Catch and Release

After the nasty, shallow, breaking-up post the other day, I thought it only fair that I do an equally nasty, shallow meeting-up post today. Amy mentioned in the comments of the breaking-up post that she once dated via personal ads and screened applicants through their grammar and spelling. Coincidentally, that same day, I got an email (and probably many of you got the same email) from some “Facebook-integrated dating site” (whatever that means) offering to let me write posts for them for free.

The stars were obviously aligned in favour of an internet/agency/personal ad (depending on your era) dating post.

I once joined a dating agency. For anyone under 30, this is what they used to have before LavaLife or Plentyoffish.  You had to leave your home and visit an office populated by human beings who would give you a questionnaire – on paper. Then they’d give you a pen, and you’d sit and write down — by hand — information about yourself. Then they’d take a photograph with a crazy old-timey gadget called a Polaroid camera that instantly produced blurry, greenish images, but with a nice wide border around the bottom. (The big bottom border was so you could write down a description of what was supposed to be depicted in the photograph in case it was too unrecognizable and green)

The really swanky dating agencies would take a blurry, greenish video of you instead. You’d get all dressed up; pretend you were talking to a potential date and say really stupid stuff about yourself.

I opted for the lower-tech, chicks-are-free option. In this agency, the Matchmaker Lady did all the work. She’d sort through the applications and Polaroids and match me up with people she thought would be compatible. Then she’d call me and tell me about some guy and give me his telephone number. I’d call him, we’d talk and then decide if we wanted to meet up. I’d call the Matchmaker Lady and tell her when the meet-up was. (I know, I know, she’s starting to sound like a pimp to me, too, all of a sudden) Anyway, after the initial meet-up I had to call the Matchmaker Lady again and let her know how it went. I guess if she didn’t get a call within a few days, she’d assume I’d been murdered and left in a ditch by the side of the road and she’d alert authorities.

Luckily that never happened.

She did send me a lot of desperate eligible men. It was quite a long time ago now, but I don’t believe anything memorable ever happened on any of the meet-ups I went to. I’m pretty sure I never went out on a second date, either. Matchmaker Lady got pissed off with me at some point and we more or less mutually agreed that I should gave up on the whole sorry experience.

I’ve never looked at LavaLife, but I have had a look at the Plentyoffish site — just to see what was going on in the zany world of dating these days. Nothing there made me jump up and say, “Whoa, stand aside and let me dive into this sea.”

I do realize that you’re all muttering to yourself that it’s not the fish in the sea that’s the problem here — it’s me. And you’re right. Matchmaker Lady said pretty much the same thing. I’m obviously not interested enough in dating to make the effort. If I happen to meet somebody I like enough to want to spend an evening or whatever with, that’s one thing. But pursuing a date, by electronic or other means is like making some sort of commitment to declaring yourself open to a relationship.

And if that’s what you really want, the deliberate mate-seeking option seems to work. I know quite a few people who met their spouses and/or significant others online and everyone seems happy. Even people, who didn’t purposely set out to meet a partner, ended up meeting someone incidentally because of Facebook, blogging or some other online-related activity.  

How about you? Have you ever dabbled in the world of internet, agency or personal ad dating? Was it a good, bad or indifferent experience? Did you meet your soul-mate, worst nightmare or cure for insomnia?

*** Also,  of all the Polaroid photographs that have been taken of or by you in the past, do any of them still have an actual image on them?

A thumb goes up, a car goes by

So, XUP Jr. comes home the other day all excited and says, “I saw someone hitch-hiking today!”

“So?” says I, confused as to why this should excite an otherwise blasé teenager.

“SO?” says she, incredulously. “It was cool! It was so retro!! It was like in one of those movies!!!”[1]

Sometimes the gaping maw of the generation gap is a chasm as large as the Niagara Gorge without the convenient bridge.

“Why when I was your age, hitch-hiking used to be my primary mode of transportation,” I wanted to say, but didn’t, because that would have sent entirely the wrong message.

But I lived in the boonies and my parents would have laughed their asses off if I’d asked for a ride to a friend’s house or to the movies or to go shopping. We got to ride in the family car for church or for medical appointments and once in a blue moon for a “special”[2] family outing.

The school bus took us to school. There was an inter-city bus we could catch to go to town, but it was a good hour’s walk to get to where we could catch that bus. And friends all lived at least an hour’s walk away, too. So, how else to get around?

