Archive for July, 2006

the next wave of sites — free and more real-world-like

Thanks John G for this great story summarizing 13 newish sites. It seems like sitemeisters are figuring it out. Most are free, and everything in life should be free is my motto. And, unlike the lame compatibility quizzes on eharmony, match, true, et al., these new sites have gimmicks that make sense. Minglenow, MatchActivity, MatchNow try to match people by getting them out to stuff they like to do.
MatchActivity actually contacted me on the blog and asked me to plug them in exchange for a gift membership, but I opted not to whore myself for 8 bucks a month — even though I did think their site sounded like a good idea [this plug unsubsidized!]. You write down what you like to do and get matched by that. I only got one match when I gave them a test drive, though, a lovely 24-yr-old fellow with tix to Macbeth in the Park (It was “beach” not “theatre” that paired us, interestingly). I have no problem with a Shakespeare date with a guy young enough to be my kid, but I didn’t think it spoke well for MatchActivity that he was my ONLY match.
I also like the sites here that emphasize yentaing. Like going out to do stuff I enjoy, setting people up is something I already do, so these two approaches feel more organic than, “Hi stranger with whom I have nothing in common but singleness.”

OK, I have to leave the cool apt. and familiar computer now for some sweaty F2F socializing.

interwebs make married and single people even differenter

That’s not a conclusion explicitly drawn in this piece in the Times — which seems to be free so please don’t sue me, Sulzbergers — but it’s what leaps out at me. Married people are getting more of their intimacy needs met by talking to their spouses; and single people are staying connected more via the Internet.

They talk about going to the computer to help make life decisions, but it’s more than that. In the last few years, I’ve seen small-group e-mails announcing deaths, diagnoses, births, engagements, break-ups, jobs lost and gotten. This suits a certain type of single person. A type who maybe doesn’t want to process everything with one person. You’ve shared your news, and people can respond, at their own pace, or not. It’s not as intimate, there’s less of a demand, you have the control.

I’m not saying I know any single people like that, but my personal life was once described as “the diversification approach, like a mutual fund.”

Makes me wonder what’s the chicken and what the egg. Are e-mailing, online dating, blogging, MySpacing, IMing et al. making us more cut-off, solipsistic/self-sufficient or do the people who are already that way just like the Internet? Thoughts? Do you think the Internet has changed your relationships? How?
An aside on the researchers: I’m against patriarchal name-change customs in general, but if I’m Lynn Smith, studier of relationships, and I marry a guy called Lovin, I’m not sure I’m gonna hyphenate. It’s too tempting to get to say, “Howdy, I’m Dr. Lovin.”

i’m melting

Camp was pretty great. For five days I didn’t use or miss money, computers, stereo, TV, radio, any news, meat, alcohol, motorized transport, a phone. Yoga at 7 a.m., writing class every morning and afternoon except Wednesday, shows of some kind every night. My friend Anne describes the class beautifully and thoroughly here and I had a pretty similar experience.

My big internal struggle was also judgment v. acceptance — in this corner, a scowling, quippy New York critic, and over here in the hemp trunks, a hippie just begging to have that beatific smile smacked off her face. Walking around the manicured grounds of the Omega Institute, past the Ram Dass library with the chi machine, hearing the requests to “please refrain from wearing perfumes or essential oils as some guests are allergic,” and how dancing, singing, painting all kept being framed therapeutically as “healing,” the first day or two I kept flashing on the movie Safe and patted myself on the back for that clever connection.

At the gospel workshop sampler, I thought, “Look at these goofy white Unitarians in Birkenstocks throwing their heads back and their arms up like they’re Mavis Staples” and at the same time, “I want to sing Amazing Grace.” I went to a free-form dance movement class and thought, even as I was dying to jump around, “No wonder I usually only do this in dark clubs after a few drinks; this looks ridiculous.”

I argued back to myself; Self, I said, you WANT more creative self-expression, openness, gentleness, acceptance, vulnerability in the world and in you. So why was I stepping out of the experience I paid for to be a bitchy audience?

Lynda Barry attacked the critic-head all week. “Fuck cool people,” was one concise version of this; also, “Where did we get the idea that only famous people get to do what they want [in terms of dabbling in different arts]”?; and she constantly reminded us how much everybody likes to sing, dance, draw, make up stories — to play. And how all kids do it until they “learn” to leave all that to the professionals.

