I made a couple of references recently to a friend who no longer returns my emails. I didn’t write any details about him because, I’ve always had the feeling that he was a private person and wouldn’t appreciate any obvious references, even though I’d never use his name, or anyone else’s, without permission.
Since he was the last close friend I had on whom I could rely, this leaves me without any substantial emotional support besides my sister. This evening, I was half-tempted to reach out to a few people I don’t know well in an attempt to… well, honestly, I don’t know. An attempt at reaching out for the sake of reaching out, I suppose. So, I guess this blog is a weird mess of different stuff anyway, so some awkward emotional self-exposure couldn’t harm it any.
We met through a dating site. My experiences on dating sites have been far worse than my experiences dating the old-fashioned way. That wasn’t what I expected. At first, I thought internet dating would be perfect for me and I was the first among my friends to try it when there was still a stigma attached. Oddly enough, that period was actually okay, if not as great as I’d hoped. You see, there are a few ways in which I am not in the big fat middle of the bell curve and I thought that the internet, by allowing a person to contact more people than only those in one’s own narrow socio-economic, and regional, group, would allow me to meet people who may share some of my less common characteristics. Okay, as long as I’m confessing to embarrassing things, I might as well admit that I once joined Mensa because I was lonely. Okay. Whew. That’s a lot off my chest. Please don’t hate me because I used to belong to Mensa.
Yeah, so I thought that the internet might be a way to meet some really smart guys who might just also be available, and I might even be able to weed out the ones who just want to hold hands and cuddle without having to date them for six months first.
Well, since then I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why internet dating works so poorly, and if anybody with the requisite skills would like to collaborate on trying to create a totally different type of dating site based on some crazy notions I have, there’s a contact form on my about page, although I should tell you that everyone to whom I’ve described my idea says that we’d get no users. Anyway, back to me…
One of the problems with dating sites is that you have to put down a whole list of requirements, height, weight, age, hair color, eye color and… location. So, I put down “anywhere,” which perhaps isn’t quite true, but it has enough of an element of truth. There are probably places I wouldn’t go for anyone, but for the right person I could go pretty far, especially now that I’ve gained experience and have realized how few and far between those right people are. One of the people who kept popping up on the little list of “people you might want to meet” was a programmer/journalist from Germany a couple of years older than I was whose profile made me laugh a little. Prior to internet dating, many of the men I dated were younger. After the rise of the internet, when your age would be pasted right next to your face, I found that approaching a man who was born six seconds after I was would get me a response of, “You seem wonderful and I bet you’ll meet a wonderful man soon, however, I want to meet a younger woman.” Actually, I’ve gotten that from men as much as ten years my senior, all the while being approached by guys fifteen years younger in person. Now, why couldn’t any of those young ones have had something in common with me? Meanwhile, this guy had something about age I could relate to. He wrote something to the effect of, “Your IQ must be at least 120 plus our age difference.” That might sound weird, but that’s a little bit how I feel about it, although I might say 135 plus our age difference. I’m not against dating older or younger men, but the further they get from my age, the more we need to have in common. If a sixty year old man, or forty, sends me an email saying, “You’re cute. Let’s meet,” I think to myself, “Let’s not.” However, if someone the same age sends an email saying, “We have X, Y and Z in common,” then I think it’s great. Also, since there was no upper limit on IQ, I figured it implied smarter was better. Men who feel that way frequently like me, so I was encouraged. So, I wrote. Actually, I wrote, “Boy, you’re easy.”
He wrote back.
Partly, I kept writing because the men in New York City who were contacting me seemed to be demanding to a crazy extent. I wasn’t tall enough, rich enough, young enough, educated enough- why date a kinda cute girl (well, middle-aged woman) next door when there are so many twenty-year old neurosurgeons who moonlight as exotic dancers just waiting to cater to all the emotional and sexual needs of a horde of IT professionals who realized at forty that playing hard to get isn’t a good idea when no one’s chasing you… but I digress.
So, M. seemed, by comparison, relatively normal. He was vulnerable, imperfect and grumpy by his own admission. He only had one photo posted, and that was a head on shot that showed nothing but his face. In fact, it looked like an id photo might look, although it wasn’t. He clearly wasn’t hideous, but it wasn’t enough information for my interest to be based primarily on his appearance.
So, did I actually think something romantic could develop with a man living on another continent? Yeah, I confess, I did. You see, I’m not that into monogamy, although I confess I haven’t given it much thought in a few years. However, the idea of having a man who was a friend and lover, yet seeing him once or twice a year, was not in the least bit inconceivable to me. I can conceive of many things. I don’t have a preconceived notion of what a relationship should be.
Our early emails, and by early I mean the first six months, were beyond flirtatious. We had very frank discussions about what we would be willing to do with a partner in bed. There were even a couple of things he told me he had always wanted to try but none of his previous girlfriends were willing. I told him that, if we ever met, we I would try them with him. For the record, one was something I’ve done and another was something I haven’t done.
As I already said, I could see that he wasn’t perfect, and he had been single for an unusually long time. Meanwhile, I continued to write to other men and go out on the occasional date.
Finally, I asked if he would like to visit me in New York. I did phrase it as a chance to visit New York and stay with a friend, mainly because “fly to the other side of the ocean and see if we find each other physically attractive” seemed a bit high pressured. I figured, once he arrived we could play it by ear. I’m at least as good as the average person at telling if someone is interested in me and I could trust myself to not throw myself at him in a way that would make us both dreadfully uncomfortable. In fact, with me, and I suspect with M. as well, if there’s a danger it could be that we might each be too reticent.
He wrote and told me that he did not like to fly and an eight or nine-hour flight to New York sounded like pure torture. However, there was no reciprocal invitation and he didn’t sound exactly filled with regret. Suddenly, it hit me, the painful way it only does when you realize it though disappointment, that I had developed quite a degree of affection for him. I called it a crush, because I didn’t know what other word to use. “In love” is too specific. Without meeting in person, I don’t know if I could truly fall in love. In any case, I suddenly realized that the possibility of anything more romantic than our flirtatious emails was highly unlikely. I threw myself on the bed and sobbed and wondered if it was too painful to be friends. I think I might have cried a couple of days in a row and then I decided that I could work through this disappointment and we could, in fact, be friends. Over the course of the next year, the flirtatiousness faded to the background, although every once in a while it would return.
That was four or five years ago. We have continued to write frequently, although the regularity has varied. There have been times that he’s fallen silent for a long time, but when I’ve written to ask if he was okay, he’ll write a short note saying that he’s fine but work is busy, etc. He suffers from depression and I do worry a little, although he hasn’t had a major episode in years.
So what events could have led up to this recent rupture? Since he hasn’t written, if something has occurred on his end, I can’t know. I was long, very long, in returning an email to him. When I finally did, I did not hear from him quickly, but that in itself was no surprise. Then I wrote an email asking if he was okay. No response. Then I wrote another that was a little bit more blase and chatty. No response. Then I wrote a pleading one. Then an angry one. Then, this evening, I wrote a whiny, tearful, pathetic one. If he had asked me to stop, I’d be bordering on being a stalker.
It’s been too long now for him to be on vacation.
Is he alive? Is he ill? Those sound too melodramatic and feel too much like denial.
So, basically, I feel as if I lost my best friend.