Can you imagine landing a dream date with Michael "Bae" Jordan?
He's dressed in his finest Ferragamo suit. He takes you out to an expensive dinner, complete with all of the chivalrous moves like holding the door and pulling out your chair. And to top it off, the shine from his smile is blinding you just enough to occasionally block the view of his dimples, which are literally melting your draws off from underneath your dress. It's perfect. You've landed Hollywood's hottest man candy of the moment.
But, when you go to engage in discussion, you discover he's yellow Starburst material.
He thinks that The Weeknd's latest album was garbage, he's never seen The Sixth Sense, and he thinks astrology is a waste of time. While you're passionately explaining cusps and cardinal signs, you can see his eyes glazing over and it's then that you realize:
You have no chemistry.
Chemistry although often hard to define, is something we all know. It's that "click" you feel with someone, whether the relationship is romantic or platonic, that affirms that they're your kind of person. It's a special connection with someone whose mind is equally blown after learning useless trivia like the eye and the vagina are the only self-cleaning organs. And the crazy part about chemistry is that there isn't much else that can make up for it.
All of the six-pack abs, bottom lip-licking in the world doesn't make it effortless to enjoy someone's company.
And the older I get, the more I realize that enjoying someone's company shouldn't require a huge amount of effort. If you're forcing smiles and easily distracted by Instagram, it might be a sign that your energy isn't a good mix.
So y'all know I love me some Married At First Sight, the Lifetime Show where relationship experts match two strangers who based on their lifestyles, interests, and personalities should be a match made in reality TV heaven. The most recent season made me think about chemistry and how much it's played a part in the relationships I've formed. Even with all of the pieces in place, like a shared love of Thai food, insatiable wanderlust, or a slightly unhealthy worship of any music involving Lil' Wayne, what I've learned from MAFS is that what you share in common interests can't make up for what you lack in chemistry.
Molly and Jonathan were one couple featured on the show who, although they had a lot in common, struggled to find chemistry and ultimately decided to go their separate ways. The couple was matched based on qualities and interests they had in common, but decidedly never consummated the marriage and seemed to go from cocktails and light conversation to slut-shaming in a matter of minutes. During the last few episodes, Jon shared that he was just as confused as everyone else why something that seemed to be a perfect match never quite took off:
"I don't know [why it didn't work]. It just didn't work for her at any point, so don't ask me. I was just there."
"Molly and I get along. We can sit in a room, we can go have drinks, we can get along. We are the same person, and so that's where everyone is confused and where Cal is confused. And I'm sitting there like, 'This has been my frustration the whole time.' When she goes, 'I don't like you,' but [I'm thinking], 'I am you!'"
One thing that stands out to me is that being in someone's company isn't the same thing as enjoying their company.
You ever been in a situation where you realize you aren't experiencing something with someone as much as you're just occupying the same space? I recently looked back at a friendship and realized although I had someone I thought was a BFF because we did everything together, we weren't really making any memories together. I thought about the number of times I'd be at a concert singing until my lungs were sore while she scrolled through her phone the entire time. I recalled the jokes I had to explain because she had no context for them. After a while, it became clear to me that the amount of time I spent actually enjoying the friendship didn't nearly measure up to the amount of time I forced myself to make it work.
But what does chemistry look like? In one word: Effortless.
It's not as much about having something in common with someone as it is your ability to balance them. I've dated men who had that Drake charisma going on, and whose looks would momentarily distract from the fact that we didn't have a damn thing to talk about. But in the end, I ended up marrying the guy I fell in love with on a pull out sofa in the living room cracking up over the "Safety Training" episode of The Office. The guy who knows to belt out "North Carolinaaaa!" when I tell my toddler to stop acting like Petey Pablo while she swings her t-shirt over her head. He gets my random references. He knows exactly who I'm throwing shade at when I give him the side eye after we pull up to a light and a dozen people cross. (It's the dude strolling casually like he's too cool to catch some of this windshield when the light turns green).
Most importantly, it's a level of understanding and likeability that doesn't require a whole lot of explanation.
But what if you're like Molly and Jonathan with more bars than a Verizon commercial but somehow still unable to make a connection? Can chemistry be created? Furthermore, do you really need to instantly "click" with someone to go on to have a great relationship?
When it comes to romantic relationships, it depends on your priorities and how hard you want to work for it.
I've had relationships where the attraction wasn't instant, and while they weren't a complete waste, I didn't like the feeling of convincing myself that I should be into a certain person. Chemistry didn't eliminate problems or annoyances in my relationships, but it did make them a hell of a lot easier to get through. It's also worth saying that there are different types of chemistry, you can click with someone's personality although you may not have initially been attracted to them. In addition, you may find yourself sitting across the dinner table from "King Killmonger" himself and feel the mutual butterflies from the waist down.
But ultimately, if the only time you enjoy one another is when you're undressed, you might be limited to your choice of activities in the relationship, and I'm pretty sure shopping for throw pillows butt naked in Target is illegal. There's a reason why we're not all out here getting Nobel Prizes in science. Chemistry is hard, whether you're sitting in a classroom or a coffee shop. And while sparks don't exactly make or break relationships, what I have learned is that relationships are much more enjoyable when it doesn't feel like you're forcing any feelings.
And it's comforting to know that, dimples and all, Michael B. may not be for me if he can't appreciate the genius that is M. Night Shyamalan, but if Winston Duke wants to talk all things Unbreakable, I might have some time.