PS The Screen Snag
The following is excerpted from the forthcoming book Love in a Time of Chemtrails.
And then the Universe decreed: No Deals Shall be Sealed...LOL
Yes, it's worked virtual wonders in bringing so many of us separated by time and great, big sweeping swaths of planet "together." Yes, it's awesome for activists and artists and diminutive Malaysian women needing bone marrow matches. And yes, it's really, super sucky thin soup when it comes to romance.
There was August, the rebel poet who courted me with instant messages and wall-posted verse, after "meeting" by way of a mutual friend's comment thread. I uploaded the FB for iPhone app so I could sign on from bed, in the middle of the night, feigning coy and casual, while waiting for him to maybe, possibly instigate an instant message exchange -- totally disrupting my biorhythms, and gifting me a winter of sleep-deprived under eye circles, not that it mattered, because I'd never even met my imaginary FB boyfriend in person, and had no need to look presentable to keep my virtual, though sadly, primary relationship going.
It's great to keep abreast of my friends' meanderings -- to celebrate their victories with CAPS and exclamation points, to soothe their stumbles with gentle words vibrating sweetness and support, and to peruse photos of cats and kids and sunset vantage points, while avoiding my own unruly to-do list. Still, it's not quite the same as face time, which is becoming less and less necessary, as we so easily "catch up" while peeking through virtual windows - easy-to-navigate peepholes that offer glimpses into the lives we strategically curate for the world to witness.
"If we really wanted to write to these faraway people, or see them, we would," wrote author Zadie Smith of "social networking," and specifically, of Facebook.[i]
There are the boys I'm no longer dating, whom I opt to "hide," as their every photo, comment, and status update sends me into obsessive paroxysms of loopy mindfuckery. But, as we usually share upwards of anywhere from forty to a zillion "friends," I end up hiding more and more of my own tribe, as exes, former partners and lovers no-more show up in their photos, and comment on their updates. It's exhausting, playing so much defense to Facebook's myriad codependent pitfalls.
There are the ones who track me down because they read an article I wrote, or saw a drawing I scribbled, and are fairly certain I'm their happily every after, or their mentor, or their muse, or....or...or... And then there's my own yen for distraction, stalking and "information gathering" -- countless hours spent maniacally clicking through photo albums and videos posted by people I may or may not know - "friends" the website calls them, though I'm not sure what that word means anymore, what with more than 500 of them on my own Facebook page, and over a hundred Twitter "followers," to boot.
It's not just Facebook that's messing up our interpersonal everything, it's the whole gamut of our screen-based communiqué. I shared a single night of Umeboshi plums and canoodling with Jann, a shamanic astrologer I met at the Raw Spirit Festival in Sedona. We "dated" by way of Skype and strategic status update for the next six weeks until -- annoyed by all the IM interruptions, the text charges he was incurring and the pubes populating my pixilated pussy -- he got back together with his 3D girlfriend who waxed weekly, and lived only a block away.
According to University of San Francisco neuroscientist, Adam Gazzaley, this constant technological interactivity is "one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment,"[ii] and is, absolutely, changing the way our brains function.
Not so long ago, I was talking a friend through a bumpy relationship patch on my iPhone, while iChatting through a PowerPoint presentation with a colleague, and typing through the motions of IM sex with a long-distance snack on FB. No one was the wiser, though no one got anywhere near the best of me, or even much of me, and mere moments after this cluster-fuck of virtual activity, I couldn't remember what anyone said or typed or moaned, because in that instance, though it seemed I was juggling three people/conversations at once, I wasn't actually there for any of ‘em.
Twentieth-century multi-tasking bears but a tiny, passing resemblance to the vast and multi-tiered scope of its current iteration in this technological age through which we're racing, spreading our threadbare and fractured fragments of attention ever-thinner -- texting while driving, Ebay-ing while MapQuesting, Shazam-ing while snapping Hipstamatic moments of petal pink cherry blossoms in bloom, effectively recording so many seasons otherwise missed, to be then loaded onto our blog, our Twitter feed and our Facebook page, instantly. And, while it's easy for me to mock the mess we're making of our focus and our sacred attention, I want to believe it's somehow serving us, because it's happening; and maybe we don't really need to be so adept at the linear thinking that once enabled us to focus on tasks like reading and writing and brain surgery, and maybe adaptive thinking, what with its whimsical leaps from topic to topic, is really where it's at, because it's sharpening our intuition, which is a good thing, rendering reason and logic as unfashionable as landlines and eye contact, which is a -- uh, well -- a different thing, and maybe it's only my attachment to what I know and what I'm used to that has me believing the Internet blows, and is facilitating the demise of human intimacy at a breakneck pace.
