Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Telephone Mirror

Telephones are hand-held phones with televisions in them. You can sit and watch as your life goes by, or record yourself reacting to your environment, and then publish it so millions of people can watch you whenever they want. You don't ever have to be not on TV, even while dating. Especially while dating.

This is what the woman to my left was doing. We were outside in a Lake Oswego outdoor cafe, and she was one table over. It was one of those unusually perfect days with the clouds mere vanilla cream swirls against the blue sky, and most of the Saturday was right there for the taking.

She talked out loud to herself as she recorded herself on her cell phone, video blogging in preview of the date she was about to have. I, too, was waiting on a date. But I was blogging (web logging) the old-fashioned way, writing on a paper notepad with a pen, a chili mocha off to one side. By comparison, she looked too post-modern, a pop-chic chick out of touch with reality, while I looked like a masculine intellectual sensitive to his surroundings, a woodsy Ryan Gosling, perhaps, although we were, in essence, doing the exact same thing. I was just writing by hand onto pages which I would type later on my laptop and (voila!) post on my blog.

I glanced over and squinted at her. She either smiled or grimaced, and kept right on vlogging, pursing her lips as she over-pronounced the important words.

My Tinder date arrived first. Her name was Twila. After an enigmatic smile and hand clasp hello, our informational interview was underway. I would have preferred a bouncy hug followed by a cheek kiss, but who which one of us was the game show host, which one the contestant?

She apologized for her smart phone as she sat down, explaining her need to update her Twitter account, and then ordered a coffee from the hipster chatting with the barista, who was apparently our waiter. She had just started explaining her life story when the waiter returned with her tall, skinny, butter-nut latte. She also received a foam rendering of Machu Picchu adorning the top of her beverage, and it was so detailed she had to take a selfie. Then, another, and an Instagram photo. She took a total of twelve photos of herself while on our date, but of course they were all of her, on her side of the table, with and without her coffee. Then she started back in on her life story, picking up where she had left off as a rambunctious eight-year-old who loved animals and had a strong curiosity about the plight of underdeveloped countries, and continued on to the present day.

She was noticeably younger than I was, and there was a reason for that. I am essentially a writer, professionally speaking, and have spent the past twenty years earning less than average within my demographic. Let's just say writing isn't traditionally a wealthy occupation, especially considering the amount of work that goes into it. Journalism is the lowest-paid profession, as they make even less than teachers. And writers who can't really call themselves journalists, who don't even have the luxury of the mediocre payment that goes along with a deadline, make even less. I'm doing well now, of course, as a content provider for the NSA, but women around my age generally make slightly more, and attractive, fit, intelligent women with well-adjusted personalities generally make a hell of a lot more.

It's not that they're interested in money, per se; it's just a lifestyle thing. Most Americans in their 20s and early 30s are still working hard to make their futures more comfortable. But with any luck, a conservative ethic for several years will bring enough financial security and savings to upgrade their quality of life, and they will start replacing extra-curricular work hours with something more fun. It's time to invest in sports and hobbies, maybe buy some new toys, and travel and do new things.

So here I am, finally at a point in my life where I can responsibly finance a relationship, and most attractive, single women my age are that far ahead of the game. But the younger women are more economically accessible. The only downside is that they're young.

At this point, the woman to my left, who was waiting for her own date, made a loud announcement as her date finally showed. It was, “Oh, my god! What the hell?” He walked into our area of the cafe with the clickety-click of his cycling shoes. He held an aero helmet in one hand, and wore sweat-laced compression shorts and a mud-stained triathlon shirt.

I just had a Facebook discussion on how I should dress,” she said. “I swear to god, I was going to show up in tights and a sweatshirt, because I just came from a yoga class. But no, everyone said I should dress appropriately and treat this as a real date, although it's really just a meet-up, so here I am in a skirt and a nice-looking blouse, and you're here just off a ride, or something.”

Yeah,” he said. “Can I sit down? I have two other meet-ups planned, so I figured I'd just ride because of the parking. And I needed to get in another few miles, anyway.”
Suddenly I remember I'm ignoring my date, who is quiet. But she's fine. She's frantically texting on her phone, watching the scene unfold at the table beside us.
Oh em gee,” she said. “El-oh-el.”

Twila left after a few minutes to meet her next date, allowing me to turn my attention back to my notebook. The cyclist left soon after that, the woman at the table looking after him in amused dismay.
I have an empty table, here,” I said.

She looked over at me for the first time, and smiled. Gathering her things, phone still in one hand, she fished out a card and dropped it on my table as she walked by. I could see her thumbs moving on her device as she left the cafe patio.

I picked up the card, and turned it over. The print was a simple design with stark colors, revealing her SnapChat profile.

1 comment:

  1. This is ideally perfect. I love how you capture the ever-ending need for not being present, and the need to look at what's in the TV phone. Great writing and good work, I say, glancing at my next text message. xo