—Thursday, April 12, 2012—
For as long as I could romantically recall, I’d always wanted what I couldn’t have and, given that she lived all the way across the United States, Jen Friel was no exception to this rule. However, it did make her a great candidate for a video chat date.
I wondered if wanting what you couldn’t have was an innate desire for that which was not yours, or actually the drive simply to prove oneself? I wanted to be well-known because I was raised unknown. I wanted financial security because I was raised without it. I wanted a beautiful and impressive woman in my life because I’d grown up thinking it was impossible to have one.
Jen seemed just barely attainable enough to be possible, but that still didn’t mean it was anywhere near likely.
For one thing, she was a knock out. I mean, Google her if you have any doubt. I am giving you her full name. You can even have her websites: Talk Nerdy To Me Lover and JenFriel. Please, check her out and judge for yourself. She was stunning.
In addition to being beautiful, she was impressive. Jen was a lifecaster, putting all aspects of her life online for other people to see. She was unapologetically open and public with her life and it was inspiring to me. I was getting part of the way there with a blog about my dating experiences, but Jen was doing this with everything all the time and she’d built the entire thing herself. I really looked up to her. Plus, she was internet famous, which was exactly what I aspired to be one day. In many ways, she was my dream lady.
Indeed, when I was first told about her some months earlier, I had read the shit out of her website and became mildly obsessed with her for a few days. Luckily, I had forgotten a good amount about her life by the time our date rolled around, so I wouldn’t simply be rehashing stuff from the internet. Well, it was probably on the internet, I guess, but it would feel new to me. This made me understand much more concretely why women sometimes refused to read any significant amount my site before going out with me. It kind of ruined the fun, right?
In preparation for our video chat date, I had purchased cookies, chocolate and wine because I felt like I needed to have something to do while we talked to each other. Originally, this date had been planned for Tuesday of this week and I’d asked Jen to block out a solid hour or two of time, just to ensure that she knew I was taking this thing seriously. I would have loved a longer date too.
It was 10 p.m. EST when I signed onto Skype, which meant that it was 7 p.m. PST in LA, where Jen lived. I had put on some low-level Broken Social Scene on the the other side of the bedroom, so that my roommate Pat didn’t have to hear our entire date in the next room over, and I’d also moved and positioned my laptop for the best possible view of me. I didn’t think that the “looking up from the desk” angle was ideal for a date. I was trying to look good, after all. With everything well and prepared, I waited for Jen to arrive.
The anticipation of a Skype date was an interesting thing because I didn’t really get to see my date approach. A little noise played, the image box flickered and then, just like that, I’d be face to face. It was a bit nerve-racking, to be honest.
Jen signed on a couple minutes later with music blasting for a moment but then quickly quieting down. Once her video feed came up on my screen and my video came up on her screen, the first thing she commented on was our somewhat matching glasses. She thought it was cute. Yeah, I thought, I think it’s pretty cute too. I mean, I definitely dug chicks with glasses, so I was all about it.
She was immediately very friendly, greeting me like someone she knew well and putting her usual bright attitude on display. I say “usual” as if I knew her well when if fact we’d only spoken once before, also via Skype, many months earlier. However, I’d watched a number of her videos online and read a bunch of her posts and those things were all in a consistent voice which she didn’t drop when talking IRL. My writing probably had more of a disconnect from my in-person delivery, but I guess that was something to work on.
Full of questions initially, Jen asked how the project was going and I told her it was good and then she asked what I had learned. I told her that I’d learned I was not inherently creepy, but still dependent upon women for validation. Jen remembered about my tattoo, that my mom had died and that I was from Massachusetts. That was all pretty good of her to recall, but I suppose she could have brushed up online minutes before our date. That was the problem with putting my life all over the internet — anyone could know it all. Anyway, this was a date and it was the effort that counted. I remembered that Jen was from Connecticut and, as we discussed our upbringing and backgrounds a bit, I finally found out where exactly.
Since she had asked me about dating, I asked Jen what she had learned from lifecasting. A ton, she told me, but self-reflection was primary. It was like studying yourself. That comment totally resonated with me. Often when people would ask what I’d learned or what I thought about one particular aspect of the project, I felt wrong answering so decisively because I was still learning from it. I didn’t know who I was going to be at the end of it and it felt as though I was watching myself figure it out.
One thing that had always intrigued me about Jen’s lifecasting was the claim that she was putting everything out there, good or bad. I had a similar approach to writing OHD, but I also knew that certain things (Mostly sex things) were not for my readers’ eyes. I asked her about the filter between her IRL truth and the truth that she let the public in on and Jen told me very matter of fact that she didn’t have a filter. I didn’t 100% buy her claim, but she always seemed pretty straightforward, so I bought most of it. I was skeptical anyone who claimed to have no filter at all. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Jen then related to me that she felt really insecure on dates. She said that she always found the most emotionally unavailable men and claimed that she was really bad at dating. I asked her if LA was a particularly difficult place to date, but it seemed on par with NYC. I talked about my recent trip to LA and we traded “things we loved” about LA, NYC and Chicago [The Big Three]. We both agreed that different cities had their own vibes and I told her that I thought I would fit well in any big city. In regards to romance, we also both thought that the right person could be found practically anywhere.