On Days One-Four, she had us write various things from childhood and then on the last day, we got to make up stories. On the third day, as I wrote some not-traumatic memory from being 11, I started crying in class and pretty much couldn’t stop all morning. At lunch, Anne and Marcia said what’s wrong, and I said, “I can feel my critical, judging self dissolving, and I’m afraid it may be what holds me together.” Marcia said “oh my god, you’re like the mountains in Switzerland that collapse when the glaciers melt.” Exactly.

Now I’m back in big, scary New York, and I don’t know how long I can stay slushy like this. But the week did feel [shudder] healing. I did sing Amazing Grace, I did dance in the middle of the day, I did write some tiny stories I liked enough to read out loud. I also went skinny-dipping in the lake with a cute guy after the wonderful concert by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, another artistic hero who turns out to be a big old all-accepting hippie. Jimmie Dale said several times that teaching songwriting at Omega is his favorite part of his musical life, and during the corny-but-beautiful student talent show last night, he did seem to love the efforts of his students as much as he did performing his songs. (Lynda Barry cried when we read stuff we wrote, more and more over the course of the week). Yesterday the old saw “to love others you have to love yourself” inverted in my mind to “loving/accepting others helps you love yourself.” Like I said, I hope I can hold on to some of this.
Thank you John for posting while I was gone. After six years of online dating off and on and researching and writing about it, I concluded that online dating stacks the internal fight in favor of the critic, that it didn’t help me be the person I want to be. Browsing the online human store seemed to make me and some other long-termers more closed and picky and judgmental and pessimistic. People miss something — trust-building, mostly — by not taking in-person risks, not doing uncomfortable things with other people. So it’s nice to be reminded by your posts that it ain’t necessarily so, that you can approach the cyber-potentials with plenty of hope and benefit of doubt. And even if she doesn’t become the second wife, she could become a friend with benefits-of-doubt.

tommy or dickie? flip for it.

Hi, JohnG here. Again. Even the Smothers Brothers and Flip Wilson had to step down from their summer replacement soapboxes at some point, and my time is nigh. Virginia returns anon, so allow me to bid you good morrow, and offer my thanks to you dear readers, rock-roofed and all, for your forbearance. Perhaps the following will soften the blow of my departure:

A substitute boy wrote the blog.
The readers? Completely agog.
While demanding attention, there’s something to mention:
His word count is that of a hog!

And news of Virginia’s triumphant return from writers’ camp precedes her:

Her publisher’s named Little, Brown;
Their imprint’s a thing of renown.
And to our Virginia, quoth they, “It was in ya:
Your book’s just the Talk of the Town!”

To my chagrin, I didn’t manage to get the audiovisual spectacular patched in to the blog this week (sorry V.) but please do stop, look and listen for it in weeks to come. For the time being, I’m headed back under my rock. It’s cool and damp there, perfect for writing limericks. 

there once was a website with verve…

Hi, JohnG here again, filling in for Virginia while she’s away polishing prose and the counselors’ apples at writers’ camp.

In addition to being an online dater, I’m a single father of two boys, 9 and 12. I try to keep the machinations of my social life to myself, but the last time I mentioned going on a date to them, the older boy tossed a very cool “You meet her online?” over his shoulder at me. Just the occasion for one of our father-son limerick writing sprees in a boldly paternal effort to avoid the subject, I thought. And so eminently bloggable, too!

By way of ridiculous rationalization, please consider the following: Slightly down the list from 1066, 1776, and 666 (the Year of Wealth and Taste, as our rock-roofed readers certainly know), one of the greatest dates in history was that of “The Owl and the Pussycat” chaperoned by Edward Lear, whose life seems to have been an incorrigible limerick-writing spree. Nonsense, you say? Ladies, I ask you, how many of your suitors arrive in a pea-green boat, intent upon carrying you off on a sea-faring adventure, all the while serenading you? How many were born with a runcible spoon in their mouths? And Owl was hot, I tell you–who wouldn’t be, wearing a down jacket in this weather? Perhaps the heat explains the febrile attempts at humor below.

First, a couple of trifles pandering, once again, to the women of OLD:

A boy saw a girl surfing Nerve,
Her body, he found, it did curve.
Had he looked at her face, he’d have known she’s an ace
At sussing out boys labeled “Perv.”

