So I’ve been in an extended period of blockage. Everything I want to start working on just won’t come out and everything that’s in the works is stagnating and feeling boring. On the plus side I heard from a Chicago friend that John Elliot (Libertarian seminar guy) was disappointed in me which is sort of exactly what I expected after I sent him an email explaining why I didn’t really agree with him on much. He turned out to be a remarkably self-righteous and narrow-minded man. Not the kind of person I want to work for, or even be favored by.
Any way, things have been slow and I’ve got little to report or create so instead I’m going to finally post publicly that thing that I used to be proud about. I made a facebook status about it once and a few people asked to read it so they did. Chances are those are the only people that read this but just in case there are a few more folks I’ll share it. I entered this in a New York Times essay contest last year and placed in the top 20. When I first heard that news I was really proud of myself. But pride is constantly diminishing and replenishing in new ways so it’s just eh now. Here it is. Bear in mind, it’s about a year and a half dated now; “Julia” and I are long broken up, though I can happily say she remains one of my best friends and most admired people. The very terrible title is: Ever Talked To A Girl? Yeah, Me Neither, Really.
Every now and then—less now than then—I’ll be curious to know what’s happening with my ex. Generally I assume she’s become a serial puppy-drowner or made a hobby out of reaching into people’s chests and tearing their still-beating hearts out but, entertaining a shred of doubt, I’ll check her Facebook to verify.
Then I remember that she defriended me (a term which apparently has not yet been dignified by Webster’s) a few months after we broke up. Right after the breakup, I spent an unhealthy amount of time on her Facebook page, staring hopelessly at her recent activity, recalling that my name was once a regular in that litany of wall posts, comments and photo tags. Now all I see is the profile picture of her and her not-so-new boyfriend and the little button taunting, “Add to Friends.” I’m a little ashamed to admit that Facebook can affect my emotions, but it’s genuinely upsetting that the only girl—woman—I’ve ever loved, somebody who I once contemplated marrying, isn’t even my cyber-friend. What’s worse is that, as long as we’re both on Facebook, she’s never going away.
It’s not Katie’s online presence that bugs me—she’s got just as much right to a Facebook as I do—it’s the nerve she had to void not only our relationship, but our friendship in such a public manner. I found out after she denied an invitation to get coffee about a year after we broke up. I was confused why she was still so reluctant to see me so, not knowing what else to do, I went to her Facebook and discovered I was blocked. Another embarrassing admission: I have not personally experienced, till or since, something so profoundly emotive as this cyber-severance.
The thing is, I never thought I would have to give up on Katie. She was the physical manifestation of my fondest memories: bi-winning in school and sports, getting into college, growing closer to my parents while they grew further apart, playing hockey and partying too hard with my buddies, the thrill of not-so-private sex, the comfort of knowing every inch of another’s body and the expectation of her completing my thoughts; to this day she still permeates all my high school nostalgia. To me, Katie was perfection, and as I sank into depression during a long and lonely Winter Term she became the antithesis that I loathed but longed for.
My freshman year I designed a home-based Winter Term project so I could spend time with her during her senior year. Demonstrating her appreciation she dumped me a few days after Christmas. She cried, which was awkward, so I didn’t say much except to suggest we still hang out in January. Happily, she agreed.
However, the time spent texting to time spent in person ratio was astronomical; think like Bullwinkle to Rocky body mass ratio or New York’s hipster to hippies ratio. As-tro-nom-i-cal. She persistently made excuses and ignored texts and I only grew more desperate, still deluded that she might come back. I became angry, accusing her of avoiding me and constantly lying to me. I was rude—mean, even—in my accusations and, justifiably, she stopped answering my calls.
When I returned to school I rebounded fast with my experimental lesbian lab partner. Never before had I had sex with somebody I wasn’t dating, and breaking that ice with Nicole was something else. Let me mention again that she was a lesbian; in the heteronormative sense, I took her virginity.
Nicole was communicative to an almost uncomfortable degree. Every ten seconds or so she’d ask if she was doing everything alright, not realizing that as long as I was conscious and hard I wasn’t going to nitpick. You see, college instills these weird, inconsistent sex guidelines in students: on one hand, there’s the communication imperative, where unless you’re engaged in running dialogue something is wrong; on the other, it’s the BDSM notion that unless you spent the night physically bound to a chair and wake up the next morning with tender wounds and a limp the sex was wasted. Nicole, I think due to inexperience, was of the communication camp. As for me, I had sex in high school so I don’t really think about it much beyond getting the OK and throwing on a rubber.
