From acclaimed cartoonist Koren Shamdi (THE ABADDON, IN THE FLESH) comes “LOVE ADDICT: Confessions of a Serial Dater“. A remarkable cautionary tale of how in search of love even a good guy can turn into a bad guy and how technology works, it’s dark magic dehumanizing even the most human of interactions especially when it comes to matters of the heart! The comic details the downward spiral of young animator “K” who’s pushed by a friend to join the popular dating site “LOVE BUG”. His journey begins as a search for true love but turns into a relentless hunt for sexual conquest with a touch of a button.
“K”embarks on a dating spree browsing a digital marketplace of flesh, an endless stream of perspective partners sorted by algorithms and stored on a distant server ready be consumed like TV episodes or Chinese takeout.
I found it brutally honest and beautifully rendered. it’s funny, witty, troubling and thought-provoking. I had a great conversation with Koren about the book and his views on online dating and the difficulties of finding and keeping that special someone.
AY: Thanks for speaking with me today, congrats on the book. It’s phenomenal! I have to ask, how autobiographical is Love Addict?
KS: Thanks! It’s a little more intense than what I went through, its kind of a compilation from previous periods. I might’ve been dating in 2007 on different sites and I took some of those dates and put them all in so there’s quite a few things that were jacked around and some added for dramatic effect, but a lot of the stories are true.
AY: When I started dating there wasn’t Tinder or other dating sites, one thing that struck me was how compelling K’s story was, a really nice guy who, letting this perceived power over these women go to his head, turned into a really not nice guy.Do you think all this technology has changed dating for the worst?
KS: It’s a double edge sword, there are good elements for shy people someone like me who have a problem approaching a complete stranger. Going to a bar and approaching someone can be intimidating where going online isn’t. There’s less personal rejection at stake. If you can write well, then male or female you can get people to respond.
The flipside is that it makes everything faster to where the “courtship” faze is nonexistent. Historically say in medieval times, courtships could last a year. Today, that’s reduced to a few hours. You swipe right you decide to meet, you hook up and that’s it. It becomes very dispensable it’s a human need that gets instantly served like Uber, you’re ordering your date for the night, you like her or you like him you go out with them again, or a lot of times you don’t. There is a danger to online dating that people are going to have to learn to cope with, especially if you’re in a big city it’s crazier because you can serial date forever.
AY: When you see popular shows like BLACK MIRROR, it feels like we are either there or heading there. What do you think it would take to counteract the “Uber” or “Relationship Take-Out” track it looks like society is on?
KS: I really don’t know where it’s headed. Certain things you just can’t fight, human beings are headed a certain way and there’s a big shift in the way we interact with each other. You have to accept that to a certain degree and there are always going to be people that are more susceptible to stay on the sites and keep on dating forever versus people who are temporary users that set a goal and are only looking for a long-term relationship and once they find a partner they quit.
The wide spectrum is always going to be there. Some people are going to be lured into the “hook up” culture and they are going to be those that it becomes a problem for. I have a friend, who the roommate character Brian is based on. He’s still going on five dates a week sometimes, he’s been doing that for years. He can’t seem to get out of that loop. You’re seeing so many people you rationalize churning through dates saying “the next one be the the one she’s right around the corner.” like a gambler. When I was writing the book I really wanted to delve into the psychology of it. Almost like the rush you get from driving 40 miles an hour to 200 miles an hour, it’s seductive.
AY: Haha, I had a “Brian” I think we’ve all had a roomie like that! It’s funny, reading Love Addict, it was so honest and open how you depict K’s decent into addiction much like drug & alcohol abuse. His chasing the initial “high” toward diminishing returns. The lack of power he compensates for which inevitably goes to his head. When K tells his therapist “I’m quitting therapy Doc, don’t try to talk me out of it, I got this I know what I’m doing”. You really shine a light on how addicts rationalize dependency and ignore how the addiction negatively effects their lives.
KS: Right, the character K sets out for a very simple thing, he wants a new girlfriend, he gets sucked into this completely different quest which is how many women can I date? How many women can I seduce? There’s something so unassuming and friendly about sites like OkCupid or Tinder. It can be fun but there’s really something darker because when you dig into the essence of it, there are dark things like sexuality under the surface of dating sites.
There is a hidden danger. I picked a silly name for the App “lovebug” like “Ok Cupid” and created a silly bumblebee logo. These apps seem harmless.You look at them and say, “Look at this cute little app where I’m going to go on dates with cute women and it’s all going to be adorable!”, but it’s deceptive, it can get dark.
AY: I loved the prologue. I loved the metaphor of the chair. K met his ex having a stoop sale and she loved this ugly chair, they move in together and this artifact that she cherishes it symbolizes how they met and their relationship where he just thinks of this as an ugly old chair, and they diverge from that point. Eventually, the relationship ends with their last fight and her destroying the chair, which was brilliantly subtle. I can totally relate to K’s Journey. It’s a universal kind of male story as a very young, clueless guy with admittedly no nuance about relationships thinking of women as a commodity “notches on the bedpost” mentality. Then eventually, hopefully, you mature as a man and find self-worth outside of sexual conquest and value women as whole human beings.
KS: Yes! Thanks!
AY: What advice would you give to someone that is new to dating sites that is unassuming and shy they don’t have a lot of confidence in social settings or feel unlucky with relationships?
KS: Online dating can defiantly be a good thing. I know older people how are still single and refusing to go online. I don’t really see the benefit of resisting it if your goal is to find someone to share a life with. Then you need to be proactive about it and being proactive means joining one of these sites.
it really makes things a lot easier for you can do a lot of filtering before you meet the person. For example, if you’re looking at someone’s profile then they use the word crazy five times then maybe that’s not the person for you.
Tinder doesn’t have a lot of text—it’s basically the picture you post but even they have a lot of ways you can filter. For most sites, you don’t automatically just go on a date. Unless it’s Tinder. You have a conversation online first. If you do too much filtering then you might not see anyone. I have a friend who won’t go on a date until spoken to them on the phone. That turns people off and reduces your prospects. The reality is you’re going to be going on a lot of dates some of them are going to be bad some of them are gonna be boring and aren’t going to come of anything, but that’s part of it— you have to put that time and effort into it.
If you know you have an addictive personality you’re gonna have to be very adamant with yourself about your goal. “I want a girlfriend or boyfriend, I don’t want to just hook up for years.” Or if you want to hook up for years then just be realistic about it.
Like anything you get out of it what you put in.
There is a danger because of the pool of people available and the ease of use, you can let good people go by because there’s always another out there. Back in the day, it was more challenging to find and connect with people, there was a bigger time investment. You might have been more hesitant to break up with someone you liked. The interchangeability can be dangerous.
AY: Do you think that the advent of online dating has an effect on “traditional” gender roles do you feel women are more empowered?
KS: I think in some ways it’s evened out the playing field. I can’t speak for women but in my experience, it’s still primarily women who are the ones doing most of the filtering and choosing. But I’ve also been approached. Women today are taking the lead in how serious the relationships get. They have no problem being upfront about not being interested in anything serious. “I’m still in my hook up phase” isn’t just for guys. Lots of guys might want more, say “I like you, can we hang out can we explore this further go on more dates?” Women’s response can be, “No, I just want to have some fun I’ll see you later”. However, women have stranger stories about weird or creepy guys and I feel it’s tougher for women. When they think everything is good to go then show up to a date and there’s something off. There aren’t any “rules” anymore as far as genders go.
AY: On another note, do you feel younger tech savvy people are missing out in today’s rapid-fire dating scene?
KS: Anything goes. I definitely saw this while researching this book. I’ve talked to a lot of people and heard their stories. It’s much more extreme now. I read a Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dating Apocalypse” I’m in my 30’s and it featured people in their 20s. It’s hyperspeed people are hooking up quicker, there’s not much conversation. One guy was boasting about sleeping with a woman by just using emoticons.
The span of the dates are super short nowadays within a half an hour you meet and you go home. There are no courtships and it’s unfortunate because you know, it was fun going on dates, getting to know each other and you didn’t know what was coming you had to feel each other out. It seems very unsatisfying when you don’t have to put in any effort to end up in bed. Sex can seem empty. There’s this strip by Robert Crumb “My Trouble With Women” where he goes through this arc of complete loser to famous underground cartoonist in the 60’s within the “Free Love” movement. He was sleeping with a ton of women then he gets despondent, thinks “is this all there is?” You stop appreciating the beauty of it. I think humans aren’t built to go through so many people so quickly.
AY: Indeed. “K” seemed to hit bottom and had close calls having unprotected sex and random hook ups in dive bar bathrooms & drugs. The date toward the end where he nearly sexually assaults this woman. He lures her up to his apartment and insists on drawing her when she was clearly uncomfortable. It was where I liked him the least and he also doesn’t like himself either, he opens the sketch he crumpled after she leaves and he sees the fear captured in her eyes. His self-loathing and shame were palatable.. It’s a tough situation that I think you framed beautifully.
KS: Thank you.
AY: Particularly with issues around consent that are front and center nowadays that was such a valuable lesson.
KS: Yes, again this was a fictional account and you have to be careful about being pushy. It’s not a good mentality to have.
AY: I loved all the supporting characters, in particular, was K’s Female friend, she was like his “Elaine” from Seinfeld. Very smart they had a great rapport obviously close friends. She pulled no punches about what she thought of K’s attitude, who she sees him becoming. It was great dialogue between them when she bursts his bubble, ” You think you’re this Don Juan and hate to break it to you but everybody’s doing it.”
KS: Yeah she’s the one who brings him down to earth. She lays it out when she says ‘you think you’re special you think you have this seduction gift but everybody is doing this’.
AY: Anything else you’d like my readers to know about Love Addict? Are you having any book signings?
KS: Yes. I’ll be at CAB Comics Art Brooklyn November 5th in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so if you’d like to pick up a signed copy.
AY: Excellent! It was a pleasure talking with you and really enjoyed the book.
KS: Thanks a lot Alex take care!
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