Saturday, January 17, 2015

Catfishing in America

My friends all know Nev Schulman of MTV's Catfish is my major celebrity crush (sorry Colin Firth. We had a long run, but you've been replaced.) So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover this random message in my inbox earlier in this week...

I know, it is merely a newsletter sent to millions, but I'll take it! (and it's certainly more than Colin ever did!)

However, it was also this week that I finally got my hands on Nev's book, In Real Life.

I love, love, love watching Catfish, and I can not wait to read this book. I know many people who have engaged in romances began entirely online, and yes, I've done it myself. And the question I have to ask now, upon reflection, is why?

I think I already know the answer, and I'm eager to see if Nev will confirm it (if you are unfamiliar with his personal story which prompted the series, visit the MTV link in first paragraph and learn more!) I have had two relationships which began in this manner - one resulting in a brief marriage that involved my moving across the country, and the other an on-again-off-again relationship resulting in a lot of eye-rolling and saying, "I know, I know" on my part whenever my friends bring it up now. But here is my theory on both - they were wildly exciting while they were taking place, because they were always in a state of becoming, never actually being.

When I met my first online love in a karate chat room nearly two decades ago,  (yay for the 90s and it's Mixed Martial Arts fads!) he was exciting because he was different. He was from a Northern city and when I visited, it, too, was exciting. When we married a couple of years later, after a lot of jet-setting every month to visit one another, it settled into real (married) life and suddenly wasn't so exciting anymore. After four years (and a lot of growing up) we realized we didn't have so much in common after all, called it quits amicably and went our separate ways. (Note: I do not regret this relationship at all. Moving across the country from a small Southern town to a major metropolitan area in the North changed my life and opened my world; I'm forever grateful for the experience.)

My second foray into online relationships came many years later, and quite accidentally, via the friend of a friend on Facebook. This was also an exciting experience involving international travel for both of us as well as four torturous years of on-off wondering and dreaming (often while dating other people) that ended abruptly for me one day when he made an incredibly offensive comment via text. Though he apologized profusely, I could not get past it. I realized that I clearly did not know him as well as I'd thought, and while the comment may not have bothered some people, it was a deal-breaker for me. Shortly thereafter, I took steps to end the relationship permanently. I knew him well enough to know what to say to accomplish this.

My friends often ask, however, why I hung in there so long in the first place...and here is the answer - it did not require much effort on my part to maintain it. A few emails, texts, and occasional Skype the grand scheme of what real relationships require, that's really not much.

Think about it.

And every ounce of him was laden with the promise of adventure - new place, new culture, new language. This appeals to my wandering-Bilbo-Baggins-gypsy side oh so much, I don't even want to admit it. When the ideal of it all was shattered by a tell-tale comment revealing a little more about him than I might have wanted to know, I couldn't do it anymore. Because let's face it, relationships are messy and take a lot of work and we can't just flop on the couch in pajamas all day and be awesome if someone is there with us all the time - however it is quite easy to do just this if our beloved is in another town, state, or country. We can be as awesome as we wanna be digitally without exposing any of our beautiful flaws or seeing theirs or even changing out of pajamas. It's a grand illusion, like actually believing celebrities don't have toddlers with tantrums or bad hair days because they are always perfect in magazines. Both of these men were and I'm sure still are great guys with a lot to offer...they simply weren't the guys for me. The illusion that they were shattered the minute it 'got real.'

So maybe the truth is, I crave excitement more than relationship? Maybe I'm still not ready to settle down (just typing the words send my commitment-phobias into high gear) and that is why these digital relationship replacements seem much more intriguing? Maybe a fear of real, true intimacy? I'm not sure, but it makes me look forward all the more to exploring Nev's In Real Life. I plan to spend some quality time with it during this long weekend, between enjoying three sunny spring-like days off work (hooray!) and catching up on coursework I've been ignoring (bleh............)

In the meantime, I'll share with you a link from Nev's newsletter on how to eat healthy on the road. Definitely worth the read! And I'll write more about In Real Life  as I delve into it.

No comments: