Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not so OK, cupid.

     It was going to be a solid article, had anyone bought it.  But that's the problem with freelancing; you spend your time stuck in front of a glowing computer screen, hacking at the keys, sending email after email after email, and then waiting and hoping for someone to respond, and half of the time (more most of the time) no one bites or even responds.  It was going to be my opus, my take down of the online dating world, my proof that women were desperate and online is where standards dropped to nil.  I had set up two profiles on, one with the cliché idea of what the ideal man is (going off of rom-com archetypes): a decent salary, a love for chick flicks, able to cook, interested in vanilla music they would play at the Gap, ambitious, etc.  Then there was the second one, a few pictures with dead animals, heavy handed serial killer overtones, the use of cliché stalker clues, and a general disdain for most people. I had hypothesized that women would flock to the creep, leaving the nice guy alone.  It was a success in that regard.

 The problem arose with the fact that I had all of this data, this whole article, but no one to take it.  Rejection after rejection after no response, it was going nowhere.  I'm not sure which came first, the idea that if I went on a date as each of the guys, brought them into real life, played the part, that I would be able to land a home for my story, or if I was asked out to tea, but somehow I ended up making plans and heading down to the Belmont redline stop to meet "K######" ("Laura Goldstein.")  I may have been playing the creep, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to look nice while I did it.  I tossed on a nice sweater and some slacks, and wandered down.
     I don't know what I expected from a girl who A. was going on a date with someone she "met" online and B. was going on a date with some objectively creepy guy she "met" on the internet.  But when Laura showed up, she was wearing a worn down long sleeve t-shirt, "Las Vegas" printed across the front.  She was shorter than I imagined, looked nothing like her pictures, and had a nasally voice akin to Sarah Silverman on helium.  She was also younger than she said she was.  Freshly twenty, not twenty-two like her profile had said.  There's still something in the back of my mind that says I should have carder her to make sure she was eighteen.  "It's just tea, it'll be fine."  It will be fine indeed.
     During the walk to Argo Tea, we had to make awkward small talk.
     "My parents are paying for me to study abroad in China."
     "That's very nice of them."
     "Yeah, they're, you know, Jewish- Goldstein- Jewish."
     "Man, I wish I was Jewish.  My parents are Latino, so, you know, we're poor. Obviously." 
     "Oh. So you're a spic eh?  My parents won't like that."
     "I mean, we're also Catholic, so I can't bring home a Jewish Princess either.  Not that this would even come to that…"
     We weren't trying to be funny.
     It was one thing to ignore or try to make jokes about the racial slur.  But when we got our drinks and sat down to talk, she pulled out her invisible braces, setting them on a napkin, long lines of spit like telephone wires coming from her teeth.  She leaned in while she told me about… China?  DePaul?  The weather?  I don’t really know.  I was spending more time tearing at my croissant, rolling my tea along its bottom edge, and faking phone calls to step outside and not deal with her.  Things weren't going well.
     "Can we go back to your house for a bit?  I think we should drink something."
     "Well, alright.  You want to throw down on a jug of wine or something?"
     "Oh, I thought you could just get it.  Steal it like a good latino."
     "Ah. I see.  So this is how the Jews keep all their gold.  Stingy bastards."
     We walked to the store, grabbing the cheapest, largest bottle of wine I could, since I needed a drink to make myself comfortable with the idea that I was ignoring all of the annoyance, all of the racism, all of the grating voices, in an effort to maybe, hopefully, fuck some stupid girl I met on the internet.  I hadn’t been the best of people in return, and I had heard online dating stories, so I assumed that everyone is really only in it for the casual sex.  The random meet up.  That the coffee or tea or drinks in a bar, or any of the pretense, was just that, that the main goal was to get to someone's house and slam up against each other, sweating in the dark, all with the glow of the computer screen in the background. 
