Ignorance is bliss or: why stalking never leads to something good

Yes, I admit it: sometimes – during long train rides to Nuremberg all by myself – I tend to do things I am not proud of. A few weeks ago, for example, I watched “Magic Mike XXL” on the way home; a movie about a gang of strippers that features a lot of stupid dialogues and shockingly few naked men. But anyway – I don’t want to talk about naked men (at least not in this article), because another much more interesting thing I recently did whilst riding the train is stalking. We might also call it “researching”, to make it sound more professional. As I said, I am not proud of it – but the guy I stalked, err, researched, can actually consider this a huge compliment since I would never stalk somebody that I don’t find interesting (just saying).

When you find things you don’t want to know

The thing about stalking somebody on the internet is that you rarely find something unexpected or delicate. But what if you do? I actually really did find something about that guy I was stalking that shocked me. Imagine me sitting in the panorama lounge just behind the train conductor (my favorite seat), taking turns looking at the passing landscape and then again at the mobile phone display in my hand for like an hour. I was flabbergasted. My feeling for interpersonal things had apparently completely failed with this guy because I would never have believed him to have such a special “hobby” (if you can call it that). [As a side note: I will not write publicly what his special hobby is, but if you are interested in knowing more we can talk it through over coffee. Or – probably better for the occasion – schnapps.]

This discovery not only occupied my thoughts during the train journey, but also in the following days – I even conducted some meta-research about this unusual hobby in order to frame my many thoughts on the subject. But the quintessence always remained the same: I had the feeling that I didn’t know this guy at all and that I had completely misjudged him – although actually nothing had happened in the real world.

Dealing with knowledge you shouldn’t have

So there I was: confused by some piece of information I had found on the internet and actually angry with myself that I had not stayed true to my belief, that the best way to get to know people is by talking to them – in person, face to face. Luckily, once the initial shock had subsided, reason returned to my brain and I thought: what the hell, I will just pull myself together and ask him about this the next time I see him. Maybe there is some reasonable explanation or maybe I misunderstood the website I had found (although this seemed very unlikely to me).

Nevertheless I was left with a stale aftertaste that I could not shake off and I kept asking myself: might not knowing something sometimes be better than knowing it? Not that this is even remotely comparable, but wouldn’t a wife be happier not knowing that her husband cheated on her some years ago? Could not knowing everything about a person potentially save marriages, friendships or beginning love affairs?

Returning to the real world

Let’s face it: the internet is not the real world. People communicate differently, they present themselves the way they would like to be (but not the way they really are) and they sometimes try to realize phantasies they would not act out on in real life. And maybe this is what the internet is for, maybe this is okay – as long as those people are decent in the real world and do not hurt their fellows with what they are doing online. What I found during my stalking session on the train to Nuremberg does not hurt anybody (actually, it does quite the opposite…) and it’s not turning this guy into a bad person. A weird person maybe, but not a bad person – and certainly not a boring person. And who knows? Maybe he would have told me about his strange hobby some day himself and then I would not have had the time to brood over the subject – I would have been forced to react spontaneously and instinctively. I would probably have giggled, as I usually do in situations like this, and I would have asked him to explain to me why he does what he does. And then we might have had a wonderfully funny conversation about an interesting topic without any stale aftertaste at all – an experience no amount of internet-“research” could have taken away.

So what do we learn from this? Stalking is bad and experiences in real life always trump what happens on the internet. For my next journey Nuremberg I will definitely bring a book – or download another stripper movie, just in case 😉

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Minimum viable dates (and what to expect from them)

