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Are Cell Phones Ruining Our Chances for Real Love?

Are Cell Phones Ruining Our Chances for Real Love?

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Lovelies:

 

As I'm sure you've noticed, my love life has been insanely boring lately. I've gone to a couple coffee shops this week, in the hopes of talking to some strangers, but have managed to only cower in fear, peeking out over the top of the book I'm (re) reading, Joan Didion's The White Album. One guy did talk to me--a dude who'd noticed, a week or two ago, that I was reading War + Peace and asked me how I was enjoying it--but I'm not that into him; he's kind of cute, but he smokes cigarettes, drinks a lot of coffee, and generally seems too nervous and excitable, like he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

 

Tonight, though, I'm hoping to spice things up by going to my first-ever speed-dating event! With Arlo Pumpernickel! He suggested it. Luckily, I feel kind of perky today--not too depressed or down on myself--so maybe it will go well. Please cross your fingers! And your T's.

 

# # #

 

In other news ...

 

New York recently published a piece, written by n+1 contributor Wesley Yang, that analyzed the sexual habits of New Yorkers as based on some interesting documents--800 pages of the magazine's "Sex Diaries." Every week since April 2007, New York has posted a seven-day sex diary written by an anonymous New Yorker. (They're somewhat similar to Marie Claire's sex diaries.) The article was a little tautological, but interesting nonetheless, mainly as a window into contemporary mores--a very grown-up version of "What Do People Do All Day?" (Or, all night.)

 

Granted, New Yorkers are not your average citizens of the world: We're more sexually liberal (or, at least, those of us who didn't go to Catholic schools our whole lives, like me, are). We take more risks--just living in this crazy, intense place is a big one. We want to live large, make our mark on the world, have crazy stories to tell; we like adventures, particularly interpersonal adventures. If we didn't, we'd never be able to live like this, stacked up, one on top of the other; pushing into each other on the subway; standing shoulder to shoulder as we wait to cross a busy intersection. And there are simply just MORE of us--with 8.3 million packed into 305 square feet, we live in the most densely populated major city in the U.S.

 

But while New Yorkers may be a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to sexual shenanigans--a little more extreme or intense--and while the New York mag Diarists themselves are an even more extreme sample of New Yorkers (more exhibitionistic and outrageous), the NY Diaries do reflect what's going on in the rest of country.

 

The piece was primarily about any kind of arrangement that could be described as casual sex, from one-night-stands to "friendship-with-benefits." In particular, the writer was very interested in the way that cellphones have impacted the way we date (or at least screw) right now.

 

He writes:

"The cell phone has changed the nature of seduction. One carries in one’s pocket, wherever one goes, the means of doing something other than what one is presently doing, or being with someone other than the person one is with. ... [Cell phones enable people to] Identify the single best sexual partner available, or at least the person most amenable to their requirements at the moment. They use their cell phone to disaggregate, slice up, and repackage their emotional and physical needs, servicing each with a different partner, and hoping to come out ahead. This can get complicated quickly, however, and can lead to uneasy situations."

 

David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed columnist, was intrigued by Yang's New York mag story--and disheartened by the state of sexual affairs in today's world. Brooks writes:

"Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the 'Happy Days' era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment. ...

Suitors now contact each other in an instantaneous, frictionless sphere separated from larger social institutions and commitments. ...

It seems to encourage an attitude of contingency. If you have several options perpetually before you, and if technology makes it easier to jump from one option to another, you will naturally adopt the mentality of a comparison shopper.

It also seems to encourage an atmosphere of general disenchantment. Across the centuries the moral systems from medieval chivalry to Bruce Springsteen love anthems have worked the same basic way. They take immediate selfish interests and enmesh them within transcendent, spiritual meanings. Love becomes a holy cause, an act of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment.

But texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. ...

This does not mean that young people today are worse or shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. ...

Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust."

 

# # #

 

Lovelies: What do you think of all this?

 

I think Brooks makes an interesting point ... but that he's quite hysterical and a little too pessimistic about our basic instincts. I myself want to fall in love NOT because I've listened to too much rock music (though I have); I want to because I crave companionship and a deep connection with another human being. I don't crave these things because the other couples I've observed up close seem so happy (though some of them do); I crave them because I've had some hints--here and there, in different relationships--of what it might be like to be that intimate with another person, and even the glimmers feel pretty great. I've had plenty of short-term relationships--and the more of them I have, the more I want something long-term. In that way, I think that I'm like plenty--maybe even most--other people, men and women alike: After a while, all the frivolity gets repetitive, tiresome, boring, and we crave something more meaningful.

 

But tell me your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-----------------

Also, dear commenters:

-Carolina: Sister, I like your attitude. I should be having more fun! (And I know you--and everyone else--an update on BJ ... Eventually, I'll get to that.)

-Barbie: I think you're right about everything--especially letting the other person do most of the talking. But I think it's all right to ask your date about past relationship experiences. Sometimes that will yield crucial info--and asking about that kind of stuff early on can be easier (and less weighted) than trying to do it when you're already emotionally invested.

-Paris: Hello there! It's nice to hear from you. (And I think it's quite likely Tweed Jeans could have a girlfriend; that's a very good point.)

xxx

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