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Coupling

Not my type

The date has promise -- until she starts texting a friend in the middle of it.

By Steve Calechman
July 19, 2009
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Being 41 and single has its pluses and minuses. Yes, there are the regular insinuations about deep-seated brokenness; there is the constant struggle to find somebody I haven’t dated yet. On the upside, when I finally meet somebody fresh, she’s usually accomplished, doing important things like coordinating organ donations, sheltering refugees, and . . .

“What? Yeah, I can hold on a second . . . Oh, you just needed to text your friend about the Lost finale?”

Never mind.

I’m not about to rail at technology. I accept that pixels and compatibility algorithms are realities in aid of meeting The One and Only, and texting is a fine innovation for sending helpful notes, such as “not now -- on a date.”

But a line needs to be drawn, because keypads have been showing up too often as a third wheel. By no means is this a gender issue, but since I go out with women, they’ve been the culprits. Women texting while walking into the restaurant. Women texting while I go to the bathroom and not stopping before I return. And women having their BlackBerrys on the table, checking mid-conversation.

I don’t think the stuff should be banned. There’s just a time and place when the outside world needs to be shut out, and a first date isn’t a bad place to start. I was talking to a young friend about this. She’s smart and grew up with caller ID as a given and would think that the world was melting if she heard a busy signal. Her generation knows nothing about being patient in order to communicate. She asked, “What, should we just sit there quietly while you go to the bathroom?”

Well, actually, yeah. I’m not looking for absolute deference, just an agreement to keep the date between the two of us. I realize that this notion is as antiquated as a land line, and it would be one thing if I were going out with 24-year-olds for whom texting is the accepted norm. I’m not. The women doing this are of my generation -- they’ve co-opted texting and obviously revel in it. I understand that dating can become stagnant. I just don’t think that the needed jolt is more typing.

The underlying issue is people’s need for constant stimulation. Texting and cellphones are wonderful for bringing friends closer, but the best time for that is when you’re actually alone. On the date, you aren’t. I’m right here, talking to you. I’m not looking at other people. I’m not watching the game on the TV over the bar. I’m not even pretending not to watch. Really, I’m not watching.

A respite every once in a while, like when I go to the bathroom -- and I promise that I’ll be right back -- shouldn’t make you feel lost or unappreciated. Because even though I’m gone, it doesn’t mean the evening won’t return to you. Ultimately, I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for one hour of relative alone time.

I also recognize another reason to check in with the outside world: The date’s tanking. Which is fairly implausible if I’m the date, because I’m a fascinating man with lots of opinions about breakfast foods and air hockey, but I’ll concede that it’s in the realm of possibility.

Technology has desensitized us to real-time interaction. Granted, it probably brought us together in the first place, and e-mail got us started in building unreasonable expectations about which one of us is now disappointed and wants to go home. But it’s easy to forget that there’s a person connected to the profile, and that that person is in 3-D across the table.

I understand if the date’s not meriting an encore, but all I ask for is a little consideration: Do what we all do -- go into the bathroom, check your messages, and come out faking a yawn. We can say our polite goodbyes and move on with our lives.

If that’s too much to ask, the next time you check your in-box, I’ll shoot you a text: “date’s over”

Steve Calechman is a freelance writer and stand-up comedian. He lives in Waltham. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

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