Strawberry Yogurt: A Peek Into the Dark Minds of Women

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The Strawberry Yogurt Incident, as I like to think of it, occurred on a lazy Sunday night, not unlike last night. Not unlike it at all, actually, as it, in fact, was last night. But let’s not get bogged down in details. My girlfriend was studying for her upcoming IT exam and I was busy trying to write a short story for a fantasy-and-myth based website. My story was not coming along well at all – it amounted to some gibberish about a rogue knight, narrated by a talking fox – and I was feeling frustrated. The sun was down and, unlike the fox in my crappy story, neither of us were saying much of anything. Until 8:00 struck, and then my girlfriend had a sudden craving.

“Do you want ice cream?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said, looking up from my Word document. “Sure.”

“Ok. Let’s go out and get some.”

“Oh, in that case, no, I’m fine. I thought you had ice cream here.”

I should point out that I’m currently staying rent free at my girlfriend’s apartment, as I have no place of my own. I should also point out that I hadn’t left the apartment all weekend and, to emphasize my laziness, I hadn’t even put on pants.

“I’m craving something sweet,” she said, still reading her downloaded IT handbook. “I want strawberry yogurt.”

“Ok,” I said, knowing what she was getting at and avoiding it. “Why don’t you go down to the corner store and get some?”

“No, that’s okay,” she said. About a minute later she was repeating, “I would really like some strawberry yogurt” for the third or fourth time.

“Are you saying you want me to get it for you?”

“Yes.”

Sometimes, a man has to ask himself, “Do I really want to put on pants?” As much as I wanted a happy girlfriend, I just couldn’t bring myself to get up.

“Honey,” I said, “I’m really busy with this talking fox story. You don’t need the yogurt. Besides, you’ve been talking about trying to lose weight all week.”

This, I felt, was a smart tactic. No, baby, it’s not that I don’t want to go to the store and get your yogurt…it’s just that eating strawberry yogurt at 8:30 at night might not be good for your metabolism and I want what’s BEST for you!

Of course, my girlfriend is a tiny Asian woman, so both of us knew a little yogurt was not going to blow her up to non-Asian-girl proportions.

“If you cared about me,” she said, “you would go down and get me the yogurt.” While this sounds demanding, I should point out that she’d bought and cooked me meals all weekend, aiding in my ability to live a freewheeling boxers-and-t-shirt lifestyle. So perhaps I owed her a bit.

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry…I’m working on something right now,” I said, trying to decide if the fox should speak in modern slang or not. Ten minutes later, the girlfriend started talking to her friend on Instant Messenger. “Who are you talking to?” I asked.

“My friend,” she said. “She says you suck.”

I could see what was happening. My refusal to go get the strawberry yogurt was turning me into a terrible boyfriend, the kind of guy girls bitch about on IM. In addition, I was struck by the fact that she was so angry about the yogurt, she had to find a friend to hate on me with RIGHT THEN. It couldn’t wait. This wasn’t like What’s Love Got To Do With It, where Tina Turner endured Ike for years before putting her foot down. No, my girlfriend didn’t get her yogurt, and she was ready to seek action now.

And her course of action was making me look bad in front of her friend which, truth be told, was a very effective strategy.

On went the pants, the hair was combed, the jacket went on, the IPod was picked up (blasted Beatles For Sale, repeating track number two, I’m a Loser), and the talking fox was put on hold. I went down and bought the yogurt, and five minutes later I was back. I placed the yogurt and a spoon in front of her and waited.

The yogurt just sat there while she kept talking to her friend. A little while later, she took the yogurt and put it in the fridge.

“What the hell?” I stammered. “Aren’t you going to eat the yogurt?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll eat it tomorrow.”

This was insanity. It would be like me asking her to cook me a cheeseburger and then choosing not to eat it. Or having her pour me a beer, only to ignore it like it was a cup of V8.

“If you’re not going to eat the yogurt, why did you want me to buy it so badly?”

