Digital Limerence

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, if you don’t mind a diet of nothing but empty calories.

As someone who has been crashing into virtual doors and falling into large virtual bodies of water in the virtual world of Second Life for over a decade, I am quite familiar with limerence. It’s such a lovely sounding word, isn’t it? It sounds like what happens when limericks and romance collide. Like lime green hearts.

And limerence feels good. It’s the best drug in the world. It floods your body with some awesome chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. But in the end, it usually brings you nothing but pain and regret. That’s why in recent years I only go into Second Life twice a week, to catch up with friends.

Limerence is often mistaken for falling in love. But it’s love on steroids. It’s butterflies in the stomach writ large. It’s when you crave the other person. You ignore all the red flags. You fantasize about them when they’re not with you. They have all the power to lift you up or tear you down. It’s not steady and solid nurturing as real love will be. It’s dramatic and unstable and exciting.

The internet is rife with limerence. It’s a state that thrives when you don’t really know the other person. The more blank canvas they present you with, the more you are able to paint in what you really want to see. You turn them into the perfect purveyor of all your unmet needs. Your mind convinces you that your beliefs about this person are real so that it/you can continue to be flooded with those awesome chemicals.

Second Life is full of such stories. I knew a guy who spent money he did not have to fly from Australia to the US, thinking he was going there to meet the love of his life, only to find out that the person waiting for him was… a person. She was not the gorgeous voluptuous avatar that he danced with in ballrooms every night in virtual reality, without a care in the world. And for that matter, he couldn’t afford a tuxedo in real life, and neither of them really knew how to dance. Their happily ever after crumbled like the house of cards it had always been.

You can draw limerence out in a virtual world for years. It’s a heady experience. As long as you both continue to play the unspoken roles that each has subtly laid out for the other, you can binge on the testosterone and estrogen for as long as you want, even if your real body is too old or too unhealthy or too married or too far away to actually consummate your connection.

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, as long as you don’t mind a diet that consists of nothing but empty calories.  But when it starts to crowd out your real life, it can be trouble. If you use up the bulk of your time daydreaming about the object of your limerence, that’s a problem. If it gives you an excuse to not work on establishing or improving a real life relationship, it’s unfair to your real life partner. When it worms its way into your psyche and starts nibbling away at your mental health, it’s toxic.

And while you are in limerence, you assume that the other person is putting in as much effort and being just as vulnerable and honest as you are. But so many of my friends have been lied to in virtual reality that it stuns me that anyone indulges in it anymore. You can be whoever you want to be in a virtual world, and if you don’t truly care about the person behind the other avatar, you can make up all the stories you want.

You can falsify your sexual experience and proclivities. You can experiment with other gender identities than your own. If you identify as male, regardless of what your birth certificate says, it’s cruel, in my opinion, to role play that you identify as female, because you’re role playing with someone else’s emotions. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with role playing. Just be up front about it if you’re engaged in a cyber romance. I really never understood people who delight in catfishing others. It’s heartless. No relationship can thrive if it’s based on deception.

And it boggles the mind, the number of people in there who are miserable and lonely and lying about their marital status. For many, virtual reality seems to be the land of quiet desperation. You don’t have to be you in there.

You can pretend to be successful or rich or even (for a short time) intelligent, when in fact you are none of those things. You can be utterly incapable of feeling real emotions, but you can make them up as you go along. You might even cut and paste dialogue from other parts of the net if you can’t think of anything to say yourself. If you’re a teenage boy, you can pretend to be in your 30’s. If you’re an old woman, you can pretend to be a model. If you’re four feet tall and wheelchair bound, you can pretend that you’re 6 feet tall and a professional dancer. If you’re a sinner, you can be a saint. If you’re a convicted felon, you can pretend that you are a commodities trader on Wall Street who lives in a brownstone in Manhattan instead of someone sitting in a trailer wearing nothing but an ankle bracelet and a bathrobe, on the outskirts of Detroit.

Again, all well and good if you’re not playing with someone’s heart. But don’t lie to someone as you both suck on those hormones, baby, and you convince yourself that you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. What a rush! Until the truth comes out and you devastate the other person.

While it feels better than anything you’ve ever felt before, limerence is an illusion. And it keeps you in thrall as your real life begins to atrophy from the sheer neglect. And then one day you get slapped back into reality, and you have to start all over again.   

Love enhances you. But beware of limerence. It depletes you. Check out these articles for more information.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/limerence

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/when-you-can-t-quit-a-crush?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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Confessions of a Book Snob

The messages some books send do not appeal to me.

