Posted By Jeff on January 31, 2009
I am occasionally asked how much personal experience I have with online dating. It comes up when the SMC and I are questioned about how we met. Our standard answer is that I “fell out of the sky,” and then we explain how I noticed her in December 2006, divined her Yahoo Instant Messenger ID and commenced with the wooing. We might or might not go on to say that our first date was later that week, wandering and flirting in a mall until after it closed; we were finally asked to leave by an embarrassed security guard. Our second did not go as well; our third was at an informational open house for a BDSM club, after which she came back to my place and stayed the weekend.
The question has come up a lot over the years. Since 1994, I have not gone out with, slept with or had any sort of romantic relationship with anyone whom I did not first meet online. My last 15 years have been a cluttered blur of dates, one-night stands, flings, and friendships, punctuating several actual relationships, all of which began with a wink, a flirt, an instant message or an email.
I don’t see anything wrong with this. It may be my single best qualification for writing Into Temptation, both the blog and the book, though I have others.
That does not mean, however, that I will be writing very much about my own “been there, done that” life; or offering gratuitous advice to others on how to follow (or avoid) my path. The idea is that my personal experience will infuse the writing, not define it.
The idea for Into Temptation came about in the summer of 2006. I met my literary agent for lunch in New York City to talk about what my second book should be, my first having been just successful enough that I would likely get to continue my career folly. My agent wanted (and wants) a bigger book, one that will command “at least” a $50,000 advance from a major publisher.
Over lunch, I gave her my six biggest ideas, which ranged from a travelogue for which I would house-sit my way around the world (Title: Other People’s Stuff) to a weighty tome about the past, present and future of nuclear fusion (assuming that my “A” in undergraduate physics, 30-some years ago, would finally be of some use.)
No. No. Uh-uh. Nope. No. And, again, no.
My agent leaned across the table.
“Jeff,” she said. “I have no doubt that you could write these books, and that they’d be great little books. But that’s it. They’d be little books.
“And I want you to write a big book. You can be a big writer.
“If you have your heart set on any one of these, I can find you another agent and they can find you a publisher. But I think you want to write a big book.”
Of course I wanted, and want, to write a big book. But I was frustrated. She’d just shot down all my best ideas. She was giving me nada. Nothing. Zero.
“So WHAT are your other clients bringing you, Linda?” I asked. Help me out, here.
“Well.” She paused. “I have a 20-something client who is doing a book about dating on MySpace.”
A book about dating on MySpace was worth $50,000!? My reaction: “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I ever heard of.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because anyone who wants to date on MySpace is already just doing it. They’re not going to read a book about it.”
“Well, MySpace is big. The publisher wants it.”
I was getting worked up. “MySpace is nothing. MySpace is vanilla ice cream. There are social networking sites out there that you’ve never heard about, where people post pictures and videos of themselves having sex, describe what they want you to do with their spouse, advertise their sex parties. There’s a whole world of sexual networking out there that no one knows about because the media lumps it all in with porn … yet there are millions of people into it. It’s like the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s got … defibrulated … shocked back into life, by the Internet, in the 2000s.”
She looked at me.
“That’s the book I want, Jeff.”
And we walked out the restaurant door. Eventually, it was the book I wanted, too. If this looks easy, though … don’t be deceived.
And I still think a how-to book about dating on MySpace is a big waste of time and money. There’s nothing special about it. I used to get asked out there all the time, until I changed my status to “In a Relationship,” which, mysteriously, gets some modicum of respect there. The SMC rarely teases me about my “MySpace Girls” anymore.