There may very well be a method to the madness. Given the momentum of polyamory's popularity, closeted though it may for the moment be, what better way to hone our multiple lover/loving skills than to juggle a half dozen digital conversations at a time? Every way we slice it, the brain's being asked to master many tasks at once, and perhaps all this technology we're using to "relate" is brain-sculpting boot camp, prepping us for a different way of engaging each other and the world altogether.
Or, total extinction.
At this point, it could go either way.
Fueled by the furious frustration of not having bedded the Supermodel when I had the chance, I spent the summer crumpled on the couch, navigating the chronic agony of the sudden and inexplicable spinal collapse that kicked in on day twenty-two of my big, fat juice fast.  My world got very small, very fast, as I was -- for all intents and purposes -- paralyzed.
Facebook became my only social outlet.
Got opiates? read my status update.
A sympathetic comment stream ensued, gifting me momentary glimpses of compassion and sweetness, if not the narcotics for which I was angling. "Friends" sent recommendations for various healers, including half a dozen for a kick-ass Westside bodyworker at least two people described as "sexy."
And so it was that I took solace in the capable, sensual, tender-tipped hands of Jude, yet another stunning South African specimen, a half-lidded, bedroom-eyed yoga teacher with a penchant for quoting Hafiz.
Jude bit his lower lip and nodded attentively, while listening with wide-eyed interest to the disjointed clues I haphazardly wove together while struggling to make sense of this unexpected onslaught of crippling agony. I was too distracted by the tinny, high-pitched screams pouring forth from my spine to read anything into his attention, while I was relieved to have my own presence met, as only days before it had been marginalized as a deal-breaker. He responded tenderly in fluent, New Age speak, before laying capable, nurturing hands on my naked, aching body.
Jude checked in on me daily by way of Instant Message, emoticon and doting well-worded inquiry. Crooked and confused in the belly of yet another debilitating physiological nightmare, I was grateful for his attentiveness.
I dragged my crooked mess of a body into his apartment for another session, only to discover a shiny silver igloo where his massage table used to be.
"It's all warmed-up, and ready for you," he purred.
The igloo was actually an Infrared Sauna, which converted light to a magical healing frequency that would allegedly detoxify my compressed joints and seized-up muscles, while calming their whiny histrionics.
"Do I wear my clothes in there?" I asked.
"Definitely not," he said.
I thought it a bit strange that he stayed in the room as I used my one good arm to fumble free from my clothes, and stranger still that he was full-frontal ogling me throughout the process.
Are we going there? I wondered, crawling into the shiny cave.
Sweaty, and slightly confused, my mind was already looping sensual, sexual circles around Jude, when I heard the unmistakable strum of an acoustic guitar. He proceeded to serenade me with an impassioned rendition of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," while I baked naked in his living room.
I spent the next few weeks filling the spaces between instant messages and yellow winking smiley faces with vivid fantasies about our amazing future together, colored by Tantric sex, Non-Violent Communication and long, windy road trips to Esalen spent debating the merits of Integral Theory over Hermetic Philosophy.
On the slow, but steady, mend, I was inspired to start moving my achy-breaky body, and so I braved Jude's yoga class, at his behest, and as his guest. I waltzed into the Westside yoga studio dressed like an Eastside Ashtangi, in ten years holey tights -- black and threadbare, (over)stretching those last few threads of time-ravaged elastic to their outermost limits -- paired with an equally ancient wife beater. It didn't occur to me that my standard yoga gear would be anything less than appropriate; it turned out to be appalling. The class was a sea of well-coiffed, well-kept, lip-glossed women rocking color-coordinated, yoga-specific Lycra, accessorized with beads, scarves and leg warmers (yes, really). Turns out the West Side yoga scene was precisely that -- a scene, while the Eastside variety upon which I'd been reared was just our morning workout. We hadn't even started, and I already stood out like a sore, hang-nail messy thumb.
Rag-tag, ghetto-cripple that I was, Jude lavished me with attention by way of gentle adjustments and softly-whispered encouragement, spaced between lyrically-measured Rumi recitations, and the odd political rant.
I read volumes into his every inflection and adjustment, just as I did all his instant messages. Back home, entranced by my laptop and the infinite worlds to which it offered me access, I obsessed over the videos Jude posted on Facebook -- tight close-ups of his earnest, angular, doe-eyed face, masterfully mugging as he strummed his guitar and crooned slow, sultry Beatles and Buckley covers, and the occasional original composition.
Author Jaron Lanier warned of this "philosophical mistake...," the one I continued to make and master, "...the belief that computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships."[iii]These were the early days of Facebook, which quickly morphed from mild distraction to cataclysmic time-suck. What better way to dodge my deadlines and my thrice-daily physical therapy regimen than to scour Jude's photos, and sing along to his videos, over and over and over again? I was becoming a top-notch stalker, and I didn't even have to leave my apartment! Allegedly, I wasn't alone, as polls show that approximately three-quarters of US Facebookers use the site to drum up information on potential love interests. The number skyrockets to a whopping 94% for users aged 18-29.[iv] I took comfort in the statistics, which assured me I was normal.
The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal. --Deepak Chopra
As much time as I put into my "relationship" with Jude -- scouring his profile page, fantasizing about our future together, deconstructing the minutia of our every interaction -- virtual, physical, dreamtime, et al -- he'd yet to make any moves. What was he waiting for? I wondered. I assumed (read: knew) it was the pretense of professionalism that was stalling our onward frolicking.
"This hyperconnectivity gives us an illusion of socialisation [sic] and interaction, when really, we are more isolated than ever," wrote journalist Una Mulally. "Constant virtual communication -- as superficial as it is -- has allowed Facebook to become a comfort blanket for modern loneliness."[v]
Luckily, we had yoga to fill in the spaces between our screen-based exchanges.
Crouching over me in Savasana, Jude instructed the sweaty, supine class to exhale completely, inviting us to pause in the space between breaths.
"Wait for me..." he soothed to the room, as he lifted my sweaty wife-beater up to my breasts, and brushed his delicate fingertips ever so lightly over my exposed belly.
"Wait for me..."
I gasped and shuddered as I slipped through a wayward wormhole, and into an alternate reality, where I straddled his long, lean, toned torso, breath heavy and rhythmic, teetering gleefully at ecstasy's infinite edge, while I waited, and waited, and waited some more...
"Wait for me."
Fuck cat on a hot tin roof, I was a lava-drenched panther in heat. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to grab his finely shorn head, and shove it forcefully into my now excessively damp crotch.
I dilly-dallied breathless after class, waiting for his Let's go back to my place and fuck like really, really flexible rabbits signal, while a dozen sweaty, Lulu Lemon-ed-out groupies gushed drooly and chakra-rific all over his feet. But, he avoided me, and all my clumsy come-hither glances. I left several thousand degrees past hot, light years beyond bothered, and messaged him later that night, inviting him to be my date for Radiohead at the Bowl.
He tersely declined.
A free ticket to Radiohead.
And (implied) sex with me.
Oh, Dani, he messaged. I'm sorry if you got the wrong idea. I'm seeing someone.
And would it have been worth it, after all...
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while
To have bitten off the matter with a smile
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question...
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all."
--T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"[vi]
The majority of Facebook users opt to define their relationship status with one of the website's six (reductive, over-simplified) multiple-choice relationship categories. Jude, sadly for me, was not one of them. Thinking back, I recalled the semi-regular commentary proffered by a mousy girl who harbored an apparent fondness for ellipsis and dangling participles, but his wall was littered with flirty fragments from a litany of adoring yoginis, none of whom were anywhere near as right for him as I'd convinced myself I was, and so I'd thought nothing of it -- well, not much.
It may have been my first, but it definitely wasn't my last make believe relationship forged of mixed and virtual messages. Sure, Psychosexual Sadist Jude serenaded me, and tickled my belly, and crossed a line or two or twelve; and yes, I am precisely the sort of boy-crazy lunatic to shine a magnifying glass on so many ambiguous crumbs, and to squeeze them into a universe-sized ball called soul mate, but, to be fair, what was I to reasonably make of all that damned attention?
In an increasingly unreasonable world, to expect reasonable lines and angles of communication is foolish.
With cell phones, computers, iPads and Droids, we connect asynchronously, dashing off hastily (touch)screen-mashed messages when we're not actually available. And while there need be no real-time/space-dependent linking, the thought processes behind our old models of communicating are, as yet, slow to catch up to the consciousness of our machinery, and so when we are communicating by way of these devices, we mistakenly believe the people with whom we're communicating are, in fact, available. At least, that's what I do.
Mishaps and mortification aside, part of me really digs this word-on-word action. As a writer, I have a leg up, as it lands me smack dab in the center of my comfort zone. All these tip-tap-typed exchanges lend themselves to a certain kind of heady mind-play that turns me on, while also confusing the heck out of me.
"I enjoy the process of interacting with someone in a poetic sense where you don't have the cues of body language, you don't have the cues of tone...it becomes an almost purely intellectual dance that speaks to a mind that is mercurial and moves much faster," said Sabine, of so much typed communiqué. "Maybe that's why I like the form, because it gives me a sort of profile of someone's ability to escape narratives that I don't fucking care about anymore."
Valentine's Day, 2011: As kids, we would gather on the playground at the end of the day to compare booty: five cards, two candy hearts, a wilted daisy and a dead goldfish. This year, I got one card, one email, two texts, three FB wall postings, and eight "Likes" on the blog I posted about not having a date on Valentine's Day.
And, I am wholly satisfied -- tickled by, and grateful for the invisible bits of affection I received. I like that no trees were slaughtered in their crafting, no fossil fuels burned in their delivery, and that I'm not now stuck with a stack of stuff to sentimentally mind.
A new friend -- I call him Giggle Pussy -- texted me the day before, inviting me to a screening of The Princess Bride, and asking me to be his Valentine. I considered his request for several hours before texting back:
"I cannot be your Valentine, because I have an unsightly blemish. I'm sure you understand."
"Of course," he replied. "Have you named it?"
Our technology is absolutely changing the way we communicate, the way we relate -- steering us away from the realms of reason, into a more abstract sort of engaging, whose functionality and effectiveness remains as yet, unknown.
"We know that we are using software to behave in certain, superficial ways toward others," noted Zadie Smith. "But do we know, are we alert to, what the software is doing to us?"[vii]
Maybe it's a girl thing, or a grown-up thing, or a too many planets in Aries thing, but after spending forever and a half in L.A., struggling to keep up with the unreasonable demands of the sprawl, the congestion and the dangling carrot of unattainable perfection, topped off with a stellar year spent trying not to die, plus the stupid spine thing, and the increasingly frustrating quest for those goddamned three to four, while scrambling to keep up with my morning oblations, my supplement intake and my ambition, I hit the wall.
Up at six to dream journal, chant and meditate before two hours of Ashtanga before a bass lesson, or a voice lesson, or and a voice lesson, before a healing or a colonic, or and a colonic, before meetings and interviews and deadlines and pitches and rewrites and errands and openings and the crosstown homeward Hollywood crawl as the sun explodes electric pink and ironic through my rearview mirror, setting psychedelic and Already?!? over the ailing ocean behind me, before home to make dinner -- and make it vegan and make it organic and make it happy and high-vibing, even when I'm so tired all I want to do is lie down, but there's a tub to scrub, and art to make, and revolutions to plot and calls to return -- and then, and only then, can I collapse in a heap of exhaustion only to do it all again and again and again, why? Only, you can't ask why, because why is the crazy-making question that lands you in the scary, so scary center of your Dark Night of the Soul.
And, again and again and again.
So, when a rock-n'-roll superstar came knocking on my inbox, armed with a critical appreciation of all the articles I'd ever published, an ego as big as Jupiter and the balls to tell me he knew exactly what I needed, even though this thing he knew was precisely the thing against which I'd so virulently railed on the cover of the LA Weekly to so much fanfare and adoration only weeks before, I surrendered. I surrendered my stance and my resistance and my truth and my sanity. I let it all go for a chance to be told what to do, and play rock star pussy with a guitar hero for a while.
