Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Observer Observed, AKA Intimate Encounters of the Third Kind

Stoned on Lavalife -- the phone system. Listening to women. What do these women want, anyways? There are two interesting things about telephone dating systems: 1) you are enabled to hear the bluntly-stated desires of other people. It's like being able to read thought bubbles over the head of the people you see in the grocery store, say, reading things like "I want to be spanked" or "I have a fetish for oral sex" (or "I am looking for a man with good Christian values," which in its own way is far stranger to hear). It's, bless my mediocre soul, an interesting experience to be permitted such a peek; it doesn't arouse the voyeur in me so much as it makes him intently curious, particularly since this is all relatively new technology. I mean, doesn't it make you wonder what, say, Marshall McLuhan would say about it, this chatline phenomenon? If the medium is the message, is the message ultimately of every phone line caller "I'm alone at home and yet still horny; help?" Is there any serious cultural studies work being done on this phenomenon?

The second interesting thing is: 2) the people who are on the phone lines are generally focussed enough on their desires, which basically all rotate one way or another around either orgasm or love, that if you call in in a fit of whimsy (or under the influence of vodka, whiskey, and marijuana, as happens to be the case tonight), and just get genuinely playful with people, or take things even slightly sideways, perhaps crossing a few taboo-oriented boundaries here and there along the way, you can have a fairly interesting time. I spent the last half hour a) ridiculing a masturbating 40-year old's taste in music (she mentioned liking the Eagles and confessed fucking to Journey. I was playful enough about it and she ended up inviting me to have phone sex with her anyhow, so I managed to get away with it, but I got to score a few cheap shots at bad taste along the way, which really was the whole point, and by the way I passed on the phone sex); b) talking to a naive, sweet, sincere youngish French teacher about her experiences of horny corrupt guys online; and c) talking to a person with Downs Syndrome (!) who called in from Victoria. I was convinced she had a foreign accent at first and tried to get her to tell me what country she was from; as an ESL teacher, I couldn't place her speech and was most curious. Turns out it was Downs Syndrome that was behind her speech impediment. (I was very nice to her after discovering that). So I ask you: where else, tonight, could I have ridiculed someone's taste in music at no consequence to myself, perceived the world of masturbating men through the eyes of an idealistic 25 year old, or chatted with someone with Down's Syndrome? Nowhere, I tell you! How dare you suggest I need to get a life!

By the way, the 40 year old with bad taste in music did have one priceless line, about how "intimate encounters" sounds "vaguely SF." It does, doesn't it? Intimate Encounters of the Third Kind.

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