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When you don’t have the emotional capacity for someone new
On AI and succumbing to familiarity
How’ve you been?
Me? I’ve just been playing around with all these AI tools that will one day take over the world.
So since I quit my job, I’ve needed to update my personal website (as one does when they dramatically leave their job). The only issue is I don’t have headshots. I just never got into the setup a whole photo shoot just to get photos for your LinkedIn thing, now look at me—desperate! But then the #TikTokMadeMeDoIt algorithm led me to what seemed like gold.
Someone on TikTok used an AI headshot generator to create professional headshots. I thought to myself, Genius! Even though the direction AI is taking is getting incredibly creepy, this seemed utilitarian enough and hers didn’t look horrible so I decided to try it…
These are the photos I shared (they had to be selfies):
And these are some of the photos I got (-_-):
Harpo, who are these people??!
First of all, they gave me 100 shots meaning there are 100 variations of my face which is extremely creepy. There is even a picture of what I’d look like as a white woman. Second of all, why am I in Wakanda in some of them, looking like Josephine Baker and ‘nem in a few, and in a random apartment corner in others? There is no rhyme or reason. I need HEADSHOTS!
There were a few that came out OK, like these:
But ultimately, this is what my ass gets for being cheap. If you know a headshot photographer in the Bay Area, please send them my way. And if you see any of these pop up on my LinkedIn, just mind ya business!
This Week’s Story
Looks like we’re smoking on our ex packs (word to SZA) over here because we’re continuing our stories on the people we love to hate.
Two issues ago, Brikitta wrote about not having any exes to go back to as she’s never been in a relationship, and this week’s author, Kristin Jere, writes about a different struggle: how the only lovers she’s been dealing with over the past few years have been her exes. Whew—let me know how y’all feel about the case of the ex in the comments!
EIC of Carefree
Everyone I Know Is Dating Their Ex: On Familiarity and Resistance to Change
by Kristen Jeré
Every time we actually leave, it’s beautiful. Ending a too-long chapter with a romantic or sexual partner is a blissful state. Better than any chamomile tea and ibuprofen/Midol combo while cramping, even better than an afternoon spent reading Audre Lorde poems and spritzing your plants on the windowsill.
It’s also ritualistic. For years, friend groups have gathered to discuss the trials and triumphs of dating. Dishing about a recent situation or event with a current romantic partner in a council of good friends can often elicit a chorus of “Dump them!” strung together by a rhythmic and impassioned, “Girl….”, with eyes widened and eyebrows raised to high ceilings.
But as with most rituals, conversations on dating are often very cyclical, and before the blissful moment of finally leaving can take place, we will probably be here again soon, teary-eyed and complaining about a person we say we want to leave—but do we really?
Maybe it’s the need for familiarity and comfort that drives us to stay and keeps us coming back. After almost three years in a pandemic, I can see why. I spent most of 2020 working from home in my studio apartment and longed for someone familiar to hold during isolating moments.
On multiple occasions, I reached out to a guy that I had been dating on and off for a few years. His enthusiasm for me had obviously diminished. But I knew in the midst of my loneliness, I wanted him and he just wanted an escape. Still, I readily savored the few small moments that year when he did show up for me.
I could have dated someone else, but I didn’t find myself going out much (read: an introvert in the panorama), and online dating had been especially daunting since the beginning of the pandemic. And almost three years later, in a larger apartment with a roommate, still working from home, pretty much all of those concerns still exist for me.
So now, not only is there the risk of going on a date with a guy that, two drinks in, wants to talk to me about his raging list of phobias which includes fat-shaming (read: I’m a straight-bodied fat ally) and visibly squirming when I mention the words “queer” or “gay” (which he later mansplains, is because he grew up in a “traditional household).” I am now also risking my lung capacity to unpleasantly sit over quesadillas while washing down my date’s triggering and misogynistic values with tequila and soda water, hoping that the next day’s hangover is actually that and not symptoms of a viral infection.
If I had an ex to go back to I would. But I don’t. And I see why anyone that does would. Our standards for dating rapidly changed over the past few years. I’m not talking about the repetitious, Gen-Z battle cry that “the bar is in hell,” but in the midst of the pure uncertainty that clouds a lot of our lives, familiarity seems to be a deciding factor now when determining what stays in our lives as well as what, and who is invited in.
In short, the risk of love, for many of us, is not worth it. We may be single in definition only. No, I don't have a partner that I verbally agreed to commit to, either monogamously or non-monogamously. But I may have ex-lovers who I should’ve cut off long ago that I lay with more often than I’d like to tell my friends–exes who keep me company in my loneliest moments.
If anything, this cycle of going back to familiar lovers of the past might actually be a new definition of single. Instead of just casually dating and not being committed to anyone, either emotionally or overtly, it might make more sense to assume a single person still has someone they're emotionally attached to and dating in a sense, even if it’s not “official”. No, I am not in agreement to only see this one person, or see multiple people that I am in relationships with, but I have an ex who is a priority to me, that I continuously show up for in ways that are romantic, sexual, and often resemble a primary partnership.
As a person who is single in the old definition, it adds an extra layer of frustration to dating. Recently, with the last guy I was seeing, I mapped out a conversation that I wanted to have with him, which was partially nudged forward by some (pretty well executed) Instagram stalking where I found that his ex posted him as recently as the month prior, though they’d supposedly broken up months ago.
I felt a familiar sense of dread and anxiety seeing the photos and wondered if he was still dating his ex though they were no longer exclusive. The question I wanted to ask, “What’s your relationship like with your ex?” may have been redundant at best. Because I knew that anyone who was still posting their ex was most likely still in a romantic relationship with them in all senses of the word.
On the other end, there was the possibility that one person wanted to get back together (presumably the one that still posts their ex, 5 months post-breakup), and the other doesn’t.
I wonder if it's the longing for something safe and familiar that drives people to still go on dates with their ex almost six months post-breakup. If it’s the familiarity that makes a guy help his ex-girlfriend move a couch into her new apartment, where she will most likely be hooking up with other people on said couch, and hell, maybe even him too–I’m sure he’s hoping.
And dating would be simpler if I could be 100% convinced that guys I’ve recently started dating who are still seeing their exes are just simply fucking. But I would be naive to even entertain that idea as a reality.
Most people that stay in consistent contact with their exes post-breakup are still in very loving and romantic relationships with them–and it often means they don’t have the emotional capacity for someone new.
A friend of mine who was in a relationship with the same guy for years knew that no matter who else he dated throughout that time while they were on breaks, she would always be the main priority—the one he should cut other women out for. Being the old definition of single, I have often been the woman a guy lets go of so he can return to monogamously dating his ex.
It’s hard to find a guy that’s not still dating an old romantic partner, fucking a woman that he co-parents with, or who is non-monogamous and actually single (i.e. no long-term romantic and/or sexual partners at the moment).
And in my mid-twenties, I am all too aware that none of us are blank states but instead carry collages of complicated sexual and romantic histories that often entangle with anything new that we might be looking to begin.
Forgoing the familiarity and comfort of an old partner is to prioritize the possibility of someone better—to optimistically believe that even in cultural times of unrest and uncertainty, there are new opportunities to love and be loved in healthier and more satisfying ways.
I want that bravery for all of us. I want it to seep into our personal and collective movements around radical Black love like honey in chamomile tea, like spring water in a house plant’s soil.
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Kristen Jeré is a budding herbalist, mentee doula, and sexuality, identity, and pop culture writer based in Chicago.