Repeated Exposure

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I spent most of last week on jury duty – my first experience performing this civic duty. It was a difficult case unrelated to the topic of this blog…but it got me thinking about the issue of repeated exposure as it relates to forming relationships.

Baby, it’s cold outside, so enjoy some creamy vegetable soup while we chat about this issue.

As a jury, we were a group of 14 (two alternates) disparate people thrown together by random computer selection. Over the course of four days, many of us started to talk to each other during lunch and the endless breaks (I object, your honor; may I approach the bench, your honor; the jury is excused while we discuss a point of law, etc., etc.).

On the last day, after a sleepless night precipitated by a stalemate in the deliberations, I connected with one of the male jurors, an attractive man about my age. Let’s call him Mr. C for cute. I had talked to other jurors but only smiled/acknowledged this particular man. We had a good and easy conversation that was interrupted when we got called into the courtroom. Then, surprisingly, when the jury returned to deliberations, all were in agreement.

After the foreman read the not guilty verdict, the jury was excused. We rushed out – our lives had been on hold for four days and all were anxious to resume them.

Mr. C and I entered the crowded elevator. No one spoke. We were all drained. Mr. C was the first to exit – several floors before mine. I said goodbye just as the door shut.

We hadn’t exchanged names. In order to preserve anonymity, the judge called us by our assigned numbers. I don’t even know if Mr. C was married.

But the experience triggered a flashback to college and early career days. It was so much easier to forge relationships when you could do so slowly and over a common bond.

In school, it was natural to bitch about the crazy English professor or the schedule of finals, or the cafeteria food.

On the job, you could bitch about your difficult boss, the poor work environment, or the cafeteria food.

Ladies and gentleman of the non-jury, I submit that having a common topic to bitch about can be the glue that binds. (Yes, I’m in the mood for clichés.)

When you have to encounter other people on a daily basis, you work a little harder to make conversation – even if they are not obvious “friend” or “romantic interest” material. There’s often a readily available topic to discuss and if the chat goes flat one day, well, you’ll have tomorrow to start over. Slowly, you may find that you really like and bond with some of these people.

It doesn’t happen that way in the online dating world. If you keep seeing the same prospects over and over, you tend to get bored. There’s no in-person forced interaction to move you away from boredom. I guess you could say good morning to the 5,000 people that are online when you log in, but it might be a little time consuming.

The rule of repeated exposure also applies to forming friendships. How much easier was it to make new girlfriends and keep those you had when you saw them every day at school? Can you imagine having the time now to talk ON THE PHONE to your friends every day?

Yes, there are adult workarounds. If you have friends in the office, you may get to chat in person every day. Or, if you live in a friendly neighborhood or condo/apartment and are on a schedule that is similar to your neighbors, you may form real connections with the people living on your block or floor.

If you belong to a temple or church, you can go to regular services or gatherings. If you are a member of a meet-up that you attend regularly, you’ll have the opportunity for repeated exposure. Ditto for a regular class at the gym or participation in a sports team or a music group.

The operative word is “regular,” a stand-in for “repeated.” 

Let’s take stock. Other than jury duty, how have I been doing with this practice of repeated exposure when it comes to creating opportunities for romance or friendships?

Work: Retired so N/A. Still connect with former colleagues.

Religion: No formal affiliation/attendance.

Gym: Attendance but no classes

Meet-ups: Attendance is random, not regular

Sports team: Nada. Swimming but no team.

Neighborhood: Maintaining connections but not forging new ones

I see some room for improvement. How about you? Are you pushing the replay button enough in order to create new bonds? Let me know.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

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