     At my apartment, we sat awkwardly in the two chairs, a La-Z-Boy and an overstuffed armchair, the only two pieces of furniture in the house, me caught between roommates.  The chairs were positioned in front of the TV, making conversation difficult.  It drifted, from cats to things we had seen on the internet, briefly hitting the "so why are you internet dating?" category, before we awkwardly got quiet, neither of us wanting to confront those particular demons.  I had brought my laptop out, setting it far back against the wall on a milk crate, putting on some Black Flag in an effort to drive her away.  By this time, I was drunk and just wanted to go to sleep.  After Henry Rollins declared that there would be a TV party tonight, alright, Laura turned to me and asked
     "Can I put on some porn?"
     "There's this Czech guy, and- he's so smooth.  He goes around giving women money to show him their tits, then he keeps giving them money until the suck his dick, and eventually he gives them more to fuck them, and occasionally gives enough to get anal."
     "Here."  And with that, she started surfing the internet, finding her preferred porn site, scrolling through videos giving a "this one is good" or a "this sucks" or a "this girl is so hot" and the whole time I just kept thinking "so this is it.  I guess I should grab a condom."
     The Czech guy had a shaky, crappy video camera, handing some mildly attractive, dark haired, overly painted like a trollop, girl a fist full of koruna.  The captions read "here, here! 100 koruna to see your breasts!" before she was quickly convinced.  (100 koruna is five American dollars. I knew this from friends who had gone to Prague that summer.) It escalated quickly, and I started wondering what was especially hot about seeing some poor girl sell herself as a prostitute, desperate to get the money, or maybe it was the camera, but lose her dignity no matter what.  I felt awkward, as if I was being shown what I was trying to do.  Sure, I wasn’t offering her money, but I only had one goal in mind, one mission and I started to feel sick.  Not sick enough to be totally distracted when she got behind me and started massaging my shoulders as the porn played in front of us.  "Fuck it," I thought, as the man gave the girl another two hundred koruna to fuck her in a bathroom, "I'm getting laid."
     She moved from the La-Z-Boy to the armchair, behind me, pressed herself into my back, massaging my chest, breathing heavily on my neck, grinding her hips into my back.  Soon she stopped, spinning out and looking at me, saying "lift up your shirt, I need to check your nipples."  It was the first time someone had asked that.
     "I need to make sure you don't have weird nipples.  Let me see them."
     "Here." And she pulled up my shirt, inspecting my nipples like a jeweler inspecting a diamond, searching for the smallest flaw.  Satisfied, she let my t-shirt fall back, nodding approvingly.  I felt my chances of sex growing. 
     "Well, since you saw mine, I feel like it's only fair that I see yours."  I was a sly sonofabitch.
     "Alright," she said, pulling her shirt up, then off, taking the bra with it.  She stood there, confident, straight, and proud of her breasts.  They weren't much, two halved peaches, somehow sagging despite their size and her age, with more or less symmetrical nipples, two short black hairs sticking out of the right one.  Under sober circumstances, this would have been the final straw, the work that I had put in (what a disgusting sentence, the work put into trying to have sex.) not worth the pay out, but with half a jug of wine swirling like brandy in my stomach, it seemed like a good time to try and kiss her.  I went in slowly, trying to be smooth, but drunk enough that I'm sure I looked terrible.  She stopped me, holding a hand between us, offering only "I think I've been giving you mixed signals," before putting on her shirt, and standing up.  I stayed in my half seated position, puckered lips sliding back into place slowly, head still cocked to one side.  She asked  "Well, now what?" And suddenly I felt my testicles resting in their sack.  Suddenly I felt all the machismo I had been fronting.  Suddenly, the wine gave way to a drunkenness typically fueled by whiskey and I felt sure of myself and not at all misled. 
     "Maybe you should go." 

