The Online Date that Wasn’t

Remember friendster?

I’m not much of a techie or apster or webie (are those last two things? Let’s pretend they are…), so I wouldn’t have known friendster, the pre-cursor to facebook, is now one of Asia’s largest gaming sites. In my day, where MySpace was for budding bands and arts-types to gain a following, friendster was the way for the Everyman to reconnect, to connect, and to meet. I was 19 and a sophomore in college when I made my frienster account. Prompted, I’m sure by one of my guy friends in the engineering/comp sci program who told me “social media is going to be huuuuge.”

I was old enough to remember AOL chatrooms and AIM profile pages (both of which got me into a fair amount of trouble), and so was just the right amount of skeptical about such public access to my avatar identity (I’m not sure privacy settings were really de rigeur yet.) But I also acknowledged that this “social media,” whateverthehellthatwas, could be a useful tool to expand my network of friends beyond my dormitory and lecture room walls.

I carefully curated my profile page, selecting pictures that played down more of my youthful features (those chubby cheeks and that slightly crocked front tooth), and emphasized an urban co-ed persona. An interest in arts and culture meant that it wasn’t long before I had new connections across NYC… who were mostly male, and reasonably eager for companionship.

And this is the point where I note that friendster was also the pre-cursor to OkCupid.

Jon friended me fairly soon after my profile went life. He was a 29 year old graduate student at NYU’s Tisch School, studying composition. Already, he had scored a musical adaptation of a play by Moliere that was having an off-Broadway debut. This seemed promising. Older, creative, and on his way. We began a short exchange that lead to sharing phone numbers. He lived on the Upper Westside, in fact, in an apartment on 96th and Amsterdam, not far from my college neighborhood of Morningside Heights.

He called me to make plans.

If you’re new to online dating, a valuable piece of advice I can share is: make sure you speak on the phone before you meet. The phone is the most awkward medium of communication — if you two can find a way to swap ideas without facial cues, you’re off to a good start. Also, if he has any irregularities in speech, a lisp or a stutter, perhaps, it’s better to know about it before you’re face to face.

Jon had a soft, effeminate voice that border-lined on creepy. But he took the lead — for our first date, we’d have coffee at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, a Columbia mainstay that was a stone’s throw from my dorm but also convenient for him — and that was appealing.

Confession: This date with Jon was not only my first internet-assisted date (even if it wasn’t a dating site that introduced us), it probably also qualified as my first real date. Like, as in, we’re not just friends or classmates going out and seeing what happens, but as in, here’s a guy promising to pay for my coffee because he’s shopping for a girlfriend.

I don’t know what was more intimidating — the fact that I had never actually seen this person in the flesh, or that I was going on my first first date.

To be on the safe side, I enlisted my then best friend and roommate Suki and our mutual friend Joanne. Their mission, which they chose to accept, was to be already stationed at the pastry shop. They were recon and undercover chaperons in case he was an ax murderer. We agreed on set hand signals that would relay “get me out!” or “I’m getting married!”

Amadeus Mozart, when he wasn’t in a wig, was pretty sexy with all that crazy hair

In person, Jon was as creepy as our phone conversation suggested. With nails longer and pointier than mine, and hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a week, he more closely resembled a bearded vampire than a future great composer (Amadeus was pretty sexy with that lion’s mane.) Conversation moved smoothly, but it wasn’t long before I was send my MAYDAY! signals across the room to my girls — the signal telling them to call me and fake an emergency.

There was a pillar. They never saw me.

2 hours later, he paid for my coffee and I bid him farewell…

When he called me the next day to offer to take me to dinner, I politely declined. A few hours later, I closed my friendster account… and my MySpace account. I was done with social media for a while (a few months later, Facebook spread to all the Ivy League schools and I was quick to hop on the bandwagon), and it would be years later before I trusted the internet to play matchmaker.

I never joined a social media site to meet a lover just as I never started blogging to find a (rich) husband. And while Jon might have been an overall fail, I owe him and that whole experience a certain degree of gratitude. It dared me to take a risk with my social life… and always have back-up in plain sight.

The Life of the Young and Fabulous? Or, #KeepingUpAppearances?

IMG_20130518_120819“Promise me, Joe: when I get married, you’ll do my wedding.”

One of the great advantages to my job is that I have a roladex full of caterers, event photographers, and florists. When weddings happen, I’m your go-to gal for the essentials. When my turn comes, I won’t need a planner. I’ll just call a few friends and ask them to show up with their talents. Joe is a florist. A fantastic florist — the kind that takes you into Wonderland and deposits you among fanciful, gorgeous flowers.

“Of course! But don’t hurry to get married too fast. If your facebook is anything to go by, you’re pretty busy being fabulous and not married.”

It’s (mostly) true.

