Like some of you, I have surfed the rogue galleries of dating sites. Sometimes I find people so poignant and interesting, I think about them as characters. Round chararacters–in the sense that the reader lives inside their lives and hearts. There are also flat characters—the stereotypes of Dickens’ London, translated into 21st century cyber-people.
1. The Pet Contingent: Men photographed cuddling dogs. Women photographed riding horses.
2. The Outdoors Contingent: Men in helmets on skis next to motorcycles laden with golf clubs. Women in pink pants playing tennis on roller skates next to a racing car. Men and women with camping gear whose faces are partly hidden by backpacks, bedrolls, and necklaces of water bottles.
3. The Music Contingent:. Men bending over guitars. Women obscured behind mikes. People in bands who look like at least one other person in the band.
4. The Vacation Contingent: People grinning by the Eiffel Tower, Shinto shrines, Serengeti zebras, Welch sod huts, the Great Barrier Reef.
5. The God and Goddess Contingent. People with pendants, amulets, and a great admiration of The Secret.
6. The Natural Habitat Contingent. People photographed next to their televisions with puce drapes and a cactus plant in the background. Or: in elegant living rooms with white sofas, fine art and glass tables.
7. The Costume Contingent. People wearing Renaissance capes and brandishing dueling swords or wearing nothing but pasted feathers for Carnival.
8. The Nature Contingent: People photographed on top of mountains, in meadows, or oceans, their faces distant against extraordinary vistas.
9. The Writer Contingent: People who identify with the souls of famous writers and poets.
Since I’m a writer, the last contingent interests me most and I’ve collected some profiles and rewritten them with disguises. Here are four, with one commentary:
Exhibit A: Even though I was the first CEO gal in my company, I feel closest to Rumi. With my long hair flying, and my briefcase banging against my athletic body, I still am on the edge of the roof making love with the Beloved under water.
Exhibit B: I move and sit and walk like a twenty-something from climbing and surfing and loving the outdoors—the spirit of the Hardy Boys with the soul of Tolstoy in the body of an underpants model.
Exhibit C: I’m a computer-progammer and love to golf; but I feel closest in spirit to Jane Austen because she understood that timing is everything. Of course I want to meet a lady who plays golf, too, but she also should appreciate the man who waits for just the right moment to linger at her office cubicle.
Exhibit D: I have worked as an actress, singer, and songwriter and my friends consider me attractive. But I found my calling when I started to be a life coach for people with dogs who were too high-strung to handle normal training school. I feel closest to John Steinbeck. It isn’t just about Travels with Charley.
Sometimes I wonder how these writers would feel if they saw their spirits invoked and read the ads. I imagine Rumi–after a period of confusion–would write a poem about cyber-union. Jane Austen–once educated about cyberspace–would write a satire.
Steinbeck would be saddened—cyber-realism isn’t his thing.
I mostly worry about Tolstsoy, who died of pneumonia at the Astapovo railway station at age 82, after deciding to leave his family and become a wandering ascetic. He had ended a claustrophobic relationship with his wife by sharing his journal with Chertkov, a much younger man, and preached for all kinds of causes. He probably would understand that cyberspace could be a great podium for his ideas and even a new book– if only he could get out of his current persona. I think he would have cried out in the voice of his cyber-double:
Please help me! I am a 19th centuy epic writer from Russia trapped in the 21st century body of something called an underpants model. Instead of a rustic life outside of Moscow I have to race all over New York City to big buildings. When I get there they fit me with a strap that makes my entire privates look enormous and after that they put on something tight-fitting that still exposes my chest and legs. Then I am forced to stand many hours under lights, and after that I go to a place called a gym with machines, always perspiring, not understanding the language of my trainer. Then I have to go to dark caverns called clubs where there’s no good vodka to speak of. I’m never able to write and someone stole my Bible on the subway. They won’t let me grow my beard and no one listens when I talk about pacifism, acesitism, poverty and denial of the will.
I know it’s all the fault of a certain man who wants women to make love to him and I am outraged that he invoked my name along with the words “underpants model.” How will I live with this epithet? Or is it a living proof of the great Buddhist and Hindu philosophies of denial of the will?