When I was going through puberty, I used to devour romance novels for the titillation factor. But over time I came to realize that a lot of these books were pretty formulaic. Also, I begin to notice that a lot of the messages that they send did not appeal to me.

I did not want it put into my head that the only way to be happy is if you’re coupled up. And since I wasn’t part of a couple, these books often had me crying hormonal teenaged tears and feeling lonely and inadequate. Who needs that?

I also don’t believe that someone who is treating you abominably will automatically be reformed and start loving you properly. Bad boys can rarely be tamed, and no one should get into a relationship under the assumption that the other person will change. If you don’t like what you see now, you’re definitely not going to like what you see 20 years from now. I also don’t believe that some man is going to come along and rescue me and solve all my problems. Women don’t need those messages. They need to learn how to be agents of their own life success, whether they are in a couple or choose to go it alone. And while finding love is wonderful, it doesn’t have to be one’s primary goal in life. It’s OK to have other goals.

And by the way, no one has the right to rip your bodice. No one gets to take possession of you. Healthy relationships should be based on teamwork and equality, not violence and/or domination.

So yeah, I stopped reading romance novels about 40 years ago. Maybe they have gotten better as feminism has taken a tenuous hold, but I doubt it. Why would publishers mess with what seems to be a successful formula? Many of us, it seems, embrace indoctrination.

The only book I’ve read during that time that comes close to that genre is the soft-porn, misguided, erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it to see what all the fuss was about. I quickly realized that this was the most poorly written book on the face of the planet. I’m sorry, but titillation is not worth putting up with crappy writing. There are just too many other stories out there that can ring your bell without insulting your intelligence.

Given my disdain for romance novels, when I started my little free library, I made a firm decision that no romance novels would ever be in it. Full stop. This is not censorship. I’m not telling anyone not to read these books, and heaven knows there are plenty of sources for them to obtain such things. But I am the curator of my library, and I decide what stays and what goes.

And then one day I met one of my patrons. I had seen her stop by frequently, but she rarely took a book. She said to me, wistfully, “I sure wish you had more lady books.”

I apologized to her even as my heart sank, and then I went inside to have a long think. Ultimately, I decided that my main goal was to encourage reading and literacy. There’s no denying that the romance genre is quite popular. I suppose it wouldn’t kill me if the odd romance novel made it into my collection every once in a while.

Make no mistake, I still curate my library. There are some books you will never see in there. If a book promotes hate, it goes straight into the garbage. Likewise, books that give false information, and contradict science, such as those written for the anti-vax crowd, will find no home in my library. There’s plenty of easily obtainable false information on the internet. There is no need for me to perpetuate it. I also tend to avoid books that promote one religion over another.

But now I hold on to about every 10th “lady book” that crosses my path. (The rest go to Goodwill. I’d give them directly to that patron, except she is not on any type of social media, and I don’t feel comfortable exchanging phone numbers with her.) Every now and again I hold my nose and put one of these books in my library, because some people actually enjoy them. I may not agree with the social construct that these books promote, but I’ve found that many readers of these books will read nothing else.

If it’s a choice between romance or not reading at all, then I guess I’ll choose romance. Reluctantly. And I have to admit that they do fly off the shelves.

Before any of you fire off an indignant response to this post that defends romance novels, attempts to change my mind about them, or expresses how insulted you feel by my judgment, please know that I genuinely believe you can read anything you want. The fact that these books are not my cup of tea, and probably never will be again, is not an indictment of your taste. To each his or her own. I know perfectly well that I’m a snob on this particular subject. Hence the title of this post. Namaste.

Seriously? C’mon…

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Later Love

I’m a 54-year-old woman, so I come with accessories.

I’m a 54-year-old woman, so I come with accessories.

I wear glasses and compression socks and I suspect that orthopedic shoes are not too far over my blurry horizon. I sleep with a night guard so I don’t grind my teeth, a CPAP mask so I actually breathe, and wrist braces so I don’t hyperflex my wrists during the night and inflame my tendons. I also require a pile of pillows of various shapes to be comfortable in bed as I’m not as limber as in days of yore.

My medicine cabinet is full to overflowing with both prescriptions and over the counter remedies. There are certain foods that I absolutely love but will no longer eat because I’m not willing to bear the consequences, but I keep cures for those consequences on hand in case I forget. And, oh yeah, I keep a variety of lists because I can’t always count on my memory.