     A few days later and she texted me, asking to meet up for a second date at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I said I would meet her out front, never planning on leaving my house.  Had I managed to get any more information, anything useful to use in an article on internet dating?  Did women really get desperate enough to ignore red flags?  A girl, far too young to be on anyway, wanted to meet for a second time with someone who shared no similar interests, freely used racial slurs, and spent the entire time trying to sleep with her instead of getting to know her.  Did any of it really matter anyway?
     Online dating seems to be the wave of the future, and for good reason.  Instead of heading to bars or clubs, places where at face value there is only one shared interest, or even worse, approaching someone based solely on looks alone, commonalities are displayed right there on the screen, percentages spelled out for seeing before a word is spoken how good of a match you might be.  Casual sexual exploits thrive in the bar scene, and sites like Grindr and apps like Break the Ice have the hook up game cornered, leaving sites like ok cupid to flourish in legitimate match making.  Typically.
     That driving urge to stick it in, or have it stuck in by a pretty face will always exist, and humans, particularly with the anonymity of the internet have no reason not to try, striking out being no more taxing than not being retweeted by a celebrity.  It means nothing, with no face lost at all.  Will men and women still be creeps, still ignore how crazy a person is while trying to sleep with them?  Absolutely.  Is it expected? Sure.  Should it be? Fuck off, I'm no sociologist or philosopher.

While "researching" this article, I ended up having a message exchange with someone on the "nice guy" profile.  Before we met, I told her about the article, the other profiles, etc.  We are happily dating.  So, you know, there's that. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Death of the Protest

            It was a terrible plan, trying to push through the police line.  At the end of the march, while everyone was told to leave, told to walk west down Cermak, away from McCormick Place, away from the line of riot cops in their straight-out-of-68 blue helmets who stood in front of a line of white shirt officers, who stood in front of a line of officers on horseback, who stood in front of a giant metal fence which loomed under the visible sniper, under the trying to be hidden spotter on the building opposite, the Black Bloc anarchists and other dissidents decided that they would march east, into the fray, in an attempt to shut down the NATO summit.  I pulled out my camera, like everyone did, journalists, citizens, trying to document the moment where things would “get interesting.”  This was the moment we had all been warned about.  This was where those pesky anarchists would start rioting.  The pepper spray, the rubber bullets, the arrests and broken windows, the anarchy signs and burning dumpsters.  This was it.

