One Saturday evening, I called my mother to let her know that I was properly nourishing myself with late night cereal, instead of out prancing around in heels and coral lipstick. I thought this would make her feel good, to reassure her that I wasn't living the life of some hoodlum or hooligan.
Instead, Mom seemed concerned. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't talked to anyone that day, but whatever loneliness she detected in my voice, she interpreted as meaning we needed to have a talk, the talk.
"Lani," she said. "Have you thought about jDate?"
Sure, I'd thought about it. I thought about how lame it was.
"No!" I said. "Why would I want to do that? Is this because I'm Jewish?"
"It's just that, I know a lot of people that meet -- other people -- there," she said.
OK, maybe that's true, I thought. A lot of people meet nerds who can only talk about how great Star Trek Next Generation was when everyone knows that Star Trek Voyager is really the best season. And I've read enough of the NY Times "Vows" section to know that romance comes through every avenue and IP address.
"In other news, my hair seems to be cooperating even though it's so dry out," I said to my mother, in a crude attempt to talk about my hair.
"You shouldn't knock something, until you try it," Mom replied as if online dating were a tuna fish sandwich. To be honest, I didn't hate tuna fish, I just feared the social stigma that went along with packing it for lunch.
I don't know exactly know how to explain my unwillingness to search for love on the Internet. But something about it touches a nerve -- the nerve that is resistant to giving up spontaneity to calculation and surrendering yet another bit of my life to the Internet's purview.
My generation is supposedly native to technology, and according to The New Yorker is so accustomed "to conducting much of their social life online," that online dating "is no less natural a way to hook up than the church social or the night-club-bathroom line."
But I've never been invited to a church social, I don't use public restrooms, and I find there's something distinctly unnatural and uncomfortable about the way we live so much of our lives online.
I'm routinely exhausted by the demands of the online world. The web expects too much of my still young soul. No longer only an outlet for stress-free diversion, the web is where we are meant to find jobs, friends, and now, even soul mates. From LinkedIn to Google Public profiles to Google Plus to Kickstarts to Tumblrs -- we're expected to use it all to present ourselves as well-rounded individuals, even if we're still just piecing life together.
The Internet presents a lost twenty-something with quite the conundrum: How do you advertise yourself to others, when you're still becoming yourself? As we negotiate the strange process of growing up, there's already pressure to know exactly who we are and project it out into cyberspace.
It just doesn't jive with the way our identities are constantly in flux. We may try to come off confident, but we're still questioning every bit of ourselves. We put ourselves out there, but hope we can still head off rejection. We imagine we're capable of greatness, while sitting in a theater watching the Cuban National Ballet do things we know are beyond our potential -- like the splits.
When the online world values a complete product and an easily digestible bio, it's hard to convey personal confusion without sounding a little unbalanced. I worry I won't be able to package all my on-going neuroses and conflicting parts into one appealing profile. My life is full of questions, and terrifying uncertainties. In my formative early-to-mid-twenties, I'm still getting to know myself. I'm still deciding if I'm a morning or a night person; if I like Pomeranians or St. Bernards; if I prefer mint-chip to cookie-dough; what I think about the President's off-shore drilling plan; and everything else it's important to know to know one's self. It's no surprise then, that what's meant to be a simple get-to-know-you questionnaire on match.com gives me heart palpitations and a non-lactose related stomach ache.
The Internet seems too fake, too disingenuous, too many parts aspartame to be the right place to find love, at least right now. When my Grandma spoke about "sweetening life with natural fruit juice", she meant the organic kind, with lemons right from the tree. But more and more people want juice to come from packaged concentrate. The thing is, sometimes when you squeeze real lemons, you get seedy pulp. What I mean to say is that the Internet, with its premium on brevity and soundbites, doesn't take kindly to the run-on sentence kind of mess that is a real person.
Maybe, you're thinking, that I'm too sensitive to this changing world. I've been told so before, by the likes of high school algebra teachers and college career counselors. Or maybe, and likely, there's a way people do portray their true and splintered selves online. Maybe this is just one of those twenty-first century inventions I'll have to grudgingly accept into my life, like the Kindle or the Smart Car or those five-finger shoes. Maybe I need to let go of my prejudices, and realize that while I may think I'm making a fool of myself with this weird new fashion, no other shoes come as close to going barefoot.
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