Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Life Online: Mind Games

Have you ever come across something for the very first time – a word, a song, a concept – and, having discovered it, realized that it’s everywhere around you?

For example, I only recently watched The Usual Suspects and no sooner had the final credits rolled that I found myself hearing references, seemingly everywhere, to Kaiser Soze. In fact, I read one such reference this morning in TIME magazine.

Or take humus, which I initially consumed at a pot luck work Christmas party in 2008. “What is this rapturous creation?” I asked (paraphrasing). “It’s humus,” the creator replied, with more than a hint of contempt in her voice for the uncultured rube she was conversing with.

Imagine my surprise then, when I realized that every gallery stroll, dinner party and grocery store in America features crushed chickpeas blended with olive oil and other spices. Weirder still, I had seen the movie Rat Race dozens of time but never grasped Jon Lovitz’ line, when he compares $2 million to “a lifetime supply of humus.” I could quote that dialogue, but I didn’t know what it meant.

Or take the last week of October, when I first encountered the word “Sapiosexual” on a woman’s profile. When I see a foreign word whilst using the computer I habitually open a tab and google the definition -- because why not? – and was doubly curious because I naturally assumed it referred to something kinky, having discovered it on an online dating site.

Turns out "sapiosexual," or the optional variant "sapiophile," refers to a person who is attracted to intelligence above all other characteristic traits.

“Hmmm, never heard that one before,” I thought, before going my way on the information super highway. But since then I have encountered alleged sapiosexuals or references to sapiosexuality at least once per day. It’s apparently a very popular trope people use when describing themselves to the opposite gender.

This is great news for me, since I consider myself to be an intellectual person, or at the very least I’m smarter than I am muscular and wealthy, which one assumes are the other leading characteristic traits women are attracted to.

And yet I’m dubious of these women’s sapiophilic claims. The profile that served as a catalyst for this vernacular discovery was that of a woman taking a mirror selfie in a mini-skirt while most of the others I’ve seen feature women in low-cut tops posing in duckface behind a pair of hipster glasses.

Now, I’m not saying that women who are attracted to smart men don’t wear mini-skirts or low-cut tops – who would want to live in that world, amiright? – but I am most certainly implying an inverse correlation between the frequency of duckface and level of intelligence.

Mostly, however, I’m skeptical of anything people say about themselves online, since people lie and on the internet no one knows you're a dog. So I decided to engage one of these women, to shed some light on the finer points of sapiosexuality.

Me: I see you’re a sapiophile. How exactly would you expect a man to demonstrate his intelligence?

I didn’t get a reply, but rest assured I will continue to explore this phenomenon further. I think the next sapiosexual I come across I'll just message with a series of mathematical formulas and/or Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics.

After 9 months of this nonsense, I’ve found that my outgoing messages have lost some of their conversational prater in lieue of more direct inquiries. I’d like to think that’s because I’m of an inquisitive mind and not just because I’m a jaded skeptic who hates everyone and everything. For example, I recently matched on Tinder with a beautiful 25-year-old named Lindsey and sent the following:

photo 1

When I started writing this post, I hadn’t heard back from Lindsey. But in the time it took me to finish I received a reply so I suppose there's some potential there.

photo 2

But I haven’t heard back in a while from a woman named Tammy, although that’s probably my fault for not ending with a question. Online dating is a lot like improv, only instead of “Yes, and…” you have to remember to always say “…how about you?”

Tammy: Hey I loved your profile and am interested in learning more about you. :)

Me: Hi! So you went from blonde to brunette (this was part of her profile), from an academic perspective, are you having less fun?

Tammy: Actually, I’m having more fun because it is such a big change. What about you? (see) Have you always loved the ukulele? When did you first begin to play?

Me: Yes, I’ve always loved the ukulele but I’ve only been playing for about two years. I first got into it because I moved to New York and couldn’t take my piano so I needed something portable I could play around on.

