Saturday, September 27, 2008

a/s/l ?

Living in a city where I know no one, and facing the task (rather daunting for the shy kids of the world) of meeting new people, I've been thinking about the phenomenon of meeting people and how it's changed over time, especially recently. (And since I don't know anyone I have oodles of time to sit around and think about these things - doesn't that work out well?)

This also coincides with someone I know trying out the eHarmony thing - the first person I know to give this particular site a shot. (I have, in the past, known people who've done the J-Date thing, and people who've done the Craigslist personals thing. No, not casual encounters, the regular personals. And people who've met significant others in chat rooms/on message boards.) I happen to think it's fantastic that this person is finding out who's online - it's just helped fuel my musings on the subject, hearing about the firsthand experience.

It's the era of the internet: chat online, bank online, buy clothes/books/furniture online, rent videos online, find apartments online, so why not browse for potential friends and mates online? Shopping for people, without all that messy interpersonal interaction. The fiberoptics and satellites keep everything nice and distant. Doesn't it sound perfect?

What I've started to realize is that so many of us are so lost when it comes to meeting people that these 'shopping' sites are the only ways we can figure out how to do it. I won't make claims about what caused this phenomenon, but I think a lot of you will agree that this is the reality. Perhaps there are still small towns somewhere in America where people grow up with their neighbors, marry their high school sweethearts, and spend every Fourth of July at block parties with the same people they've known for many years. In most places - at least in the densely populated places I've lived - the art of meeting people seems to be nearing endangerment.

People do still pick people up in bars (apparently), but how many people do you know who've had a relationship longer than 24 hours with people they met that way?

Perhaps I'm completely off the mark. Perhaps I'm simply demonstrating how out of touch I am with the social interactions happening all around me. But I can't count how many times I've had the same conversation with friends: "How are we supposed to meet people?!"

What I've begun to wonder is if this move to virtual, often carefully constructed meetingplaces is unavoidable. If half the people in this town are shopping on eHarmony and, does that mean they're not out meeting people face to face? Are they too busy 'reviewing their matches'? Does that mean that if I go out to meet people in 'real life' the pool will be reduced to half the local population? That sounds like more incentive to look online, and so the cycle is perpetuated.

In the end, though, is it really any better to look to meet people online than at the local coffee shop? The bottom line is still the same - you risk rejection either way. Is it enough of an improvement to be rejected in the privacy of your own home, in front of the computer, instead of in a public place, that it's worth losing the opportunity to to meet a whole person instead of some disembodied words? Is the face to face rejection really so bad that we'd rather stay in our houses and miss the chemistry that can happen when two people are in the same room? (Can there possibly be chemistry through the computer?)

This doesn't solve the problem, of course. We still don't seem to know how to meet people - where to go, what to say, how to not feel totally awkward or to be brave enough to take the risk. I don't know if there's a solution, but if we've reached a point where we're collectively becoming more and more okay with saying "yes, I want to meet someone badly enough to pay $30 a month for the chance that I'll find someone whom I like who likes me too, and who also happened to sign up for the same website" then maybe - just maybe - we can take one more leap and say "I want to meet someone badly enough that I'm willing to go out into a public place and be awkward and say the wrong thing and hope that someone else is willing to be awkward and possibly foolish too, and if nothing else we can share our awkwardness (because the odds of encountering someone totally smooth and not awkward at all seem incredibly small)."

Could we say that? If we're brave enough to have adopted the once totally stigmatized world of online dating into the mainstream, can we be brave enough to turn to a stranger and say hello?

Have I just talked myself into something?

A Gift from the Gods

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Zyrtec. There must be some kind of benevolent god out there somewhere, because how else could we be so lucky as to have been graced with the gift of Zyrtec?

I used to be "Claritin clear," except that that was a total lie. Claritin may have reduced my misery somewhat, but it was no match for Southern levels of ragweed pollen. I was beginning to resign myself - with much sorrow - to spending all of hay fever season in my apartment with the windows closed, for as long as I live in Tennessee. Then - oh happy day! I tried Zyrtec.

Life is infinitely better now. My windows are open as we speak, and tomorrow I plan to check out some easy trails around a nearby lake. (They don't have oceans here, but at least there are some lakes. I'll take what I can get.)

I'm not generally a big fan of pharmeceuticals or the monster corporations that produce and sell them, but I would kiss the inventor of this stuff if I could. Thanks also to Kate for pointing out that continuing to use ineffective medication was perhaps not so productive and that this particular product might be worth investigation. THANK YOU!

Now if only someone made a truly effective remedy for the endless itching due to the twenty-four - yes, that's two dozen - bug bites currently gracing my legs. Apparently they weren't kidding about the bugs in the South.

Friday, September 19, 2008

If You Try, Sometimes, You Just Might Find....

I got in the car approximately seven minutes ago and, when I changed the station away from the DJ telling a fascinating story of that time he was late for an airplane, I happened upon the last third of this lovely little number. Thank you, Rolling Stones. I'm trying to think of this as the theme song for my adjustment period here in Nashville. Because I clearly can't get what I want. (All my friends to move here? A private jet for spur-of-the-moment trips north? Enough income to buy a plane ticket without suffering a massive panic attack?) But I have been finding that - sometimes - I get what I need. (Like when my friends manage to call or IM just when I'm most wishing I was with them. It's a good trick. They're talented like that.)

I'm trying to help this along. No, really. Just because I've been alone in my apartment anytime I wasn't actually in class or buying groceries for the last two weeks doesn't mean I'm not making an effort! I mean, there was that math test I thought I might fail. (I didn't.) And the cold I thought I was getting, and the allergies that turned out to be the cause of the cold symptoms, and which necessitate sitting in a sterile, enclosed environment. And there were the aliens attacking my stomach. And that episode of Project Runway that I hadn't seen, and the Netflix DVDs that arrived. So my seclusion has been totally justifiable. But I have (once again) resolved to begin leaving the house for destinations other than the engineering building or Whole Foods. Or Target. I'm actually going to go out into public places. Occasionally. Indoor, air conditioned public places, obviously. (Allergies.) But, like, ones with OTHER PEOPLE. People to whom I will probably not speak unless a monetary transaction needs to take place....or if they approach me first and don't seem totally lecherous or insane. And that's TOTALLY PROGRESS.

So as week five of the Experiment in Southern Living draws to a close, I conclude that I am, in fact, making progress. And I would pat myself on the back, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet to look quite that crazy in public. So I'll settle for blogging about it and fantasizing about going to - get this - other coffee shops. Ones that I haven't been to before. Shocking, I know. But hey - I've done crazier things. Like moving to a time zone where I don't know anyone. In the whole time zone. (Because "9, 8 Central"? that's me. I'm "8 Central". WHAT HAVE I DONE?!)

The good news? Only four more weeks until I fly home for my cousin's wedding. Not that I'm counting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Allergic to Tennessee

Who knew it was possible to be allergic to a state? or maybe a region - maybe I'm allergic to the entire South.

I don't mean to imply that I've never suffered seasonal allergies before. Last summer in Boston I spent many lovely days Claritin Clear...except not really, because Claritin doesn't actually fix my allergies. But something about this fall's allergy season has knocked me on my ass. Perhaps there are other explanations for it, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that the pollen count here is approximately twice what it is in Boston. Awesome.

This means that even though the weather became totally gorgeous over the weekend - the temperature and humidity both dropped, so it's been cool in the mornings and evenings and gloriously warm and sunny in the afternoons - I cannot open my windows. I tried opening my windows, and it made me amazingly happy as far as the soft autumn breeze blowing through my apartment but fairly miserable in terms of the itchy, sneezy, phlegmy, awfulness.

So I have given up and become one of Those People who, despite the beauteousness outdoors, sits in the house with the windows shut and the air conditioning on. I really, really hope that this is effective. At about 3:00 this morning a handful of aliens decided to try to rip my stomach out of my body, and I can't help but think it is somehow related to the allergies. This is the only reason I'm willing to shut out the beautiful weather. I REALLY hope the pollen goes away soon. I mean, how badly do we need the trees to reproduce, anyway?

I'm now going to finish my recovery day by watching a DVD that's come highly recommended from a few sources: Once, and I'll let you know if it's any good. I can definitely say with confidence that Netflix is the best thing ever.

Apparently I Think I'm a Writer

I'm not sure how this came about - if it's from reading so much and being inspired, or from such a large percentage of my communication the last four weeks being in written form (thank you, instant messenger), or if this is at long last the manifestation of my childhood dream of writing novels - but apparently I fancy myself a writer. The funny thing is, I don't do much writing.

That's unfair, actually. I have quite a few songs that would argue that I do write, just in a particular (short) form. But I have nevertheless concluded that if I can't even manage to update a blog more than twice a month than I'm really not much of a writer. And since I'm toying with the idea of tackling my first book, I should probably prove (to myself, at least) that I am, in fact, *actually* a writer.

Of course, I realized some time ago that a label such as 'writer' is not something one must earn by getting published or publicly recognized in some way, one must simply write and then one is a writer. I discovered this when I caught myself thinking and saying that I was "an aspiring songwriter," and then thought "wait a minute - what's aspiring about it? I write songs, don't I? What does a songwriter do besides writing songs? I AM A SONGWRITER." I might not be a famous songwriter, or a published songwriter, or even what some would consider a professional songwriter, but I am, in point of fact, a songwriter. By that same token, I am a writer, just as much as I am a student or a Mac user or a Toyota owner. I am not rabid about my Toyota ownership, but I own a Toyota and so it is a valid self-classification.

So I hereby publicly declare that I am, indeed, a writer. I write. Words. With punctuation. And sometimes even proper spelling and grammar.

Now that I've made this declaration I am free to begin my book. (BookS? Give me time.) All I need is a subject, and I've got tons of ideas. The trick is choosing one I can.... scratch that. The trick is beginning to write. I am beginning here, now, with this blog. I don't know that anything I've written here - or will write here - will ever turn into a full fledged publishable kind of ouevre, but as Kate so kindly pointed out, by publishing myself here on the internet I am inviting book publishers to discover me and offer me lots of money to fill many pages which they can put on shelves and market to unsuspecting Barnes & Noble customers. And as I pointed out, there are perhaps three people that read my blog. But maybe if I start writing here instead of just keeping this glorified placeholder on the domain......

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Great Tennessee Experiment

I arrived in Nashville three weeks ago today.

I've spent the last three weeks setting up a new apartment, starting a new school, getting to know a new town, and generally trying to settle into a place a thousand miles away from my friends and family. It's adventure.

My apartment is pretty awesome. My landladies are entirely awesome. Lila and Priscilla live downstairs, and are SO cool. From the minute I moved in, they totally adopted me. They're hilarious, and have been taking good care of me.

School is school, complete with classes and homework.

Nashville seems like a cool town, though I haven't done much exploring yet. I did take a long drive today down the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Tennessee is quite pretty. I'm looking forward to getting out into those rolling hills to do some hiking and keep trying to capture it photographically. (Wish me luck with that one.)

I won't promise regular updates, but I am going to try to keep some sort of log of this whole experiment in Southern living. If nothing else it'll someday be a kind of online scrapbook of that time I thought it would be a good idea to move to Nashville. We'll see....