Wild Nights

April 19, 2009 § 3 Comments

11 a.m.; 1926, Edward Hopper11 a.m. 1926, Edward Hopper


So The New York Times has finally gotten around to writing about Craigslist Casual Encounters!* How long have reporters been asking for this assignment? It’s a perfect plum of a data mine: a crowded mishmash of dirty-minded weirdos trying to fulfill every kind of sexual hunger save the ones that bring the villagers out with torches.



Of course, CL isn’t what it used to be. Several years ago I went through an Internet dating phase, and though I wasn’t interested in the match.com crowd (for one thing, I was married), CL was too scattershot—it doesn’t require you to create a profile, so people talk more about what they want than who they are—but it was always fun to read.

I used to keep a file of bizarre postings, thinking I might use them in a novel. I deleted most of them last fall when I was weeding out my overloaded hard drive (though the space they take up is like a toenail clipping in a closet) but here’s one I managed to save. It’s from a woman.

Another thing, ideally I am looking for something with the soul of a writer, though by profession you don’t have to be one. I like abysmal depth and outpouring of passions. It would be wonderful if you can also balance that with staccatos of wit and ethereal delicacy.

 Any of you guys think you’d qualify?

I never answered an Internet ad unless the man revealed himself unintentionally, if only by one word. I needed a crumb of unmediated information before I bothered to move to the email stage. And then it was time for close textual analysis, which I found far more rewarding than cocktail party chatter. Email doesn’t give you the crucial physical info, but I never cared, because a date with a man with a good mind is interesting, whether it leads anywhere or not.

The men I met were all very smart, some more or less normal, others delightfully strange. A few were asking for sex but looking for love; others were straightforwardly kinky. I was seeking adventure, and in regard to sex, a kind of serious but considered dominance. I never found exactly what I wanted—some guys didn’t get the concept, others did but couldn’t embody it—but I had fun. Patrick was very good with ropes, a bon vivant with a lot of sailing experience. Big, bluff, red-faced, sweet, he was my first Internet romance.

And there was an extraordinarily handsome man—movie star handsome and a decade younger than I was—who wanted to have sex in Grand Central station during rush hour. He was charmingly insistent, reminding me of a teenage boy trying to talk a girl into some minor illegality like trespassing. I didn’t give in. But he pushed me up against the wall and kissed me while the commuters stared, and yes, I let him and liked it. I would have seen him again but he was too ADD.

There was another man who wasn’t handsome at all, but that didn’t matter. He was ferociously smart and wonderfully dirty-minded, in the way only the intellectually over-endowed can be. He put himself through Princeton writing porno. But I didn’t like his odor. He wasn’t unclean: he just didn’t smell mammalian. His scent was mineral, with a cyanide aftertaste. I couldn’t ignore it; couldn’t explain.

At the end of the Times article, the reporter mentions the site, AshleyMadison.com, which is for married people seeking affairs. He describes the site this way: “There is no pretense that anything but sex is being offered, which is just fine for people with louche tastes looking to avoid polite society.”

Louche. That’s a good word. I’d off-rhyme it with smooch, Proust, or gauche. And, excuse me, where does one find polite society these days? (In Proust.) And why didn’t the reporter go on any dates himself?

When I wrote about personal ads for my college paper, I went on a date. I was 18; the man was in his 50’s, fat, disheveled, and a tenured professor of physics at one of the Boston universities. We met at the Ritz and he told me stories of escaping from Hungary in 1956, as well as giving me a discreet but fascinating précis of his marriage.  He took it gracefully when I admitted what I was really doing. Of course I wasn’t writing for the Times. And I know how to pick gentlemen, even from the louche crowd.

Wild nights! Wild nights! 
Were I with thee, 
Wild nights should be 
Our luxury!

Futile the winds 
To a heart in port, 
Done with the compass, 
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden! 
Ah! the sea! 
Might I but moor 
To-night in thee!

–Emily Dickinson

* http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/fashion/19craigslist.html?hpw


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§ 3 Responses to Wild Nights

  • Litlove says:

    The London Review of Books has very funny lonely hearts ads. I believe someone once put a book together – here’s a few of them, anyway:
    Bald, fat, short, and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.

    Mature gentleman, 62, aged well, noble grey looks, fit and active, sound mind and unfazed by the fickle demands of modern society … Damn it, I have to pee again.

    Unashamed triumphalist male for the past 46 years. Will I bore you? Probably. Do I care? Probably not.

    I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out, and covered in too much tahini. Before long I’ll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you’re the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32. Rarely produces winning metaphors.

    Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.

    Save it. Anything you’ve got to say can be said to my lawyer. But if you’re not my ex-wife, why not write to box no. 5377? I enjoy vodka, canasta, evenings in, and cold, cold revenge.

    To some, I am a world of temptation. To others, I’m just another cross-dressing pharmacist. Male, 41.

    My finger on the pulse of culture, my ear to the ground of philosophy, my hip in the medical waste bin of Glasgow Royal Infirmary. 14% plastic and counting — geriatric brainiac and compulsive NHS malingering fool (M, 81), looking for richer, older sex-starved woman on the brink of death to exploit and ruin every replacement operation I’ve had since 1974. Box no. 7648 (quickly, the clock’s ticking, and so is this pacemaker).

  • Emily says:

    litlove’s comment made my evening

  • Margaret Diehl says:

    I know. The brits are great at this. I used to read their personals when I was in London…couldn’t believe how witty they were. Some Americans try it but it just doesn’t work over here.

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