Jenny Block talks about dieting … on FOMO



Everyone is always talking about dieting. But the one kind of diet I never hear people talking about going on is a media diet. Just like we can overeat when it comes to food, we can also overindulge when it comes to images of what the world supposedly looks like. And I do mean supposedly. Because from reality TV to Facebook to the latest movie romcom or sitcom, not only is none of it real, it’s not even close.

It can be easy to get FOMO these days (fear of missing out), to compare ourselves — and especially our relationships — to all of the media to which we are constantly exposed. The thing is, I believe that many (if not most) of us know deep down that it isn’t real. But somehow that knowledge doesn’t help us … at all. Despite knowing how fake it is, we still long for it.

We come by that longing honestly, to be sure. It starts when we are very, very young. Our existence is idealized. The apples of our parents’ eyes. Destined for greatness. Poised to find true love. We have little or no sense of the reality of our parents’ relationship. All we know is Disney and its princesses. Barbie and her Dream House. Storybooks and their happily-ever-afters.

And so it goes.

We read more magazines. Gobble up more books. Get lost in movies and TV. Even in the most tragic of movies, there are the truest of loves — the magical connections, the partners who will go to any lengths. And therein lies the problem. The media defines the perfect relationship with no basis in reality. We are told those movies and books are just for fun, just an escape. Still, somehow we believe.

It’s not just relationships; it’s sex, too. The perfect “first time,” the almost-exclusively-straight sex in pop culture, the instant orgasms. All of it leaves us wondering, What’s wrong with me? And that’s the thing — nothing is wrong with you… except for your diet.

If we are constantly taking in unrealistic models of the way love and sex will work, there is very little that can realign our thinking. But if we stop that constant influx of fake love and fake sex and fake relationships, well, then we have the chance for our brains to do their own thinking, their own research, and to come to their own understanding about not only what love and relationships do look like, but also what they can look like. That is, the quiet can help us to come to know what it is we really want from a partner.

You don’t have to want to be by your partner every second. You don’t have to want time apart. You don’t have to enjoy the same hobbies or more separate interests than similar ones. You don’t have to love all the same people. You don’t have to have separate stables of friends. You don’t have to do anything. Not really.

I mean, love and respect and trust and communicate. I personally think those are must haves and must-dos. But how and where you choose to live and work and play and with whom is actually 100 percent up to you and the person (people) with whom you are involved.

Don’t believe me? Give in a try. Don’t watch any TV or movies that touch on relationships. I realize that leaves you very little to consume. But so what? Go for a walk. Go outside and paint. Play with your dog. Finally learn to speak Spanish. Call your mom. Put down the magazines and books that are should-ing all over you about what love and sex and dating and relationships “should” look like.

Replace media with reality. Spend time with other couples you enjoy and admire. Speak openly and honestly with friends and family about how they make their relationships work and share your experiences as well. Stop worrying about how it will look if people know everything isn’t perfect in your world. Trust me, it’s not perfect in theirs, either. When you start to judge yourself and your partner against the truth instead of against the fairy tale, you will likely be very pleasantly surprised about what you discover.

It’s all about perspective. I don’t think there’s anything worse for one’s happiness in a relationship than longing for something that doesn’t exist. Love is wonderful. It’s also messy and revealing and soul baring and challenging. Humans are complicated beings. When you combine them, it only stands to get more complicated.

My relationship is perfectly imperfect. We are two real people who bicker and get grumpy and mess up. We are also two real people who apologize and ask forgiveness and learn from our mistakes. I admit, we do watch our share of romantic movies and television and I have been known to get lost in the black hole of the internet. But I also remember to shut it all off and come back to center — the place where she and I live.

The place where mascara runs and tears fall and no one wakes up ready to go to the ball. I am grateful every day for someone who stands beside me no matter what and who knows that I’m no fairy tale princess. And I look forward every day to writing our own happily ever after … no prince or fairy godmother or glass slipper required.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.