I was more of a spy on a highly improbable mission in the virtual house of love connections.
You see, by choice as much as circumstance, I've been a confirmed bachelor, a happily-never married, thank you very much. In addition, Cincinnati hasn't quite offered me what I was looking for in terms of a soulmate. The vibe here is different, less boho, less cosmopolitan than my restless mind demands.
Yet, to be fair, I'm not the man I used to be. The single man who used to climb out of his picture windows that opened to the center of the city now contentedly gazes on the big screens of local multiplexes and enjoys vicarious pleasures.
I've dated some great women here, but somehow something was always off for each of us as the relationship progressed. On the plus side, I knew what I wanted was out there.
I'd found love not once but three times prior to moving to the Queen City. Real love. The kind Mary J. sang about on What's the 411? So, why not here?
Begrudgingly, I tapped into Cupid's techno arsenal to steady my aim and make it more true. I was a late john, pimping myself out of curiosity after hearing too many beer-soaked anecdotes about lust and infatuation created in instant messages and profiles.
But love is blindness, right? And sight is highly overrated anyway, at least until it's too late and the vision dissolves into an indecipherable matrix of ones and zeroes.
I wanted to break the code, I suppose, or at least to attempt a reading. I wanted to "read" a person, what they say about themselves and see how "true" they are to themselves and their stories.
To commit these things to words, even printed on a screen, creates the illusion of a document that binds us. To read others, I had to "read" and "write" myself.
My metaphoric prose plays with poetic and philosophic forms that aren't intended through most of the online services. Their language is more rooted in the self-help movement and is therefore more mundane, more practical. But I was also surprised at how willing we are to nakedly present our biases, preferences and even prejudices to the whole wide world.
Our ideals and our ideal mates are captured in relief. And the profiling begins: This one doesn't make enough money, isn't educated enough or works out too much or too little. She/he must love cows, James Frey, Condelezza Rice, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Everything But The Girl. If this person loves their tea green, unplanned weekend excursions to nature preserves and mudcloth, will they want a specialty martini-drinking, city-dwelling, silk-and-satin-clad behind in the Hybrid next to them?
I was perplexed by some of the results when I initiated a basic parameter-defined search for women along three primary criteria: a 5- to 10-mile radius from my area code, between the ages of 25 and 40 and currently online. At any given time, the number of potential profiles that matched my ideals ranged from 10 to more than 100. Not such a big deal really. There were lots of pretty pictures to peruse and helpful compatibility percentages assigned to each candidate based our profile responses.
I quickly discovered that the technology, with its ability to calculate across multiple variables simultaneously in mere nanoseconds, hasn't exactly been taught to discriminate. How else could it justify deeming an 80 percent match (one of the highest ratings I remember seeing) for me with a woman who clearly stated that she would date a man of any and all races except African American? I can't count the number of times I encountered this seemingly fundamental conflict.
I love a good Hollywood fantasy as much as the person in the movie theater seat next to me, but life isn't Something New. Why not spare us both the rude awakening?
After sifting through hundreds of profiles for a few months, engaging in several curious extended e-mail exchanges and going out on four actual face-to-face dates, I surprised my own self when I found a match, one who's damn close to perfection.
What makes her so perfect? Was it written somewhere deep in the code of our individual hard drives, which is now the functional stand-in for the idea of our stars being in alignment under an august moon?
I like to believe that despite all the bells, whistles and ghosts in the machine, we simply found each other thanks to the Internet and yet we've discovered -- and continue to unearth -- connections that run deeper than those bound by wireless routes or hard lines. She sings my song, and every day I write the book.
I look forward to the day, some day down the road, when we're telling the story of how we met to generations removed from this moment and it'll be accepted as nothing new. Just the same story that the new kids on the block will scoff at as another old-fashioned fairy tale.
Someday, Femi. Sweet dreams until then.
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