He said he was "ever and always searching" for "The One" in that first email he sent. It was Old P., and it was a concept I judged as bullshit, and if anyone else had sent that message I likely wouldn't have responded at all. But, he was a rock star and a genius, a pop culture icon whose achingly poignant bass lines I'd been strumming daily for weeks before he insinuated himself onto my own army of screens, inquiring as to my happily ever after-ability and my epically arched brows of which he'd heard so much praise, and so, despite the red flags -- the shoulds, the apocalyptic pessimism, the abbreviated third person references, the projection and the doting, premature sweetness rooted in dandelion fluff and fantasy -- I said yes to breakfast, yes to the experience, yes to seeing what this rock-n-roll superstar who was coming on so strong was all about.
We met in the Valley, where I grilled him ferociously over Rooibos and soggy melon cubes. He was boring in his Old P. fascination with pop culture and television, while stimulating in his knowledge of aliens, remote viewing, and Mayan prophecy, as well as his intrigue with me. He texted an adoring batch of appreciation as he drove back to the recording studio, and I arrived home twenty minutes later to two e-mails, and a dinner invitation.
Because fighting the tenacity of the program of happily ever after is a daily practice that requires tremendous discipline, strength, stamina, courage, fortitude and integrity, because the power and ubiquity of the machine behind it is massive and, seemingly, inexhaustible, and because I was so beaten down by my latest string of let-downs, I let myself entertain the idea of pair-bonding with a rich, famous, rock star if, for no other reason, than it would make every guy I'd spent the last year chasing feel really, really stupid.
I went to see Dr. Miracles for a check-up. He cocked his head to the side as he felt my pulse, blinking a few dozen times.
"So, you're sexually active..." he said
"I am?" I asked.
"Well, you're seeing someone."
"I am?" I repeated.
"Well, you definitely have a man in your field."
"Yes, a very, very powerful man. He's not like most men, this one. And he really, really wants you. Wow, does he want you."
"He does?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. Quite a lot. He's crazy about you. He's powerful...so powerful. But, he's addicted to darkness, this man."
I'd suspected as much from his lyrics and his videos and his impassioned diatribe about reptilian overlords enslaving the species as a food supply.
"Is there any hope for him to embrace the light?" I asked.
"You," he said, looking me straight in the eyes. "You are his hope, and his redemption."
"Is that healthy?" I asked, thinking it sounded colossally co-dependent.
"Absolutely," he affirmed. "Dani, this man could very well be your soul mate."
Expecting salvation through someone other than oneself is the surest way to self-destruction. --Simone de Beauvoir.
Perhaps I wouldn't have put so much credence into Dr. Miracles' unsolicited psychic dating advice if he hadn't gone the distance to save my life. Then again, I probably would have; giving my power away came so easily to me.
Dr. Miracles went on to tell me it was imperative that I swallow an entire load of the Rock Star's ejaculate before allowing him to penetrate me, lest I have an auto-immune response that caused my uterus to reject his semen.
We hadn't even kissed, and my doctor was instructing me to swallow.
I've collected a colorful community of seers and mystics over the years, which has its upsides when navigating blind spots and crossroads, but when it comes to gleaning romantic insight from the invisible ethers, it gets really tricky, really fast. Confrontation is futile because corroboration is impossible. It's an extreme form of triangulation, because the people about whom the gossipers in question are referring usually aren't in on the information themselves. The data's coming from their guides, their angels, or their Akashic Records -- that otherwise invisible collection of files, etched in cosmic code upon the ethers, noting everything that ever has happened, is happening, or will happen to each of us. There's not much one can actually do with psychically gleaned gossip, except go crazy.
High on the psychic doctor's download, and the ensuing co-dependent projections onto which I now felt wholly justified in latching (He's my soulmate! I'm gonna save him! I'm going to have sex!); I embraced the notion of happily ever rock star, and surrendered to the inevitability of playing (Zen modern architectural dream) house for an abundant eternity with the sullen guitar hero; on board to humbly serve his spirit, elevate his soul and illuminate his consciousness, with all the high-vibing wisdom, omniscience and perfection I embodied.
The Rock Star left town for a six-week concert tour a few days later. He was as present in my energetic field as he was in my inbox, my Twitter feed and my Google searches. He'd pop into my mind, and my phone would immediately vibrate with an incoming text. I'd strum a bass line from one of his rock anthems, and -- ding! -- an e-mail would arrive. I ascribed my rapidly expanding clairsentience to the divinely fated perfection of our union.
