One of my dearest friends suggested I start a blog. I had been considering it for some time, but given my daytime responsibilities as a highly compensated political analyst, I didn't want it getting around that I was a high-priced call girl by night. I'm kidding. Really. I'm a kidder.
The truth of the matter is that I do
prefer to keep my private life separate from my work life. So a certain level of anonymity was required before I could feel comfortable about posting a blog. And as I told another friend of mine, what's a blog from me going to look like?
"Day 1: Life sucks. Day 2: Life really
sucks. Day 3: My friends are all being sucky to each other."
My close friends keep up with me via a private intranet maintained by Joe and Jason. And since I really wanted to make that site as collaborative as possible (even though my name is still on it), I was loathe to throw a blog on to it too. But there's a certain amount of surrealism going on my life now that begs sharing.
My thing nowadays is Internet dating. I have a personal ad posted on a fairly well-known service. I'm luckier than some in that I'm photogenic. Not so much that my photos don't look like me (well, I
think they look like me - I suppose I should try polling my dates sometime), but with decent hair, makeup, clothing, and posing, I clean up pretty well. I even look younger than my advanced age of 37 years, but not in a childish or unsophisticated way. I'm routinely told that the "challenging" look I have in my eye in the photo is the most attractive thing about it. I tend to get a lot of responses from guys in NYC because, 1) I live in Philly, which is only a little over an hour's train ride away, and 2) guys from NYC seem to really dig that "challenging" look in
my eye. So that's cool. Gives me a reason to get to NYC more.
Internet dating has been useful for me in a number of ways. I moved to Philly without knowing anyone beyond my workplace. My closest friend at the time was in D.C. Combine a long work commute, not living in Center City, and not being a tremendous scenester, there was no way I was going to regularly meet men or have dates without some sort of support system. The personal ad both cut down on my lag time in meeting men as well as providing a built-in screening system.
The downside is that it tends to require a bit of care and feeding, which - depending on the state of my social life - can be either addictive or annoying. To draw in new viewers, I have to regularly update my ad. Not in a major way, but just enough that the system sorts my ad at the top of a search list. And then I have to screen respondents and decide if it's worth my time or not. And if I'm interested, I have to reply to their response and begin a dialogue. It doesn't feel much less exhausting than working through the whole process face-to-face, it's just that my rate of return has increased.
This is first time in my life that I've actively dated. I've had two 6-year relationships previously, so my modus operandi has largely been fall in "love" (actually, more like an intense infatuation/lust scenario) and then spend six years making it work. I've been able to remain good friends with Love of My Life #1. Love of My Life #2 didn't shake out as well.
Actually dating - as opposed to mating - has helped me face a few things about myself. First, I've had to get a grip on my romantic expectations. I think many people dream that they're going to screen people via a personal ad until they find the "Love of Their Life" and all the courtship pieces will fall into place at lightspeed. This never happens. Never.
So forget that right away. I've found myself simply being satisfied if I can get out of the house on a weekly basis, maybe have a nice meal and a conversation, and not have anything icky happen. So far, I've been successful.
Secondly, receiving regular attention from unknown men (in a safe environment) has helped me truly believe that I'm an awesome woman. That I am
attractive, that I am
intelligent, that I am
desirable. Yes, it's kind of pathetic that validation from strangers seems more believable than validation from my friends or from within myself. But as a former roommate of mine has been known to say "It's kinda like your Momma calling you 'pretty.' You expect it from her, so you don't see it as an objective opinion."
And finally, Internet dating has helped me become more comfortable with being alone, with being my own best company. The paradox of meeting a variety of people on a regular basis is that I understand myself better, I understand the dynamics between people better, and I better realize that being alone is not such the albatross that we all think of it as being. And if the date I'm on isn't working out or really "clicking," all I have to do is just hang around and
something else will come along shortly enough.
The condensed history of my Internet dating life is that I've had about 4 or 5 first dates or meetings. In one circumstance, I dated one of my respondents (a guy from Philly) a total of 6 times (with one highly abortive attempt at sex) when he stopped contacting me. As in no calls, no email, nothing. The sexual fiasco and the NYC attack on 09/11/01 occurred at roughly the same time. In fact, the chronology went like this:
09/09/01: Attend Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
with D-. Drive him him to his house. Get into tonsil hockey match in car. Relocate to his house. Basically wrestle for an hour, without satisfaction, then pass out for a couple of hours before staggering to work.
09/10/01: Struggle to stay awake at work. Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of my mother, and I barely speak all day long.
09/11/01: I telecommute from home, because I'm waiting for a telephone repairman to show up. I'm watching the "Today Show" when they begin showing the footage from the WTC. I watch in absolute horror with the rest of the nation. When they show the second jetliner hitting the towers, I immediately know it's terrorism. What else could it be? As news reports flood in on TV and the radio, I begin emailing and instant messaging all my friends. Is everyone OK? Will people be leaving work and returning home? Are the schools being let out? A friend in D.C. tells me that I'll forever be etched in her mind as the person who first told her about 09/11/01 on AIM. Ahh, infamy. I call my Dad, who basically only watches The Weather Channel, when he watches TV at all. Of course, he doesn't watch the morning programs. I'm talking so fast he has me repeat what I'm saying three times. After I relay the news, I tell him that I'd tried to call him the day before, but no one was home. He knows why I'd tried calling the day before. As his voice chokes, he tells me that yesterday was his girlfriend's birthday. I'm not sure I ever knew that. I see his girlfriend, E-, as my stepmother. To have these two dates now linked must be painful for my Dad. I tell him I love him and hang up, returning to the news feeds for the rest of the day.
After that, no contact from D- unless I initiated it. Our last date was for a concert in Philly, because I'd already bought the tickets two weeks before and didn't have anyone else to take. He paid for them, as well as paying for the parking and food. If nothing else, he definately wasn't a mooch. But after having to initiate email and phone calls to basically guilt-trip him to responding was getting demeaning, and who the hell needs that?
But beyond that, no regular dates, no boyfriend. The status quo of singlehood is maintained.