Everyone got their license as soon as they possibly could, of course.  Those with some knowledge of the combustion engine bought contraptions-that-were-once-cars and somehow kept themselves mobile. The less mechanically-inclined had to rely on borrowing the family car which was a pretty hit or miss proposition back in the day when almost every family only had one car and/or maybe one truck. Then there were those few privileged people who were able to acquire real cars of their very own. Any or all of the aforementioned people were very, very popular.

But most of us hitch-hiked a lot. We’d try to do it in pairs whenever possible and had some basic safety rules.[3] And, while there were a few scary moments and some close calls, nothing really bad ever happened to anyone I knew because of hitch-hiking. Or maybe it did, but I blocked it out.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, don’t hitch-hike. It’s a very stupid thing to do.

[1] Yes, she talks with ever-increasing exclamation marks.
[2] And by “special” I mean an excruciating, forced day of togetherness with 7 of us crammed into one vehicle with a goal of visiting some distant friend of the family’s who invariably had their own passel of squalling brats so that I could babysit, for free, their 5 or 6 kids as well as my own 4 siblings for the afternoon while the grown-ups chatted. Sometimes on the ride home, we’d stop for ice-cream. I’m lactose intolerant.
[3] No vans. No vehicle with more than one person in it. Don’t accept a ride if the driver has his penis in his hand (It happened at least twice). And, of course, don’t accept rides with anyone giving off a serial killer vibe. (Teenagers know this stuff. They’re very worldly.)

The Mystery of Mystery

The daughter, well-known star of the XUP Film Series, loves American Idol, so between my evening chores last night I was suddenly riveted to the TV by that black-haired kid singing Mad World. It was quite something. Haunting.

But this post isn’t about American Idol.

It’s about the madness of the world.

There is a lot of crazy, evil stuff going on out there; stuff our fellow humans are doing to each other and we are riveted by it. Aren’t we? Why?

The more grisly and/or insane the news headline is, the more chat it will generate online, in the office, in the pub. The most popular shows on TV, the most popular movies at the cinema are of the detective/mystery/psycho killer genres.

The most popular fiction for almost two centuries[1] has been mystery fiction. And it’s not just a North American or British phenomena – this fascination with evil is popular in many countries and as far back as those crazy Greeks and their tragic gods. 

And evil is almost always more attractive than good. We love the bad boys.

Why are we so fascinated?

Maybe because evil, in real life and in fiction looks so normal – so like us, but is so thrillingly outside of our realm of experience. Except for in the cheesiest of stories, they psychotic killer isn’t a slavering monster; he’s the handsome Ted Bundy, working at the desk next to yours, or the cute, quiet neighbour who keeps to himself but always says a friendly hello when you’re out cutting the lawn.  Evil can also be the attractive yuppie couple you’ve passed the time of day with occasionally at your local bar.

It makes you shudder. It gives you chills. It taxes your mind. This sort of thing is incomprehensible in reality. On TV, in books, at the movies we are able to make sense of it. Things are explained enough to satisfy us; the bad guy is punished.[2]

Detective fiction – and its echo in our obsession with real-life murder – reflects the best and the worst in us. At best, a belief that science and reason will triumph, and that inside each of us is a Philip Marlowe, untainted by corruption: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

Reason, science, intelligence triumphs over baser, perverted instinct.  Order triumphs over anarchy. And the people who lead this battle are not gods, but humans just like us. They might be a bit cleverer or have resources we don’t have, but our detectives always have to have a flaw.

Our faith in human ingenuity is equal only to our distrust of fellow humans. And our consumption of mystery fiction in all formats is escalating every year.

And I’m one of the biggest consumers of mystery novels.  I prefer the UK style psychological mystery over the American detective-gets-beat-to-a-pulp-in-every-chapter style, but I can get into either depending on my mood.  I plow through two or three novels a week and still, week after week I manage to find some I haven’t read.

Where you do get your vicarious, evil thrills?

[1] Edgar Allen Poe is thought to be the father of the mystery novel with his 1841 The Murders in the Rue Morgue

[2] Unless the bad guy also happens to be the good guy like Dexter, which Jeff Lindsay pulled off really well in his novels, but which just doesn’t work for me on TV. He’s just creepy on TV.