Artful adventures are just  another day in the life
Artful adventures are just another day in the life

If you follow my (arguably) overactive (and private) instagram account, you’d say I was living the life. Roof-top, top-shelf cocktails. Midweek museum outings. Designer dresses. Center ice playoff tickets. Legends boxes at Yankee Stadium. Michelin star restaurants. Jaunts across Europe. Exhibition openings. Beautiful men always at my side.

You said it, Macklemore: We’re here to live life like nobody’s watching.

Are we, am I, really?

Maybe it’s more like everybody in the club, all eyes on us... and that club is our ever-reaching, ever-expanding internet audience.

When I was a freshman in college, facebook was still a kind of exclusive club. High schoolers and employers had yet to infiltrate it. I was the designated photographer at parties (this was largely because I didn’t drink and was, therefore, the one most likely to be sober enough to remember to take off the lens cap) which meant that, come Sunday morning, mine was the album holding all the documentary evidence. In those days, albums could only have 50 photos — so I was selective. 50 photos came to represent an entire year, not a single night out the way it does now for some college kids. Also, facebook wasn’t linked with our smart phones… in fact, there were no smartphones… my laptop didn’t even come equipped with WiFi. There was no instantaneous sharing. Everything was a #latergram.

That was then. Fast forward a decade, and I’m a curator with an instagram handle, 2 twitter accounts, a pintrest, 3 blogs, a vine, and a facebook. My internet imprint has grown ten fold. So what does that mean?

"I knew it was you!" Thanks to social media, people think I have style.
“I knew it was you!” Thanks to social media, people think I have style.

“I knew that post was from you, even before I saw the name!” my friend living the other side of the world commented on a photo I posted.

It was of a pair of high-heel peep-toe oxfords and my recent neon pedicure.

In thinking about my addiction to all things visual, I realized my decisions on what to share is dictated by a kind of personal branding. A kind of play at keeping up appearances. I guess I want people to see a picture of great shoes, intriguing art, foreign locales, and haute cuisine and think — Kathleen’s at it again!

It’s true that I think my life is pretty interesting — the people in it, the places we go, etc — and why not share it. But it’s also true that, believe it or not, you don’t see everything. After all, sometimes I like to see the sunrise through both my eyes.

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix: Or, a Road Map to Choosing Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Online dating is a challenge. As websites bombard you with supposedly viable matches and your inbox fills with messages and winks from men who think you’re “a cutie” or “reeeeeally cool,”  you think: it would be nice if there was a road map to help me weed out the guys I could walk arm in arm with from the ones I may need a restraining order against.

After months of scanning, surveying, replying, blocking, and first-dating, here it is, to your rescue:

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix.

(in the style of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix)

The Online Dating Approval Matrix -- Your Guide to Finding Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Things Facebook Tells Me That I’d Rather Not Hear

Facebook reminds me I was nearly 20 lbs heavier in college -- note the size of my arm in exhibit 1 on the left vs. the more recently taken exhibit 2 on the right

My Facebook newsfeed and I have a tenuous relationship. When it alerts me to a friend’s favorite story in today’s New York Times or lets me know they safely escaped the tsunamis in Hawaii, I like my newsfeed. But just as often, facebook tells me things I’d rather not hear…

1. I was 15 pounds heavier in college, and looked it.

There are only 429 photos of me on facebook, and thankfully very few from my early college days, but the ones that are there…well, forget “freshman 15,” more like “freshman kiloton.” Blame one too many sports-related injuries and one too many late-night frozen yogurt study breaks. To de-tag or not to de-tag?

2. 4 people I went to high school with are already married.

It’s not like getting married is any measure of success or that I’m still competitive with people I haven’t spoken to in 7 years or anything…

3. The guy I’m in love with is “now in a relationship”…with a girl who isn’t me.

I probably should have de-friended him when we decided to go our separate ways, but then I would have lost stalking privileges. Seeing this on my newsfeed made me throw up a little… and then sign-up for OkCupid.

4. Those twats whose papers I used to edit are in PhD programs and on fellowship.

My teenage cousin has a more active sex life than I do.

When I was an MA student, I tutored a number of underclassmen in art history and edited their grad school applications. They couldn’t tell the difference between a brick and an original idea if their lives depended on it. Their status updates announced they had been accepted into prestigious PhD programs… the same programs that rejected me. Ironic, no?

5. My teenage cousin has a more active sex life than I do.

Every month, she has a new boyfriend. Every day she posts a new album of webcam photos featuring her making out with her latest beau. Maybe if I were a better older cousin, I’d try to reign her in, teach her about modesty, but more often I feel like asking her, “so, what’s your secret?”

“The Social Network” is a Terrible Movie, but We Say we Love it Anyway

All these critics agree -- The Social Network is a landmark film. Maybe I watched the wrong movie.

News Feed: “Facebook is now in a complicated relationship with The Social Network.”

I may be the last person on the planet who, before this weekend, had not seen “The Social Network.” Now that I’ve caught up, I wish I was still the last person on the planet who hadn’t seen “The Social Network.”