He showered me with (virtual) attentiveness, texting me throughout the day, e-mailing me at night, responding (relatively) instantly, in real-time(ish) flow. It didn't occur to me that the attention wasn't personal -- was not, in fact, a demonstration of how stimulated he was by me, because it didn't occur to me that the now sober rock star, like so many of us, was addicted to his Blackberry, and that the immediacy of his replies wasn't actually reflective of his undying love for me, rather it was a commonplace "primitive impulse" response triggered by the perception of "immediate opportunities and threats" followed by a burst of dopamine into his bloodstream -- yes, dopamine, the addiction hormone.[viii] Because this is what we do, us savvy modern folk with our fancy little gadgets to which we are chemically enslaved, us culturally-conditioned creatures of habit, hard-wired to leap at any and all opportunity to escape the drudgery of the moment by way of our tiny, portable screens which are so much easier to manage than the complicated dizziness of element, matter and eye contact. But, none of this occurred to me then, because I was loopy in lust with my faraway-so-close Rock Star, and the litany of incoming texts he sent my way assured me the feeling was mutual.
He was neurotic, this Rock Star o' mine, who messaged me for support before taking the stage; and then again, immediately after, to share the excitement of his every triumph. After talking him down from a half dozen ledges, I wondered how he'd made it through the past twenty years as a rock-n-roll superstar without me. But then again, I was a powerful force who was activating his accelerated transformation. Thank God I was there to hold his hand through the fire, ever and always armed and ready to talk him down, build him up, and reflect his blinding light with positive affirmation, well-worded dose of encouragement, or simple Zen koan. We were both playing the same game, as I was treading through the muck of my own Dark Night, and welcomed his daily doses of well-worded encouragement, and prescriptive omniscience. When we weren't processing shadows through our portable electronics, we texted lyrical pillow talk and e-mailed flowery prose -- beautifully crafted, writer-to-(song)writer style, rollicking our long-distance courtship with bold wordplay and a strong, psychic connection.
Saving the Rock Star was becoming a full time gig, and an effective distraction from the tedium of showing up for myself. Author and yogi, Guru Singh coined the phrase "reachable and teachable," referencing those who are actively engaging the work of conscious evolution, as well as those who are open and available to begin the process. Truth be told, the Rock Star was neither.
"The burn out, which is a cop-out, is to find someone that, instinctively and intuitively, you know is not reachable and teachable..." said Guru Singh during a packed morning yoga class, "...and...attach to them as a project, and dedicate your life, with great pride, and...carry that mantle until it completely suffocates you."[ix]
I vacillated between wanting the fairy tale, and hating myself for wanting the fairy tale, and forgiving myself for wanting the fairy tale, and rejecting the fairy tale, and unraveling my complicated relationship to the fairy tale, and railing against the fairy tale, and grieving the letting go of the fairy tale, and then kinda sorta wanting the fairy tale all over again. More than hating the fairy tale, I hated (resented, resisted, appreciated, loved) that part of me that wouldn't let me lie to myself, and cop-out, and pretend like other people got to do. And, even when I tried to lie to myself because the prospect of playing house with a rock-n-roll superstar seemed easier than writing a book, or changing the world, or walking my talk, then the Universe stepped in to make sure it didn't happen, which (obviously) meant something else (better, brighter, more honest, more aligned) was happening, and then I was back to remembering the fairy tale was outdated and irrelevant, and back to being excited to discover what was waiting for me and us on the other side of its crumbling.
With my rock star boyfriend on the road, and my meat, gluten, dairy, sugar and processed everything-eating mother hosting precisely the sort of celebration I really couldn't get behind, I spent Thanksgiving alone, sorting through memories and old photographs, making art, embracing the peace of solitude, and texting back and forth and back and forth with the Rock Star ‘til sundown.
While clicking through a Facebook friend's Thanksgiving photos the next day, I stumbled upon a handful that featured the Rock Star grinning arm-in-arm, and cute and cozy with a pretty brunette named Dani. Minutes later, I received a call from a mutual friend who confirmed the beans that Facebook spilled: yes, the Rock Star was in town, and yes, he brought his new girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner, and yes, she had my name.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor -
And this, and so much more?...
...Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."
--T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock[x]
It was a sign -- obviously, it was a sign. It was way too synchronistic to be anything but a sign, but I was now blinded with several lifetimes worth of every woman scorned red, red rage, and I couldn't see clearly enough to sift through the metaphorical tea leaves that were this fake Dani on my fake boyfriend's arm on this shrunken square on my smudgy screen, and all I wanted to know was how I could be so very, very stupid. How had I gotten it so wrong? Again?!?!
Maybe the fact that the vast majority of my "relationship" was rooted in binary code had something -- or, everything -- to do with it. Maybe a relationship based on acronyms and emoticons wherein the senses are entirely disengaged isn't actually a relationship. We didn't even talk on the phone! While not necessarily a satisfying platform for sensory bonding, at least the phone offers aural connection, and supports a modicum of sentient exchange by way of intonation and thoughtful pause, of lilt, laugh, stammer and snort. Granted, there's no eye contact, wafting scents or skin-to-skin possibility, but it's something. With texts and e-mails, we have only truncated data, processed (read: mangled) by way of the intellect, which has shit to do with love.
While pondering the fate of our increasingly technologically-dependent relatedness back in 1981, German sociologist and philosopher, Jurgen Habernas prophesied that "a society that arranged its affairs by exchanging 20 or 30 messages an hour (in the background) would soon forget what is involved in meaningful expression -- how much can be said, how much should be said. Such a society would be 'pathological.'"[xi]
If the Rock Star's actions were any indication, it seemed we'd arrived.
With data-based socializing, we get to avoid the drudgery of accountability for our words because we're not physically present to witness the recoil, the rage, the down-turned quivering mouth corners, or even any of the good stuff their landing may inspire. We send data and we receive data; inconveniences like emotions don't factor into the equation.
"The risk of so much technological juggling," warned Clifford Nass, a communications professor at Stanford, "is that it reduces our ability to empathize because it limits our face-to-face human engagement."[xii]
The absence of empathy was once the defining characteristic of the sociopath, back when sociopath was a DSM-sanctioned personality disorder, and not just the quirky personality trait it's considered now.
And so the bar drops ever lower, to accommodate our accelerated emotional devolution...
We, as in the collective human lot of us, suck at intimacy. Feeling our feelings is an epic feat of heroic courage, a mind-bending riddle whose solving demands dedicated study, discipline, presence and practice. As much as we stumble endeavoring to experience our emotions, we're even less adept at communicating them. We aren't educated in these realms, formally or informally. We waste the golden opportunity of our formative years caged in the brutal and superficial hierarchy of institutionalized adolescence, enslaved to a dead curriculum intentionally designed to keep us stupid, small and weak, such that we can be churned out broken and brainwashed to most effectively feed The Machine that seeks to consume us, where, in addition to fake history and useless math, we learn to hide behind our masks and our minds, our sub-personalities and our sarcasm, and are rewarded -- with popularity, pom-poms and "honors" -- in direct proportion to how much of ourselves we hide. And so our intimacy retardation deepens. We started the race with our every fractal hand already tied behind our backs, and are now spending even less (and less and less) time relating face-to-face, where it's sweaty and stammery, where we trip over tied-up tongues, and fidget uncomfortably, eyes darting this way and that, praying for an imaginary escape pod, while farting and fumbling, wondering if we look fat and if we have spinach stuck between our teeth.
"In an age where Twitter is considered intimacy," writes Dr. Doree Lynn, author of Sex for Grownups, "...[we] no longer know how to communicate..."[xiii]
The awesomest part about having so much of our relatedness reliant upon sparse morsels of abbreviated data, is that it offers plenty of space for us to go bat-shit crazy. It's a post-modern, minimalist haven in which we have the opportunity to create imaginary any and everything in the vast conceptual landscapes of negative space that our courtship rituals engender. With my psychosomatic screen boys, I used all that wasn't happening and what wasn't being said as material with which to construct giant architectural feats of delusion, held together with a slap-dash fixative formed of equal parts innuendo, omission, projection, desperation, and a great, gooey gob of bullshit to bind it all together. In some ways, these psychosomatic screen boys made for perfect 21st-century partners -- no possibility of STDs, no food allergies or wet spots around which to meander -- just a few dozen "harmless" exchanges a day, alluding directly and indirectly to what wasn't then, and what was never gonna be. In a culture obsessed with complaining about all that isn't happening -- how much money we're not making, the perfect breasts we never grew, all the ways our lovers aren't measuring up -- our technology is taking our collective obsession with what isn't to its next logical conclusion by using it as a foundation upon which to build towering castles made of ones and zeroes, and fairy dust.
