Right Girl, Right Time, Wrong Context… Or Not?

The following is an attempt to be coherent at 3.45am. If the logic is fuzzy, the imagery abstruse and the conclusions bother on the insane, blame it on reading Malcolm Gladwell into the wee hours of the morning!

In response to my rant/ sobfest in March about losing my friend Di, LoloBloggs pointed me to a post in which she argued that the right girl, wrong time argument was merely an excuse to prime women up for the inevitable future break up. Whilst that may be true in some situations, in one of those not-so random brain waves, it crossed my mind that the rightness or wrongness of the argument was peripheral to the fact that it fit the observed data for a reason – it is pragmatic!  A further thought was a what-if, what if there exists a third dimension that when coupled with the right person and the right time serves as a useful predictor of how likely a person-connection is likely to proceed beyond the realms of casual acquaintance-ship? I would like to suggest that that third dimension is that of context.

Consider context as the sum total of the extraneous – if sometimes subtle – influences of the where and the how of the first meet-up on how we relate to the people in our social network in the future. This sounds like a fuzzy definition, but unfortunately the real world isn’t quite as pristine as that of Newtonian physics; as such we will have to make do with that definition for context.

In general people associate certain places with certain things and these perceptions colour how seriously we consider the people we meet there.  For instance, brothels are associated with quick and easy no explanations transactions, places of worship with ‘seriously’ religious people,  libraries –  and to a lesser extent these days classrooms with people of significant academic interests, the person who regularly listens to Opera and stage plays as possessing a certain refinement, the workplace with career focused people and the like.  The how of a meet-up is also of importance – I for one would be less likely to trust someone I know routinely fails to deliver on project deliverables than one who does – even if it has no bearing whatsoever on their personal lives. Thus I think context is critical.

There is a problem though with context and the associations that feed it. These associations are typically person specific – some blokes might be more likely to be close friends with someone they meet at a weed selling joint than one they met at church, fluid and ultimately subjective, and I doubt it is possible to accurately characterize these associations for the general population. Context whilst thus critical is thus coloured by our perceptions, which are in turn largely an acquired taste.

Perhaps, people connections are designed to be fuzzy and mysterious. After all the question of what constitutes the right girl or man is open to a myriad of definitions and counter definitions. Some would even argue that is an abstraction, spawned by the endless bombardment of our hearts and minds from childhood with the drivel served up by the likes of Hans Christian Anderson, Enid Blyton, the Brothers Grimm, the Pacesetters for our African children and in our latter years by the wide range of chic flicks portending to convince us that there is The ONE out there. Thankfully, the question of the right timing is a little less convoluted, but that does not in any way make the entire problem less of a probabilistic nightmare.

Context then is of utmost criticality and is subjective – neither right nor wrong- just different. The critical question then would be could we as individuals know our own ideal context, or is it locked in the deep recesses of our subconscious minds? Gladwell quotes various experiments in Blink that seem to suggest that there is both a conscious and a subconscious dimension to the dilemma. The most poignant one would be the speed-dating example.  Bottom line is when we meet people, we thin slice them and ‘what speed-daters say they want and what they are actually attracted to in a moment don’t match’. Perhaps there is a reason I patently distrust  e-harmony after all and why I junked my spreadsheet after all those years.

In conclusion, Context is critical, but subjective and part concious, part unconscious! My advice? Get your love on anyway!