“Because I want you to show me that you love me.”

So, there you have it. Sometimes a strawberry yogurt isn’t just a strawberry yogurt. Perhaps, I got to thinking, this is a difference between how men and women see things. I am a man, and I see nothing but a small container of yogurt (which sits in the fridge as we speak, daring me to eat it myself). She, on the other hand, sees a symbol. That yogurt, to her, represents everything that makes a relationship work – selflessness, willingness to put work in, care, wanting to please the person you’re with – and for her, eating it is far less important than having it.

Everything said and done, I’m happy with how things turned out. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, there are other symbols of love that women sometimes ask for that are much, much more frightening than yogurt.

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The Politics of Sleeping with Someone (Without Sleeping with Someone)

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I have this one friend – let’s call him Ron – who refuses to sleep in the same bed with a girl after he’s had sex with her.  To me it sounds hilariously awkward, the sex over and Ron sliding out of bed to go sleep on the couch, leaving the girl alone and, in my imagination, ashamed and confused.  Ron believes that if two people sleep in the same bed together, that implies a level of feeling and intimacy that he isn’t comfortable with.  He’ll sleep in the same bed as his girlfriend, when he has one, but never with someone he’s only casually interested.  Sure, it might be a mixed message, considering he’s just humped the daylights out of the girl.  Ron doesn’t see it that way.  There’s a fine line between sex and love, just as there’s a very distinct difference between a dirty movie and a real one.  To blur the two can be baffling – imagine how odd it would be if there was a long dating montage set to “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” by the Spinners, right in the middle of a porno.

There is also a fine line between friendship and courtship, which is what the topic of today’s blog is.  If ever the situation arises when you and your OGF (Opposite Gender Friend) are going to sleep in the same place, and there’s only one bed, what is the best, most civil, most appropriate, way to go about it?

Last September I moved from Incheon to Seoul; it’s sort of like going from New Jersey to New York City.  Most of my friends, though, are back in Incheon, and so I find myself making the trek back on weekends to hang out.  This creates a problem, because after the subway closes at 12:30, I don’t really have any way to get home (I’m too cheap to spend the money on a cab back).  So, for the last six months, I’ve either hung out in the bar until the subway opens back up (5:30 AM) or I’ve crashed at a friend’s place.  The situation gets further complicated, though, since most of my pals are OGFs.  Usually, they’re quick to draw a line in the sand:

“You can come crash at my apartment,” an OGF will say, “but you’ll have to sleep on the floor.  Sorry.”

That rule is typically set in stone.  There is no sleeping in the same bed as your OGF.  On one hand, it makes sense.  Let’s take C-Batz for example.  She and I are friends.  Why would we sleep in a bed together?  I wouldn’t sleep in a bed together with Perkins or Toronto or one of my other male friends.  So why would I sleep in a bed with a female friend?  Just because it’s a girl?  To C-Batz (or pretty much any OGF), the key to the scenario is the “friend” designation, and friends don’t sleep in a bed together.

I, of course, take exception to this a little.  It seems to me that, unlike guys, girls will sleep in the same bed together and seem to enjoy it and find it fun.  It’s nonsexual and safe.  They’ll also sleep in the bed with a gay dude and cuddle him up like he’s a big teddy bear.  Why then, is sleeping in a bed with a straight male friend completely out of the question?  Is there a fear that I’ll lose control, that being around a woman will involuntarily cause sexual arousal and I’ll pounce, like a horny meerkat, on my poor unsuspecting OGF, who will have to fight me off with the nunchucks she keeps at her bedside?

In truth, that could happen.  Cause really I don’t trust myself all that much.  That’s beside the point, though.

All of this comes into question because a few days ago I reacted badly when trying to have a sleepover with my OGF, Special K.  We had gone out drinking with friends and I had gotten obscenely drunk (what’s new?).  Special K offered to let me crash at her place, which was nice, and I should’ve been grateful.  Instead, I acted like a big baby.  We got to her apartment and she instructed me that we’d be sleeping in the bed head-to-toe, meaning I would have my head on one side of the bed and she’d be sleeping with her head on the other.  Fair enough?  Nah, not at the time.

