You emailed me the link to your Facebook page, a.k.a. the key to Pandora’s Box. You may be the only person alive without any privacy settings on your profile.
I clicked through all 4,761 of your photos on Flickr. I saw various members of your family getting married. I traveled with you to India. I met your friends. I re-lived your high school years, since your Flickr collection contains old scanned photos of you as a child; even ones of your parents before you were born.
I read your blog. You’ve been blogging for a long time. It became apparent to me that you are a computer genius and have always been ahead of the technology curve. You are also an impressive, insightful writer. I drank your words like they held magical powers, like a celebrity drinks a five-dollar bottle of Kabbalah water.
You’ve been tweeting since the dawn of Twitter, back when people typed status updates that began with their name implied, like “…is eating a chewy chocolate chip cookie.” I read until I reached the beginning of your timeline. My imaginary tweet that night: “…is shocked and pleased to know this much about my Thursday night date. Thanks, internet.”
I was already in way over my head when I found your Vimeo page that contained the two most powerful pieces of insight thus far.
One video was a clip that aired on Dateline, about – what else – online dating; specifically, the advent of OK Cupid, which was not the site we met on. I always assume that everyone is on more than one site, but this confirmed it. The Dateline announcer rattled off a condescending voice over as the camera followed you on an awkward first date with a woman whom I judged to be older than me and less charming overall. I was encouraged by this, and seeing you speak and walk and exist in a moving picture was a fantastic feather in my cap made of you.
The second video stopped my heart. It was a documentary, produced by a film student who had met you – where else – online, and fallen in love with you. You, in turn, told her that she was too young, and transitioned her into a friend. She continued to carry her torch by wielding a camera and making a short film about you, with your consent and participation. She filmed you at work. She filmed you at home, reading your J Date messages. It’s clear that you are on every possible dating site there is.
I felt like a new character in the soap opera of your life, waiting off camera for my cue.
Before I entered the bar, I paced on the sidewalk and asked my friend on the phone, “Why am I even meeting him? He’s a professional dater. He’s been doing this for years. He’s smug and self-satisfied. This is a bad idea. But he’s interesting. I’ll go out of curiosity, and keep him at an arm’s length.”
I sat across from you for the first time in real life, lost in a mixture of knowing you completely yet not at all. You are neither capable of nor interested in engaging in a relationship. That part of you is shut down and closed off. You are absolutely unavailable. I empathize with this and I am intensely attracted to it. But I see the danger from a mile away. I won’t allow myself to be affected by you.
Except that, of course, it’s not possible for me to control my feelings. I knew this before, but meeting you reminded me that I can only control my actions and my reactions. I cannot kill my emotions when I wish they would die.
So I made stupid choices, and followed you willingly down the yellow brick road while “If I Only Had a Brain” played softly in the background.
When I was out with someone else last week, he told me that he read an article I wrote and it made him realize that he should snuggle more. He read on my blog that I’m not a fan of body hair, and he’s sorry that he’s hairy. He said he liked me and that I’m wonderful. I felt dread as he showered me with compliments, knowing he had made the familiar, fateful choice to look me up before we met. I imagined marching him over to your house by his shirt collar, knocking on your window, holding him up to your lava lamp and saying, Look, here’s a dude that likes me, why don’t you, why don’t you say these things to me?
You are the reason I don’t Google my dates anymore. Research is not romance.