A woman called up the life and relationships program I like to listen to on satellite talk radio. The caller asked the therapist, Dr. Berman, what to do about the ambivalence she was feeling toward online dating. She described anxiety not only about the amount of mail she was getting from suitors interested in her online profile, but also from the content of many of the messages. Overwhelmed and mad at herself because she wasn’t enjoying the process, she worried that if not heading down the online dating path that there were limited options if she wanted to find a life partner.
Dr. Berman has famously said that she had to go on “110 dates” to find her husband. It’s an approximation, but one that is close to the actual number. She encourages callers to keep trying and if someone is not a fit, to “put them back on the shelf” and proceed to the next one.
As I watch my female friends fumble along, grasping at a candidate here and another there, I feel their pain, but cheer them on nonetheless. I admire their stamina and ability to wade through countless self-captured camera phone images of men’s torsos in the bathroom mirror. My girls go on good dates and bad dates – rejecting some and being rejected by others – yet still they trudge on.
We live in a world where much of our romantic interaction begins online and if not originated there, it is fostered there – in words, pictures, Wall posts, and 140 character proclamations. My honey and I aren’t much for online displays of affection beyond the occasional picture posting of a trip or event. However, I stare agog at my screen (my form of online rubbernecking in the comfort of my home) at the posts I see from my friends and acquaintances.
When did the words that were once quietly shared between a couple behind closed doors become okay to exchange in public, for all their friends and relatives to see?
I don’t want to be a Luddite, clinging to outdated way of managing the world. But, do any of us really need to see the “I love you schmoopie!” exchanges shared between a newly married friend and her husband? Send it in a text, girlie! Write it in a card and leave it on his pillow. Hire a pilot to emblazon the sky with airplane smoke puffs spelling out your devotion. But, please, stop plastering my News Feed with it!
With regard to the woman caller on the radio program yesterday. I think she wanted to travel back in time to place in the past where men picked up dropped hankies then asked if they could call on you. Or, made eyes you at the local coffee shop and after a few shy glances, ambled over to get your phone number and actually call you. You know – with their voice and you responding in real time, not via characters and cute comebacks. Who can blame her?
Though my memory of it is full of cobwebs, I can remember a time when things weren’t digital. It wasn’t email/text/IM – it was personal, the pace slower. Perhaps there will one day be a courtship renaissance and people of certain volition will form a group and reclaim practices of the past. Hey, it could happen! If Steampunk can exist in this world, then I can cross my fingers and hope for this. Anyone? Anyone?
I hope the caller continues on, but doesn’t forget to keep one eye out for the real-time men around her. Two of my friends that had been pursuing online dating in the past six months are now dating men they met offline. One through a family friend and the other at a pre-function wedding event. See, it can happen.
As always, thanks for reading.