See, to me, one of the advantages of having an OGF is that, you know, she is a girl.  I felt cuddly on the night in question, like I needed a hug.  What would be the harm in cuddlin’ up with Special K?  It wouldn’t be sexual.  It would be friendly, like when Michael Jackson was sleeping in the bed with all those little boys.

Special K was having none of it.  She got out of the bed and onto the floor.  “What?” I thought, offended.  “Am I a leper?  Am I not cuddle-worthy?  DO I DISGUST YOU?”  I felt like the Elephant Man (who might’ve also had his bones cuddled by Michael Jackson), and so I chose to leave.  I booked it out of there and staggered my way to a motel.

Of course I was wrong and out-of-line, but still I feel that this is an issue that needs to be questioned.  Is it possible that a woman, or a man, has to have some sort of romantic interest in a person in order to sleep in the same bed with him/her?  Is Ron right?  Does sleeping next to a person really cross a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed?

Maybe I just need to find more male friends.  With my luck, I’d go to crash at some big Irish guy’s place, and he’d demand that we spoon.  Eh, whatever.  I call little spoon!

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After Getting a New Computer, I Break It and Try to Use that as an Opportunity to Enhance My Love Life

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As I’ve mentioned before, I have a goofy little crush on the computer teacher at my school.  Her name is Jang or something, and she’s really tall and lanky and speaks absolutely no English.  A few months ago her hair was long, but then she decided to cut it short.  Initially, it seemed like a bad call, and my feelings for her sank significantly; in time, though, I was able to adjust and accept her hair for the person it is.  Sometimes she’ll say something to the kids in English, like “Sit down” or “Okay,” filling me with the false hope that she has been keeping her bilingualism hidden all this time.  Then I’ll say, “How are you?” to her, and the blank, slightly frantic look she gives me says she hasn’t been hiding anything at all.

The girls in Korea, on average, seem to have the about the same English language skills as Scooby Doo did.  That is to say, they can listen to and understand the language better than they can speak it, and, also, they talk about food a lot.  Conversations with Korean girls usually start off with great aspirations, only to bog down into this:

Her: Do you like Korean food?

Me: I like Korean food.

Her: Do you like kimbap?

Me: I like kimbap!  He-he-he-he.

Her: Do you like bulgogi?

Me: I like bulgogi!  Scooby-Dooby-Doo!

Or something like that.  Anyways, at least they speak some English, whereas my Korean language skills are the same as…well…as Scooby Doo’s were.  You ever hear Scooby speaking Korean?  No, and you won’t hear me speaking it either.  Although my students have succeeded in teaching me a few odd words, using the supplies in our classroom.  Not that it matters – conversations with Korean girls in bars typically don’t involve a set of flashcards.

On Monday, my school told me to move into a different classroom, for reasons I’m not sure of.  Seeing that the new room is bigger and better equipped, I can only guess that this was a positive thing.  They also purchased a new, large, flat screen monitor for the computer, and told me to incorporate the curriculum CD-Roms into my lessons.  While that was wonderful in theory, it was hell in practice.  I couldn’t get the speakers connected to the computer, I broke a mouse trying to hook it up, and numerous times I did something that caused the CD-Rom to crash.  It was like a Jerry Lewis movie in there, with everything I touched going haywire on me.  The high-water-mark of my computer ineptitude came at the end of the day, when it appeared that I accidently broke the computer itself.  The fancy new monitor showed nothing but blackness.  Surprisingly, my computer expertise – which amounted to turning the computer off and on over and over again – wasn’t fixing it.

“Holy God,” I sighed.  “Am I really this bad with computers?”  At home, the Norton Anti-Virus pop-up keeps telling me my computer is “at risk.”  I always assumed this meant its defenses against a virus were weak, but maybe Norton meant that my computer is at risk simply because I’m around it.

