Friday, April 2, 2010

#35 The Great White Buffalo


"You created this white monster ... and it seems harmless and puff and cute — but given the right circumstances, everything can be turned back and become evil." - Dan Aykroyd

If you really want to think about it every chick you meet is someone’s ex-girlfriend. However new, bright and shiny the immediate moment, in the form of a smiling barista, a Marina-ite on the morning bus, or even that fleshy, neckless grey-haired woman from the bursar's office who stinks of cigarettes, it always has a past, in the form of an ex-boyfriend, and that son of a b*tch is smirking. He's a lanky dude with an arm tattoo and yeah, he tapped that. It’s like some f*cked up sociological analogue to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: no matter what skirt you’re chasing, you’ll always be at least ten minutes too late. Some other guy will always get there first. And here’s what really stings: you’ll never measure up to that guy. He’s her Great White Buffalo.


No one knows how many GWBs exist out there. Every woman running around seems to have one - this singular, totally amazing guy who passed through her life for a fleeting but impassioned moment, a man who is part Russell Brand, Byronesque Baroque charm and part narrow-eyed, broad-shouldered Gerard Butleresque confidence, the kind of man she wishes her current man could smell like, a man who for all his absence remains at the center of her consciousness, making you the side-show schlub. She also hates this man and is committed to believing he's EVIL despite not really believing this at all, since she feels in her heart of tear-filled hearts he is WONDERFUL, even though, objectively, from the perspective of a sane person, the GWB is not a real person at all, but rather a messy and well-worn bundle of ideas and memories that have over time become far more significant and invigorating than the realities that were their provenance.


What no one can dispute, however, is that the GWB real enough as far as we are concerned. If he ever comes back in flesh, goateed and unemployed and five foot nothing, we'll still be sent packing; and if he doesn't, well, that's small consolation, since we'll just go on being a vague disappointment, like a used Camry after the Beemer got totaled.


It doesn't make any rational sense, not really, since statistics and probabilities tend to suggest we're GWBs ourselves, just in the imagination of some girl whose name we barely remember and who we aren't hitting on now. Hence the paradox: we can't compete with the GWB even though, theoretically speaking, we ARE that guy.


The probable reason for this is that life sucks and people are morons. Another contributing factor is that sometimes in some situations, like say the city of San Francisco right now, there is a vacuum that exists in the place properly reserved for romantic drama. In San Francisco, dating "problems" are more conceptual than tangible. They aren't about infidelity, or horrible set-ups, or horrible break-ups, as much as the idea of dating. It's like discussing the relative merits of heaven and hell, everyone has an opinion but the question is always open for debate because no one has actually been there. SFers sit on buses and say putatively motivational things like, "The best way to meet someone is through friends, not at a bar or [fill in here a typical venue that exists for the purposes of meeting new people]," and her friend agrees as if this is the most supportable statement in the world, and then silence ensues as they realize that they already know all their friends and know their friends' friends, so that might not be the most brilliant strategy on the planet.FN1


Life generally gets a little precarious when there are no distractions. Too much thinking happens, too much blogging. If you’re romantically uninvolved you fully start to lose your mind. You cyber-stalk on Facebook and sink inward and reconstruct the sorry set of events that made you add Alanis Morrisette’s “That I would be Good” to your iPod. Long untended emotions rise up with the vim of a viper strike. You obsess and keep score and obsess some more and all the while, the legend of the GWB grows.


In this state of affairs, when we approach a woman, we are Bill Murray and the GWB is the Stay Puft Marshmallow. Ghost or not he’s way more powerful than we. Guys have something analogous - “The One That Got Away”, but the effect of TOTGA is different. TOTGA doesn’t render any new girl we meet inadequate. We like the new girl too, just not as much. The GWB by contradistinction exists solely too preempt and destroy us. He is Shiva. He is the atomic bomb.


No one knows all the reasons why the GWB is so devastating but one of them is probably this: the allure of the GWB is not the guy he represents, or even the idealization of that guy. The GWB is instead like a magical mirror that reflects a younger, more earnest, passionate and hopeful version of the girl looking in. The GWB is all the things life was during the era she dated him, before she was disenchanted and weary and had given up in the small incremental ways everyone does as adulthood disappoints one dream after another. Girls aren't in love with the GWB - they’re in love with the person they once were. That's why we can never beat the GWB, not because he has bigger arms but because we didn't know her then and he did.


This is all very touching as analyses go but it’s hardly conclusive. Just for instance there also has to be something to the theory that San Francisco has its share of perennially single people and single people when privately indulging in some good old fashioned self-pity rummage through the sh*theap of their past and hand-pick someone who was the most out of their league and decide retrospectively that it should have worked out with them (even though that person doesn’t for a second ever think about them retrospectively) and then proceeds to hold all prospective significant others to that absurd (and essentially false) standard. Too much perspective can be crippling.


Whatever. Everyone can go to hell. There’s too much thinking in this town, and too much blogging. Why won’t SF ladies try smiling and lightening up a bit? Why do they so delight in labeling every guy who hits on them a “douche”? Great White Buffalo. Great White Buffalo. Great White Buffalo. He’s kicking our a**.


