The Superpower of Being Alone

I stumbled upon “My Superpower is Being Alone Forever” in the Awl after perusing the best #longreads chosen by Edith Zimmerman, a writer and co-editor of The Hairpin. Joe Berkowitz writes about online dating, its repercussions, and why some of us are still single:

Putting together a dating profile means performing a self-autopsy and reassembling the pieces into Sexy Robocop. You save what’s worth salvaging and shield the damaged parts with reinforced metal. You strive to find the middle ground between showing you have nothing to hide, and just showing off. You carefully curate your interests as if they were co-op displays in a Barnes & Noble, reveling in the understated complexity of liking both Nicki Minaj and My Bloody Valentine. Your picture gallery broadcasts a series of defensive messages: “See? Other females aren’t afraid of me.” “See? I go to museums sometimes and mimic sculpture-poses because Culture.” “See? I’ve been to a Halloween party so obviously I don’t spend much time alone, crying to The Cure’s Disintegration LP and drinking wine from a can.” Dating profiles reveal more about how you see yourself than how you really are, and more about how you want to be seen than how you will be.

With infinite choice comes infinite opportunities to judge. The more options that exist, the pickier you become. Scrolling through profile after profile, I am transformed into an imperial king, surveying his goodly townsfolk from a balcony on high. Those with minor perceived flaws are summarily dismissed (“Next!”) because surely someone closer to the Hellenic ideal is just around the corner. Anyone cute might be cast aside for the smallest breach of taste: a penchant for saying things like “I love life and I love to laugh” or self-identifying as “witty.” Yet even when I genuinely find myself attracted to someone, I’ll still react with skepticism. What’s the catch? What dark and terrible secret causes her to resort to this thing I am also doing? After scanning closely for red flags and finally deigning her regally worthy, I dispatch a message. But then the truth reveals itself: the king is not her type and also he is not really a king.

No piece on online dating would be complete without a mention of OKCupid:

Everyone has a friend who is so charismatic, brilliant or good-looking that the idea of him or her trolling OKCupid is mind-boggling. I am haunted by those friends. What is it that separates us? Is it gluten? I’m at peace with the fact that Drake sings about how jaded he is from being constantly propositioned by beautiful women—because Drake is crazy-famous. My friends who’d never be mistaken as online daters are not famous, but they also possess some ineffable quality that makes them forever F-able. As far as our social sphere is concerned, they might as well be Drake (or nearest female equivalent): They’re stars, and finding them on a dating site would create cognitive dissonance of Orwellian proportions. Personally, I’ve never felt as spectacularly anonymous as I have as an online dater, united with everyone else on the site in that we all have a reason to be there. I can rationalize about Internet dating for days. I can think up reasons for why the way my grandparents met is outmoded. But I don’t want any woman to think she was my last resort, and I don’t want to imagine that I was hers. When we say, “I’m so glad we found each other,” I don’t want it to refer to the way we had to find each other like hidden files in a hard-drive search.

I highly recommending clicking over to the original article to see Joanna Neborsky’s wonderful illustrations accompanying the piece.

Date a Girl Who Reads

I can’t remember where I saw it first, but this is lovely:

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee. Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow. Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

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(via Rosemarie Urquico)