Sold, Sight Unseen

Having lunch with a good friend today, we got to talking about pen pal relationships. We had them when we were kids. Letters written and sent to friends around the world that we were likely to never meet. Now, as adults, the wonders of the internet bring us a new kind of pen pal. The same sharing of secrets, growing attachment, anticipation of response. And still unlikely to meet. And while it is true that these social media pals can be lying through their teeth and not telling us who they really are, the same could be said of the pen pals of old. Just as we present the self we want so much to be, so do they. Excluding, of course, the criminally insane that we know are out there, but doubt-hope-pray we will never encounter.

In any case, we got to talking about the difference in depth of feeling for someone you have never seen.

There are popular theories about people who, lacking one of their senses, use the others to compensate. Never having been in that position, i don’t know if that is true. But i do believe that the theory applies in sightless relationships.

We can describe how we look to someone, but accuracy is in the eye of the beholder. When i say i have freckles, do you picture a few scattered on my nose and cheeks? Do you see a constellation appearing, or a galaxy present on my back? Or do i have so many that i appear like a Monet painting of a woman? If i tell you i am curvy, do you picture Sophia Loren, Mae West, Queen Latifah, Kathy Najimy? Or do you picture Dame Edna or Ursula the Sea Witch? If i were to describe my voice as “k.d. lang, if she were born in New England but adopted a slight twang from Tennessee”, would you have the slightest idea how i sounded? And heaven only knows if anyone who knows me would find my description accurate.

Having only words to go on forces one to dig deeper. To get to know them more in other ways. Their fears and worries, their joys and delights… These things leave their marks on the face and body and stance. Health habits leave marks on face, body and voice. Their expressions, their choice of words, their accuracy of grammar… All these things add to a visual impression in our mind. Possibly even more so than their actual description of themselves. Somehow, these things seem more concrete than a subjective description.

Perhaps this is why “Blind Dates” are usually such a disappointment: We have no chance to learn these concrete things before we are forced into closeness. We have a subjective description from one who is essentially a salesman. Hardly a source known for its honesty. Combine that with the fact that our first impression is a visual one, nothing of depth or meaning. But humans are animals, after all, and if the pheromones aren’t there, well then, why waste your time, right? But what if those attraction hormones could be synthesized from within? What if we could create physical attraction from deeper connection? Would it be as strong? Would it last as long? Would it be as real?

Assuming that all parties are as honest as they can be, within human psyche limitation, perhaps this is a better way to meet people. To start deep within and work your way out to the skin, the opposite of what usually happens. Without a tainted view based on appearance, we could learn to love the soul of the other, the part of them that continues long after the looks fade. And they could do the same with us. It could be a true, deep, lasting bond that no scar or wrinkle would impact. Stronger than any mastectomy, weight gain, or sexual dysfunction. That very rare partnership that lasts forever, thru everything. The marriage that fairy tales are based on.

Or they could look like Sloth, the monster in The Goonies, and all bets are off.

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