Monday, February 18, 2013

Ladders...Oh, and I'm new here.

First of all, may I say what an honor it is to be writing a blog post for Expert Textperts.  When Allan invited me to contribute, I felt like I had been asked to join an exclusive club.  Though I have never been a blogger myself (Should I say something like that on my first post?  Is that kind of like admitting that you’ve never held a steady job in a job interview? Or admitting on a first date that you’ve never been in a serious relationship?  Should I hide information like that until I’m more confident about my standing?), and though I don’t follow any blog religiously, I have read several posts of Expert Textperts and thoroughly enjoyed them.   For a moment, I speak directly to the contributors of this blog: I do hope that Allan asked your permission before he invited me to post here.  If not, and some of you are dubious, I hope to win you over with my witty and clever discourse…and when that fails, I hope you’ll hide your hesitations so I can safeguard my false sense of security.

And now, on to the main event.

By request, my debut post will be about ladders.  Yep—ladders.  I do, in fact, mean the wooden or metal structures with steps that one can climb up or down. 

Before I go any further, though, I must do a bit of disclaiming.  The idea behind the ladder metaphor I will explain here is not mine.  I have expanded on it, but the original thought is not mine.  I don’t know who the genius behind the idea is.  All I know is that it is the best relationship metaphor I’ve ever heard. 
It’s always irks me a little to hear a boy or a girl make general complaints about the other sex where dating is concerned.  I often hear conversations that can be boiled down to “I just don’t get boys/girls!”—as if people are to be “gotten,”  like a math problem.  I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any instruction manuals somewhere that hold the secret key to understanding the opposite sex.  Also, I don’t believe that men all fit under one blanket category or that women can all be expected to act and think alike.  It’s not as if you get to know the way one girl acts where dating and relationships are concerned that you suddenly understand how all women will act in similar situations.  I guess that I’m only justified in speaking for myself, but I am not like other girls when it comes to relationships and dating.

However, that being said, I have done some informal polling, and it seems to me that this analogy is fairly accurate for a lot of people.
Girls have one ladder when it comes to their relationships with guys.  They’ll let all sorts of boys onto their ladder; however, very few of those boys will climb past the first few rungs.  Girls control who gets to climb their ladders.  The more she gets to know about a boy, the higher he’ll climb on her ladder.  If he makes her laugh and feel at ease, he’ll climb higher.  If she prefers his company to other boys, he’ll climb higher.  If she feels like she can trust him, he climbs higher still.  The higher a boy climbs on the girl’s ladder, the greater potential he has for becoming a romantic interest of hers.  

Guys have two ladders when it comes to their relationships with girls.  They have a “friendship ladder,” and they have a “potential relationship ladder.”  If a girl gets on the friendship ladder, chances are she’s staying on the friendship ladder, and it doesn’t matter how high she climbs, she’ll stay on the friendship ladder.  If she’s on the friendship ladder, he might trust her, and she might make him laugh.  He might even really enjoy her company and enjoy talking to her.  She can climb higher and higher on the ladder, but chances are, she’s going to stay on the friendship ladder.  Whereas if a guy is attracted to a girl, even if he doesn’t know her well, he’ll most likely put her on his other ladder, and he’ll try to pursue her. 

A few years ago, I noticed that my brother was spending a lot of his time hanging out with one particular girl.  They made each other laugh; they teased each other; and they each seemed to prefer being with the other to hanging out with other people.  Yet, they weren’t dating.  Several people who were just outside of their social circle began to assume that they were dating.  So, I decided to ask him about it.  I asked him if he was interested in her as a girlfriend, and he assured me that they were just good friends.  I told him that because of the way she acted around him and because of the time she invested in hanging out with him that I was pretty darn sure that she was into him that way, and I wanted to make sure he knew it.  Again he assured me that there wasn’t anything between them.  I was confused.   It really just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked him if he liked her.  He said he did.  I asked him if he enjoyed spending time with her, joking with her, discussing things with her.  He answered in the affirmative.  “But, you’re not interested in dating her?”  I had to ask one more time.  “No,” he responded. 

I didn’t get it!  If you like spending time with someone, and they with you; if you prefer his/her company to anyone else’s that you know; and if you trust that person, my thought is: Why NOT date them?  I thought that was what a relationship was supposed to be. 

Right at that moment, the ladder analogy—that I’d heard years before and filed away somewhere in the back of my brain—came crashing to the forefront of my thoughts.  I explained the idea to my brother—that girls have one ladder and boys have two—and I asked him if it was true.  He answered with a resounding “Yes!”   I was a little shocked with his lack of hesitation in answering, but at least it helped me better understand his perspective on the situation with this girl. 

He had been so certain, so I decided to ask some other guys I knew.  I asked several boys over the next few weeks, including the boy I liked at the time, and without exception, every one of them answered as my brother had—with an emphatic yes.  I started to ask several girls as well.  They too thought the analogy apt.  I really started to think I was onto something.

My results led me to a few theories:
1)      Girls crave intimacy in a relationship.  They long to feel close to someone (and not just physically).  They want their relationships to be based on something deeper than attraction.  They swoon at the stories of a guy who wakes up to see the girl of his dreams is actually the girl next door.  Girls want to feel a strong connection with someone before they start dating them, and as a result, they sometimes blow off great guys because they don’t think that they will ever be able to connect with them.  On the other hand, when they find that connection, they often fall for the guy—whether he is available or not. 
2)      Boys, on the other hand, can form connections with girls without it being a romantic thing.  However, they are most likely not going to spend the time nurturing a friendship the way a girl might.  They will pursue the girls who catch their attention sooner rather than later. 
3)      Typically, girls feel a connection in a relationship, then the attraction follows.  For boys, they first notice the attraction aspect, then the connection follows. 
4)      Wherever that crossover between connection and attraction does occur, nobody likes to be put in the “friendship zone” by the object of their affection.

Again—I’m blanketing a lot here, and I know it’s not fair.  Of course there are exceptions, but as I mentioned before, this is just the best analogy I’ve come up with (“best” being measured solely on the basis that a majority of my interviewees have agreed with it.) 

I’ve also heard some people who agreed with the analogy, but thought that it was actually backward—that boys have one ladder and girls have two. 

So…any thoughts?  Comments?  Sarcastic remarks?  Violent reactions?  Bring it on!