I can clearly remember a time, early in my single 20’s life, where I would arrive home from work and hopefully dial *69 on my phone to see who had last called me. On a landline, because most people didn’t have cell phones yet, and caller ID wasn’t a thing yet. It would tell you the last number that called you, but not when, so then you might sit and wonder, “Did he call today or yesterday? Today or yesterday?!?! TODAY OR YESTERDAY?!?!”
I sometimes miss those days -- the mystery. People were routinely out of reach for 8-10 hours a day at work. They didn’t check their email until nightfall. You left messages on answering machines or voicemail. You couldn’t text each other 100x a day. There was no Facebook or MySpace or cybersleuthing. Googling someone wasn’t a thing because we were still Yahooing. By the way, my friends, this was not 1950. this was 2002.
As my friends swirl around the dating scene with the googling of potential dates, the background checks, I always get a sense of sorrow about it all, about how horribly unromantic we’ve become. I don’t think I have a single friend who doesn’t have a “stalker”, which makes me wonder if maybe stalkers are just the in thing to have these days, like a Kate Spade phone case.
It all leads me to wonder, how on earth does one woo in the age of technology?
I thought about it last night, thought about it long and hard, as I poised my mouse over the search button. I was trying to decide whether I was going to do it or not. I’ve been seeing someone for a week or two. We met at the dogpark. Things were going uncharacteristically good -- so good I was suspicious.
I tried really hard to quell that suspiciousness: ”Amanda, that is not a normal reaction to being wanted.” He got in touch when he said he would. He constantly told me how much he appreciated my intelligence, my niceness, my appearance. We talked about Things. It was unfair for me to not trust him, I thought.
My dog Clementine judging me doing the deed. Then again, Clementine can’t lie and I’ve never missed her mealtime. Clementine is not jaded.
I tried to imagine the two outcomes: I find nothing on my 30something, pleasingly literate and employed suburban prince and then have to live with the guilt that I didn’t trust him. Or would I discover something damnable and have to end this possibility of a Something? Would I ever tell him? Should I just assume he’s done the same, and then be angry he didn’t trust me either?
The worst part was imagining neither outcome, but the gray middle: finding something just questionable, and robbing him of the opportunity to tell me himself.
Something special happens to your ability to trust over time. You start out at 20, young and hopeful and full of the ability to believe. Through no fault other than experience (not all men are dogs, but as people we tend to lie a lot) if you end up 35 and single, expect to have depleted the trust bank to the point you’ll be living paycheck to paycheck. I work hard to balance that with not challenging people too much to love me. Its a highwire act, as many of you probably know.
I browse through dating profiles occasionally, and they read like disclosure statements. The questionnaires ask about money and politics and sex. No wonder people don’t “date” anymore. What’s left to discover? We follow each other’s Spotify lists instead of giving each other mixtapes. We track each other’s GoodReads to make sure no one lied about reading Ulysses. (Get over it. No one in the history of man except the guy who wrote the Cliff Notes version has read it, and he was paid.)
In the technology-less days of college, I once learned the guy I was seeing had a girlfriend by listening to his college radio show. “My girlfriend is in the studio with me today,” he said. I looked at my dorm room and thought, “No, I am most certainly not,” When I confronted him on our date later that night mid salad at the fine dining establishment The Ground Round, he seemed shocked that he’d been found out. “Were you spying on me?”
Now spying is de rigeur, so there I sat ready to click away my mystery, begging myself not to. “Believe, Amanda.”
My finger paused.
I pulled my hand away.
I let my breath out. Then I hit the button anyways.