Lost in translation

Me: So (awkwardly pausing and looking down at my feet) if you’re, like, not too busy, do you want to maybe have coffee?

Some guy: Yeah, that sounds good.

What I’m thinking: Great, it’s a date.

What he’s probably thinking: Great, I’ll need a coffee later … and I guess I could survive the company.

With Valentine’s Day--the commercially-contrived holiday despised by singletons across the globe—fast approaching, I thought it might be apt to consider why so much is lost in translation in our romantic endeavors.

I’ve always been fascinated by the verbal gymnastics we engage in as human beings. Rather than saying what we mean as clearly and concisely as possible, we have a flare for wrapping our thoughts in so many layers of convolution that our initial meaning is completely lost and those listening are left utterly confused. When it comes to dating, or prospective dating, we consciously choose to participate in a linguistic tango of sorts. Only what often ends up happening is that both dancers have two left feet.

With the dawn of instant messenger and Facebook, communication has never been more . If you’re talking to someone on MSN, it simply isn’t possible to capture the subtle nuances of speech—and no, the addition of an emoticon at the end of a typed sentence doesn’t help. If he adds a wink at the end of one of his sentences, does that reaffirm that he’s flirting? Or if she adds a face that’s blushing, does that mean that she’s receptive to your advances or simply appalled by what you have just said?

Facebook is even more odious. It has manifested into a free version of Lavalife where someone you barely know can add you as a “friend” as a way to open lines of communication. And if you don’t have any privacy settings in place, it’s essentially a free-for-all. The “advanced search” options allow an individual to narrow his or her criteria down to something as specific as musical taste. Creepy … maybe?

Women, generally speaking, have a tendency towards over-analysis. We talk about a simple exchange with a guy for hours and hours … and hours. And as much as I love coffee, the popularity of coffeehouses has perpetuated the plight of women everywhere; it has given birth to the dreaded coffee date. What does it mean? When is coffee just coffee? Or is it just coffee? Would it be better to avoid the coffee date at all costs?

The decorum of dating is something that has puzzled me for as long as I can remember. How do you let someone know you like them without being totally and tragically awkward? And how can you tell if someone is actually interested in you? Unlike the days of Austen’s , someone’s affections can no longer be confirmed in a mere glance or a brush of the hand. You could end up non-dating dating someone for an eternity without ever talking about what is actually going on.

When it comes to the male-female dynamic specifically, I wish there was a book—some sort guide to traversing the foreign terrain of the male mind.

Maybe CAA should consider that their next publication.

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