Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Is cyberspace better than your place?

I was wearing a red shirt and a black mini skirt that night. I felt gorgeous. I felt alive. It was the way you were supposed to meet the love of your life--with 20 of my friends there as witnesses, surrounded by everyone I love, surrounded by people who should have known better than to invite us both there.

He was standing in the kitchen. And the moment we saw each other it was like, POOF instant recognition. Sparks. Lightning bolts. The kind of spontaneous combustion that happens two or three times in your life. My life at least.

Within hours we were on the couch, and I was crying in his arms. He felt like someone I knew already. Someone I could trust.

He later told me that the smell of me was intoxicating. He would dream of that smell.

And I thought: "Yes, this is the way. This is the way it's supposed to happen. In the real world where the pheremones are there, where all the senses are engaged and you can touch and taste and smell and see, where the attraction is obvious, where you're one degree of separation apart because you both know the same circle of people.

Yes, this was the real world, not an Internet Personal so it had to be better. It had to be right.

The next day he wrote me a long letter. He said he was really interested in getting to know me better, and that he was glad that I could trust him like that.

As we walked back to the car, a homeless man said: "You two are beautiful together."

And people always said that. You two are beautiful. You look like you are so in love. We seemed to be rolling on the same cloud. I guess I forgot that clouds eventually swell and burst and the rain comes.

I was thinking: Yes, this is the way it's supposed to be when you meet someone in the real world. This is the way you fall in love.

He was calling every day and every night. He was driving 200 miles round trip, twice a week, to see me.

By our second month together, he joked, if we kept seeing each other at this rate, within two weeks we would be living together.

And then, something changed. I can't put my finger on it, but reality intervened. And we finally learned the ugly shocking truth about each other:

We wanted the exactly the opposite things from life.

He was a hardworking single Dad in a house on a cul du sac with a lawn and a barbecue who was finally on the home stretch, looking at freedom ahead, plotting his escape -- early retirement and a freewheeling life of rediscovering the adolescence he never had. Parties, concerts, raves, drugs, a different woman every night...this was the light at the end of his frustrated, middle aged tunnel. Somehow he thought I was the perfect woman to explore the world and head off on this existential journey with.

I'd sown my oats and then some -- free and unencumbered, Lonely Planet book in hand, exploring any and everything I ever wanted to discover, nothing tying me down, no responsibilities but to myself. And I was sick of all this freedom -- I wanted to take care of someone. The cul de sac and barbecue were finally not the big boring threats they once were. I was a grown up and ready to take on some responsibility and drill some roots into the turf and nurture something beside my own self indulgence.

I was attracted to that hardworking dedicated single Dad and thinking, wow, I'd love to settle in and help him raise his kids, be the woman that his ex couldn't be.

We wanted not what each other was becoming, but what each other had been. Once this realization emerged, it was over. The cloud burst and it rained and rained.

But what if we had met online, on the Internet?

The big, nasty ugly questions:

- Do you want (more) children?

- Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

- Are you looking for a casual short term fling or a life partner?

On the Internet, you didn't even see a man's profile before those questions were out of the way. You didn't even click. You didn't even stand a chance of accidental spontaneous combustion with someone whoose path was only crossing yours because you were just getting ready to do a u turn.

So here I am, a bit humbled. Wondering if, indeed, the Internet might be a better way.

Or if finding someone on the same path is indeed such a monumental task that we just have to keep bouncing back into cyberspace, keep clicking, keep hoping, keep that flicker of fearless irrational optimism alive in our hearts that makes love possible.

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