Tammy: What part of New York did you intern in? I recently got back from a vacation there and quite enjoyed it.

Me: I interned in Manhattan but lived in Queens.

Now yes, before you say it, if I wanted to keep talking to her I should have said something like “What did you do on your trip? Did you see any shows on Broadway? Did you go to Grand Central? Did you see a dead body like I did my first day in the city?” but I didn’t want to keep talking to her. Don’t judge, I’m only human.

But props to Tammy for being woman enough to start the conversation. That is an occurrence few and far between. I mean seriously ladies, what happened to that post-gender society you all claim to pushing for? What happened to Lean Forward? I swear, most the time I’m the biggest feminist in the room.

The other day a friend was telling me about how she met her boyfriend. The story began like this:

“He came up to me in a bar and asked me for a light and I told him that I couldn’t talk to him because I don’t talk to men who approach me in bars.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “What?”

“Yeah. Guys who meet you in bars are creeps.”

“But that’s how you met your boyfriend?”

“Well yeah, he persisted, and he was the exception.”

“So how is an exception supposed to meet you if he happens to see you in a bar you’re both at?”

“I don’t know. He should wait till he sees me somewhere else.” 

I think the Catch-22 in that story is obvious enough that I don’t have to analyze it in detail. The other thing I find offensive as a man about the scenario is the notion that men are creeps until proven otherwise. I’m not saying that’s a false notion, but it sets up a losing game where we men begin with negative points and are only allowed to continue if we “persist” long enough to win the favor of our liege, like some kind of jester or dancing monkey.

Seriously, women of the world, hear me. There has to be a better way.

But back to My Life Online.

For a week or two I’ve been chatting with a nice red-headed bisexual named Rose. Our conversation started out ordinarily enough but has sinced veered off into a still-unfinished tangent about our shared Irish ancestry.

Now, I’m a big believer in the mantra of “to each his own” but even in optimum circumstances I doubt my mother would approve of Rose. Besides her sexual orientation – which I’d love to ask her about, from an academic perspective – Rose’s profile picture is a high-angle selfie of her in what appears to be only a bra and towel. A bold choice, IMHO, as the way to first present yourself to the online world.

I’m also beginning to realize that online dating functions as a stepping stone for many recent divorcees. I assume the logic is that they’re not quite ready to venture out into the world, so they use the chatting services provided by sites like Match and OkCupid to flex their social muscles in safety.

I assume that was the case with Stephanie, who describes herself as artsy, divorced and non-religious and whose occupation is “creature creator.” Our conversation took a strange turn rather quickly.

Me: What exactly is a creature creator?

Her: I do special effects make up and costume design and production for the film industry and larpers. I’ll sculpt a concept, mold it, cast it, and paint it. I just call myself a creature creator because it is much shorter.

Me: And cooler. I would imagine it’s tough to find industry work in Utah?

Her: It hasn’t been hard for me so far. I’m working on a music video tomorrow.

Her: I’m not looking forward to dating. I haven’t been on a date for a long time.

Her: That probably sounded wrong. I just wish it was easier to find someone I’m compatible with without a bunch of first dates.

I was a little thrown by this. I assumed she was talking in the abstract, but tone isn’t conveyed well via text. At this point I was already eyeing the door.

Me: For sure, first dates are excruciating. You’d think our society would have evolved beyond them by now :)

Her: I’m glad you knew what I meant by my statement. I didn’t mean I wouldn’t want a first date with you.

I know that I’ve long advocated for women to take a less passive role in dating, but this is not the way to do it. Plus, any continued interaction with Stephanie would have inevitably led to an increase of larping in my life. I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

Another way to not do it? Whatever it was Julie intended by the message I received on September 12.

Julie: Hello, you caught my eye :$

I grew up in the internet age. I quite literally live in front of a computer screen. I have absolutely no idea what emotion a colon-dollar sign is supposed to convey.

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