I stood up, not knowing what to do, and then it hit me: What better excuse could I have for going in and talking to the
computer teacher?  I mean, this was, after all, her area of expertise, wasn’t it?  I never really tried to go up to her before; I figured that since we didn’t speak the same language, getting anywhere with her would require me to rely on my looks, and that would be like Paris Hilton trying to get guys based on her smarts.  With the broken computer here to act as my excuse, I felt a sudden boost in confidence.  I wouldn’t be hitting on her.  I’d be asking her for help.

It’s important for me to point out that I did NOT purposely break the computer to have an excuse to talk to her.  That would be unprofessional.  As the poster child for professional workplace behavior, I merely used the accidental breaking of the computer as a means to try to score a date with my coworker.

“Computer, broken,” I said, and I took my hands and made a motion like I was snapping a pencil in two or breaking spaghetti.  She followed me into the classroom and, for the next five minutes, tried to fix it by connecting and disconnecting all the wires from the back.  In silence.  When that didn’t work, she stood up and faced me and I could see that my hopes had been ill-conceived.  She actually looked embarrassed, ashamed that she couldn’t fix it.  Then Jang (or whatever her name is) did something that made my heart sink – she called in backup.

At one point, there were four of us in there jiggling wires and pressing buttons.  Nothing worked.  Later, when everyone had given up and I was alone, I miraculously fixed it by turning the power strip off and on again.  I ran to Jang to tell her the news.  “Fixed!” I shouted enthusiastically, holding my arms up in the air to signify victory.  She kind of laughed a little bit and clapped.

In all seriousness, I’ll never try to make a move on Jang.  It’s just really fun having somebody at work to crush on a little bit.  If she wasn’t there, it would’ve been a putrid day with lots of computer mishaps.  But she was there, and it helped.  Knowing my luck with technology, I’ll probably ask her to fix the computer again.  And, maybe one day, she’ll ask me if I like kimbap.

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Man on the Tracks

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Each morning, I leave my bed the way a kid leaves home for the first day of school, miserable, wanting to go back, possibly crying, and I find myself thinking about the night before and the day that lies ahead and mixing the two up into some kind of anxiety-ridden fog.  That was certainly the case on the Wednesday morning I left for Hong Kong.  There were so many things to be worried about.  It was like a buffet of stress.  There was my flight, which I was nervous I’d be late for.  Then there was the idea that I’d be spending six days in Hong Kong and I hadn’t planned a thing.  I had no place to stay, no sense of how much the currency was worth, and no real itinerary of things to do.  And to add to all that, there was a certain girl whose apartment I had just left.  She was still sleeping when I headed down to catch the first subway train.  I thought about how much I liked her, and how I hoped that my side of the bed would still be empty when I got back.

All this is to say, on a day when I should have been excited, I was instead overcome with the enormous realization that nothing about my trip to Hong Kong felt right.  I would be spending six days alone in another country, probably not talking to anyone and going to bed early to escape loneliness.  Part of me wanted to go back to the girl’s apartment and curl up with her.  I sat on a bench down by the subway tracks.  Going back was a bad idea.

I was thinking about her when an older Korean man standing about twenty feet from where I was yelled something out.  He sounded serious.  I had no idea what he yelled, as it was in Korean and, despite living here for almost a year, I have no grasp of the language.  I turned my head, though, as the noise demanded attention.  In doing so, I could barely make out the image of a young man walking down the subway tracks.  Not on the platform I don’t mean, but walking down the tracks themselves.  I looked up at the board to see if the train was close.  It was two stops away.

It was as though every person waiting for the train noticed the young man at the exact same moment, suddenly everyone began shouting and running.  Everyone except me, that is.  I continued to sit there, looking down at the guy on the tracks with mild interest.  Things like this don’t happen, right?  That’s what I asked myself.  Yeah, there was a man on the tracks and the train was coming, but people don’t just get crushed on the subway tracks in front of you.  It didn’t seem possible.  I was sure someone would help him up and he’d walk away fine.  For all the horrible daily events that happen in the world, for each car crash or electrocution or brutal animal attack or mugging, none of it seems to happen in my world.  Secretly, I hoped the train would come and run the man over.  Just to spice things up a bit.

