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Field Notes: Observations and stories about sex and dating in the 21st century
By YOUR SECRET ADMIRER  |  March 4, 2009


I'm obsessed with talking about sex and dating. You're obsessed with it too, whether you like to admit it or not. Everyone is. And so Your Secret Admirer will filter those tales for your voyeuristic, analytic, romantic pleasure. Here goes.

An ex-boyfriend of Beth's just got back to the United States after three years in the Peace Corps. We'll call him Africa. He was so far away and out of touch and not phone-accessible and barely e-mailable and now all of a sudden he has a cell phone and lives a few hours away and updates his Facebook profile and wants to chat (and maybe visit). So much growing up happened in those three years, yet now, during phone conversations with Africa, Beth feels herself reverting to her college personality, feels like she's back in bed in a Boston dorm room. Is there any way, when you've been apart during such formative years, when you parted under abrupt and rather angry circumstances, to rebuild a normal relationship? Unclear, stay tuned.

I learned a new phrase this week. (And I've gotta say, it's perfectly timed.) Interestingly for dorky neologists, the phrase (an acronym) was popularized on Christian college campuses(?!?!) but now it's gone mainstream. It is a: "DTR talk" = Defining the Relationship talk; i.e., when you sit down with someone you've been hanging out with romantically and say something like, "So, what do you think is going on with us?" Or, "Are you seeing other people? Do you want to be?" Or, "Am I the only person you're sleeping with?" And it could be awful and not what you want or it could be great and exactly what you're hoping for. Regardless of their actual gender, whoever initiates that conversation has balls. How do you do it? Anyway. DTR. Use it.

Okay, so yes, we all know the pitfalls of dating in this uber-technologically-connected world. Like one female New Englander, who's considering a summer move to Maine. Moving-to-Maine's ex-fiancé had just added her as a Facebook friend. She texted her BFF in a panic, wondering if she should remove a picture of herself and the now-married (not to her) ex, which she'd posted online post-breakup (this was the clincher — that she posted it post-breakup). Yes, the answer came back, take it down.

Probably a good move. Even those who claim not to cyber-stalk do so. A guy with a typewriter tattoo tells YSA that he doesn't "really go digging except to look at pictures. Since I'm all over the Internet, it's usually the other way around — girls looking at every damn thing I've ever written and trying to figure me out (impossible!)." Typewriter, we agree, is a pretty enigmatic dude.

But what do you do when you start dating someone without a significant online presence? It's so rare these days. What does it say about that person? And what does it say about you, if you are so existentially horrified at their lack of a Facebook profile?

It's not only that they are shrouded in secrecy. More importantly, they won't get to see how terribly clever and interesting you are!

After all, "on the Internet we are exemplifying our fun potential," says a bespectacled male artist (who does indeed maintain a Facebook profile). "Or whatever quality we individually have decided is important to be at all times. In the mass of photos of us laughing, posing, hugging our legions of friends and acquaintances, we don't smell bad, we are always wearing our best outfits, and are capable of editing our unique brand of quirk with the ease that Facebook allows. We are perpetually having our good side focused on."

But it's worth giving up that opportunity to shine your own shoes if it eliminates some dating minefields, at least for one earnest New York lad, who says: "In general, I prefer when the person is private on Facebook and unGoogleable. There's a shame involved, I think, in already knowing the stuff that this person hasn't revealed to you — it's like a weird kind of lie. 'I just love Pride and Prejudice. Oh my God, you do too??!? What a coincidence.' It's that or you go out of your way not to mention the things you already know about her so it doesn't seem like you've already Googled the shit out of her. Or you have to admit that you did all that Googling, which will probably come off as bizarre — 'So ... I read on the Internet you really dig P&P.' If someone is unGoogleable, I'm relieved, because then I don't have to worry about all that etiquette on top of the regular relationship-type etiquette. That said, I'm definitely Googling the shit out of her." So, there's that.

YSA here has a string of exes who were just not that into social networking; in fact they were barely Google-able at all, and significantly less Internet-savvy than YSA. A former beau explains: "My eschewment of the Internet is kind of a gut level thing ... Anything deeper on the Internet than Yahoo and I feel like my soul needs a shower."

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , COLLEGE, Dating, Peace Corps,  More more >
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