There's no good way to excerpt this piece, so here's the whole thing, minus the Radiohead lyric that gives it its title, followed by a few words from me.
It was the final round of my online dating experience that taught me a lesson: I am not ready to date. I think I already knew this, but loneliness and delusion had convinced my tender heart that it was ready to move past the depression and anxiety of the previous five years and start afresh. I deliberately ignored the fact that my choice of venue for The Great Moving On online dating, the most impersonal meet-and-greet on the face of the planet was evidence that I was unprepared. I ignored the fact that online dating gave me exactly what I wanted human contact but that I could take it only as far as I wanted without having to move past the boundaries of comfort I had built over the years. I ignored that this was my sickness, neatly packaged in a new, safe way.
In some way, I think we're all pretty much unprepared for the meet market: it's a slaughterhouse out there. I have managed to come up with some semblance of a social life, but the ground rules are set in stone and are to be considered inviolable: "We are Just Friends. You will not at any time dare to venture off this path." And yes, it beats the hell out of sitting at home alone every single weekend. Still, while this practice has its rewards, and I wouldn't give them up, it does not lead toward Finding Someone, and in fact may work against it: given the choice between having a good time with an old drinking buddy okay, she's not that old, and she doesn't drink, but this is the dynamic which is pretty close to being a sure thing, and embarking on an evening with someone you don't really know yet, a situation fraught with peril, what would you do?
Yeah, that's what I thought. Screwing your courage to the sticking-place, as Lady Macbeth was wont to counsel, is very likely to get you screwed, and not in a good way either.
I've always been discontent and regretful, always stagnant and unattractive; I can't point to any incident in childhood that could conceivably have created such characteristics, so I have to assume that I was born with them and therefore, that I will die with them. "Things can always change," we are told: it doesn't mean they will. And I have more reason than most to believe in the power of transformation: right now, I have a 3-0 record against the Grim Reaper, having survived three incidents that could easily have killed me. Yet while a couple of these threats to my person applied a much-needed layer of reinforcement to my otherwise fairly vague religious beliefs, none of them did much of anything to improve my personality.
Over the years, I have learned to fake a certain level of equanimity regarding my chronic datelessness: I invoke the standard litany "The woman of my dreams does not exist, and if she did, what would she want with me in the first place?" and then I change the subject. And no, I don't think the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City.
Just to prove that I'm a glutton for punishment, I picked up the DVD of What Dreams May Come. And to prove that I'm not truly masochistic, I managed to avoid watching it for nearly a year, finally pulling the disc out of its shrinkwrap as a test, I told myself, of my new HDTV, as though heartbreak were somehow more palatable in high definition. I wanted to hate it, to rip the disc out of its tray and hurl it against the wall. But I begrudge no one his or her true love; I just wish there could be one for me, if not for eternity, for just a few minutes, or at least long enough for the tears to subside.
Which they did, eventually. I think. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
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Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill