Valentine’s Day lost it’s sparkle for me a few years ago when a girl threw up sake and sashami on my Nikes after a romantic dinner at China-A-Go-Go and then karate chopped me in the gut when I tried to get her in the shower. Besides, mandated flowers and edible panties are about as romantic as my old Sunday night routine with Small Fry: large pizzas and laxative tea. When I choose to be with a person who chooses to be with me, I don’t need a holiday to do sweet shit. I do sweet shit all the time—see, for example, Fall 2006, when I donated a kidney to a girl I had a crush on, who then lived to marry a doctor. I don’t need a construction paper heart to show a girl that I want her on my health insurance. But because I work at a bookstore and have been ringing up more Sade albums than New York Times in the past few days, I’ve got Valentine’s on the mind. Actually, it’s probably less the pink and white displays that’ve got me reflecting on love and the lack thereof and more the fact that I’m a few weeks into a break up. Not an angry break up, but still a break up. I’m looking for someone to blame for my dirty snow and litter box opinion on matters of the heart, but because it’s really no one’s fault that I currently feel like the world is a cruel blue orb and I hope it only survives for another 5,000 years before the sun explodes, I blame the advent of mobile communications.
Mobile technology has changed the entire courting process. Texting is the first step in creating a connection, meaningful or mean. When my favorite and most current ex and I started dating, we gave ourselves carpal tunnel with all the texting. I worried that if we continued with such behavior we’d never be comfortable on the phone and I’d spend the next sixty years wearing off my thumbprints when I could just call to ask if she wants to eat in or take out. I solved this problem by calling her from the living room when she was in the kitchen so we could practice.
The ability to give good text is an indication of intelligence. Highly intelligent people can give terrible text if they are too busy deconstructing deconstructionism to bother with correct punctuation, but the ability to make a person LOL in 140 characters or less is more important than holding open the door or having great taste in music. I send or receive an average of forty-seven texts a day and actually talk on the phone only when ordering sesame tofu from Jade Palace. I’ve had entire relationships that have never gone from textual to audible, which is a sure sign that something isn’t going to work out. It is also possible, however, to fool yourself into thinking that because she sends texts that you read aloud to your friends not to analyze but because they are actually funny, that because her Facebook profile is honest but not too honest, ironic but not too ironic, that because she is awesome on Gchat, the real life person is going to be as cool as her avatar. But there’s no guarantee that she’s anything but quick wit and fast thumbs. It’s a 2.0 problem in a 2.0 world, and a serious one at that.
Facebook is the place to go when you’re in the mood for a good cry. You don’t want to look at your ex’s profile but you do it anyway. You can’t see her sitting on your couch in woolly slippers and her grandmother’s sweater anymore, but you can see her on Facebook. You let your mind run to the dark every time you log in. Who are those new friends? What’s that status update mean? She’s says she stressed. Is it because of work or because she misses me and regrets saying she would never have babies with someone who uses self-tanner. She looks happy in the photo. Does that mean that she’s over me? Or maybe she’s trying to look happy so I think that she’s over me when she’s actually sitting at home watching Law & Order in her sweat pants and sleeping with my old Camp Kanuga t-shirt under her pillow? Shit. She’s definitely over me. Facebook is a living archive of your relationships, one you can’t delete without deleting the proof that you were real. Those pictures? Those comments? You did exist. There are no letters to hold when you want to feel her again, but there are emails to reread.
The Internet is also where you find the refreshment of a new crush. You’ve never actually hung out, so it’s her Facebook profile that provides your only insight into who she is and what her life’s like, if she’s a Pisces (good) or a Scorpio (bad). You scan her pictures, throwing out anyone with self-portraits taken in a bathroom mirror wearing only a towel. You judge her taste in books and music, looking for evidence of humor and depth. How much information did she share? Too much or too little? You friend her, then you message her, write on her wall and respond to her status updates. And then, in this ritual, you proceed to text messages and phone calls and, eventually, actually getting coffee or a drink or walking around the neighborhood, your footsteps beating in real, not virtual, time.
And this, when you’re finally stalking someone besides your ex—when you’ve stopped trying to understand why two people who fit together don’t fit together—is when you know you’re going to be okay. It might be Valentine’s Day, but you’ve stopped looking at your ex’s profile, checking your in-box, waiting for her to come back. The Internet is a space to despair, to find solace in other peoples’ pain, a place to feel good about feeling bad. But it is also a place to renew your interest in the world, to move on and feel better when you start to think less about her and about more about the ones you don’t yet know.