Let's try it again

A response to what yesterday's reader was really asking.


Cary Tennis
June 18, 2003 11:50PM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

Well, I got it completely wrong. The man in Tuesday's column was indeed attracted to the woman he'd been corresponding with, and not the other way around. It was she who found no chemistry between them, as he confirmed when I e-mailed him for clarification. "You did misunderstand," he wrote, "but I did feel, even when composing the initial plea, that there were ambiguity problems in that sentence.

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"She found me lacking," he said. "Sadly, she was everything I might have hoped for and more. She did not use the word 'unattractive,' but 'not her type' and 'chemistry is a mystery.' But there was no rejection -- the e-mails have continued and the romantic feelings she has for me remain high. The puzzlement to me is why there would be this lingering romantic longing (her toward me) when she has no inclination or desire to form a complete relationship. If you have some insight on that aspect, I'd be delighted to hear it."

I responded privately to him that the person with whom she was corresponding was to some degree a creation of her own erotic imagination.

"Indeed," he replied, "that is a thought I have pondered many times. Our e-mail relationship was a year in length prior to the face-to-face -- plenty of time for both of us to develop fantasy images of one another. We were both cognizant of that issue, but each felt we were approaching the meeting with realistic expectations."

Let us consider what reality those "realistic expectations" might be based on. Suppose for a moment that when people correspond at length before meeting face to face, they form an image of their correspondent that is completely real -- not physical, but nonetheless real, so real that the fleshly realm pales in comparison. We may think of our online world as a mere thin shadow of reality, when in fact the world we create online is the reality that matters. After all, that is the realm in which we have invested our soul, our intelligence, our imagination, our emotions. If that is true, then why should we expect a chance meeting in person to nullify everything that has developed online?

By the same token, why should we expect the world we have constructed online to dictate phenomena in this gross world of talking meat? So, finding that the fleshly realm is but a poor, hollow echo of the richly detailed and powerfully amiable world of our thoughts and feelings, we do not renounce what we have developed online. We simply go back to that world we prefer, the realm of imagination and desire. You, sir, are a far finer man in her mind than you are in her sight. But what do you do about that? Ah, there's the rub -- the rubbing that you'd like to do but likely never will because of this accursed "chemistry" (or lack thereof).

"It may help you to understand," my correspondent went on, "that there are two sides to her -- an attraction to very masculine men but also an intellectual desire for discourse and a romantic nature in which she found strong echoes from me. I do not fit the highly masculine mold, while not being effeminate either, and this likely contributed to the chemical miss. Again, please understand -- the question is not why we missed on chemistry, but why her romantic feelings linger."

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I'm guessing that the romantic feelings linger because, as I've suggested, they are real. But they are not about your body. In purely physical terms, she may have a set of erotic requirements for males, a unique combination of clothes, posture, smell, skin tone, height and weight, voice, eyes and hair that turns her on. You do not fit that profile. It's genetic. It's somewhat random. You are her true lover trapped in someone else's body. But in romantic terms, you obviously fit her requirements. However vexing this may be, I think it's possible for the two realms to coexist in apparent contradiction because you are more than your body.

Eventually our understanding of these things will evolve. We are yet only on the cusp of a fully realized digital world, on the bleeding edge of a fundamental change in human reality. We're babies in cyberspace. But if our thoughts and feelings are so congenial to the digital realm, can the rest of us be far behind? With advances in biotechnology, perhaps this tragic split will at last be healed, so that biology follows ontology. How? Who knows. But isn't it curious that yet again in the story of humankind we face a troubling split. It's not mind/body this time, but Net/body. It's also possible that our erotic responses to physical stimuli are rooted in a deep animal hierarchy of maximum survival potential, and so would resist attempts at bringing them in line with the muses' singing. Ah, the tragic life of man!

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There is in all of this something to celebrate. She does indeed love the real you. The real you is the person who thinks, feels, imagines and speaks, who loves and writes and responds, who ponders and worries, who remembers and desires. This thin morsel of flesh she beheld for a few moments is nothing but a shadow.

True, it's a shadow that wants to get laid. I know that's a frustrating problem. But I also know, now, that wasn't really your question. Sorry again that I so completely misunderstood you the first time. I hope this better addresses your real question.

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Cary Tennis

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