Nicole did not stay straight—I guess the grass wasn’t greener—but her nonchalant bisexuality gave me my first genuine “college” experience; just screwing for the sake of screwing. It was liberating for a week or so, but it didn’t get me over the breakup hump. While I was honored that Nicole made me her male experiment, she mostly just reinvigorated my desire for the straight girl that left me.
Weekend after weekend I couldn’t get Katie out of my head. Every girl fell short and again I felt desperate. It had been about a month since my last contact with her when I decided on the ultimate romancing to get her back.
My romance gene is unfortunately somewhat stunted. However, thanks to my $200,000 intuition I can certainly recognize romance when I see it. I knew that winning Katie back would require an emulation of a great moment in romantic pop culture. I rejected models from Say Anything for lack of boombox, Vicky Cristina Barcelona for lack of sexy Spanish accent, Eternal Sunshine for lack of meta-technology until, like a speeding bouquet, it hit me. The Notebook: 365 days, 365 letters. What teenage American girl doesn’t crave that kind of attention? Given, I’m no Ryan Gosling, but it’s the persistent, invasive thought that counts. Of course, nobody actually sends letters anymore and I sure wasn’t going to start, so I made a 21st-century adaptation.
Facebook seemed the best, but proved the worst way to manage this problem. I began a process of finding funny videos and Facebook messaging them to her with witty captions. This was a dumb, very creepy idea, I realize this now. But if The Notebook couldn’t help me, I didn’t know what could.
On the seventh video I made an allusion to her new boyfriend’s sexual incompetency (Read: I asked her how she felt taking someone’s virginity). She wasn’t too happy about that and formally requested that I stop talking to her. That was a tough cookie to swallow. But, beginning to see how much I was probably freaking her out, I sucked it up and let her go for awhile. A few quiet weeks passed and I continued moping and whining. And then, without even realizing it, I met someone.
I didn’t mean to meet her and, honestly, I forgot her face after our first introduction—something that is about as commonplace for me as shaving my armpits. So, not commonplace. We spoke briefly at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner and I hardly paid her any attention due to greater interest in my burrito.
The day after we met she Facebook friended me. Naturally I took this as a sign that she was interested. Facebook is much more nuanced than people give it credit for; if you friend someone of the opposite sex (or same if you’re both into it) you’re more or less presenting like a panda at the zoo. It’s like a damn jungle on that social network.
Justifying the zoo animal theory, about 15 minutes after I accepted her friend request she asked on my wall if I wanted to hang out. This was a textbook example of what many refer to as a “Facebook workie.” Via ostensibly innocuous wall post, she was implying that she wanted to hook up. Though I barely remembered her, I thought it silly to not take this chance so I invited her to watch a movie in my room the next night.
Julia and I now consider that night our anniversary. At this moment I’m sitting at Gate 14 at JFK International Airport (which is much more comfortable than Bratislava—I mean, Laguardia Airport) waiting to board a plane to spend spring break with her at King’s College, London. Looking back on the past year, I can’t really say how I got here.
Initially Julia and I were just using each other to rebound from bad breakups. The use just never really ended. Without saying anything about it, we started spending more time together and doing special things like seeing the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Somehow I became closer to her than I am to almost anyone else. I’ve known her barely a year but I feel like she could talk me into or out of anything. Normally that would scare the bageezus out of me, but instead I love having someone who always knows exactly what I need to hear.
Love. I have to catch myself there, because love isn’t quite what I feel. I mean, I basically met Julia on Facebook. Not Match.com; Facebook. For some reason that’s discomforting to me. Is this what love is in the 21st century? Meeting a person from behind a screen and hoping it will work out well enough in person to forget the past? It has worked so far—I had to really dig deep to remember Katie details—and I think it will continue to work. Still, I met Julia on the internet! Isn’t life’s first lesson, “don’t arrange meetings with strangers on the internet?” Okay, I never expected Julia to be a child molester, but then again, I didn’t expect her to be perfect either.
Facebook, texting, loose morals, and all that jazz make falling in love a somewhat impersonal and almost unnatural event nowadays. I’ve used technology to “court”—if that’s still a relevant term—the opposite sex frequently in place of initiating a real, personal conversation. It’s like we’ve reached a modern adaptation of the love letter and tripled its use. I guess this new love methodology is consequence of a rapidly flattening and totally awkward planet. If so, I’m a totally awkward guy who is reaping the benefits.