            This is what the protest had boiled down to.  It was a long day filled with passionate speakers, with nearly ten thousand people marching with an amalgamated message that said no to war and no to austerity, with veterans pulling their medals from their chests and throwing them back to the NATO generals inside the summit.  A peaceful day that meant so much to so many people, that showed, as Kundera called it, “the euphoria of solidarity,” meant nothing to the media, corporate or independent.  Everyone wanted the visceral.  Everyone wanted to see rocks and blood and the shiny new weapons the CPD got, and to see a charge by the police and running street battles.  And this, this attraction to violence, this collection of cameramen and women, of onlookers putting themselves in harm’s way just to see something “exciting” happen is exactly why the protest, the marching, sign carrying protest is dead.
            This isn’t directed at any one particular movement, although it can be more or less directed towards the left.  Still, headline whores in the corporate media, directing their attacks towards OWS, only see the small picture.  Occupy groups themselves only see it too.  The left in general seems to think that marches and demonstrations are effective or useful or interesting or pertinent, and that is where they are wrong. The Tea Party had their moment in the sun, and that was the tipping point. 
            The Tea Party faced public scorn for being racist, rightwing extremist bigots.  However, even while showing up to rallies with loaded weapons, not a single one was beaten by the police, pepper sprayed, or told to get a job. They just made their noise, and got politicians to back them.  They made people think that even the everyman could actually have a stake in their government, or that with enough noise, change would be brought about.  In some ways, their extremism is what made Occupy such a strong voice for the left.  But that is where the differences lie. 
            The Tea Party played the game.  They wanted their political party to be even more like their political party used to be.  They were sick of people deviating away from their trenches and coming closer to a centrist compromise, and wanted it to be business as usual back in congress.  They didn’t have a problem with the system; they had a problem with other people using their system.  They didn’t care about lobbyists or corruption.  They cared about someone they disagreed with having too much power and passing laws that didn’t agree with their implicit or explicit racism and bigotry.  They were able to get what they wanted, because they didn’t really want anything.  They didn’t ask for change.  They asked for things not to change. 
            Leftist groups, forever, have been trying to fight against the system.  This is why there are always arrests; this is why there are always violent flare ups between extreme leftists and police.  The anarchists and the anti-police protesters fight unfair fights, suffer injuries, persecution, and prosecution, trying to demonstrate the sheer force of the police state, but without having real victories.  The more moderate protesters celebrate perceived victories, thinking that changing the national dialogue, getting their cause mentioned on the media that they despise.  But it’s all for naught.  The dialogue changes as soon as the next celebrity is caught in public without underwear, or a sports star goes down for the season. 
            It’s not that the populous should simply roll over.  It’s that we as a people need to understand what is going through the minds of those with power.  A source from inside the summit heard Georgian President Saakashvili belittling the NATO protesters, particularly the occupy movement.  When offered a chance to ask him a question, she asked if his current economic status had changed his mind on popular movements, seeing as he came to power after the Rose Revolution.  He elected not to answer her question.  This is how the powers that be behave behind closed doors.  President Obama was elected through a popular, albeit tame, uprising in America where people were tired of the way things were going.  Now, it’s back to business as usual (even though the Tea Party still isn’t happy). 
            When the anarchists tried to break through the police line, and things started getting hectic, one of the main points that a WGN newscaster was making is that it was “no longer a peaceful protest.”  This was true.  Peace was no longer at the forefront.  People had started throwing bottles, the anchor pointed out, as well as sticks and debris.  Everything erupted because of the anarchists. 
            This is both true and a blatant lie.  The anarchists did provoke the police, very intentionally and with no plan.  However, their form of action was walking in a line.  They tried to walk through the police. They didn’t draw first blood, they didn’t start throwing things, they just tried to walk west.  It was the police, thick wooden batons at the ready, that started swinging.  The passive direct action sparked a police blowback that was greater than necessary and opened many protesters heads.  The bloody were dragged away from the front line, disoriented, onlookers calling for medics.  The police then got reinforcements, and surged forwards, pushing the crowd into metal barricades, the only way for them to go since more riot cops lined the streets to the north and south.  The barricades collapsed, and down went part of the crowd.  I had turned around just in time to watch the crowd fall on top of me, spending the next few minutes as a human bridge while scared and bloody protesters climbed over me.  According to a friend at the protest, the surge stopped when all of the anarchists gave a hand signal, then sat down on the ground peacefully, the cops still swinging, then stopping confused, finally seeing the collateral damage and letting those who didn’t want to be there escape the fray. 
            This was seen as “great restraint” on behalf of the police, and a great success by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  The protesters called it police brutality.  I call it the sign that the end has come.
            Today, the end of protest riots are expected, planned, and even wished for (secretly).  The “news” was choked with fear of looting, destruction, and spray painted symbols of an ideology for months.  This is more important to the collection populous than what those anarchists were there for.  The rally as a whole gave people little to latch onto viscerally.  The march was a sharing of ideas and a show of strength in numbers, like all protests are.  But America doesn’t care about that.  They care about finding the next explosion.  They care about seeing the next fractured skull.  They care about following people who terrify them because they dress in all black, even on a 90 degree day, then sensationalize anything they do.  Occupy as a whole was a mundane attempt at getting a popular movement to change things.  The municipal governments managed to suppress them long enough, managed to avoid them long enough that the steam was lost.  There people aren’t there to keep it rolling, because they are waiting in line to see Battleship in 3D while eating McDonald’s and listening to their iPods. 
            Protesting is useless.  But then what is to be done?  The corporate whore media suggests leftists try to work inside the system.  Very close, dear people to me agree and are trying to do just that.  Everyone seems to agree that some change is needed, but no one seems to know how to bring it about.  The anarchists want to smash the state, and let people govern themselves, and honestly, I think they might be half right.  If the state continues to suppress protesters, continues to devalue the first amendment and try to spark outrage or violence in order to justify further crackdowns, then how else do the people defend themselves but by getting rid of the state?  Not in a violent overthrow of the government, no.  That would never work and only cause the government to be able to come back twice as hard against its citizens. What would be needed are peaceful protests, people standing united in the streets, rallying around a cause. 

Too bad that never works.  The cycle starts again.