the intersection of conan o’brien and my love life

I’m a big fan of Conan O’Brien and a few nights ago I sabotaged the morning by staying up late to watch him talk for an hour with Robert Caro, one of his favorite writers (I drank two extra beers while watching it–and this is what gave way to the hangover discussed in the most recent podcast episode), and then in the morning I listened to Conan’s recent appearance on Michelle Obama’s podcast where they talked pretty much exclusively about marriage and when they started talking about online dating at one point he mentioned reading a study or something that addressed the way that, when we swipe left or right on a dating app, it triggers the release of the same brain chemical as pulling the lever on a slot machine over and over and over. Something like satisfaction. And he goes on to say he’s seen those people at the casino, funneling coins into a machine and pulling a lever all day, and he says what unites them all is the look on their face.

            “It’s joyless.”

            And you might remember that a couple months back I was talking both here on the blog and then at greater length on the podcast about a woman I’d met on Hinge, named Mary, with whom I’d gotten along really well. We were having lengthy and fairly intimate conversations on Zoom between like 8 p.m. and midnight—and yet, much as I was kinda smitten, that smittenness wasn’t exactly a two-way thing, and after a few months of talking on Zoom, and through text and sometimes over the phone, Mary kinda bit the bullet and sent me that difficult but very considerate text telling me, up-front, that she sees this more as a friendship, and doesn’t wanna pursue anything romantic. Which was a bummer. And I told her thanks for the candor and that I wasn’t quite in the right headspace to shift gears into something totally platonic at that point, but to gimme time…

She was cool about it.

But then we struck up a conversation the other day and it’s fine. The air’s cleared. No tension.

We went and got a drink at Bar Nancy the other night and caught up without any mention of how we’d met, way back in March, or about what those initial vibes mighta been—and I don’t think it would have been a difficult or dicey subject to approach!, either, I think it just didn’t come up naturally and there was no need to pursue it and so we didn’t.

LV9 (Gameboy 2), by Jane Dickson

            Anyway. We had the same kinda long, meandering, fun exploratory conversation at Bar Nancy as we’d initially had on Zoom and the evening was totally nice and she dropped me off at home and I made dinner and ate it at my desk while reviewing some work and then I went to bed.

            Life was life was life, and I had a nice evening with a friend.

            It happened again recently that I met somebody very cool on Hinge and we went out three times and then it shifted from romantic to platonic, like legitimate friendship, and she and I’ve done a good amount of talking since then and I’m sure we’ll strike up a regular thing of hanging out and chatting on Zoom before long. And that’s a good thing. And then a few nights ago I was trading messages with somebody I’d just matched with on Hinge and when I asked if she wanted to meet at a bar between our apartments over the weekend she sent a contrite, sincere, but very comprehensive message saying yes, absolutely, but she’s only recently coming to grips with the fact that she isn’t looking for anything romantic, and she’d be happy to meet up if we could agree that it’s platonic—which I’m probably gonna take her up on! Why not? We have a lot in common and conversation was nice—may as well make a friend!

            But, prior to meeting up with Mary for a drink on Tuesday night, I got to the bar a little early and I chatted with the bartender who’s 29, like me, and who’s also a writer (!), and very forthcoming about whatever anybody wants to discuss—

Anyway: I get to the bar and she asks me what I’m up to tonight and I’m like, “Oh, I’m meeting up with a someone I’ve known for a while, we were kinda vaguely attempting the dating thing when COVID started, but now we’re just friends—I was kinda putting off that friendship thing until I felt more settled from that sugar high of having a big crush, and so that’s what we’re…taking a stab at.”

She nodded. Didn’t say anything.

And since I have this bad habit where, if somebody asks me a question and then they don’t immediately respond to my answer, I’ll just keep talking. I’ll tell you everything. Phobias, goals, kinks.

It’s all connected.

So she just nodded and looked at me as though inviting me to continue and so I continued—started riffing about dating apps and how I’ve had some good times and made some great connections because of those apps, but that they aren’t really working out for me romantically for some reason…

I just spiel and I spiel. Spiel in the way that you can really only spiel to a very good bartender. And as I’m going on she just listens and nods and then, at the end of it, she takes a deep breath and shakes her head and says, “This is why I don’t do the app thing. You meet people and you’re both just on different wavelengths, everybody’s got different ideas about what they’re getting into…”

            True enough.

            And here’s some shit that’s maybe kinda heavy to mention, maybe I shouldn’t do it, but guess what: I’m doin it.

[Second half tomorrow…]

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