Kevin Purcell on Yoga, Relationships, and Self-Help Lists

I think of myself as being fairly good at relationships now. I’ve got all the basics down: thoughtful, considerate, attentive listener, health conscious, assertive without being aggressive, sensitive without being a total wuss, full medical insurance, manageable debt-to-income ratio… all the things the modern heterosexual woman is looking for. Like, I’m man enough to go to a yoga class with you, but aware enough of the rules of post-feminist masculinity to make a (tasteful and understated!) joke later about how I’m only in it for the sweaty women in unitards. It’s all about maintaining balances.

It sounds like hard work, but I admit I’m not out there doing it on my own. I’ve got the handy, unsolicited help of Internet Action Lists to guide me. You know them. They’re interlaced between the hyperlinked news headlines on your favorite aggregator or internet search page, distracting you from the more serious coverage of Kardashians and movie trailers. You know, the hard news.

The Internet Action Lists can be about anything (“8 Great Ways to Spend Your Children’s Inheritance” or “12 Great Things to Eat that Will Instantly Kill You”), but the ones I usually gravitate to are the social and relationship advice ones. It seems shallow to let “11 Top Tips to Transform Yourself from Timid to Tiger” inform who you are as a human being, but I have to say, I’m in a relationship now, so it must have worked. That’s science right there. And it’s with someone I met on an internet dating site, which is basically a collection of online lists but with profile pictures and instant messaging. Using the internet to make myself seem interesting to women on the internet… you have to admit, the tool is particularly suited to the task. Like shooting fish in a barrel using barrel-sized bullets.

But now that I’m settled in–now that I’ve leveraged that information into a long-term arrangement built on mutual respect and devotion and a paralyzing fear of dying alone–I can take a step back and evaluate what got me here. Perspective leads to insight and insight leads to truth. The most shocking thing I’ve realized, the thing we don’t really say and never comes out in lists on Yahoo! News is that there is no one way to be. I hate to be the one to expose the dirty secret of online romantic self-help, but: it’s all 100% subjective. I know. I was blown away too. Sometimes people can just not like you. I can follow every HTML-coded line of advice and be all the things I listed in Paragraph 1 and it would still be possible for a woman to conclude that I was a narcissistic, insincere yoga-perv. Please take my word for this. Don’t make me show you the court papers.

To be fair and somewhat closer to intellectual honesty, I will say I get that “7 Reasons Why Men Run Away” or “11 Signs She Suspects You’re a Registered Sex Offender” are intended to be less blueprints guaranteeing success than bland, generalized pabulum readable in a space of time unlikely to get you noticed by the rat fink supervisor’s pet in the cubicle next door. It’s thin gruel, sure, but it’s only designed to hold you over until lunchtime. I get it. It’s not like I look down my nose at it. Unless that happens to be the angle I’m using to read it.

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