Relationships have always been difficult for me...I cannot tell you how I marvel at those who seem to be able to manage them so easily,to navigate the untidy waters of dating and commitment as if born to it-endowed with some special skill conferred to some and denied others.
Now truth be told I don't spend an inordinate amount time thinking about love,relationships or dating and certainty those who have been with me would of course no doubt agree-knives opened and venom on display.
I don't think that I am that hard to be with (of course who does)I freely admit and own up to my flaws-after all they are mine and if I don't know them by heart than who would. That being said,from time to time I do venture down the rabbit hole
alone with the fractured remains of dreams slightly realized if realized at all,never with high expectations and often just for the hell of it. I am at mid-fall now,the bottom in sight but so many diversions along the way.
I can't speak for other parts of the country but New York is a dating animal all its own fraught with anger, deception, mental instability and lots of drama both comical and otherwise.
As I said in the beginning I am not good at relationships...I am very good at the hunt-in fact I like the hunt more than the acquisition,
I like the feinting, looking for that opening and then diving right in all conniving smiles and fresh red roses. I like those first meetings,those sometimes awkward silences and barely audible twitches that occur until sea legs are found and a reasonable balance can be managed.
I have met women in lots of different ways-the Internet-kaleidoscopic freak show of raw nerves, earnest hope and palpable desperation,chance meetings at bars, clubs, swing parties, sporting events and the Night Exchange - a stop nestled deep and very close to the heart of the rabbit-hole which will get a column all to itself. I must also mention the scammers and spammers and the sex sites promising all manner of nirvana for the reasonable price of 19.99 or 29.99...of course signing up is free and you won't need a credit card unless you actually want to make use of theses sites but that is in the fine print not the neon come on.
Then there are the free boards-oh stop looking embarrassed you know why you go to Craig's List, as well as Myspace,Friendster and Plenty of Fish a more earnest and slightly less psychopathic board than C.L. but with issues of its own as well.
I never paid much attention to Internet dating until I somehow received for no reason I could ascertain free trials to both true and e-harmony. Let me say that I have never answered more questions than on e-harmony not when applying for a visa,a loan,or a credit card from Amex...amazed I was and dismayed at the amount information that seems to be required for the opportunity to meet someone.
E-Harmony in particular seems more psych evaluation than dating site. As for true-well I could never tell who was real and who was not but did notice that as my trial was about to expire I was suddenly flooded with so many interested in me you would have thought that I won Mega Millions and had announced it in the next days paper...of course when you renew that interest suddenly wanes and many an e-mail will go answered...Hmm?
That we are all in some way damaged is not a remarkable statement...the how and why however is. I met many a soul who were not what they said they were or who were but failed to mention the salient details of their personalty which in some cases clearly explained why they had yet to find that which they were seeking. What was distinguishable,what was always ever present was the need-the need for this to be the 'one' the need for it to work out the way so much of this culture promises that it will if only you do this or that.
I am not a shallow person and we all have a right to our preferences-I have mine-you have yours- but their are so many who feel as if they don't fit in anywhere because they don't look like that guy or that gal sold in every marketing campaign or magazine layout. So many who are ashamed of who they are and even more who apologize for their age or their weight,their teeth not being perfect,their breast's not being large enough or small enough,their income or life experience as if a person is only defined by those few things.
I cannot tell you how many times I came across ads that would not consider anyone over the age of 35,or anyone who did not live close-God forbid that one might have to suffer the inconvenience of travel to find that which they might be seeking. Ads that disqualified anyone who did not look like Arnie before he stopped taking steroids or Brittney before the baby and rehab. So many ads dedicated to excluding all except that perfect elite-as I said we all have preferences but they should not be so rigid a blue print that they can never be deviated from...Oh and Saintâ€™s preserve you if you smoke-yes I know there is a dating site for smokers and that makes me even sadder-confined to the electronic ghetto as we are to huddling like refugees outside bars or work places. The new Lepers-more undesirable than those who are overweight ranked somewhere slightly above murderers and child killers.
You may have noticed from time to time stories in the press about people who get swindled by strangers who they thought loved them or worse-abducted, and sometimes murdered. While the articles are generally sympathetic there is always a slight disbelief-a literary rolling of the eyes if you will as if they should have know better...Perhaps, but the rabbit hole is chock full of people who just want to be accepted and loved and it is so powerful for some that they will ignore many things just to keep the hope alive....I know.