But as I had assumed, nothing really happened.  A subway officer was rushed to the tracks and he went down and helped the man back up onto the platform.  The man didn’t put up any fight.  He did exactly what the officer told him to.  Back up on the platform, he staggered away.  He was obviously drunk.  The subway officer pulled himself up off the tracks and then led the man away.  The shouting and running around ended, and in a few minutes everyone got on the train like nothing had happened.

Taking a seat on the train, I thought about a couple things.  First, no matter how bad I might feel, there’s probably someone around who feels worse.  I might be sitting by the tracks feeling depressed, but there’s someone who feels so bad he jumps down on them, and for that person maybe there’s someone who feels so bad he actually lets the train hit him.  And secondly, I thought about how rare true disaster is.  For all the anxiety, all of the possible catastrophes, nothing much happens really – the man always gets off the tracks before the train comes.  Things have a tendency to be right, even when they feel all wrong.

*

Endings at a Park

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The list of unspeakables had gotten long.  Ashley and I sat in the park near Incheon’s Arts Center, eating sandwiches and watching the children play in the enormous fountain.  My chicken wrap dripped mustard sauce like sweat; it was a Sunday and the sun was bright and warm.  Summer was just stepping to the front of the line, the heat of the days making things like breeze and shade more valuable.  The children in the park ran through the fountain to cool themselves off.  Ashley and I sat right in the sun.

“Have you noticed that we’re the only non-family here?” she asked me.  It hadn’t dawned on me, but she was right.  Everyone in the park was either a parent or a child.  When a little girl fell down, there was always a mother there to pick her up.  Boys played catch with their fathers.  Sometimes the children would walk past us and, seeing the lightness of our skin broadcasting that we were from somewhere else, they would wave to us and say “hello.”

A relationship between two people – whether it be friendly, romantic, or some sort of mixture of the two – is only as good as the list of unspeakable things is short.  Ashley and I sat in the sun and talked about movies, feminism, and childhood.  We laughed when a small boy took off his clothes and urinated in the fountain.  Still, our list was there and I could feel it stuck between every pause in the conversation.  It was all the bad things that had happened between us – the people that couldn’t be mentioned, the nights that had gone bad.  Certain words, like “lawyer,” had grown fatter in meaning because of the things I’d said.  Simple questions like “what’d you do last night” changed into inquiries, switching from conversation to control.  Those questions weren’t simple any more.  Questions have memories, and my questions were filled with the memories of those nights when she’d left me alone to go off with other guys.

But there had to be something that brought us to the park on a hot Sunday afternoon.  It wasn’t coincidence, or boredom, or the allure of eating a chicken wrap and getting mustard sauce all over our fingers.  It was the three months we spent together, talking for hours every day, making each other laugh and becoming great friends.  When there’s a list of unspeakables, something must be there to keep two people pushing past it, making conversation in the face of it feeling forced and awkward.  Or at least a person likes to think so anyways.  Like every sentence she said told me that no matter how much she might have hurt me, she was still there.

Every now and then, the water in the fountain would stop, and the children, their wet clothes soaking up the heat, would wait anxiously for it to start again.  Some of the little ones would wander around, confused.  Still, they seemed to know where they were, aware that they were inside the confines of something – the park, the fountain, their families – and if they would wander away from the collection of children at the fountain’s center, they would never have walked too far away.  Not so far, they seemed to know, that they couldn’t turn and come running back to the water when it started up again.  It would only take a few beats to rejoin everyone, in the heart of the fountain, where all the complexity of the world was washed away by giant geysers of white water shot five feet up in the air.  I wondered if, at the end of their day, headed back home to dry off and get ready for school the next morning, those children, thinking back to their Sunday in the park, would feel like smiling or like crying.

