of public love should be celebrated. An aside from that, when I was single, my other single friends would lament PDA because they weren't getting any themselves, and they couldn't understand why such affection by others would make me happy.

It's simply enjoying humanity. What's interesting, for any single guys reading this, chics dig a guy who's excited about affection. And a chic who gets excited about that is going to be excited about other things too (wink, wink)!

At least that's been my experience.

Steve Salerno said...

Good for you, Anon. Well put--at least to my mind. Sometimes I'll hear the "second-hand PDA" argument--i.e. that public affection is like smoking, in that "the rest of us" shouldn't be subjected to some couple's supposed tackiness and poor taste. For the life of me, I can't understand that reasoning: the logic that portrays honest affection as something that needs to be hidden behind closed doors, lest the rest of us be "harmed" somehow. And--though what I'm about to say is hardly a new argument--I can't help but think about American society's respective attitudes towards (a) sex and (b) violence. We are far more accepting of the latter than the former. Nightly, movies and TV shows depict graphic scenes of bullets entering heads and body parts being sliced open...but heaven forbid anyone should show a man tenderly kissing and caressing his beloved's naked breast.