I met a woman-name and place are unimportant-who after only a week talking and spending time with me would have done anything for me and I mean anything... She was not ugly by any means and though she would never pass for a twenty-something Lolita she was built to be lusted after-no doubt. It was not hard to notice the sadness behind the hazel and green eyes-it would have been harder not to notice. I found her laugh lines,plucky nose and thin lips endearing...I liked the way she looked walking across the room,freshly sexed,her long strawberry blonde hair disrupted and out of place. She seemed always to need to be reassured that she was pretty and smart...that somebody wanted her and only her. That her body was still tight and desired.
She worried constantly about if she were exciting enough in bed and often without reason old wounds would bleed and in the growing silence she would try to please as if she were on trial.
Now I am writer and I am not proud to admit this:but I became curious to see just how far I could go before she would say enough....sad to say that there never was a far enough and the more it went it on,the more I encouraged and allowed it the worse I felt and at the same time, I began to have contempt for this woman-so needy,so starved for love that she would allow all manner of humiliation. It is so easy to play on and with people's feelings..so easy to forget that we are all in one way or another in the same boat. So the next time you run across an article like that or an 86 year old billionaire who marries a woman 30 yrs his junior hold back your disbelief and disdain...it happens more often and more easily than you could imagine And for the smug New Yorkers-the worldly and wise crowd rolling their eyes-I found you there as well not quite as proud as you pretend and no,she was not from new york...that was too her credit.
I am a life long New Yorker and while it is possible to meet many people here in all manner of ways and whys it is hard to maintain a connection,hard to find the room or time to communicate,harder still to break through that wall of polished indifference,that shield of private space that we wield for safety and distance-so subway rides go with out incident and late night walks do not become fodder for the latest episode of Law And Order.
In many of my experiences the harangue that I heard the most from women was that they were tired of"emotionally unavailable men" as a man I had to ponder this and as a New Yorker I was befuddled-how else does one live in the vast cauldron of this city-where sanity and patience are vexed at almost every turn-for most it is to turn off a part of themselves,to ignore as many irritants as possible because the alternative for too many would be that they would have to pay attention,to care more than just momentarily to become involved in something other than on perfunctorily level. As a man and male New Yorker of course I am emotionally un-available-how many times does it take to try and talk to a women that you find attractive only to be met with rude indifference or looks of deep bother and insult...and of course men being the children that they are respond in more crude and vulgar ways-honking and whistling,cat calling or as I have witnessed more and more of late become incensed hurling both racist and sexist invectives.
Of course men are emotionally un-available what else can they be after meeting too many women who claim they want a sensitive and thoughtful man but after only weeks or months then turn around and say,"well...you cling too much or I need some one a little more dominant and the reverse of that same scenario is true just as well. Men are no better-promising love when advantageous,feigning interest until the fish is hooked. Still we try,forging temporary and convenient alliances(notice I did not say relationships)that will ultimately become cumbersome and un satisfactory sending more deeper down into the rabbit hole,ensuring exclusion rationalized by the failures of the past without examining why the past failed-a continually evolving and expanding Divine comedy.
So when the bars and chance meetings become untenable we turn to alternative sources,sources like Craig's List. Where to begin...
The list so far as it deals with dating is so fraught anger and unreal expectations that you could do three thesis and still not examine all the posturing and hidden agendas(for the Craig's List aficionado-I did not forget Rants and Raves but that is another column altogether.) the gotcha culture at its most virulent. I cannot tell you in this small space how many personal vendettas seem to get played out in the various Craig's List forums but the need and want are still there only more fevered and hungry-every rejection a cause to spew,every demand or preference critiqued and in some case dis-allowed by anonymous flaggers who seem to do so with no particular criteria other than how they awoke that day.
I have posted and replied to posts on the List, I have met more than a few and to some extent my burns are not quite healed but soon... I have gone to Goth bars and weird socials,have had twisted phone sex with disjointed voices and fantasies that quite possibly would make Clive Barker ill. I have listened to stories of ruin and waste that if true should shame God himself and through it all there is still that need,that hope to make a connection that will last.
We are broken but the rabbit hole promises succor,promises release,promises that with but words and outdated photos the cast-offs and discarded can be beautiful,the shy and the awkward can be desired and alluring....the lost can find a place to call home.
For some the rabbit-hole is that place where they can distract themselves from the meaninglessness noise that is their lives while sadly for others it is a place where cruelty and vitriol can be dispensed for amusement from the safety and comfort of a computer.
A place where false names and broken dates coalesce into a fervid pool of sadness and despair....And the place where just once in a while you actually find what you were seeking.
I sometimes wonder if there will not come a time when we will become permanently immobilized by all the baggage we carry... I sometimes believe that slowly we are making ourselves extinct-great Golems capable of nothing more than slow painful steps that lead us no closer to that which we desire. The bottom is in sight now and I hope the fall kills neither you nor me.