My parents met in their early 20's on a blind date orchestrated by my Dad's lifelong best friend. The story goes: My Mom saw my Dad's baby blue eyes (which she says, were the color -- no joke -- of the turquoise bottomed pool he was standing beside when they first laid eyes on each other) and she was done; No Match.com, Jdate or Myspace. Just pure unadulterated "love at first sight".
Dad and Mom met during much simpler, more innocent times, right?
As a matter of fact, my parents set up their date by pay phone with a nickel. And they grabbed a chocolate milkshake at Grunnings, the local South Orange Village ice cream parlor and called it a night. No smokey, dark rooms filled wall to wall with people drinking fancy expensive alcoholic concoctions mixed with brands such as Ketel One, St. Germain and TYKU that are hard to pronounce with women dressed to the nines. Their's was rather the era of Chubby Checker and Frank Sinatra LP's, gently humming in the background.
Enter the year 2009. Dating has truly morphed over the decades from it's orignal form of simple introductions to (for some) an all out, full-time job. Now, with our generation (in addition to fix ups coming at us every concievable angle) we set up dates through nearly 20 (TWENTY!) different ways: texting, pinging, IM-ing BlackBerrying, iPhone-ing, Yahoo chatting, Facebook friending, Speedating, HurryDating, Matchmaking, It's Just Lunch-ing, eharmonizing, Love Coaching, CraigsListing, Chakra Healing, Doostang'ing, and the old stand bys: calling, networking and "just being" -- and the list just goes on and on and ON. The true litmus test of its over-the-top-ness is: picture describing how people meet nowadays to your own grandparents. Don't you think they would look at you as if you needed a lobotomy? Gone are the days of a plain vanilla meeting -- free of suped-up technology -- meeting someone the old-fashioned way (Wow! How refreshing). And mind you this new way of meeting comes with zero road map (nada) and not that many to talk to about the experience of it all, as it is constantly emerging and taking shape in this amalgam we call searching for the right match.
I recently met someone on Facebook in an entirely new way. (At least it was new to me and I've since bounced it off several of my long-time friends and they all agree that this manner of meeting "someone" must be rare). A guy from the West Coast "friended me". Not knowing who he was, I wrote: "Do I know you? Maybe from Dartmouth or Columbia Business School or Columbia High School?" And he replied: "No but I saw you on the site under Friends You Might Know." I'm not even sure if prior to that I knew on the site where this particular section even was. And thus started this intense pen pal connection that was warm, passionate and at times had me almost in tears from laughing so hard that it made my stomach hurt. For example, I was watching Chris Rock on HBO and was preparing to disconnect from our e-connection for the evening and Mr. West Coast literally kept me on-line with his witty banter through the duration of the live performance. (Of course this might not sound like a feat but I am someone who thinks there might not be a human alive funnier than Chris Rock and yet I felt the forces that were causing my laughter were hitting me in stereo with surround sound from both the TV and from my new cyber friend's emails; honestly it was complete stimulus overload and it was curious to me that I had just met this person only days ago and was enjoying it, fully engaged and further amazed that I was relishing each and every moment).
Our WHOLE RELATIONSHIP which we liked to refer to it as lasted for all of a week during the Xmas holiday break and resulted in a live meeting. (We coined it the "UNDATE" because of the utter randomness in which we met). And I was a wreck when it actually came time to convert our virtual connection into a real time reality. But I decided to press on and push through the fear in the hopes that this could be the guy; the one I've been waiting for. Thank goodness, we were both not disappointed but rather pleasantly surprised by our shared electricity, the discovery of which I might add is a dater's heaven on earth.
The long and short of it is -- we never did see each other again. Trust me: like all true cyber connections, we "intended" to but my hunch is we both felt in our gut that the unreality of the electronic world perhaps didn't translate into anything real from 3,000 miles away. And yes, there are ways of exploring a relationship from that far away. But I believe that for both of us our hearts and minds couldn't get wrapped around all of its logistics. Moreover, we both probably chalked it up to the fact that when one boiled it down our blissful stint was probably nothing more than our own personal whirlwind version of "Bridges of Madison County".
The moral of the this modern day romantic yet tragic story is: sure, use these various electronic medium to cast a wide net when looking for a mate and for true love but be wary about the lure of cyber-intimacy as nothing seems to be a substitute for the real thing and perhaps for the old fashioned way. I asked Mom and she concurred and as we all know in the end: "Moms know best". And in fact, perhaps the pendulum has swung too far with electronic bonding and the various mechanisms by which we meet today and it is time to find a happy medium (no pun intended) or a hybrid between the ways of meeting in the past and the present day options.
That said, one never knows where one is going to find that love of one's life. And yes I'm still holding out for THE one. In fact, perhaps maybe one of these days you will catch me breathless and my heart a flutter from all that's a "twitter" (engaging with yet another new on-line site). And if you do find me "twittering" please don't hesitate to remind me to remember the old school values too and of that incredible raw emotional and physical intimacy we all secretly crave and long for -- that which can be embedded in live contact -- and I will promptly shake myself from my e-stupor and get right back on track!
Kim Jacobs lives and works in New York City and in keeping with today's electronic pace, wrote this piece on her BlackBerry.