Monday morning I called Ashley.  I was exhausted.  I told her that I cared for her, and then I told her that I couldn’t handle having her in my life anymore.  Our list had gotten too long, the hurt too much.  Strange, isn’t it, how empty one can feel when they know they’re doing the right thing?  It must’ve felt, I imagined, the same way those children felt leaving the park.  I suppose the end to anything, no matter how good or bad the events that preceded it, is always at least a little bit sad.

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Sandy Does SUNY

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Back in 1999 I had a ponytail, wore lots of Hawaiian shirts, and went to an art school called SUNY Purchase College.  Purchase wasn’t technically an art school – one could theoretically go there to study biology or history – but the bulk of the students there were majoring in dance, theatre, poetry, film, or some other field that typically ignores the possession of a college degree.  It was there, outside the Farside dorm building, that I met a girl named Sandy, although I had heard about her several times before I actually had the pleasure of saying ‘hello.’

This is because Sandy had a rep.  She had apparently slept with about half of the campus in the first week of the semester and, as a result, the skinny girl with short curly hair had become notoriously known around campus as a “slut.”  Now to be labeled a slut at, say, a Christian school, is not hard.  It’s a real accomplishment, though, to obtain that status at an art school, where people are sexually liberated and don’t judge others.  At an art school, the word “slut” is supposed to sit on a shelf with other obsolete words like “dame” or “flapper.”

The interesting thing, to me, was that Sandy could achieve this feat without being particularly good looking.  She had a small head and a large nose and wore an oversized pair of black rimmed glasses that made her look like a caricature.  I was 21 at the time and had virtually no knowledge in the ways of the woman.  I was lonely and intensely embarrassed by my lack of sexual experience.  While others at our school seemed to look down on Sandy, I looked at her and saw nothing but hope and opportunity. 

In the following weeks I small talked her helplessly.  She was friendly but didn’t seem very interested.  My one chance would eventually come on Halloween night, when she came over to my dorm room dressed up as the Y2K bug, an outfit that consisted of a short, tight dress and the words “Y2K” written on both her arms in glitter.  There were a lot of people in my room, and she climbed up onto the top bunk bed.  Her legs dangled down and a friend of mine, sitting next to me, whispered, “Look, she isn’t wearing any panties.”

I gulped.  As the night wore on, Sandy somehow ended up sitting next to me on my bed.  I didn’t know how exactly it happened – I hadn’t done anything to orchestrate it.  Then, as if fate wanted me to get some lovin’, everyone left the room except for the two of us.  We were alone and just sitting there.  Me, nervous.  She, commando.

Not knowing what to do, I engaged her in a blustered conversation driven by nervous energy.  “I was watching The Man Show,” I said, “and they were talking about how someone can have sex if they just walk around a city asking people to have sex with them.  Eventually someone is bound to say yes.”

“That would be me,” she said, laughing. 

It was bewildering.  I told myself to do something.  Make a move.  Ask her to have sex.  Kiss her.  Jump on her.  I didn’t know.  It would be like shooting a gun blindfolded and hoping to hit something.  I sat there with my finger on the trigger but couldn’t pull it.

Minutes passed and I hadn’t done anything.  I wiped sweat off my forehead.  We were still talking and, the more it went on, the clearer it started to become that nothing was going to happen.  Talking, I learned, is the worst kind of foreplay there is. 

“I had an AIDS test yesterday,” she said.  The comment came out of nowhere and, in an instant, everything crumbled.  “I’m terrified to hear the results.  I feel terrible about myself.”

She went on.  There was some guy she liked, but he didn’t want to be her boyfriend.  It hurt her.  She didn’t understand why.  What was wrong with her?  He’d sleep with her, sure, but that was it.  We talked until there was nothing left to talk about and, at the end of the night, she hugged me, teary eyed, and thanked me for listening to her.  Guys usually didn’t sit and talk with her like that, she said.  I told her it was cool and, if she was comfortable, to let me know how the results of the AIDS test turned out.