It has been a life well lived, and I have no regrets. I’m about as healthy as the average American my age.  You, too, will accumulate baggage as the years go by. Trust me. It’s all part of the process.

I often look over at my husband with a certain level of awe, because we hooked up later in life, and that isn’t for the faint of heart. I cannot believe he managed to look beyond this massive pile of accessories and was actually able to see me as the catch that he believes that I am. That is a unique gift indeed, and I treasure it. I will never take that for granted.

I can’t imagine how May/December romances actually work. At least when you are with someone of a similar age, the nightstands on both sides of the bed are equally overwhelmed with flotsam. We each have our accoutrements, so neither of us feels unduly burdened. The scale of life is relatively balanced, and that’s such a comfort. When you start off together in the land of accessories, you don’t have to anticipate quite as many future surprises, and on the rare occasion when a surprise comes along, it isn’t quite as big of a shock. What you see is what you get.

Those of you still in your prime won’t yet understand this, but there’s nothing quite as romantic as the sound of two CPAP masks clinking together when you kiss good night. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Clink.

aging hands

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Television is a Strange Teacher

There’s no such thing as a bad hair day.

Have you ever noticed that everyone who is struck in the head on TV instantly gets knocked out, and then eventually recovers with no cognitive problems whatsoever? Just once, I’d like to see someone spin around and say, “Ow! What the hell?”

As a matter of fact, when’s the last time anyone ever said ow on TV? And most of the time no one dies from a head blow either, unless it’s a forensic show. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)

Another neat television trick is that you can almost always punch someone in the face and not sustain any hand injuries at all. That’s pretty convenient. It’s also not very realistic. (Not that I’ve tested the theory.)

On television, you can go through a whole host of action scenes and your hair will remain unfazed. I wish that were the case in real life. Most days, I can’t even wake up in the morning without a mirror shock experience.

And on TV, bathrooms only exist if you a) need a place to smoke a joint, b) are nervously preparing for your wedding night, or c) are part of a group of girls who are talking about boys.

On the small screen, too, CPR always works, unless, oddly enough, you’re in a hospital. Then you’re a goner. And bones are never broken in the process, which is vastly different from what occurs in real life. (And the success rate of CPR in real life is abysmal.)

I can’t say I know the success rate of love stories in the real world, but on TV, people seem to live happily ever after a ridiculous percentage of the time. We do love a happy ending.

And it seems as though everyone gets a second chance. And no one ever needs a third chance. If only we all really learned from our mistakes the first time around.

If some alien got all his intel about humanity by watching our television broadcasts, he’d have a very strange view of the planet. For example, he’d think that all men, without exception, are prone to making grand romantic gestures. Gimme a break. But, hey, three cheers to the ones who make the effort!

Sage Advice

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The Cinema and Brew

God, I loved that place.

Sometimes nostalgia hits me like a freight train. I hadn’t thought of this place in decades, but suddenly today this little chestnut popped into my head: The Cinema and Brew in Apopka, Florida.

It was a dingy little place, tucked into the corner of a strip mall. Nothing to shout about, really. One screen. Chairs with ragged upholstery surrounding sticky tables. A counter where you could order pizza, beer, popcorn, candy, and soda.

Not the best neighborhood. Someone I distantly knew was stabbed on the sidewalk out front once. God, though, I loved that place.

The minute I turned 16 and could drive at night, I was there every single week. If I remember correctly, it only cost a dollar to get in. The manager would get really irritated with those of us who couldn’t afford to buy food. That was his only chance for profit. But since I was quiet and never caused trouble, I never got kicked out, as many of my male friends did.

The movies were often really bad. Cheech and Chong. The Porky’s franchise. Most of the time I didn’t even bother to see what was playing until I got there. Because the whole point was being there.

It was a place to run into friends. It was also the place to hope for romance. I got my first kiss there. I also got my first unwanted kiss there. He had pizza breath and really awful body odor, and he took me by surprise. I made it quite clear that it would be a really bad idea to ever try that again. Hopefully he’s not aiming for a future in the Supreme Court.

It was also a place to go to get away from my dysfunctional home life and fantasize about being rescued. One time I was there by myself, and a really good looking guy came up to me and said, “Is this seat taken?” My heart was pounding. I said no. So he took it. Away. To another table.

Another time, a friend was supposed to meet me there, and she was running late. Finally I gave up on her entirely. So I’m sitting in the pitch black, watching the movie, and during a quiet scene, she screeches my name. It made everyone jump.

“Jeez. Over here,” I said. Everyone laughed. We all sort of felt like we were hanging out in a big living room in a low rent neighborhood.

