Jackie Summers, on the early adapters of internet dating and pain that gets locked away but never really goes away.
There are some who would have you believe that time is the great anesthetic. There are those who subscribe to the theory that time heals all wounds.
This is fallacy; conjecture born from the desperate need to convince oneself that someday, the pain will subside.
Closer to the truth would be: the mind is a time machine, a mystic portal capable of transporting you back to places in your past; some wondrous, some best left forgotten. Some wounds are always fresh, some scars never really heal.
There are rooms in the corridors of our minds where we store all of our life’s experience; success and failure, treasure and folly. Some doors remain forever open, as they contain moments of sheer joy, worthy of reliving. Some doors are best sealed forever; you know all too well what lurks behind. Over the course of months and years, you may enter certain rooms less frequently, but make no mistake: every single time you choose to revisit certain memories, you will discover the intensity of the feeling invoked, undiminished.
I have one such room, boarded over, locked shut, keys thrown away, and barricaded with yellow caution tape. Like a broken bone that never set correctly, I don’t actually need to cross the threshold of this particular gateway for the scars to begin to itch.
Those doors open the gates to the Emerald City.
Countless millennia ago, a rudimentary system of whistles, clicks and grunts developed into a proto-language, distinguishing early humanoids from other mammals. Six thousand years ago, a combination of drawing and grammatical standardization evolved into written words. Cyrus the Great, a Persian king from the fifth century B.C., is accredited with exchanging privatized written communication between individuals, also known as mail delivery.
Six hundred years ago, the Guttenberg press revolutionized human communication by making the written word accessible to more than just the aristocracy. One hundred and fifty years ago, Innocenzo Manzetti conceived of a “speaking telegraph,” later patented by Alexander Graham Bell as “the telephone,” redefining human communication.
In 1971 Ray Tomlimson sends the first email. The paradigm shifts again, irrevocably.
I like to think of myself as an early adapter. I’d like to believe that, were I born in some distant century I’d have been amongst the first to speak, to scrawl on cave walls with coal, to carve cuneiform into wet clay. As Fate saw fit to have me born in the Age of the Internet, I fully embraced the medium of my day.
In the days before Social Media had a name, early online communities began to gather based on perceived similarities. It was a simpler time; the Twin Towers were still standing, Google was a bit player in the search engine field, and the idea of violating your privacy was still a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s teenage eyes.
It was a pivotal moment in human history: anyone willing to suffer the infernal crackling of a 56k modem struggling to connect, now had the chance to express their individuality. Whole parts of the world formerly inaccessible except by books or planes were now at your fingertips. The opportunity to explore different cultures and interact with people whose paths you would never cross in real life changed the way we saw the planet; the world shrunk in direct proportion to the exponential expansion of communication.
Not coincidentally, this is right about the time the whole world became a haven for hook-ups. Suddenly we were dating, romancing and fucking people who didn’t live on our block, in our city, our state or even in our countries. As has always been the case, cutting edge technology simply served to facilitate ancient mating rituals.
Like the first chimpanzees to use sticks as levers, early online daters gained an almost genetic advantage. An entirely new way of getting to know potential lovers was born. People were forced to connect with words and phrases in lieu of actually being able to connect with alcohol and genitalia. The Grammar Police were born, as it became clear how much you could discover about a person by their (in)ability to spell correctly. I will always fondly recall the woman who attempted to compliment me by saying she did not think she was in my league, except she spelled league: L E E E G E.
Unfortunately, if you can’t spell league you’re probably not in it.
I also recall the young lady who thought I was a genius, except she spelled it: G U I N N E S. While I enjoy a thick head on an Irish stout as much as the next gent, once again either poor spelling or typing deflated the intended effect. Equally fond is the memory of the self-proclaimed Grandmother and CEO, who in the best Kings English, informed me that she was “sick of seeing my profile, and just wanted to know if I could fuck.”
My instinctive response was to say “Ma’am, were you the last woman on earth, and if all lotion had gone the way of the dinosaur, and I had carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands, I still would not fuck you with my dog’s dick.” What I actually said was, “I find your tone inelegant.”
What can I say? Early adapters are always the first to ferret out the freaks.
Because we always fear what we do not understand, conversing with and meeting people online drew scorn and stigma from the less adventurous. According to popular opinion at the time, the online world was inhabited entirely by sexual predators, liars, social misfits and the hideously unattractive. Of course there was at least some truth to this. The perceived anonymity of the internet brought out the worst of some people, and still does. For a while, I began to wonder if beautiful, intelligent women online were a fantasy.
It was right about that time Tatiana first emailed me.
© j summers 2012
photo melloveschallah / flickr