Why Are We So Obsessed With Being “Spontaneous”?

Spontaneous Obsession Man Repeller

Having been in the dating game for a few years, I have plenty of gripes about our swipe-saturated world: People who ask to “hang out,” i.e. spend a happy hour trying to decipher whether you’re actually on a date or not. People who don’t bother to fill out their bios on Bumble and leave you clutching at the straws of their sparse profile for a conversation starter. And of course, anyone whose bio begs you to add them on Snapchat because they’re just “not on here that much.”

But there’s one dating app cliche that truly leaves me cold: The perennial quest for the spontaneous girl. The spontaneous girl, as far as I can figure, is the type to drop everything and hop in a car for a road trip at a minute’s notice. She will match with you and respond to your inaugural “are you free right now?” message with both enthusiasm and a quirky date suggestion. Maybe she’d suggest heading to the airport and hopping on the next flight.

Spontaneous Obsession Man Repeller

I’m just looking for someone spontaneous, profile after profile seems to bleat. We’ll get along if you’re a spontaneous person who loves an adventure.

Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with spontaneity as a rule. Power to all the spontaneous women. I admire you. I respect you. I simply don’t want to be you. While you’re accepting invites at a moment’s notice I’ll be swiping left and going back to organizing my Google calendar for the next six months instead.

As a teenager, I remember a romantic interest suggesting that we drive to the nearest movie theater and see the first show that was on. Out of a fear of being considered boring, I agreed. The irony of us sitting through Yes Man (a comedy wherein Jim Carrey agrees to say yes to every opportunity leading to wild adventures, a new career, and even love) was not lost on me. Since then, numerous articles urging me to be more spontaneous and “take the leap” have infiltrated my consciousness, making me feel just as guilty today as I did sinking into my cinema seat all those years ago. I didn’t even like Jim Carrey, and would have much rather browsed online listings to find something we actually wanted to watch.

We’re a culture that fetishizes spontaneity, rendering it the epitome of fun. We assume it’s the impulsive friends and partners that will make for an exciting life. We imagine that the spontaneous among us are probably out on an impromptu karaoke and cocktail night right now, their arms thrown around each other with the giddy delight of their last-minute plans. But what if, like me, a workmate asking if you fancy grabbing a quick drink on your way out of the office fills you with dread? What if being whisked away on a surprise weekend away is your idea of hell?

Spontaneous Obsession Man Repeller

As someone who has long struggled with anxiety, routine and forward-planning is the glue that often holds my sometimes fragile mental health together. Sure, I’ll happily take trips to new and exciting locations, and I love to push myself outside of my comfort zone. But you can bet that I’ll have researched that backpacking trip to Japan until I’m blue in the face and can recite the best ramen recommendations on Tripadvisor as readily as the alphabet.

For me, routine is security. It’s knowing that no matter how horrible my Monday might be, I will always have the familiarity of a 7 p.m. yoga class to calm my mind. It’s knowing that a few days notice before a first date will mean that I can have my go-to confidence-boosting outfit ready to go. It’s tucking into the same soup at the same time at my desk every day so that when my mind is otherwise occupied, I don’t need to add wondering how I’ll get a nutritious lunch to my list of worries. It’s a semblance of order in this otherwise chaotic world.

But even beyond this, I just happen to like a good plan. The idea of waking up without a clue what the day will hold brings me very little bliss. Instead, I’ll have already carved up my empty Saturday with a color-coordinated agenda. I’ll have arranged the activities that the day will hold for maximum efficiency. Sure, I might sound like a bit of a bore, but there’s little I find more satisfying than settling in for the night and smugly ticking that spring clean I’ve scheduled off my to-do list.

Being the purveyor of a good plan brings with it the delectable delight of being able to look forward to things. There’s something tantalizingly pleasing about peeking at your diary and seeing all the treats you have lined up. In an age when our default state is to be just so busy—when organizing brunch takes a Doodle poll, a determination of steel, and an entire afternoon of trying to calculate exactly who can make next Sunday—being the person who pipes up in the group chat to suggest penciling in all of our plans for the next three months is a surprisingly satisfying role to play.

Spontaneous Obsession Man Repeller

Us spontaneity-hating sapiens have had a rough ride. We’ve been branded boring and kicked to the bottom of the “people you’d like to grab a drink with” pile. We may not be raking in the right swipes, but I want to shout-out the routine-loving underdogs. Those of us who like nothing more than knowing where we’re going out for dinner a week in advance so that we can pore over the menu in anticipation (my favorite part of eating out). Those of us who will make a schedule and stick to it (you’ll never catch me canceling a plan). Those of us who will have researched an upcoming day out and will be able to tell you exactly the best time to arrive to avoid queues and traffic (you’ll thank me for dragging you out of bed at 6 a.m. later).

You can keep your go-with-the-flow long weekends and your proclamations that you’ll just “see where the night takes you.” I admire you, but I no longer have the energy to feel bad for not being you. I’ve got a to-do list to be getting on with.

Graphics by Madeline Montoya

Katie Bishop

Katie Bishop is a book editor and freelance writer based in Oxford, UK. She writes on topics including feminism, mental health, the social impact of technology, and the business of being a millennial. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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