I had forgotten how desperate I was back then. Desperate for love and friendship and acceptance. Desperate to get out of my circumstances. Desperately poor.

Still, a tiny part of me wishes I were going to the Cinema and Brew tonight, for old time’s sake. But like so many other things from my past, for better or for worse, it’s long gone.

Preview

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Love Languages

People have very unique ways of expressing love and also of feeling loved.

A friend of mine turned me on to the book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Have I read it? No. I’m already overwhelmed without adding another book to my reading list. But the subject intrigues me quite a bit.

I have always noticed that people have very unique ways of expressing love and also of feeling loved. I think it’s important to know what signifies love to your partner, so you can express it in a way that means the most to him or her. It’s also interesting to examine what equals love to you, so that you can see when someone is expressing love to you in a way that you’re not noticing.

If your partner’s love language is touch, for example, and he touches you a lot, that’s his way of expressing love, even if your language is different. Learn to appreciate it. And touch him a lot. And tell him what means the most to you.

Here are the 5 types of love languages that Mr. Chapman has identified, in no particular order:

  • Acts of Service– This is the one I relate to the most. Having someone do something for me when they can see I’m overwhelmed is practically an aphrodisiac to me. Want to show me you love me? Do my laundry! My boyfriend recently went to my house and left some chicken in the fridge for me so that I wouldn’t have to make lunch for the next day, because he knew I’d be exhausted. That moved me to tears.

  • Quality Time– Pay attention. Listen. Focus. If you want someone to feel special, just be there.

  • Words of Affirmation– Some people feel most special when they hear “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.”

  • Physical Touch– We’re not just talking sex, here. This means hand holding, or even just resting your hand lightly on your partner’s arm.

  • Receiving Gifts– This isn’t about being a gold digger. This is about being really touched by the effort it takes to obtain or make the gift, and the thought you put into determining what that person would like.

This is a fascinating avenue of inquiry. If you want to know what your love language is, take the test here. You may learn quite a bit.

I don’t know if Mr. Chapman gets into this in his book, but there are also a lot of toxic “love” languages out there. Here are a few I’ve seen:

  • Feeding– When food equals love, it tends to bring on health issues. I’ve seen many mother’s do this. “Eat hardy!” “Did you get enough to eat?” “Let me make you your favorite cake.” It’s a form of love, I suppose, but it’s very destructive.

  • Jealousy– I’ll never understand people who actually enjoy it when their partner is jealous. “He must really love me if he gets that upset.” That’s not love. That’s a warped control dynamic.

  • Teasing– It may start off as cute and funny, but over time it can evolve into insults and cruelty. Again, not the best path to go down.

What makes you feel most loved? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Languages

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Please Don’t Flaunt Your Flowers

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Hurray for love! I hope you appreciate it every day of the year. Love really is all that matters in this world, and the romantic kind is beyond compare.

Having said that, I hope you will be a bit sensitive to those of us who don’t have it in our lives. Some of us look to Valentine’s Day with a certain level of dread and resignation. It’s particularly painful for those of us who have lost loved ones. And it can be downright depressing for those of us who have given up all hope of finding someone to love. (I know you’ll be tempted to say, “You’ll find someone!” in the comments section. But the odds are equally good that I won’t. Please allow me to reside in the real world.)

For those of us in the lonely hearts’ club, your big bouquet of flowers, delivered to the office with a great deal of fanfare, is disheartening. Your chocolate makes us lose our appetite. We are happy for you, yes, but it would be nice to be able to be happy for ourselves.

And please understand that for the lovelorn, the day after Valentines is viewed simply as a great opportunity to buy chocolate on sale. We don’t rush to work in eager anticipation of hearing about your romantic dinner at the fancy restaurant, or your bed strewn with rose petals. We’re just happy to have survived the day once again.

So please, enjoy your flowers. But could you take them home now? Thanks.

flowers

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“Oh, George…”

Every once in a while, my mother used to talk in her sleep. It was usually something quite silly, and I’d have fun teasing her about it the next day. She would just roll her eyes at me.

But one night, when I was about 10 years old, she said, “Oh, George…”

She said it in a husky, passionate way. This was the first time I realized that my mother had a private life all her own. It kind of rattled me.

“Ma, who’s George?” I asked her over breakfast.

“George? I don’t know any George,” she said, looking confused.

I asked her what she had been dreaming about, but she said she couldn’t remember. (Come to think of it, what else could she have said to her 10 year old daughter at that moment?)