Overall, it seemed like Jen was her usual self with me, but as I said before, I was skeptical of that to a degree. Like all dates, I wanted to find out who the real Jen was beyond her upbeat dating persona. There were some moments where I felt like I got genuine smiles from her, not just friendly polite ones, but I still couldn’t be sure. Those ones I saw were very satisfying though. Maybe I was breaking through her tough internet facade. I hoped I was, at least.
We talked different ways to meet prospective dates and debated whether men or women had an easier time getting what they wanted in a bar pickup situation. In respect to getting sex when they wanted it I thought that women totally had it easier, but Jen disagreed. Maybe it was easier to get a guy in bed with you, but it wasn’t actually easier to be satisfied by it. She had a fair point.
Speaking of sex, Jen encouraged me to write about my sexual antics on OHD, but I was reluctant to take her advice. I really didn’t want to alienate anyone or, more importantly, embarrass any of my dates. However, I would gladly talk to her about it. At her prodding, I told her that although I had initially thought that the project would handicap my sex life, it had actually had the opposite effect. I had assumed no one would sleep with me because I couldn’t be their boyfriend but what I had found was that women wanted to sleep with me for exactly that reason. I was a safe gamble — both emotionally and physically.
Jen thought this was awesome and seemed very “you go girl” about it all. She was very open about so much stuff but I still couldn’t tell if I had a shot with her. There was something mildly artificial about how laid back and open she was. Boy oh boy, she was crazy attractive though. In addition to my confusion over her authenticity, I got this weird, insecure feeling that she preferred jacked douchbags to computery looking beta males like myself. It wasn’t that her personality gave off that air, just some kind of underlying feeling that I wasn’t good enough for her.
Over the course of our time together, I learned that the pauses in conversation that occurred during a normal date were much less graceful via Skype. Neither of us could talk about the restaurant or game of pool we were playing or any of the other things we might have defaulted to on a regular date. We didn’t share the same space, so there was very little to provide distraction. When someone looked away from the table on a date, you could glance over and see what had caught their eye, but on Skype, all you could do was assume that they didn’t want to look at you whenever they weren’t staring straight ahead for any significant amount of time.
I was curious about any upcoming adventures in Jen’s life and she told me about a car sponsorship deal that she was about to begin. She was going to be given a couple cars for a few days and she’d simply use them however she wanted and lifecast about it, promoting the vehicles along the way. I asked her if the draw for the sponsors was more centered around the promotion they would get on her TNTML site or if it was more that she was an attractive spokeswoman for the cars. It seemed to be a little of both, as lifecasting tended to blur the lines between something like a sponsored banner ad and social media blitzing.
As I told Jen about the upcoming NEPA BlogCon that I had agreed to speak at, and how I had been providing people with a lot of dating advice recently, I could tell that she was starting to watch the clock. Looking up to her laptop’s digital clock was just as much of a giveaway as glancing down at her watch, even if I couldn’t actually see what she was looking at. Despite her preoccupation, Jen was super encouraging of my newfound love for providing advice and celebrated the fact that I’d be speaking at a conference.
I wondered if I was being overly suspicious of the clock-watching because I remembered how kurt she had been the first time we spoke. That first time around was really just an opportunity to meet each other and at exactly 30 minutes, she had cut it off. She had an incredibly busy life and so I completely understood that I was just another appointment in her calendar and I appreciated that she’d taken the time to talk. This was a date though and I hoped that she didn’t have a hard out like she’d had previously.
We talked about long dates and I told her that I really valued having more time to dig deep so that I could discover what connected me to the other person. With only and hour or two, it could be hard to get past the presentational version of ourselves that we often hid behind on first dates. Jen theorized that some people had a kind of innate ability to attract and meet people that they were actually connected to, as if nothing along those lines was a coincidence. She thought that those who could do it almost subconsciously manufactured these connections out of something floating around in the air. It was a very interesting idea that she’d brought up. Maybe we weren’t giving ourselves enough credit.
In spite of our conversation about digging into dates for real connections, Jen announced just before the one hour mark that she had to get going. I knew that was going to happen. She said she hated to be lame but she was super tired and needed to start thinking about bed. It was 8 p.m. in LA. I was not sold.
I knew that she was very disciplined with her time and that much of her life what rigidly structured, but it was still a bummer to know that I hadn’t won her over. She would have done this with anyone, I was sure, but there was that competitive dude inside of me who wanted to be so impressive that she threw her own rules out the window. Though the chances of deeply connecting with Jen by Skypeing with her over the course of an hour was nearly impossible, that didn’t mean I didn’t want what I couldn’t have.
At just under an hour, this was my shortest date ever.
Reading my facial expression, Jen asked me why I looked bummed out. I’m sure that she knew why I was disappointed and I didn’t think it was really worth getting into. I’d had a lot of fun talking to her in our short(ish) time together and so I told her that I wasn’t bummed out, just a bit tired probably.
We smiled and waved goodbye to each other as as our Skype connections disconnected.
Immediately after the date was over, I tweeted at Jen about how great she was, but that public truth wasn’t the entire IRL truth and I knew I was just playing nice for the masses.
**Since our date, Jen has left the world of lifecasting and written an interesting post on what it means to be a relationship blogger. Check it out here.