Everybody loves Spaghetti

This week I had dinner with some colleagues (mixed Gyoza, Sushi and half a piece of Gateau au chocolat at iimori Gyoza-Bar, in case you are wondering). One of those colleagues at the table was Dennis (this is not his real name, obviously). Dennis is very active when it comes to dating and he also loves talking about it – which I enjoy, since I love talking about that topic too. Last year Dennis and me went to the Frankfurt book fair together and I remembered that he had bought a book that was named something like “How to get some in the digital age”. So I asked him very bluntly – after having checked out pictures of his most current tinder matches – what he took away from the book in order to improve his dating routine. “Well” Dennis replied, “…stuff like: When you take a woman out for dinner, go to an Italian restaurant, since the atmosphere is always pretty romantic there, the food is not too complicated from an how-do-I-eat-that point of view and also: everybody loves Spaghetti. Make sure your date gets a good and comfortable seat, hold the doors for her, let her order first and pay the check at the end.” Then he paused and I used the short break to mention very casually that all of this – except maybe for the not very contemporary fact that the guy is supposed to pay the bill – seems to be pretty basic stuff to me. “Yes” he said, “it might seem basic to you but nowadays this cannot be taken for granted.”

The conversation continued for a while but I somehow got mentally stuck at the question: How the hell is dating supposed to work in the year 2018? What can I – as a woman – expect from an evening with a man I have met somewhere in the real or the digital world? And most importantly: What is the minimum viable date (MVD) I should look out for and what behavior is simply out of scope? (By the way, I found this very adapt cartoon when I was googling “minimum viable date.”)

Romance is required

I guess for me personally all those practical things like holding the doors open, paying the check and letting me go first when the waiter asks for the order are really not what constitutes a pleasant date. Although those things are “nice to have” – what would they help if the guy sitting opposite of me was really boring or showed no interest in me? My minimum viable date would also not necessarily have to take place at a restaurant (although I love to eat, as you might have noticed). It could take place in a park, at an airport, at the gym, in a boulder hall, on a plane, during a dancing class, on a playground or at a funfair. I strongly believe that if two people have a connection they find ways to be romantic with each other everywhere. Plus: Spending time in rather unusual situations right from the start might be good in order to find out how open your date is for trying out new things (which is a very important character trait for my personal taste).

Two of those rather practical minimum requirements for a date, in my eyes, would be punctuality and focus. While “punctuality” is pretty straightforward, “focus” for me essentially translates to “Keep your hands off your phone”. Yes, even in the digital age I strongly hold the opinion that real people who are present at this specific moment in time when a date takes place should be more interesting and more attention-grabbing than all the other people digitally sending likes and beeps and tweets to your phone. The worst case and an absolute out-of-scope-action for me would be if a guy “managed” his upcoming dates while sitting next to me on a park bench. In a world where attention has become a currency there is nothing more flattering than complete and utter focus on the person you are spending your time with. And that includes mental focus as well – I expect a guy to listen to me, remember the stuff I told him and apply that knowledge at our next meeting.

Let’s get physical

Could all this be too much to ask? Is all this way too complicated considering that most people are just looking for a fling, a digital quickie that has been transformed to real flesh and blood for one evening and that can be consumed as easily as it has been set up? Well, in my opinion: no. People seem to forget that a date is a physical meeting between two people and that it differs profoundly from what they do when they continuously swipe left or right (whatever the correct side for “I think you are hot” is) on Tinder while binge-watching Netflix with half their attention. It seems to me that everybody has to define his or her own rules for minimum viable dates – even if they contain requirements that have been pretty standard in the pre-digital days. Because how else are we able to determine whether to give a five or a one start rating for a guy or a girl, considering the sheer amount of dates the average online dating user is going on?

While indulging in our delicious desserts Dennis told me that he is using Tinder less and less these days. “Getting to know someone in real life is totally different and gives you way more information about a person” he answered after I asked him why. “You do not waste days or weeks texting someone who might turn out to be a totally different person in real life. Instead you get a pretty good first impression of somebody’s personality and whether you might like that person or not. So it actually is not only a nicer way to meet people, it is also more efficient.” I smiled as I picked up the last piece of my chocolate cake. Romance and efficiency? Those two things usually do not go together. But hell, as long as the real world overrules the digital world I am happy. So let’s get physical!