Some stories you never get to hear all the way to the end. This was one of those. It’s probably why it stayed with me, after all these years.

Now that I’m an adult, I hope and pray that there really was a George in my mother’s life. Born in 1927, my mother was a product of her era. I strongly suspect she didn’t “get around”, as the saying goes.

She was married twice. First, to my alcoholic and physically abusive father, and then to my step-father, who weighed 400 pounds, and was a perverted pedophile. If those were the only intimacies she experienced, I feel truly sorry for her.

My mother was a beautiful woman and an amazing human being. I hope at least once in her life she had an encounter with someone equally amazing who made her feel attractive and valued and appreciated. I hope that she had reason to have a secret smile on her face every now and then, to keep her spirit warm in the emotionally sterile world in which she lived most of the time. It makes me sad that I’ll never know for sure.

Everybody deserves at least one good “George”.

Intimacy

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Singleness

Recently I’ve felt a fundamental shift inside of me—a shift away from the desperate pursuit of love, with all its disappointments and body-blows to my self-esteem. No, I haven’t given up. I’ve just lost interest.

Or perhaps it’s better to say that my interests lie elsewhere. I want to focus on improvement projects for my new home. I want to take care of my neurotic dog, who seems to hate every human being on the planet except me. I want to read more, write more, sleep more, explore more. I don’t want to have to compromise or try so freakin’ hard. I feel absolutely no need to be anyone other than who I am.

No, I’m not choosing some austere life. I’m not punishing myself, and I don’t hate men. They don’t scare me. Nor am I sexually confused. There’s absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me.

I think the assumption that you aren’t a success unless you are part of a pair is antiquated and absurd. In this day and age, women can support themselves. We can live alone. We can choose not to have children. (Hallelujah to that.)

Being single is not some cross one has to bear. It’s not a sign of damage. It’s not a problem that needs solving. It’s just a state of being. One isn’t the loneliest number. It’s just another number.

But am I lonely? Sometimes. And I’m a very passionate person, so having those needs go unmet can be more than a little frustrating. (I’m not an animal, though. I need some sort of emotional connection to scratch that particular itch.) But for the most part, to be honest, I just can’t be bothered.

Will I feel this way tomorrow? Hard to say. But right here, right now, this is how I roll.

single.jpg

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Nice Try, Player

There’s a reason I have stayed off the internet dating websites for quite some time now. I kept meeting the worst of men; the very dregs of masculinity. In fact, I’ve met so many icky men in cyberspace that I began to look at all men as icky. I decided that if I wanted to continue to function effectively in this world, it would be best if I didn’t get in the habit of looking at 49 percent of the population as pond scum.

So now I have date night with my dog. He’s not the most brilliant conversationalist, but he’s yet to taint my view of the planet. And he doesn’t mind chick flicks.

So time goes on. I rarely even think of romance anymore. It’s quite liberating, actually. I’m getting a lot done. I have fewer dust bunnies.

Then the phone rang. It was a local number that seemed vaguely familiar, so I answered it.

“Hey Barb, It’s S, from the dating website?”

“S…? Oh! S. Hi?”

Why in the hell would this guy be calling me? We went out twice. We had a great time. We hit it off, actually. But in the end, he was so self-absorbed that he expected me to be there for his drama, but when my beloved dog Blue was dying a weeks-long, horrible death, he mysteriously disappeared. In fact, he stood me up on our last date because he forgot he was getting his chest hair waxed.

No sooner had I buried Blue, but S tried contacting me again. I told him that I had been through a month of hell, and sure could have used a friend, and he was nowhere to be found, so I didn’t see friendship, let alone romance, on our horizon.

And yet, a year later, here he was on my phone.

“Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, Barb. I just was wondering if you got the test results.”

“Test results?”

“Oh. Did I call the wrong Barbara? Oh! I remember you. You were, like, 70, and lived in Shoreline?”

“I used to live in Shoreline, yes, but I’m 52.” (Bitch!)

Why was I even talking to this guy? I bet he couldn’t even remember my hair color. But then, I slow down to look at traffic accidents, too.

“Oh, definitely the wrong Barbara, then. This Barbara is only a friend, and she got some medical tests done two weeks ago, and I was just wondering how they went. But, hey, I remember you were, like, a really, really good kisser, Barb.”

“Um, yeah. Well… take me off your contacts list, will you, S? We wouldn’t want this mistake to happen again.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Best of luck to your friend Barbara. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Saints preserve us.

Player

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