The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

So you’ve been unlucky in love. That’s no excuse to be jaded.

(iStock illustration)

After a night out in Boston, my friend and I sat in my living room, recapping the events of that evening. That’s when he asked me something unexpected.

“How do you do it?”

“What?” I replied.

“How do you get everyone to like you? How are you able to meet people so easily?”

I smiled and laughed. I knew exactly what the difference was between us. It’s not that I’m more interesting, gregarious or better-looking. (I’m not.) It’s that I’m not jaded and he is.

The two things he hates the most — that have caused him to become jaded — are his job and the city where we live. Of course, the first two questions he’s asked every time he meets someone new, are “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”

Within seconds of meeting someone, he will say “My job sucks” and “I hate Boston.” Now my friend is a good guy. But when strangers first meet him, they don’t get to see the intelligent and caring man I know and love. They see a jaded man who doesn’t enjoy anything about his life.

This is why he struggles to meet others, whereas I do not.

According to conventional wisdom, people who are jaded are more mature and have more life experience. Because only after being repeatedly screwed over, can a person become jaded.

However I don’t think jaded folks are mature at all. In fact, I’d argue the opposite. It’s easy to let life get you down. We’ve all had bosses who treat us poorly; partners who lie to us; friends who neglect us in our time of need. And of course, we’ve all had terrible dates. This is where I see the most jadedness among my very single friends.

I once spent an hour commuting to a date downtown. Before I said anything, the first words out of her mouth were “Oh god.” The date, as you might guess, went terribly. Afterward, I remember trying to analyze what went wrong. I couldn’t think of a single thing. But I knew that upon glancing at me, she had already decided that she wasn’t interested.

Nevertheless, I didn’t write off all women after my crummy date. I didn’t lament my sorry fate to grow old alone, surrounded by two dozen cats. I got back on Tinder and set up another date with someone else.

Dating is awful for everyone. Except for that one obnoxious single friend who loves dating, the rest of us hate it. Still, we keep at it because we want a life with a committed partner. It would be easy to become jaded. It would be easy to give up. That’s what children do: Give up when things get too hard. Not adults.

Additionally, the jaded persona can be condescending. Jaded folks often assume, because someone is positive, that they’ve lived a privileged life. Sure, that may be, but you don’t know what someone else has experienced. They could have been screwed over time and time again, and still be positive. Your jadedness, implying that you’ve experienced and seen so much, invalidates other people’s struggles. It also reveals a certain inability to think about other people because you’re so concerned with yourself and your troubles. This egotism is off-putting when meeting new folks.

Except for that friend who’s naturally incapable of being pessimistic (usually the same friend who loves dating!), the rest of us aren’t born with a positive disposition that wards off jadedness. We actively fight the urge to become jaded, even after we’ve experienced our 100th horrible first date.

So when we, the people who actively fight the desire to say, “Screw it! Everything sucks and always will suck,” meet someone who has embraced that attitude, we don’t feel pity for you. We’re turned off. We don’t want to surround ourselves with pessimistic folks who constantly remind us of the harsh realities that we already know to be true. We want to surround ourselves with people who will help us to forget that we got passed over for a promotion and that our boyfriend cheated on us. We want friends and partners who will keep us motivated.

So I told my friend the truth. I told him the impression he gave off. The next weekend when we went out, and someone asked him about his job, he responded, “It sucks.” He paused and smiled before continuing, “But let’s be real for a second, whose doesn’t?”

Then we all laughed and toasted to our mediocre jobs.


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