By Kate J. Squires
Contrary to what all the internet dating sites would have you believe, the majority of Aussies do not meet their partners online (sorry not sorry, Tinder.) Most of us still meet our partners the old-fashioned way: because we couldn’t avoid them. Friends of friends, the co-worker down the hall, the study-group buddy we keep getting paired with—there are people in our lives who are thrust into our circles, and sometimes we fall in love with them.
And the tighter the circle, the greater the chance we’ll end up falling into the arms of the other party. For example, when I used to work on board a cruise ship, I couldn’t believe how many pairings there were—it was quite an incestuous little family, with couples hooking up, breaking up and reforming every five minutes. People bounced merrily from bed to bed, but when everyone was stuck on a floating party boat 24-7, it wasn’t that surprising. The romantic highs and lows were so extreme, I ended up using the experience as inspiration for my book Heat Wave.
Taking this concept even further, think about jailhouse romances and the potential to fall for someone you never would have looked twice at because you’re incarcerated in the same building together—OiTNB, I’m looking at you. Even male sea lions (and don’t ask me how I know this) will actually form sexual relationships with other males when they are housed in a male-only environment.
In romance, this kind of love is called ‘forced proximity’. It’s the couple trapped in an elevator, the cop partners constantly on stakeouts together, the single billionaire dad forced to deal with his son’s perky nanny. There’s something magical about watching couples discover a love they never expected, because the close quarters bring emotions to the surface much faster.
Nowhere is this more evident than on reality TV. I adore The Bachelorette (but I can’t stand The Bachelor, go figure) because watching the intelligent and gorgeous men FALL TO PIECES over a woman they’ve just met is wildly entertaining. Like, they’ve literally been in the house for five minutes, and already they’re declaring on camera, ‘She’s the one! I just know it! I should propose right now!’
If you’re anything like me, you watch shows like The Bachelorette feeling slightly superior, smirking with your friends: ‘Oh god, no one falls in love that fast!’ But remember that each date between contestants is normally around eight hours long—so while we might only see five minutes of that as awkward conversation on an elegantly decorated love-seat with so many candles you wonder absently if there might be a fire-code violation happening, they’ve got more time than an ordinary date to connect.
And even sexy couch-time itself is a sort of forced proximity. Can you imagine a director barking orders at you from off camera: ‘Hey guys, great kiss! Can we do that again, but with twenty percent more tongue?’ As a couple, you’d have to laugh your way through moments like these and bond over them.
Contestants are forced to spend time together, forced to speak, share meals, even give sensual mud baths, so is it any wonder that they fall in love hard and fast? Everything about the situation heightens feelings, and with no real-world problems to worry about, the couple in question is free to let their love run rampant, like a weed or that nasty yeast infection you can’t seem to shake…
So, indulge in forced proximity! Whether trapped on a cyclonic island or bound together in a marriage of convenience, accepting a rose or stuck on a cruise ship, there’s so much to love about this sub-genre. And if forced proximity works half as well in real life as it does in fiction, I need to superglue myself to Alexander Skarsgard, pronto.
[Editor’s note: Kate J. Squires has already received a thank-you note for the page of Alexander Skarsgard images she supplied with this blog post.]
It may not be the love boat, but this cruise is definitely setting sail for sex, adventure and love.