There once was a girl on a date
With a sad little boy she did hate.
For sex do I pine, but I’m out of my mind
Oh! He is a death worse than fate.

And here’s one for Virginia:

“Virginia,” he said, “let us meet;
Would you like a massage of your feet?”
“Your hands they are fine, the idea’s divine,
I love you, I love you, let’s meet!”

Before “dating” takes on a whole new meaning for me when my ex-wife has me locked away (for a year and a day) for corrupting the morals of her sons, we’ll churn out a few more for you, so stay tuned. Or maybe you’re ready to join her in an amicus brief at this point. Comments will not be construed as legal advice, and are welcome.

jg

an homage to O.L.D. women: you’re ready for your close-ups

I’m sure we all wish Virginia the very best of luck with her counselor hunting. She’s got (at least) one thing on her side: they’re in season. But she stuck you with me, so I thought I’d better pander to her audience right away in case anyone still had a bad taste in their mouth from my “Terre Haute Cuisine” feuilleton that Virginia had the temerity to post a few weeks back. And for the rock-roofed readers among us, (for whom the pandering was never intended anyway) “O.L.D.” in the title abbreviates “online dating.”

Thus, for my part, it’s the season to offer up an appreciation of the rather amazing display of the human spirit I’ve found in the world of online dating, although not necessarily on the dates themselves. Alone in my room one dark and rainy night a few weeks ago, I was pining away for Heidi, who had granted me most-favored nation status in a blog comment on the “Terre Haute” piece. Between cries of “Wo bist du, liebchen?” I turned to a machine and asked it to find me a person it thought I would like. You may have done this kind of thing yourself, although probably without the screaming in German part.

The machine did what it had done dozens of times before, presenting me with a personalized list of female candidates, as per my request. Even after exercising all the Prufrockian powers of discernment I could muster, there were hundreds, not tens, not scores, but literally hundreds of women I considered prima fascia candidates for a first date. I started scrolling down that very long list and… (Cue the Monkees) …And then I saw her face… but this was an out-of-the-box face, transcending the machine.

If this was a date, it was with a Destiny that had chosen to take on the form of a woman–Everywoman. As I kept scrolling and clicking and back buttoning, with each profile presenting someone more suitable, more compatible, more edible than the next, it became clear to me and my inner Mr. Jones that something was happening and we didn’t know what it was. So we did the only thing we knew to do in that, or some might argue, any, situation: we tried to get a date with the girl standing next to us. But in this case she turned out to be our deus ex machina, inspiring a haughty rant or two. The pitch went a little something like this:

(Subject:) You’re ready for…

…your close up. I like the way the attitude of your photo goes with what you write in the profile. The way your right eye is somewhat obscured by the sweep of your hair; that, and the way the top of your upper lip peering over the bottom of the frame give me the feeling that you’re issuing a challenge. This is borne out by your iteration of some of life’s most vexing questions, numero uno for you seeming to be “Are You Still Trying and Hoping?” That’s a big one. Then there’s the rest of the universe which you deftly lasso with “Succumbing to Passion and Changing Into Jeans Afterwards.” Ahhh, just asking, but does that one play a role in what you’re Still Trying and Hoping For?

In the time since I started trying in earnest to meet someone via on-line “dating” which amounts to about six weeks and 4 dates now, I have written, read, and discussed The Things That Matter Most with greater frequency, depth, breadth and quality, than I have since I was in graduate school (in Philosophy, for goodness sakes), and I am just having a wonderful time. First of all, I am finally using my degree! My parents call me every day to tell me just how… No, they don’t, actually, but that’s about the only thing I can see that’s sad about the situation. It’s a real learning experience (read humbling) to be in contact with so many manifestly brilliant and beautiful women (could we please make that the new “BBW”?), present company included, of course. I mean, where on earth could a fella meet up with this many of “the smart girls in the class” which is exactly the phrase I used in my profile to describe who I’m looking for. And on what other occasion will these Big Questions be the ones that are so undeniably and obviously what really and truly matters? It is amazing to search through the profiles of thoughtful, passionate people, and feel the profundity of a human and humanistic connection. And get a date at the same time. [JG Note: Another man-friendly aspect of O.L.D.]

Dating? What? Are we kidding ourselves? This is the Big Kahuna here. So, to answer directly the questions you pose even more directly: I do keep trying to do the things I know to be important in the broadest sense, the ones that are so deftly scattered throughout your profile–being good friends, not giving up too easily, getting lucky in Branch Rickey’s sense of the word (“Luck is the residue of design”), and getting lucky in love, too.

