Sunday, August 18, 2013

Online Dating, Disruptive Technologies, and Meditations on Hunting

I’m at Hastings book store, in the coffee shop, and I can’t help overhearing a conversation between two people who are meeting each other for the first time, connecting through some sort of online dating site. Yuk. Both are 59. The woman looks pretty good. They are both painful to listen to. They are both “retired.” Not to self: Never retire. However, I relish the idea of freedom. But what is freedom anyway? Illusions.

She lives in an apartment off Lindsey Street. She says there was a cat in the apartment and it smells like cat urine. He lives on a farm off Alameda (near the mental hospital), and he grew up here in Norman. He’s turning 60 next week. He’s worried about turning old. He has a pronounced rural Oklahoma twang. She does not. She’s a pro at this. I can tell by her questions. “What else do you want me to know about you?” She’s not talking about herself. Why is she so broke? What is she retired from? Who retires at 59? She was in Hawaii in 2 years, was in Norman for 6 years before that. She said she should not have moved back – things had changed, and there was a lot of traffic. She worked in sales at a radio station. So she decided to quit. She said she gets project from Hawaii, and it’s not regular. I am sure she is pretty much broke, with not much hope.

She mentions her children. They are adults, and she does not see them often. She’s a grandmother now. She looks great to be a grandmother, but then, there are 40-year-old grandmothers. I always think of the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood.

Thought: Newborns are homely little things. I can’t comfortably express those thoughts. I’d be pilloried. They are fragile, often wizened looking.

The woman is now telling the guy that she’s been using the site for a long time, and there are a lot weirdos. (Oh, good, seedy anecdotes.) She met a very weird guy (not surprising here in Norman!). I wonder if she happened to meet a guy I know, although seemingly normal, he likes to pontificate endlessly. He also likes to send weird text messages, which I delete immediately. I've asked him not to do so, but it only encourages him. It is offensive and I don't like it.

So the blind date guy is describing picking up a date at an assisted living center (she was 67). It seems pathetic. Ageism. Note to self. Never live in a retirement home.

He likes camping, hunting (deer, turkey, etc.), motorcycling, and supposedly has a degree in petroleum engineering, but then instead of going back to school during the oil bust, he started doing construction and then tile work. He has done well, he says. He has a lot of projects – a Corvair, lots of cars, motorcycles, etc. Where do you keep them? She asked. In the back yard (but I really shouldn’t, he adds). He lives on the farm he grew up on, and they used to have a dairy, plus cotton, alfalfa, etc.

They are talking about,, or some such online dating service. Online dating’s been around for 15 years or so by now, and I tend to think that the people who like to do it are adrenaline junkies or trout fishermen. There are also the Craigslist Killers, but that’s a different genre, I think. Basically, it’s hunting, I guess. I think of Jose Ortega y Gasset’s Meditations on Hunting – the fact of focusing on prey give you a vacation from the human condition. At least that’s his premise. I think it’s also a look into the primordial essence of fantasy and childlike wonder. Who knows what magical land you’ll encounter in the clouds.  Is “The Cloud” the digital equivalent of the magical kingdom of the Giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk”?

Thought about dating and disruptive technologies: Is there a beginning, middle, or end to disruptive change? Do technologies always disrupt? I guess the easy answer if “yes.” Especially if we want them to disrupt.

She is asking him what kind of food he likes. She is talking about how she likes to cook – comfort food – just after he has talked about how much better food is that is cooked at home. Now she’s describing a casserole she made, and how she freezes the excess. He’s talking about chili that he makes.

I can’t stand this! Is this as good as it gets? She’s warming up to him as she learns more about his financial stability.

He’s commenting that he does not feel as though he is being interrogated (but he is).

Back to technology. I guess the dating process has been technologically mediated for a long time now. I have no interest in this. Overhearing this conversation is reinforcing that belief.

And now, I head to the tennis courts to practice serves. I’m alone. No one to hit with right now.  I head to the ladies’ locker room to put on tennis stuff, including Dri-Fit shirt and skirt. I in the mirror, see that I failed to apply my makeup evenly. Face looks blotchy. Eyes look bleary. I blame nerves and hormones. Nerves because I’m in a constant state of panic dread. Hormones because I believe my body no longer produces them. How else to explain the flat-line feelings I have toward things that used to fascinate me? Okay. It might be scar tissue. Well, focusing on serves will help. Tennis is my vacation from the human condition – not because I’m focused on prey, but in the coming together of mind’s eye and the physical self.

Is that the same as online dating? Whatever it is, it’s perpetual and there’s no beginning, middle, or end.

So it goes.