Inside, though, I was wracked with disappointment.  If guys didn’t talk to her like that, then I must not have been much of a guy.

Just like the real one, this Y2K bug turned out to be all hype.

About a week after that night, I ran into Sandy in the courtyard.  “Everything okay?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said, smiling.  “Everything’s good.”

There must be something about how we act, and how our behavior is interpreted, that causes others to react to us in such particular ways.  Sandy slept around and seemed carefree and content, and maybe that caused her guy, whoever he was, not to take her very seriously.  Something about the way I acted, unaggressive and asexual, caused Sandy to see me as someone she could talk to.  And in doing so, and by NOT sleeping with me, it caused a part of me to resent her, although I didn’t like admitting that to myself.  By hugging me and saying goodbye, and by being my friend, she made me feel immature and inadequate. 

Sandy walked by me, through the center of the courtyard, passing all the liberated women who spoke so poorly of her.  That talk didn’t change her a bit.  Sometimes a chorus is just a chorus, telling a back-story that’s only really interesting to itself.

*

Plenty O’ Fish, One Very Old

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People tend to do strange things in times of desperation.  Some people freak out and remodel their homes; others do crazier things, like attempting suicide or getting a nipple pierced.  In a moment of weakness, I chose to leap into another world by creating an account on the website Plenty of Fish.  It seemed like a good idea – I figured that every time I logged onto the Internet, it would be like stepping into a singles bar.  I spent a solid half hour writing my profile, and then I sat back and waited for the ladies to come a messaging.  This was a good place to start, I thought.  People had told me that Plenty of Fish was the dating website to go to.  A lot of people use it, they said, and, more importantly, it’s free.

My first message – and last message as it would turn out – came only minutes after I completed my profile.  “Wow!” I said to myself.  “This is great!”  This girl must’ve really prescribed to the ‘early bird gets the worm’ philosophy, although I don’t like thinking of myself as a worm, and am slightly uncomfortable with the sexual innuendo that could be read into that.  Putting that thought aside, I anxiously clicked on my new acquaintance.  Although I am constantly skeptical, I opened her message with hope.  Perhaps thirty-five minutes on a dating website was all I needed to find a good, decent girl.

The woman’s name was “twilite09.”  I assumed this was a reference to the lovely vampire books that all the girls were going bananas for.  My eyes went straight to her message.  “Don’t let age scare you away.”  Hmm.  Not really what I expected.  Next, I looked at twilite09’s age.  She was 56.  The next logical step was to look at her picture.

Her old, wrinkled body was stretched out on a bed, wearing a low-cut shirt, her hair long, red and tangled.  “Oh, how nice,” I thought.  “She got someone from her hospice to take a picture of her.”

It was hard to feel anything but sad.  Sad for twilite09, sad for myself for signing up on this website.  There was no way on earth I was going to reply to this person.   I imagined that it was completely possible that some girl out there would feel the same way looking at my profile if I messaged.  That I could be someone else’s twilite09.  I had only been a member of Plenty of Fish for forty minutes and I wanted out.  I disabled my account and withdrew my fish from the competition.

I’m sure there are plenty of great things about dating websites.  In a way, it’s great that a 56 year old woman can find a place where she has the confidence to “approach” whoever she feels like approaching.  I would never be approached like that in an actual bar or out on the street.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe in face-to-face encounters we tend to follow through with what feels natural.  It’s instinct over logic, and the unwritten rules that dictate a lot of our social behavior are much more apparent.  A  56 year old woman doesn’t go around hitting on everyone, and a 32 year old guy doesn’t send messages to women based on a paragraph about their movie tastes.

Or maybe it’s just what you can get used to.  Some people can get used to online chatting and messaging and improving their profile and sending ‘winks’ or ‘interests.’  On the other hand, some people feel better getting used to loneliness.  There are plenty of us – we just don’t have a website.

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