There are few subjects more delicate than romance. Yet when it comes to the liaison of others, parents, friends and perfect strangers liberally weigh in upon the matter often completely insensitive to the prickly issues at play. And the topic becomes even more fragile when broached within the context of on-line dating. Never having tried on-line dating – though I have heard anecdotal stories of both its successes and failures – it is for me peripheral to the essential query about how best to accommodate loneliness. I am assuming that if one is looking for romance then the object is to combat loneliness. It is the search for an idealized state involving two people.
Loneliness like pain is a sensation which completely evaporates when it is dispelled. It is virtually impossible to recall either its urgency or poignancy when it no longer exists. The point is this: if one is not actually lonely it is very difficult if not impossible to guess how to manage it. Certainly one may remember the details of how one behaved during a period of loneliness but that doesn’t begin to capture the rotting insinuation of loneliness. It’s the difference between having a cold and afterwards reporting that you had a cold.
Nonetheless if one is to conduct an analysis of loneliness the starting point seems to be that there are two challenges; first, to establish what you are looking for; and second, to determine how to market yourself in that pursuit. Basically it boils down to, “What do you want?” and “How do you propose to get it?” Keeping in mind that romance is in some cultures by design a business of sorts (and perhaps even as much so within certain classes of society), the quandary admits to enormous distortions and utter perversions. At the other end of the spectrum is the possibility of capitulating to fortune and circumstance – “Que sera, sera!” The middle path is a strategic compromise which threatens by its intellectualism to be saccharin. In the words of one gentleman:
I’d like to have relatively regular female companionship. I’d like to have a mate I can kiss and cuddle, a woman whose attitudes are similar enough that we have much in common but different enough to keep us nicely defined as individuals. We should each be independent in most things, but relishing intimately close contact too.
I know that during my own periods of loneliness I was never so deliberate about palliating my condition. In fact if I am to be completely forthright I did nothing to address my misfortune other perhaps than to submerse myself in alcohol, sometimes in the company of friends, other times quite on my own. As can be imagined in circumstances such as those the ramifications were unpredictable and even egregious. I hasten to add however that as indulgent as I may have been and as much as I may have loosened my self-control, I have no regrets about the outcome. The simple truth is that I was not the only lonely person in the world at the time. The temporary conjunction of two lonely souls can afford mutual comfort even in the most unimaginable situations. Such a recommendation does not of course address the long-term ambition to defeat loneliness.
As instinctive as it may be for old people to condemn themselves for being unmarketable, I frankly don’t recall any time in my life when I fashioned myself especially marketable, whether young or old. I don’t think most people imagine they are hot goods. What remains however is that people of all ages have relationships. Speaking for myself the thrust of any relationship I have ever had has been serendipity more than anything else. There was absolutely no calculation in the manufacture of any relationship I have ever had. This applies to both friends and lovers. If I were to ascribe any theme at all to those relationships it would be the willingness to speak my mind. We can’t suppose that people will read our thoughts. This entails an element of risk in some cases, perhaps even bravado. It’s a bit of that old standby, “You’ll never know until you ask!” I can’t take entire credit for that tact as it may at times have been merely the product of Dutch Courage but unquestionably it worked. As with other investments, the greater the risk, the greater the possibility of return.
Another of life’s sometimes regrettable truths is that some people are just plain lucky. It is a fabrication to pretend that any one of us has such control over the direction of our lives that we can come anywhere close to predicting its outcome. But it is equally true that this is a double-edged sword. None of us has a monopoly on either fate or fortune. Knowing this, I take considerable delight and consolation in throwing myself at the mercy of Providence. I would besides be hard pressed to make a case for any other alternative. And with the greatest of respect for the ritual of on-line dating I can’t imagine that there is any prescription other than Chance.