The only way for you to know whether I walk this talk, or frankly, for me to know that about you, is for us to meet, talk, and, of course, walk together. For now, I suggest letting your fingers do the walking on your keyboard, and see how my profile sits with you. While you’re there, please know that I would very much like to meet you.

Warm regards,

John

It didn’t work out with the woman I was responding to above, but live in hope that Heidi will see that my heart is true, and reveal herself to me–at least her email address–because the luck residue is really beginning to building up around here.

summer camp, higher tech

I’m leaving today for five days here. I’ve never been to a writers’ colony or anything like that and I never went to camp as a kid, so I’m all excited. Going up with two friends, and their bras are so going in the freezer the second they fall asleep!

John G. aka MC Terre Haute Cuisine will be manning the ones and zeroes while I’m gone. He does “interactive media” for a living. So in my absence, the blog should become a wondrous virtual reality sound-and-vision theme park. MC THC could well build androids for readers to go on dates with while I’m off the grid, getting poison ivy playing capture the flag and hopefully making out with a cute counselor.

See you next weekend.

who’s doing this measuring?

Went on craigslist this morning and found an oddly similar pair of numerical claims: this and this

don’t you kind of want to pit these two against each other in “intelligence” and “looks,” the only two arenas where they both claim statistical superiority? A Mr. Craigslist pageant-with-essay-questions maybe.

I have to dock smartness points from the one who also claims the top percentile in “height” and “penile girth” — because I’m picturing someone scaled like this

two lost souls googling in a fishbowl

I’ll let “Stevie” tell his version first of his lunch date with guess-who, brilliantly disguised with the pseudonym “Ginny.”

To be fair, a friend said the same thing he did, that his article wasn’t that bad. After I copied and sent her my e-mail exchange with him, she in fact commanded me to “call him back right now and tell him your sense of humor temporarily deserted you.”

What freaked me out about his men’s mag article, about finding a wife, was the lede about a friend of his who cooked up a scheme to rent an office for a fake Broadway show and advertise for actress/singer/dancers to come audition. The babes, Stevie’s friend reasoned, were bound to sleep with them — the “producers” — to get a part before they caught on to the fraud. In the article, Stevie’s response to the idea was something like, “well, this doesn’t seem totally cool, but OK.” (This represented the rock bottom from which he went on his wife search.)

So after our lunch I wrote him that his friend and the scheme seemed sociopathic, not cute. And that was that — I thought. A year or so later I stumbled across his article on match.com’s magazine, which was strange to read, but maybe a good moccasin-walking exercise as I’ve certainly written about an encounter or 22 of my own.

But then the kicker — some months after that, he wrote me on nerve.com for a date! I wrote back, “Dude, not only have we already gone out, but you wrote about it and called me ‘smarmy, self-righteous, predatory, and sexist!'” He didn’t write back.

I know from constructing my smarmy, etc. columns, articles, chapters that we all can make our stories mean whatever they want, but to use our thoroughly over-documented lunch date to illustrate the evils of googling seems kind of a stretch. Googling ain’t snooping, it’s interest. Especially if the person writes or paints or makes music or something else you can check out on the Web.
I have a guy friend, though, who says his dates have been creeped out when he reveals he’s googled them. I’d love to hear what normal, non-exhibitionist, non-self-promoting-writer daters think about googling/being googled.

Whoa! postscript, I just heard on the radio that Syd Barrett died, which I had no idea when I wrote my headline! Spooky!

disappointed

in A Scanner Darkly. THe story feels really dated — more The Man has A Plan to hook The People on drugs than the surveillance state dystopia I was hoping for (apparently Dick wrote the book in 1977 while mourning his drug casualty friends). And the plot doesn’t make enough sense to snap like Terminator or 12 Monkeys or the Matrix — it’s not even sci-fi profound.

Even animated, Keanu and Winona aren’t. Paint over them and you realize how much they generally coast on their flesh-cuteness.

BUT Robert Downey Jr. jazzed every scene he was in like rotoscoped Red Bull. His betterness-than-everything-else reminded me of how Cate Blanchett boosted The Aviator.

Love those two, yet it’s hard to imagine them together, isn’t it? Possible caffeine overdose.

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