FN1: Something deep and primordial makes women dislike men at bars.FN1fn1 Women like men at weddings. Weddings, as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson demonstrated cinematically, are the best place in the world to get laid. However, guess where the guys who go to weddings go on weekends when there's no wedding? Bars. It's the same guys, ladies. Tip of the week for SF women: this Thursday, when you're at Mamacitas, visualize one big friendly wedding party and pretend everybody knows everybody else. Because there's no goddam difference.


FN1fn1: The limbic portion of the brain, which governs feeling, considerably predates the cortex, which is the seat of reason. Therapy can help.

11 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis! This is the first post in a few that didn't make me want to smack you for trying to cram too much cleverness into a single post.

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  2. I think you're wrong about the guys in bars thing. At the wedding, everyone is connected somehow, and that guy was known and liked or related enough for someone to invite him there. No one invites anonymous serial killers to their wedding. I don't know why people have so much trouble with bay area dating. I moved here from Alabama (smiling and friendly) and met a great guy that my friend introduced me to at a club. You sound a little bitter. Be nice, a nice girl will find you. God bless you.

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  3. As a GWB myself, and as a man who sometimes looks back and idealizes his past relationships, I agree wholeheartedly with this poignant, and well-written statement:

    "The GWB is all the things life was during the era she dated him, before she was disenchanted and weary and had given up in the small incremental ways everyone does as adulthood disappoints one dream after another."

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  4. No girls? I'm here. I live here. And I'm a girl.

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  5. "The GWB is all the things life was during the era she dated him, before she was disenchanted and weary and had given up in the small incremental ways everyone does as adulthood disappoints one dream after another...

    Whatever. Everyone can go to hell."

    Can I get permission to use this excerpt as my official biography?

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  6. im pretty much dying right now. giggling out loud at my desk my first week at work will probably get me fired, but at least I'm enjoying myself. Enjoying myself and simultaneously feeling horrified, considering I just moved here last week, am a girl, and am living in the marina. lots to look forward to from the sound of it!

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  7. "Life generally gets a little precarious when there are no distractions. Too much thinking happens, too much blogging. If you’re romantically uninvolved you fully start to lose your mind. You cyber-stalk on Facebook and sink inward and reconstruct the sorry set of events that made you add Alanis Morrisette’s “That I would be Good” to your iPod. Long untended emotions rise up with the vim of a viper strike. You obsess and keep score and obsess some more and all the while, the legend of the GWB grows."

    The truth has been spoken! It's a pinful truth, but none the less real. It's a horrible cycle every girl goes through unless you're a dirty skank slut that has no heart and only wears stripper heels.

    Just started reading your blog and couldn't agree more with you on most of the topics thus far, however, I don't agree with your point of there being no girls. I actually believe there are no guys living here.

    Keep writing, I love it!

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  8. good read and interesting perspective. however, i would argue that the distinction between the great white buffalo and the one that got away are oversimplified. if i had a nickel for every time a guy would get 10 steps into courting me then come back with “i’m sorry, i’m not over my ex girlfriend”, i would have enough nickels to top up my single-girl-solo-at-the-bar beer.

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  9. I disagree wholeheartedly. I think there are an abundance of girls and not enough single, straight men. The ratio is off and us females have a hard time finding an aggressive, take-charge male since most of them don't have to work too hard to find the next available girl. Sorta just makes you sound paranoid. At this point, everyone is going to have a past..including past loves. Buck up.

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  10. Hah, living in East Sanfran (DC, get it) I can attest that this is all so painfully true.

    I have been the white buffalo. I have gotten a girl's best, truest love---with girls, the only love worth having comes without proviso. But she and I were not the match she thought; I left. And on the other hand, I have been GWB-ed by guys five times my stature. It's nice to seduce the plaything of a B-list celeb, but when he returns in full force of romantic pursuit, you're toast. In any event, I was. In the past three years in ESF, I have both punched above my weight and suffered surprise knockouts. In all, basically what a person would expect.

    But what the author is getting at is the sick backside of promiscuity. For women, promiscuity does not enhance their ability to monogamously pairbond (see pubmed for the research kthx) and for men it may not as well. This backs up my thinking that promiscuity is great for the short-term (new tail, such a thrill) but bad for the long term, i.e., society.

    Great blog title, by the way. Your survey (why are there no girls in SF) is closed and incomplete, though. Should include options for "fat/unattractive women drastically skewing dating market" and "limpwristed, spineless SF nerds (plus teh gays) skewing dating market" though all of the factors currently listed strike me as contributors to the phenomenon. To be more literal, there's girls in SF, just like there's girls in DC. Problem is most of them are undateable, and even the dateable ones are disinclined toward openness due to a perceived lack of quality in available counterparts.

    On that latter perception, you could write a long article, and I think the psychology academics already have. IMO, women think little of the men around them regardless of the male shangri-la they find themselves in. EG most particularly, most any large american city.

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