There’s No Way to be Subtle

Dearest Rachel –

I’ve spun more than a few tales about my misadventures – and misgivings – in attempting to find romance via online sites and apps. Given that I have no idea who I might or might not be dealing with out here in cyberspace, I’m moving at a snail’s pace, because I’ve come to the point where I can’t believe anyone is who they claim to be (and in particular, that they claim any interest in me. It’s like that Groucho Marx line about not wanting to belong to a club that would want him as a member; anyone who starts off a conversation with ‘hi, handsome’ or any other such term of endearment is automatically suspect in my mind), so I have to take the time to figure out if they’re real or not.

Of course, ultimately, the real test for that is actually arranging the opportunity to meet each other. At first, I thought that was easily done, and the fact that the first attempt didn’t seem to generate any chemistry was shrugged off; there would be plenty of chances going forward, I thought.

But from there, the responses began to slow down, and the ones I was getting were either from those who were so far away as to not be worth my while, or who claim to be from the area, only to reveal that they’re somewhere else equally – if not more so – out of reach. It does leave me wondering why they’re bothering in such a case, but that question assumes they actually want to make some kind of romantic connection. And if you start questioning everyone’s ulterior motives with every step into this digital minefield, you realize just how non-conducive this environment is to cultivating a romantic connection, one that by its very nature ought to be based on trust. But without face-to-face interaction, it’s too easy to pretend – and as you pretend, you realize the other person could be pretending, too. All of which makes it easy to realize you can’t trust anyone out here.

Now I should be clear, I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) pretending to be someone I’m not in my conversations out here, at least, not on these dating sites. But you remember how I used to be, back in the nascent days of the internet; I’d hang out in a chat room using a handle taken from a female character from a relatively popular anime at the time. I didn’t generally try to play the whole gender thing up all that much, but it was sufficient that I wore her name that it caused people (most of whom – in that chat room, at any rate – were also fans of the show) to assume I was a girl – and for all intents and purposes, that girl. I scrupulously avoided lying about the subject (ironically, the character was introduced into the anime pretending to be male, if you’ll recall – and to compound matters, tended to attract male suitors who pretended to be female), but it was that experience that proved to me how easy it was to fool people out here in the ether. Things haven’t changed all that much, really; they’ve just gotten a little bit more sophisticated over time.

It makes me long for the days when everything was all done on a face-to-face basis, where you would meet people in person and take it from there. But where would – or even could – that kind of thing take place? I’m not the type to go to bars, for example, and the type of women I’d meet there wouldn’t be the type I’d want to establish a permanent relationship with, in any event. She’d be less Ms. Right, and more Ms. Right Now, and to treat her as such, while possibly meeting our mutual needs for the moment, would do neither of us any favors in the long run.

Really, the best place to find someone who shares most of my values – and as a side benefit, might already know me to a certain extent – would be at church. But that poses another set of difficulties entirely. You see, back in the day, it never occurred to me to look around the room at other faces. Even the girls you surrounded yourself with as friends never interested me – despite the fact that most of them are single – as I had you. You were everything I needed, sitting right next to me; what more could I ask for?

But these days, I find myself scanning the room all the time, and I know full well why I’m doing it, too. Moreover, anyone who is aware of my situation would also know why am doing it – as would whoever I might try to approach. And suddenly she would realize that she has a target painted on herself, which would be most uncomfortable for her. Believe me, I know; Erin’s already told me, for one, and I’ve done what I can to back off, as I don’t want to jeopardize the friendship by pushing for anything more.

But how can I be subtle about it? No relationship can start without striking up a conversation, but any conversation would have, behind it, a question of why it’s being initiated in the first place. And if she knows – or if I tell her – about my situation, I would expect she would automatically put two and two together, and figure out what’s going on. This guy’s talking to me because he sees me as a potential romantic partner, isn’t he? Well, er… yes; yes I am. What? I can’t lie about it. And that’s the end of the conversation. I’m socially awkward enough, especially with regard to talking to people I don’t know, without being perfectly aware of the fact that they might be calculating my own motives for talking to them. This just makes the process so much more difficult.

Just yesterday, in fact, I saw someone sitting by herself in the front of the middle section of the auditorium. She was of… indeterminate age, but, at least from a distance, she looked like she might be approachable (and not terribly far out of my league – but I’m a poor judge of who is and is not, as I sometimes still visualize myself as younger than I really am), were I to try. I even went so far as to let Daniel know of a college friend of his who’d shown up at the service that he might want to talk to, so as to free myself up to approach her. There are, after all, plenty of opening gambits – besides ‘hi’ and ‘how are you,’ there are the questions about how long she’s been coming to the church and what brought her here, just for starters.

But all those thoughts about what she might consider my motivations to be made me hesitate, and I didn’t want to make a beeline to her, and be too obvious about it all. And in those few moments of hesitation, she did as most church attenders do; which is to say, she picked up her stuff, and quickly headed out.

I can’t say that I blame her; our campus has acoustics that are not exactly conducive to chatting in between and after services. I’d probably do better attending Des Plaines again; there’s a larger pool of people there, and more of them who don’t know me – although I’ve met a few in my adventures with the runners that might have potential, were I to try. And it’s not as if we hadn’t been going there for years and years previously, so the trip wouldn’t be a hardship.

But it would mean leaving behind the family, and I’m not sure I can do that – at least, not yet. It’s true that we haven’t been able to meet as a family after the service and go out to eat together like we used to, but I try to make a habit of talking with them – or, on weeks like this when the folks haven’t been able to be there for one reason or another, drop by the house – and that would be a lot less possible were I to switch to Des Plaines. And again, the question would arise as to ‘why,’ which I wouldn’t be able to avoid. Yeah, it’s not going to happen.

So, I can’t trust anyone online, and anyone I might approach in person would be (understandably) suspicious of me and my motivations, so there’s really no point in trying either way, is there? Maybe I really do have to wait for the Lord to actually drop a girl into my lap from heaven after all. I’m going to need a lot of patience to wait for that to happen.

So in the meantime, honey, wish me luck. I’m clearly going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

3 thoughts on “There’s No Way to be Subtle

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