Day 200: I was very beautiful

Saturday morning. The elder is at kung fu. The younger and I are FaceTiming with Mum.

Mum: Oh, I was going to tell you, I ran into someone in Highgate Village yesterday who remembered you. I think she maybe had children who were similar ages to you and at the same school. Somebody Sainsbury? Do you remember anybody with the last name Sainsbury?

Me [not really listening, distracted by the various dolls whose heads the younger keeps pushing sinisterly into the camera frame]: Uh, no.

Mum: Well, anyway, it was quite interesting because the one thing she remembered about you, she said, was that you were very beautiful!

Me: [perking up, surprised and pleased and ignoring the younger, who is now making a barfing face and retching noises]: Oh! She said that I was very beautiful? Me?

Mum: Yes, you!

[I frown at and shush the younger who is now giggling and simpering in an English accent “oh, hello, my name is Sarah Kareem and I am sooooooo beautiful, la-di-dah!”]

Me: Well that was very nice of her!

Mum: Yes, wasn’t it? I said, “yes, she was. She was very beautiful.” [Then, in tone of mock-severity to the younger, who is now laughing hysterically]: And what are you laughing at, young lady, at the idea that your mother was beautiful? Well, she was!

Me [pause]: Wait. So you said to her, “she was very beautiful”? Why did you say “she was very beautiful”? Why didn’t you say, “why yes, she is very beautiful”?

Mum: Why, because she hasn’t seen you for twenty years! So that would have been a strange thing to say!

Me: [uncertainly]: Would it?

Mum: [decidedly]: Yes!

Me: Hmmm.

smaller sarah


Day 134: virtual fuckery

I would like to propose another concept to join “vegan charcuterie board” in the category of “invalid concepts.”

This concept is “virtual fuck buddies,” a concept invoked this morning in a message I received from someone on Tinder who claimed, implausibly, to be a human adult.

Just as the concept of vegan charcuterie, a term that literally means cooked flesh, makes zero sense, so too, to this hopelessly old-fashioned duck-rabbit, does the notion of a “virtual fuck buddy.”

To be clear what we’re talking about, here is a screenshot of the actual message that I received, with the identifying information scribbled out. His text is in grey on the left and mine is in teal (?) on the right.



(N.B. Also note his elegant segue from my remark that I hailed from London to his proposition that we be virtual fuck buddies. )

To be clear, my objection is not to the fuck buddy party; it’s to the virtual part.

Call me naïve, but my understanding of the concept of the fuck buddy was that the fucking part was integral to it. But I see now that I was mistaken. He is clearly not proposing that we simply be “buddies.” No, there will be a simulacrum of sex, mediated through images, video, and videotelophony. There will just be no actual touching of another’s flesh.

Do you see how the vegan charcuterie board is actually perfectly equivalent to the virtual fuck buddy? Both the vegan charcuterie board and the virtual fuck buddy maintain the form of the original while neatly excising the flesh.

Here let me clarify further that my objection to his message is not so much that it is crass or vulgar—which it obviously is—but more that I genuinely don’t understand what would be rewarding about the kind of encounter he proposes. Not that phone sex can’t be enjoyable, but I’ve always thought of it as a necessary expediency when distance prevents physical contact, not something you do on purpose when it would be perfectly easy to meet up within twenty minutes, depending on traffic.

Is touching not, in fact, the best bit of sex?

Have I, in fact, been doing sex all wrong for all these years?

This morning’s text exchange reminds me of a joke that Moira Weigel recounts in her new book about the history of dating, Labor of Love. She tells of a chalkboard outside a bar that entices its customers with the promise that they have 3-D Tinder (i.e. people), inside.

I have the urge to reply to Tinderboy in this bar’s vein of snark – something like, “that sounds TOTALLY AWESOME, but instead of FaceTime, why don’t we ‘meet’ – have you heard of it? It’s like 3-D FaceTime.”

Clearly, my urge to issues this sort of rejoinder is simply evidence that I am a Luddite when it comes to sex. Tinderboy is not wedded to some archaic twentieth-century romantic ontology in which the litmus test of whether we are compatible is our chemistry In Real Life.

This Tinder message made me feel the way I imagine David Hume made Thomas Reid feel.

Surely le bonne David would stand with Tinderboy, arguing, hey, girl, everything’s always already mediated, so what’s the difference? Real, not real; it’s all the same, babe.

But I, even I, Humephile that I am, would stand with Reid, who would doubtless say, With all due respect to Dave, whom I respect as a philosopher, and as a fellow Scot, when I am rogering Mrs. Reid, I am not rogering an idea of Mrs Reid; I am rogering Mrs. Reid. If Dave persists in denying this, I leave him to enjoy his opinion as a man who denies first principles, and is not fit to be reasoned with.

Tinderboy makes me feel not only philosophically naïve but also wedded to conventional notions of narrative sequence. You see, the trajectory Tinderboy sketches, which starts with phone sex and culminates, possibly, maybe, in meeting up, seems backwards to me. In his envisaged scenario, we start by having (virtual) sex … and if that goes well then maybe we eventually … what, meet cute at a café?

But obviously I’m just a philistine as well as a Luddite when it comes to sex. Clearly, Tinderboy is a kind of latter-day Valmont – it’s the fuckery he gets off on more than the fucking.

And he’s not committed to some kind of quaint teleological plot in which the initial drink is a prelude to the fucking.

Why can’t kombucha be the narrative climax to our romance, I hear him asking.

And, I have … simply … no words.