"I don't think that the ability to get close to someone on the Internet is translating into the ability to then make a relationship down the line," said Cindy Guidry, author of The Last Single Woman in America.
Me neither, Cindy. Me neither.
Figure 1: graph depicting amount of time spent on computer as relates to amount of happiness enjoyed.....
 Booty call, naked friend, sex toy.
 Five compressed discs - C3-C7. Good times.
 A side-effect of my gaggle o' compressed discs was the terrific pressure they put on the nerves running down my left arm, which rendered it both electric-ouchy and useless.
 A system of compassionate communication that comprises specific skills and techniques practiced regularly among yogis, New Agers, and other awakening folks
 Spiritual retreat center in Big Sur.
 Postmodern spiritual philosophy proposed by author Ken Wilber that unites cross-cultural/disciplinary truth and wisdom gleaned from science and religion
 Ancient philosophical/spiritual tradition based on the writings of Hermes, rooted in the three-part wisdom of the sun, the moon and the stars; practical applications include tarot, astrology, alchemy and Kabbalah.
 And, by waltzed, I mean crawled.
 As in a practitioner of Ashtanga - a rigorous and ancient yoga system, based upon eight "limbs," or practices, including asana - the physical practice of yoga - six mornings a week, minus moon days.
 Aka: corpse pose; generally taken at the end of class to allow the body to fully relax, and to integrate.
 Lulu Lemon: a particularly garish and popular brand of spendy yoga gear.
 Steven Weissman had a twisted sense of affection, that's probably why he was my favorite.
 Translation: This message makes me happy. I feel a growing fondness for you, and am a little confused by it, and am not available for intimacy right now. Besides, Valentine's Day is stupid.
 Translation: I know that you're crazy and, even though we haven't even kissed, I like you enough to respect your boundaries and your - obviously - deeply wounded heart, as well as your reticence to be vulnerable and to share in this Hallmark holiday with me in public. Can we still be friends?
 Old Paradigm: as in belief systems, ideologies, concepts, orientations and perspectives that are no longer relevant in the current cultural climate.
 Clairvoyance; extra sensory perception.
 Whereas the first three editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the industry's definitive guide to psychiatric disorders and diagnoses - acknowledged sociopath as one exhibiting traits of an epynonymous personality disorder, the term, and subsequent personality type, was phased out in the DSM-IV in 1994, as well as in subsequent editions.
[i] Smith, Zadie; "Generation Why?;" The New Yorker; 25 November, 2010
[ii] Richtel, Matt; "Your Brain on Computers; Attached to Technology and Paying a Price;" New York Times, 2010, June 6.
[iii] Smith, Zadie; "Generation Why?;" New Yorker, 2010, November 25
[iv] Deggans, Erin; "Social Media Changing the Look of Romance;" St. Petersburg Times, 2011, February 11
[vi] Eliot, T.S.; "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock;" Prufrock and Other Observations; 1917
[vii] Smith, Zadie; "Generation Why?;" The New Yorker; 25 November, 2010
[viii] Richter, Matt; "Your Brain on Computers: Attached to Technology and Paying a Price;" New York Times; 2010, 6 June.
[ix] Singh, Guru; "The Fearless Wisdom of Practical Enlightenment, Vol. 44"
[x] Eliot, T.S.; "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock;" Prufrock and Other Observations; 1917
[xi] Myerson, George; "Heidegger, Habernas and the Mobile Phone;" The End of Everything: Postmodernism and the Vanishing of the Human; Icon Books, Ltd. 2003, p. 164
[xii] Richtel, Matt; "Your Brain on Computers: Attached to Technology and Paying a Price;" New York Times; 2010, 6 June
[xiii] blog response to McMillan, Tracy; "Why You're Not Married;" 2011, 13 February, huffingtonpost.com
Image by Daniel Iversen, courtesy of Creative Commons.Tweet