Recently, at a Pain Quotidien (don't judge), I saw three young women, home from college, maybe, quite obviously good friends, but all three just sitting there, looking at their phones, for a long time. Not chatting about what they were reading, just staring, surfing, scrolling. There was clearly agreement that this was the thing to do at that moment, and it's not as if one of the women was stuck fiddling awkwardly with a pre-smart-era cellphone. They looked perfectly content - making it my curmudgeonly problem that I found this arrangement kind of sad. When I was their age, hanging out with high school friends in coffee shops and the Japanese restaurants that functioned as bars, we discussed what happened back at college. We weren't trying to be two places at once.
The purpose of this anecdote is to say that I get it. But then there's this, from a Room For Debate about Facebook and romance:
Just the other day, I was in a supermarket in Los Angeles and I saw this guy checking out this girl. He was standing next to her in line at the juice bar. He kept looking at her, and she kept looking down … at the Facebook app on her iPhone.
Now, I know some of you right now are thinking, maybe she wasn't interested. That wasn't the issue. Because what I'm about to share with you is something most of you have probably done.
He gave up and disappeared. But I was crazy curious so I stood next to her in line and got real close and peeked at what she was typing into her phone.
Her status update: When am I going to meet a nice guy? It seems like all the good men are taken.
There's just so much material here. First, that dude was checking out a woman in a supermarket in no way tells us that dude is single, let alone interested in pursuing anything with this woman. Certain public spaces are just like that. Or maybe he was looking at this woman because he knows her, or to tell her about a piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe, or who knows. Then there's the dating guru (also a dude) sidling up to this woman and getting close enough to read her status update. While glancing in the general direction of attractive members of one's preferred sex(es) is just human nature, sidling up, even for research purposes, that does strike me as creepy.
Anyway, to finish the nonsense-overanalyzed, that this woman was publicly bemoaning her singledom doesn't mean she actually wants to find a partner. If anything, I've found that women who make a thing (sometimes a profession!) of writing about how tough it is to find a man tend to be precisely the women not interested in pairing off (with a man, at least) in the first place. Either it's that 'single' has become a key part of their identities, or maybe they're insisting so much because it's expected that single women mind their predicament, and the repetition is a cover for not minding one bit, or for being a closeted lesbian, both can happen. It is, in short, a script.
But if I emerge from this contrarian shell for a moment, I do get the dating guru's point. It's not all that hard to picture a woman indeed wanting a boyfriend, but thinking it would be unacceptable to meet one at the supermarket. That it would be pushy and presumptuous for her to go after a guy she noticed (who would have gone after her if he was anything but repulsed by her physical presence). That it would, on the other hand, smack of desperation to accept a dude's advances.