Dearest Rachel –
In a different context, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m about to break my promise to myself and you about keeping politics to a minimum with a title like that – it’s the sort of sentiment anyone with our belief system (or even dealing with the struggling economy) has to be thinking about the November midterm elections. As much as I do try to keep such material out of my letters to you, it does tend to influence way more in my life than I’d like it to.
But at least for now, that’s not what this is about. No, it’s about the fact that, as the days wind down on my subscription to the dating app, I’ve gotten a flurry of new people introducing themselves to me with a smile and cute conversation, only to find out the usual things – everything on their profile is a complete lie (or, to hear them tell me, ‘I’m using my friend’s account to see if I can find someone’), and I’m talking to someone I wouldn’t have given the time of day otherwise, because of distance or what have you. You would almost think the app wants me to reconsider my cancellation, even as it does little to solve the problem that caused me to sign up in the first place. I know I probably shouldn’t be so picky, and these folks can be perfectly nice conversationalists, but it seems like I’m wasting my time talking to them – even as I can’t find it in my heart to just tell them that it’s not going to work out.
I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s that I’m stung by the sheer challenge thrown at me; the latest contact straight-up asked me ‘are you really serious about this online dating thing?’ It’s a Morton’s Fork-type question: to say ‘yes’ forces me to keep talking with her, to say ‘no’ (in order to get out of talking to her) forces me to admit I’m not actually serious about finding someone to fill the place you left behind, which I don’t think is true.
So, I said ‘yes,’ and I think I’m regretting it. At first, I thought I was talking to a forty-something living in suburban Willowbrook. It’s a bit of a drive, but not unmanageable. Nope, it’s her friend’s account, and she lives… wait for it… in Alexandria.
And once again, I get that tried-and-true schpiel about how ‘oh, distance doesn’t matter, we can be friends, we can have a relationship.’ I guess my idea of a relationship isn’t the same as anyone else’s any more. Sure, you can maintain a long-distance friendship, particularly when you’ve been friends for a long time previously; consider our situation with Kevin. It helps that our current digital age allows us to get together (regularly, even!) in ways that we couldn’t have imagined when we were growing up. But without that serious, sustained effort on the part of both sides of the relationship, it tends to fade and die. There’s a reason failing relationships are described in terms of them having growing distance between the parties, even when it’s only metaphorical. For all the pronouncements to the contrary, it does matter.
Moreover, I’m literally looking for someone I can – hopefully on the occasional whim – just decide to go somewhere and do something with. You might remember the song you sent me back during our mix tape courtship about how you wanted to be more impulsive (despite the fact that neither of us was particularly like that in real life)
It’s true that we may not have been all that serious about being frivolous (is that even a thing, or is that just oxymoronic?) when it came down to it – we were both rigorously practical by nature, for the most part. Even at your most childlike, you knew when to be responsible in a given situation. But we tried to give ourselves that kind of freedom when we could, and were certainly looking forward to doing so much more of it, now that I had been liberated from the confines of the workfarce.
And then, a spur-of-the-moment wish to go up to the newly-opened camp, and a decision to take ‘just one more run’ destroyed that.
I’m not sure what to make of that. I don’t think that should be considered a warning against spontaneity and impulsive fun, but… it is what it is, I guess. It does sort of pull the rug out from under my argument a bit.
But everyone I know who gives counsel on relationships talks about the need to get together – and get away together – to encourage and nurture the relationship. Dating – including physical proximity – is absolutely necessary, and from a distance of a thousand miles, that’s not doable, no matter how many times one or the other might say otherwise. And while it’s one thing had we known each other well from the beginning, the fact that we’re starting with this disadvantage makes it that much more problematic.
It’s not helped by the fact that I – yet again – feel like I’ve been misled. Maybe ‘lied to’ is too strong a phrase, but I wouldn’t have responded to someone from halfway across the country, and it’s like I’m dealing with a bait-and-switch situation. There’s also the fact that she has a three-year-old daughter, which – and I know this sounds shallow and selfish of me to say, but I have to admit it – I don’t think I can realistically handle. The idea of putting my plans – dreams, even? – of world travel and the like on hold while we would have to raise this little girl… she deserves a stable home and a good family, I’m sure, and it would be something I could help give, but would I want to? And is it wrong of me to say ‘no’?
Of course, there’s also the fact that I do have a fair about of stability in my life, even now, as I’m navigating my way through this situation of dealing with your loss. I have roots, and a support structure, both in terms of my immediate family, and my church family – both of whom I have responsibilities toward in turn. I may wander afield on occasion, but I’m always going to return eventually. Now, would someone like this latest contact really want to relocate to such a place from where she is, were this to – however unlikely it may be – actually reach some best-case end-game scenario? I’m not entirely sure.
You know, maybe I should make this about politics. Considering that she’s from just outside Washington, where only one in ten people think like myself – and those nine hate the one, I’m told, with the heat of a hundred white-hot suns – maybe if I make my case, she’ll drop me like a hot potato, and I’ll be able to let her go, thinking it’s me and not her, rather than trying to actively dump her or something cruel like that.
What do you think, honey? In any event, wish me luck – I’m gonna need it.