My opinion of the movie has little to do with the fact that I was friends with Mark Zuckerberg in public school. We weren’t extremely close, but I knew him well enough that my mother was willing to make him the sole exception to the “No Dating Until You’re 18” rule (oh! Mothers and their power of foresight!). “The Social Network” is not a bad movie because it’s an inaccurate portrayal of one of the most enigmatic (and powerful) characters of our generation. It’s a bad movie because it’s superficial, boring, and disjointed.

Our obsession with Facebook and its creator is a complicated one that dictates the way we respond to “The Social Network.” Until recently, Zuckerberg stayed out of the spotlight. When we did see him interviewed, he was reticent, brilliant but hard to relate to. The lawsuits attacking possible underhanded dealings threatened to take Facebook from us. We knew there were a few of them, but what were they about? And yet, while there were those who tried to halt its forward march, “to Facebook” became an action we can’t live without.

We’re inclined to like “The Social Network” because as Facebook rapidly penetrated every click and every interaction, we craved a  neat summary of how this idea born in a Harvard dorm room transformed into a global phenomenon — a phenomenon that has irrevocably changed the way people connect.

In a world where getting their first determines "coolness," The Social Network is only cool because it told the facebook story first.

We live in a world where getting there first is the principal criteria for “coolness,” the leading criteria for critical acclaim. The iPod will always trump other mp3 players because it got there first. “The Social Network” will always trump future Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg movies because it was the first to tell us the Facebook story. Stephen Holden of the NYTimes calls it “a once-in-a-generation movie,” and it is, simply because the next Facebook movie is another decade in the making.

Facebook is an empowering platform that  allows us to not only communicate, but to curate our lives.  It enables us to pick and choose and update the details that shape the way we’re perceived by our peers. We have become objects in an online museum where our solo-exhibits change as frequently as we choose. Even if Facebook one day implodes, an unlikely event now that it’s so ingrained in our social and digital fabric, we will never revert to the old ways of locating, messaging, and digitally relating to people.

That’s the true Oscar-caliber performance of Mark Zuckerberg’s social network. Sorkin’s and Fincher’s snooze fest pales in comparison.

Unforeseen Hazards of Snowdays: Uncovering the Ghosts of Relationships Past

The wintry weather forecast made me feel like a kid again -- snow day? yes, please!

The wintry weather forecast for Tuesday night made me feel like a giddy school girl again. Snow day!? Yes, please! I awoke Wednesday morning knowing that the roads still needed clearing and sovwas slow to advance into the day. Sure, there were things to be done (like laundry and job applications), but why do something productive when the entire tri-state area had braced itself for snowpocalypse and was thus resigned to being unproductive?

Ignoring the stack of cover letters in progress, I began the cathartic snow day activity of clearing out my gmail inbox. Where did those 2,241 messages come from anyways?

As I worked my way backwards, it was somewhere around email 1,950 that I was punched in the heart. Sitting there between backups of old grad school papers  was a lost exchange with “The One I Let Get Away.” The emails were 2 years old and I wasn’t sure if I should delete them on sight or open and read. They had survived several previous inbox purges — there must have been something in the 9 messages worth holding on to.

“Hey there kiddo! Long time no see (could it be that I’m possibly starting to miss you?)” I wrote in the opening email that invited him to join me in my grad school graduation celebrations.

“HEY!!! Well, I know that I definitely miss you!”

I may be a sucker for Snoopy, but I'm no longer a sucker for an "I miss you."

Now I remembered why I saved the emails. “I definitely miss you” was a profound display of sentiment from a guy who was the polar opposite of sentimental.

The first time he told me he missed me was the first time I realized I was in love with him. He had called one summer night because he needed to talk through a rough patch. An hour passed and after we said our good-byes, he threw it in:

“I really miss you, you know.”

“I love you, you know.” But it was too late — we were already disconnected, and I realize now, disconnected in more ways than one.

A few months ago, after years of bouncing around in no man’s land, I finally came to terms with the fact that “I miss you” and “I love you” are not the same thing, even for the most philophobic of men. An awkward Friday night punctuated weeks of silence and sent me home ready to cut the few threads still holding together our threadbare relationship. It took 5 years for the story of us to run its course, but it took less than an hour to delete most traces of him from my every day life. In clicks and swipes I erased old text messages, buried photos of the two of us in the back of already dusty photo albums, removed his number from my phone, and sent old emails to the trash box.

But just as once shared songs have a habit of popping up on the radio or itunes, other specters of relationships-past can loom behind any corner. Some fade as quickly as they appear, others linger, showing their ghostly face every so often in the back of our memory. Luckily, these emails were an easy kill.

Conversation deleted… but not before I hit “print” and tucked the pages away in the back of a notebook. One day, “They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband” might be a book. When that day comes, you can bet The One I Let Get Away will get his own chapter and I’m going to want all the fodder I can get my hands on.